Ignoring Your Email is Rude

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No, You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.

Being overwhelmed is no excuse. It’s hard to be good at your job if you’re bad at responding to people.

By Adam Grant for The New York Times (Dr. Grant is an organizational psychologist.)

I’m really sorry I didn’t say hi, make eye contact or acknowledge your presence in any way when you waved to me in the hallway the other day. It’s nothing personal. I just have too many people trying to greet me these days, and I can’t respond to everyone.

That sounds ridiculous, right? You would never snub a colleague trying to strike up a conversation. Yet when you ignore a personal email, that’s exactly what you’ve done: digital snubbery.

Yes, we’re all overwhelmed with email. One recent survey suggested that the average American’s inbox has 199 unread messages. But volume isn’t an excuse for not replying. Ignoring email is an act of incivility.

“I’m too busy to answer your email” really means “Your email is not a priority for me right now.” That’s a popular justification for neglecting your inbox: It’s full of other people’s priorities. But there’s a growing body of evidence that if you care about being good at your job, your inbox should be a priority.

When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious — organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)

I’m not saying you have to answer every email. Your brain is not just sitting there waiting to be picked. If senders aren’t considerate enough to do their homework and ask a question you’re qualified to answer, you don’t owe them anything back.

How do you know if an email you’ve received — or even more important, one you’re considering writing — doesn’t deserve a response? After all, sending an inappropriate email can be as rude as ignoring a polite one.

I have a few general rules. You should not feel obliged to respond to strangers asking you to share their content on social media, introduce them to your more famous colleagues, spend hours advising them on something they’ve created or “jump on a call this afternoon.” If someone you barely know emails you a dozen times a month and is always asking you to do something for him, you can ignore those emails guilt-free.

Along these lines, the last time I made the mistake of admitting in this newspaper that I believe in being responsive to emails, I got a deluge of messages. One reader even wrote, “I just wanted to test you, to find out if it’s true.” So this time, let me be clear: I’m not writing this article as a personal note to your inbox, so it doesn’t require a personal reply to mine.

We all need to set boundaries. People shouldn’t be forced to answer endless emails outside work hours — which is why some companies have policies against checking emails on nights and weekends. Some people I know tell their colleagues they’ll be on email from 9 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. each day, but not in between. If it’s not an emergency, no one should expect you to respond right away.

Spending hours a day answering emails can stand in the way of getting other things done. One recent study shows that on days when managers face heavy email demands, they make less progress toward their goals and end up being less proactive in communicating their vision and setting expectations.

But that same study shows that email load takes a toll only if it’s not central to your job. And let’s face it: These days email is central to most jobs. What we really need to do is to make email something we think carefully about before sending, and therefore feel genuinely bad ignoring.

Whatever boundaries you choose, don’t abandon your inbox altogether. Not answering emails today is like refusing to take phone calls in the 1990s or ignoring letters in the 1950s. Email is not household clutter and you’re not Marie Kondo. Ping!

Your inbox isn’t just a list of other people’s tasks. It’s where other people help you do your job. It allows you to pose questions with a few keystrokes instead of spending the whole day on the phone, and it’s vital to gathering information that you can’t easily find in a Google search.

“My inbox is other people’s priorities” bothers me as a social scientist, but also as a human being. Your priorities should include other people and their priorities. It’s common courtesy to engage with people who are thoughtful in reaching out.

This isn’t just about doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Clearing out your inbox can jump-start your own productivity. One set of experiments showed that if you’re behind on a task, you’ll finish it faster if you’re busy, because you know you need to use your time efficiently. As a writer, I like to start the morning by answering a few emails — it helps me get into a productive rhythm of deep work. If you think you have too many emails, maybe you just don’t have enough.

Everyone occasionally misses an email. But if you’re habitually “too busy” to answer legitimate emails, there’s a problem with your process. It sends a signal that you’re disorganized — or that you just don’t care.

If you’re just hopelessly behind on your inbox, at least set up an auto-reply giving people another channel where they can reach you. A Slack channel. Twitter. A phone number. Post-it notes. Carrier pigeon.

Remember that a short reply is kinder and more professional than none at all. If you have too much on your plate, come clean: “I don’t have the bandwidth to add this.” If it’s not your expertise, just say so: “Sorry, this isn’t in my wheelhouse.” And if you want to say no, just say “no.”

