“The world will only change as we change.”

I just finished watching the 2018 movie Mary Magdalene with Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Despite the tepid reviews, and the fact that I’m not Christian anymore, I thought it was a beautiful movie. I’d love to share a clip with you, but I can’t find a clip of the scene online and copyright prevents me from creating one. So, instead, I will share an excerpt from the screenplay.

In the penultimate scene, Mary (played by Mara) confronts Peter (played by Ejiofor) and the other male apostles. Each describes their vision of the revolution which Jesus represented. It’s tempting to say that one, Mary’s, is spiritual, while the other, Peter’s, is political, but that would be an oversimplification. I heard Mary’s words as a beautiful expression of prefigurative politics, the idea that we have to be the change that we want to see in the world, with application far beyond Christianity and formal religion generally.

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The Self as the First Permaculture Zone

This is a talk given by Ethyl Ruehman at the First Unitarian Church of Hobart Indiana on March 28, 2021. Ethyl talks about being raised with without a sense of connection to her local ecosystem or the wider web of life, and how she came to understand her body as an ecosystem which is connected to the ecosystem around her. She goes on to talk about how she became intoxicated with environmental activism as a youth, and what happened when her social and material support networks collapsed and she became homeless. No longer longer able to focus on the “big picture”, she had to turn inward and focus on her immediate needs of shelter, food, health, community, etc. “I had to realize I was my own first permaculture zone,” she says. In doing so, she learned that “nourishing myself is an act of nourishing the earth.” This is a timely reminder that self-care is not just practical, but an integral part of an ecological worldview.

Bio: Ethyl Ruehman is 21 years old, from Portage, IN, and now resides at Green Acres Permaculture Village in Bloomington, IN. She was recognized as a Hoosier Resiliency Hero, IUN Newman Civic Fellow, and revived the Save the Dunes 2020 Youth Environmental Dorothy Buell award. She is now studying at Indiana University Bloomington.

My Church is Dying, and I’m OK with That

I first wrote this essay in December 2019 at PrayWithYourFeet.org. I’m reposting it here, because I see what is going on with my little church as a microcosm for a broader societal phenomenon: (1) the preoccupation with growth, (2) the dissolution of social bonds, and (3) the emerging role for small communities in the future.

“The movement which many call ‘Unitarian Universalism’ has been dying for 43 years, continues to die, and the fact of its slow but steady death is the elephant in the room that few in the UUA want to face, let alone talk about.”

— David Loehr, “Why ‘Unitarian Universalism’ is Dying,” Journal of Liberal Religion (2005)

At a congregational meeting back in 2019, our interim minister told us that, if we didn’t change, our church won’t exist in a couple of decades. It felt like a punch to the gut. But I think he was right. In fact, I would go one step further: My church will probably not exist in 2040.

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Slow Work (Paul Kingsnorth)

In this excerpt from an interview with Emergence Magazine, Paul Kingsnorth talks about how the necessary cultural shift, if it happens at all, will not be a fast one or even one which we can rationally plan. Rather, it will be the culmination of a lot of small shifts over a period of generations. You can read the complete article here.

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“Sit with it.” (Paul Kingsnorth)

This is the second of two excerpts from Paul Kingsnorth’s essay, “The Witness”. In the first excerpt, he meditated on the changing nature of nature from an eco-centric (as opposed to an anthropocentric) perspective. In this second excerpt, Kingsnorth wrestles with the apparent contradiction between the need to accept reality (i.e., change) and the felt need to preserve what is sacred to us. His tentative answer is that, only by paying attention (“sitting with it”) may we come to know what the right action for us is. This paradoxical wisdom is expressed by Bayo Akomolafe when he says, “The times are urgent. We need to slow down.” It was this idea that inspired me to create a climate grief group.

You can read Kingsnorth’s complete essay here. You can also hear Michael Dowd read the essay here.

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“The nature of this earth is change.” (Paul Kingsnorth)

This is the first of two excerpts from Paul Kingsnorth’s essay, “The Witness”. In this excerpt, he meditates on the changing nature of nature from an eco-centric (as opposed to an anthropocentric) perspective. If you find something unsatisfactory about this perspective, a feeling that there is something more to be said, stay tuned for the next excerpt.

You can read Kingsnorth’s complete essay here. You can also hear Michael Dowd read the essay here.

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Roy Scranton Defends Pessimism (Last Born in the Wilderness)

What follows is a transcript of part of Roy Scranton’s interview with Patrick Farnsworth on the Last Born in the Wilderness podcast. In this clip, Roy responds to Michael Mann’s criticism of him as “the ultimate doomer”, providing the necessary nuance to understand how pessimism is a necessary predicate to right action. (The transcript has been edited for readability.) Listen to the complete interview here.

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