Last month I had a great time sharing this message with the good – and mostly secular – folks at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Cincinnati, just around the corner from my old house in Walnut Hills.
I’m not sure what it said in the program, but it should have been titled, “You Can Do Love”. Honestly, having bombed at NaNoCon a week earlier because I miscalculated my speaking time, it was a huge relief to actually finish the same talk and discover that, well… it kind of works.
I only wish this recording included the 14 year-old who sang the best version of “Imagine” I’ve ever heard just before I got up.
I’m not the world’s best blogger, but here’s the entry I wrote for Randy Evans, a Christian missionary who’s putting together a Lenten devotional for street people in Wilmington, North Carolina. The other contributors (Richard Rohr, Shane Claiborne, Sarah Heath, Stanley Hauerwas, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Doug Pagitt, etc.) are all prominent believers, so I had to double check to see if Randy invited me to contribute by mistake. He wrote back, “Absolutely no mistake. I believe you have something to say. People experiencing poverty need to know they deserve self-respect, self-worth, and dignity….you are a Conveyor of Hope!” Let’s hope so. This is an especially hard time of year to be homeless.
Lenten Journal Entry for Randy Evans (Bart Campolo)
I grew up going to church, but I never really understood Lent, let alone the strange Biblical myth behind it, about Jesus spending 40 days in the desert facing the temptations of Satan to sell out the rest of humanity. What I did understand was that each of us kids was supposed to give up something we enjoyed – like candy, soda or television – for the same length of time, as a way of honoring Jesus’ sacrifice, and that to me the whole exercise seemed utterly lame. After all, none of us was setting aside food and shelter like Jesus, let alone preparing to give our lives for others. It wasn’t until I stopped believing in the literal truth of the story – and the reality of God – that I finally recognized the great value of teaching a youngster how to curb his or her craving for luxury for the sake of something – or someone – more important.
Perhaps today you have something precious – a few dollars, a moment of patience, some kind words, a warm place to stay – that you’d normally keep for yourself, but you know someone who really needs you to share it with them. You don’t have to, of course, but if you do you’ll be rejoining the greatest human tradition of all: Sacrifice for the sake of another. There is great dignity in such a choice.
Then again, perhaps today you are the one in need, and your hope hangs on whether or not someone else has learned the lesson of Lent, which is that each of us is entirely worthy of someone else’s sacrifice. If that is the case, and you are suffering because those with more won’t stop indulging themselves, there is great dignity too in reminding yourself that that – and not you – is the real problem, and in vowing not to make the same mistake when your situation improves.
Before we share this meal, let us remember how it came to us.
This food was born of warm sunlight, rich soil, and cool rain.
As it nourishes our bodies and minds, may we be grateful to those who cultivated it, those who harvested it, those who brought it to us, and those who prepared it.
And as we eat, and what was once separate from all of us becomes part of each of us,
may we also be grateful for what we here have in common and for what brings us together.
We all begin life utterly dependent on others, and most of us will end our lives in much the same way, and every good work we accomplish involves helping others and being helped by others in turn. So then, our gratitude in this moment is true and common sense.
Chautauqua Institution is a really cool, interfaith, historic retreat center in southwestern New York state, and it’s a hive of activity each summer as over 100,000 people converge on the place to listen to lectures, enjoy music, eat incredible food, play sports and enjoy beaches and parkland.
My dad has spoken there many times, and this year they invited me to come and give a lecture on the subject, “Cultivating Friendship and Community in an Age of Anxiety.” Check it out!
by John Ciardi
What lifts the heron leaning on the air
I praise without a name. A crouch, a flare,
a long stroke through the cumulus of trees,
a shaped thought at the sky–then gone. O rare!
Saint Francis, being happiest on his knees,
would have cried Father! Cry anything you please
But praise. By any name or none. But praise
the white original burst that lights
the heron on his two soft kissing kites.
When saints praise heaven lit by doves and rays,
I sit by pond scums till the air recites
It’s heron back. And doubt all else. But praise.
Hey there! Thanks so much for all your interest in my story of coming out of Christianity and into secular humanism. There are three separate ways you can find out more about this:
(1) Mark Oppenheimer’s great piece in the New York Times Magazine, which you can read right away HERE if you haven’t already.
(2) HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins, is publishing a book co-authored by my dad and I in conversation about my step away from Christianity. The release date is February 21st, 2017 for the hardcover edition. The link is HERE if you’d like more info.
(3) Filmmaker John Wright is producing a feature-length documentary with my dad and I which features that same conversation captured on camera. The first opportunities to see it will be coming up in March 2017 and online streaming shortly after that. That link is HERE to watch a trailer and get more information.
Again, thanks for all the interest in this stuff; honestly I’m pretty excited about it.