We can all learn from the writer E.B. White, who, in response to a 1956 letter asking him to join a committee, responded with two short sentences. The first: a thank-you for the invitation. The second: “I must decline, for secret reasons.”

Rev Billy and the Non Shopping Choir

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Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping is a radical performance community based in New York City. The Stop Shopping Choir is accompanied by a comic preacher, Reverend Billy, portrayed by performer William (Billy) Talen. The philosophy of the Church of Stop Shopping surrounds the imminent "Shopocalypse", which assumes the end of humanity will come about through manic consumerism.

The Stop Shopping Choir accompanies Reverend Billy and stages guerrilla theater style actions, singing on the property of the Disney stores, Monsanto facilities, and Trump Tower, among others. They are often considered part of the Culture Jamming movement.

Origins of Reverend Billy

Reverend Billy attempting to exorcise bad loans and toxic assets from the Bank of America ATM in Union Square, New York City, 2009

The character of Reverend Billy was developed in the early 1990s by actor and playwright, William Talen. His family was Dutch Calvinist, from the Christian Reformed Church, a conservative sect concentrated in Holland and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The precepts of this kind of Christianity were the basis for Dutch Afrikaners system of Apartheid in South Africa.

Talen grew up in small towns throughout Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. He left home at 16, moving east with Charles and Patricia Gaines, a writer and painter who encouraged him as an artist. Talen began to perform his poems and stories, hitch-hiking from Philadelphia to New York to San Francisco.

Talen's chief collaborator in developing the Reverend Billy character was the Reverend Sidney Lanier, a cousin of Tennessee Williams. Lanier was vicar of The St. Clement's in the 1960s, an Episcopal Church in Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan. In an effort to increase attendance at St. Clement's, Lanier had torn out the altar and pews, inviting actors to perform scenes from plays by Tennessee Williams and Terrence McNally, and founding founding the American Place Theater. Lanier described Talen as "more of a preacher with a gift for social prophecy than an actor.'' In the early 1990s Talen moved with Lanier to New York City from the San Francisco Bay Area, branding his act as a "new kind of American preacher"

The Reverend Billy character debuted on the sidewalk at Times Square in 1998, outside the Disney Store, where he proclaimed Mickey Mouse to be the anti-Christ. He was arrested multiple times outside the Disney Store, where he duct-tapped Mickey Mouse to a cross. Reverend Billy's sermons decried the evils of consumerism and the racism of sweatshop labor, and what Talen saw as the loss of neighborhood spirit in Rudolph Giuliani's New York.

The Reverend Billy character isn't so much a parody of a preacher, as a preacher motif used to blur the lines between performance and religious experience. "It's definitely a church service," Talen explained to Altnernet, but, he added, it's "a political rally, it's theater, it's all three, it's none of them." Alisa Solomon, the theater critic at the Village Voice, said of Reverend Billy's persona, "The collar is fake, the calling is real." Along with the Church of Stop Shopping, they have been referred to by academics as "performance activism," "carnivalesque protest," and "commercial disobedience."

Savitri D (née Durkee) is the co-founder and director of the Church of Stop Shopping, as well as Talen's partner. She was born in Taos, New Mexico in 1972. She was raised at The Lama Foundation, one of the earliest and longest lasting intentional spiritual communities in the US, founded by her parents, Steven and Barbara Durkee.

Savitri D began dancing and performing at the University of Montana, studied at the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and co-founded a dance collective called The Zen Monkey Project. After moving to New York City in 1997, she staged her play SKY/NO SKY at 57 Walker Street.

In 2000, she was a producer at The Culture Project, a theater in the East Village, where Talen was staging early Reverend Billy performances. She took over direction of The Church of Stop Shopping performances from the dramatist Tony Torn in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001, and married Talen the next year.

The Stop Shopping Choir

The Stop Shopping Choir is a 35-member ensemble that performs an array of original gospel songs in theater performances and alongside Reverend Billy in public spaces during campaigns. The choir began accompanying Talen's sermons at concert shows shortly after the September 11 attacks, adding a musical influence to Reverend Billy performances. Led by musical director Nehemiah Luckett, the choir members are volunteers who rehearse weekly at the Lower Eastside Girl's Club in the East Village.

The Choir often write songs that draw attention to the environmental and consumerist campaigns championed by the Church of Stop Shopping. They have accompanied Talen into the lobbies of multinational banks such as JP Morgan Chase or research facilities belonging to Monsanto, dressed as golden toads and honeybees, singing songs in support of the day's sermon. One of their best-known songs is The First Amendment, an incantation of the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution, sung rapturously by soprano Laura Newman.

Direct Action Campaigns

In addition to protest performances throughout a given year, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping have organized various campaigns focused on consumerist or environmental issues, often highlighting a particular company they feel best symbolizes the issue. The group stage actions in public spaces near the targets of their actions, or in the lobbies, halls, and plazas of the building owned by the companies they protest. Their sermons and songs routinely draw the attention of police and security forces assigned to those spaces, leading to arrests and significant media coverage. Talen and Savitri D have been arrested more than 50 times during their actions, though their charges are almost always reduced or dropped.

St. Valentine

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The real Saint Valentine was no patron of love

By Lisa Bitel for The Washington Post

(Lisa Bitel is professor of history and religion at the University of Southern California.)

On Feb. 14, sweethearts of all ages will exchange cards, flowers, candy, and more lavish gifts in the name of St. Valentine. But as a historian of Christianity, I can tell you that at the root of our modern holiday is a beautiful fiction. St. Valentine was no lover or patron of love.

Valentine’s Day, in fact, originated as a liturgical feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two. So, how did we get from beheading to betrothing on Valentine’s Day?

Early origins of St. Valentine

Ancient sources reveal that there were several St. Valentines who died on Feb. 14. Two of them were executed during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus in 269-270 A.D., at a time when persecution of Christians was common.

How do we know this? Because, an order of Belgian monks spent three centuries collecting evidence for the lives of saints from manuscript archives around the known world.

They were called Bollandists after Jean Bolland, a Jesuit scholar who began publishing the massive 68-folio volumes of “Acta Sanctorum,” or “Lives of the Saints,” beginning in 1643.

Since then, successive generations of monks continued the work until the last volume was published in 1940. The Brothers dug up every scrap of information about every saint on the liturgical calendar and printed the texts arranged according to the saint’s feast day.

The Valentine martyrs

The volume encompassing Feb. 14 contains the stories of a handful of “Valentini,” including the earliest three of whom died in the third century.

The earliest Valentinus is said to have died in Africa, along with 24 soldiers. Unfortunately, even the Bollandists could not find any more information about him. As the monks knew, sometimes all that the saints left behind was a name and day of death.

We know only a little more about the other two Valentines.

According to a late medieval legend reprinted in the “Acta,” which was accompanied by Bollandist critique about its historical value, a Roman priest named Valentinus was arrested during the reign of Emperor Gothicus and put into the custody of an aristocrat named Asterius.

As the story goes, Asterius made the mistake of letting the preacher talk. Father Valentinus went on and on about Christ leading pagans out of the shadow of darkness and into the light of truth and salvation. Asterius made a bargain with Valentinus: If the Christian could cure Asterius’s foster-daughter of blindness, he would convert. Valentinus put his hands over the girl’s eyes and chanted:

“Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.”

Easy as that. The child could see, according to the medieval legend. Asterius and his whole family were baptized. Unfortunately, when Emperor Gothicus heard the news, he ordered them all to be executed. But Valentinus was the only one to be beheaded. A pious widow, though, made off with his body and had it buried at the site of his martyrdom on the Via Flaminia, the ancient highway stretching from Rome to present-day Rimini. Later, a chapel was built over the saint’s remains.

St. Valentine was not a romantic

The third third-century Valentinus was a bishop of Terni in the province of Umbria, Italy.

According to his equally dodgy legend, Terni’s bishop got into a situation like the other Valentinus by debating a potential convert and afterward healing his son. The rest of story is quite similar as well: He too, was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Gothicus and his body buried along the Via Flaminia.

It is likely, as the Bollandists suggested, that there weren’t actually two decapitated Valentines, but that two different versions of one saint’s legend appeared in both Rome and Terni.

Nonetheless, African, Roman or Umbrian, none of the Valentines seems to have been a romantic.

Indeed, medieval legends, repeated in modern media, had St. Valentine performing Christian marriage rituals or passing notes between Christian lovers jailed by Gothicus. Still other stories romantically involved him with the blind girl whom he allegedly healed. Yet none of these medieval tales had any basis in third-century history, as the Bollandists pointed out.

In any case, historical veracity did not count for much with medieval Christians. What they cared about were stories of miracles and martyrdoms, and the physical remains or relics of the saint. To be sure, many different churches and monasteries around medieval Europe claimed to have bits of a St. Valentinus’ skull in their treasuries.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, for example, still displays a whole skull. According to the Bollandists, other churches across Europe also claim to own slivers and bits of one or the other St. Valentinus’ body: For example, San Anton Church in Madrid, Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Prague, Saint Mary’s Assumption in Chelmno, Poland, as well as churches in Malta, Birmingham, Glasgow, and on the Greek isle of Lesbos, among others.

For believers, relics of the martyrs signified the saints’ continuing their invisible presence among communities of pious Christians. In 11th-century Brittany, for instance, one bishop used what was purported to be Valentine’s head to halt fires, prevent epidemics, and cure all sorts of illnesses, including demonic possession.

As far as we know, though, the saint’s bones did nothing special for lovers.

Unlikely pagan origins

Many scholars have deconstructed Valentine and his day in books, articles and blog postings. Some suggest that the modern holiday is a Christian cover-up of the more ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia in mid-February.

Lupercalia originated as a ritual in a rural masculine cult involving the sacrifice of goats and dogs and evolved later into an urban carnival. During the festivities half-naked young men ran through the streets of Rome, streaking people with thongs cut from the skins of newly killed goats. Pregnant women thought it brought them healthy babies. In 496 A.D., however, Pope Gelasius supposedly denounced the rowdy festival.

Still, there is no evidence that the pope purposely replaced Lupercalia with the more sedate cult of the martyred St. Valentine or any other Christian celebration.

Chaucer and the love birds

The love connection probably appeared more than a thousand years after the martyrs’ death, when Geoffrey Chaucer, author of “The Canterbury Tales” decreed the February feast of St. Valentinus to the mating of birds. He wrote in his “Parlement of Foules”:

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

It seems that, in Chaucer’s day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February. Soon, nature-minded European nobility began sending love notes during bird-mating season. For example, the French Duke of Orléans, who spent some years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to his wife in February 1415 that he was “already sick of love” (by which he meant lovesick.) And he called her his “very gentle Valentine.”

English audiences embraced the idea of February mating. Shakespeare’s lovestruck Ophelia spoke of herself as Hamlet’s Valentine.

In the following centuries, Englishmen and women began using Feb. 14 as an excuse to pen verses to their love objects. Industrialization made it easier with mass-produced illustrated cards adorned with smarmy poetry. Then along came Cadbury, Hershey’s, and other chocolate manufacturers marketing sweets for one’s sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.

Today, shops everywhere in England and the U.S. decorate their windows with hearts and banners proclaiming the annual Day of Love. Merchants stock their shelves with candy, jewelry and Cupid-related trinkets begging “Be My Valentine.” For most lovers, this request does not require beheading.

Invisible Valentines

It seems that the erstwhile saint behind the holiday of love remains as elusive as love itself. Still, as St. Augustine, the great fifth-century theologian and philosopher argued in his treatise on “Faith in Invisible Things,” someone does not have to be standing before our eyes for us to love them.

And much like love itself, St. Valentine and his reputation as the patron saint of love are not matters of verifiable history, but of faith.

The Golden Rule

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Researchers have discovered hundreds of expressions of the Golden Rule – from ancient and modern sources as well as from religious and non-religious sources. Research efforts have also uncovered numerous commentaries on the Golden Rule from well-known individuals in a number of fields.

A number of these commentaries are presented below. Featured here are scientists, philosophers, politicians, writers, business people, religious leaders, companies, organizations and others.

Mark Twain

“Do something every day that you don’t want to do; this is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American humorist, writer and lecturer.

Edwin Markham

“We have committed the golden rule to memory; now let us commit it to life.”

Edwin Markham (1852-1940), American poet whose writings fused art and social commentary.

Stephen R. Covey

“When ethics – the Golden Rule – is at the center, all compartments of life are harmonized and integrated. The Golden Rule is right. It also happens to work.”

Dr. Stephen R. Covey, American author, consultant, professional speaker; author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, which has sold 15 million copies worldwide.

Mahatma Gandhi

“He who seeks truth alone follows the Golden Rule.”

Quoted from Mahatma Gandhi’s An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth.

“As we wish the followers of other religions to appreciate us, so ought we to seek with all our hearts to appreciate them. Surely this is the Golden Rule.”

Quoted from Mahatma Gandhi and C.F. Andrews by Dr. K.L. Seshagiri Rao

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), the spiritual and political leader of the non-violent movement which liberated India from British rule.

Charles Darwin

“The moral sense perhaps affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals; but I need say nothing on this head, as I have so lately endeavoured to shew that the social instincts—the prime principle of man’s moral constitution—with the aid of active intellectual powers and the effects of habit, naturally lead to the golden rule, ‘As ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them likewise;’ and this lies at the foundation of morality.”

Charles Darwin (1809-1882), British naturalist, best known for his On the Origin of Species, which details his theory of evolution. Quoted from Darwin’s The Descent of Man.

Christopher Boehm

“What kind of animal would think up a ‘golden rule’ and urge its fellows to practice it? Both biologically and philosophically, this is an ultimate question which goes all the way back to Darwin.”

Christopher Boehm, professor of anthropology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California (USA). Quoted from Boehm’s essay, How the Golden Rule Can Lead to Reproductive Success: A New Selection Basis for Alexander’s “Indirect Reciprocity.”

Christine Stevens

“The basis of all animal rights should be the Golden Rule: we should treat them as we would wish them to treat us, were any other species in our dominant position.”

Christine Stevens (1918–2002), renowned American animal rights activist who founded the Animal Welfare Institutehttp://awionline.org/awi-quarterly. One of the Institute’s chief concerns has been the treatment of laboratory animals and the search for alternatives to animal testing in laboratories.

Brant Abrahamson’s commentary on Charles Dickens’ use of the term “Golden Rule”

“In 1859, Charles Dickens used the ‘Golden Rule’ term in a story called The Battle of Life that follows A Christmas Carol in his Christmas Books: Tales and Sketches. Dickens uses the term in a satirical way. After a cleaning woman tells an upper class man that she tries to ‘Do as you-would-be-done-by,’ he almost ridicules her by saying that she will find the opposite idea ‘to be the golden rule of half her clients.’”

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), foremost British novelist of the Victorian era, vigorous social campaigner. Considered to be one of history’s greatest novelists.

Brant Abrahamson, American educator, publisher and Golden Rule specialist.

Harry Gensler’s commentary on John F. Kennedy’s application of the Golden Rule

“Let’s consider an example of how the rule is used. President Kennedy in 1963 appealed to the golden rule in an anti-segregation speech at the time of the first black enrollment at the University of Alabama. He asked whites to consider what it would be like to be treated as second class citizens because of skin color. Whites were to imagine themselves being black – and being told that they couldn’t vote, or go to the best public schools, or eat at most public restaurants, or sit in the front of the bus. Would whites be content to be treated that way? He was sure that they wouldn’t – and yet this is how they treated others. He said the ‘heart of the question is … whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.’”

John F. Kennedy (1917-63), 35th president of the United States.

Harry Gensler, American philosopher, ethicist and Golden Rule scholar. Quoted from his website:http://www.harryhiker.com/goldrule.htm

Wolfgang Mieder’s commentary on Frederick Douglass’ appreciation of the Golden Rule

“Morality and religion were one and the same thing for Frederick Douglass, and it should come as no surprise that the so-called ‘Golden Rule’… ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ would become the perfect embodiment of human equality for him. It [the Golden Rule] appears again and again for over fifty years in his speeches and writings, and it must be considered as Douglass’s supreme rhetorical and philosophical leitmotif.”

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), considered to be the most visible and influential African-American of the 19th century. A former slave, he became an abolitionist, editor, author, statesman and reformer.

Wolfgang Mieder, American professor of German and Folklore. Quoted from Mieder’s No Struggle, No Progress: Frederick Douglass and His Proverbial Rhetoric for Civil Rights.

Jeffrey Wattles

“The golden rule is, from the first, intuitively accessible, easy to understand; its simplicity communicates confidence that the agent can find the right way. The rule tends to function as a simplified summary of the advocate’s moral tradition, and it most commonly expresses a commitment to treating others with consideration and fairness, predicated on the recognition that others are like oneself…‘Do to others as you want others to do to you’ is part of our planet’s common language, shared by persons with differing but overlapping conceptions of morality. Only a principle so flexible can serve as a moral ladder for all humankind.”

Jeffrey Wattles, American professor of philosophy, Golden Rule scholar. Quoted from Wattles’ volume, The Golden Rule

President Barack Obama

“We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ The Torah commands, ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.’ In Islam, there is a hadith that reads ‘None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.’ And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

It is an ancient rule; a simple rule; but also one of the most challenging. For it asks each of us to take some measure of responsibility for the well-being of people we may not know or worship with or agree with on every issue. Sometimes, it asks us to reconcile with bitter enemies or resolve ancient hatreds. And that requires a living, breathing, active faith. It requires us not only to believe, but to do – to give something of ourselves for the benefit of others and the betterment of our world.”

Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States. Quoted from President Obama’s address to the National Prayer Breakfast, 2009, Washington, D.C.

Pope Benedict XVI

“Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do to you. This ‘golden rule’ is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.”

Quoted from Pope Benedict’s video message to American Roman Catholics prior to his visit to the USA in 2008.

“The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy, and readily recalls the ‘Golden Rule’ in its own version: your faith will not be perfect, unless you do unto others that which you wish for yourselves.”

Quoted from Pope Benedict’s address to the participants in a conference of Muslims and Christians, Rome, 2008.

Karen Armstrong

“The essence of religion is crystal clear in all the traditions, and it’s simple. I was with the Dalai Lama earlier in September, and he said, ‘my religion is kindness.’ And all the religions teach the same. All we have to do is go back to the Golden Rule. We don’t need to wait for another prophet or another sage or a Buddha. The answer is there, in our traditions. We just have to delve underneath the rubble. Some of it is bad rubble that has accumulated.”

Quoted from an interview with Karen Armstrong on the Tavis Smiley program, American PBS TV network, 2006

“In compassion, we have to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there and that’s the way we come into contact with the Ultimate Reality….we are torn apart in one way as never before; and yet we are also pulled together in our global village as never before…..our only hope of handing on a viable world to the future generations is to learn to practise the Golden Rule….treating other nations, even those far away and remote, as if they were as important as ourselves.”

Quoted from an interview with Karen Armstrong on the Charlie Rose Show, American PBS TV network, 2006.

“We need to interpret the Golden Rule globally, creating a climate of opinion where it becomes absolutely unacceptable to treat other peoples, other races, other nations, other faiths as we would not wish to be treated ourselves. If we do not achieve this, we are unlikely to have a viable world to hand on to the next generation. We need urgently to make the compassionate voice of religion and of all morality sing out loud and clear in our dangerously polarized world in order to challenge the voices of hatred, exclusion, chauvinism and extremism.”

Karen Armstrong, British writer and scholar of world religions. Author of a number of best-selling books on the history of religion and the role of religion in the modern world.

Deepak Chopra

“…the Golden Rule …is a statement about Karma, not just about how to act morally toward other people. Certainly Jesus intended to make the latter point: Treating others as you want to be treated is part of his larger teaching to love others as you love yourself. But Jesus implied something deeper, that when you follow the Golden Rule, you are acting as God does. What makes it hard to treat others the way we want to be treated is that others may be the cause of misery, pain and injustice. But Jesus points out that each of us is evil in his or her own way, in that we all commit wrongdoing, and yet God provides abundantly and with love… If you look even deeper, however, this passage is about grace. Karma gives back exactly what you deserve, but God doesn’t. He gives without regard to good and evil, and that is a mark of grace. If you contemplate the Golden Rule, it turns out to be an injunction to live by grace rather than by what you think other people deserve.”

Deepak Chopra, Indian-born, American medical doctor and best-selling author in the fields of spirituality and health. Quoted from Chopra’s book, The Third Jesus.

Paul Weiss

“Mankind with considerable ease seems to know how to use the Golden Rule, with its supposition that we can understand what it is to be in the position of another.”

Quoted from Weiss’ book, Philosophy in Process, Volume 6.

“[The Golden Rule] is part of the inheritance of the West as well as of the East; yet it is affirmed and discovered anew in every generation and by almost every individual.”

Quoted from Weiss’ book, The Golden Rule.

Paul Weiss (1901-2002), American writer, professor, philosopher who specialized in metaphysics; also known for his efforts to reverse age discrimination in American universities.

Marcus George Singer

“[The Golden Rule is] the most effective instrument of moral education that I know of.”

Marcus George Singer, influential American moral philosopher.

Richard Mervyn Hare

“One of the most important of these rules [of moral reasoning] is a formal requirement reflected in the Golden Rule: the requirement that what we say we ought to do to others we have to be able to say ought to be done to ourselves were we in precisely their situation with their interests.”

Richard Mervyn Hare (1919-2002), British moral philosopher; one of the most influential moral philosophers of the second half of the 20th century.

Karl Popper

“The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they want to be done by.”

Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-born British philosopher and professor at the London School of Economics. Considered to be one of the most influential philosophers of science in the 20th century. Quoted from Popper’s book,The Open Society and its Enemies.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

“The veritable sense of the [golden] rule is that by putting oneself in the place of the other one gains the true point of view for judging equitably.”

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), important German philosopher and mathematician who influenced subsequent generations of philosophers and mathematicians. Quoted from Leibniz’s New Essays on Human Understanding.

JW Windland

“Living the Golden Rule becomes intensely personal when you realize that you treat your neighbour as yourself because your neighbour is yourself. Or to put it another way: ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you because you are them and they are you.’ After all, how can you love your neighbour as yourself if you don’t know that your neighbour is yourself.”

JW Windland, Canadian mythologist, multifaith educator and founder of Encounter World Religions Center,http://www.worldreligions.ca

Terry Weller’s commentary on Black Elk’s wisdom

“In my career, I have seen many different expressions of the golden rule; but for me, the most powerful and comprehensive of these comes from the mouth of Black Elk. It goes like this: ‘All things are our relatives. What we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really one.’ In these 18 words, Black Elk not only captures the essence of the golden rule, he also lays bare its assumptions, including its mystical assumptions.”

Black Elk (1863-1950), renowned Native American (Lakota) visionary and shamanic healer.

Rev. Terry Weller, Canadian interfaith leader, writer and publisher/editor of Interfaith Unity News,http://www.interfaithunity.ca/index.htm

Towards a Global Ethic, 1993 Parliament of World Religions

“This ancient principle [the Golden Rule] is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind for thousands of years…[and] should be the irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations and religions…

We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings…we must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception.”

Quoted from Towards a Global Ethic – An Initial Declaration. This declaration was developed at the 1993 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, USA. The Parliament of World Religions is the largest interfaith conference in the world. Held every five years, it attracts between six and ten thousand participants of numerous religions from around the world.

J.C. Penney

“As civilization grew and horizons widened, the definition of ‘brotherhood’ took on more exact meaning, and people came gradually to understand the golden rule as a basic principle applicable to all relationships. In former periods business was identified as secular, and service as sacred. In proportion as we have discerned that between secular and sacred no arbitrary line exists, public awareness has grown that the golden rule was meant for business as well as for other human relationships.”

J.C. Penney (1875-1971), founder of the J.C. Penney department store chain (USA). He was one of a number of influential American business entrepreneurs in the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century who integrated the Golden Rule into their business practices. Penney’s stores were originally called “golden rule stores.” Quoted from Penney’s book, Fifty Years with the Golden Rule.

Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones

“We must all understand the gospel of DO. I know well enough how to practice the Golden Rule; the difficulty comes in my unwillingess to do it entirely, my half-way doing it.”

Samuel Jones (1846-1904), American politician and businessman who was renowned for applying the Golden Rule in his political and business affairs.

Four Seasons Hotel and Resort Chain

“At Four Seasons, corporate values are much more than a program or a policy – they define who we are and inform the decisions we make. The company’s guiding principle is the Golden Rule – to treat others as you wish to be treated – and as such, Four Seasons strives to have a long-lasting, positive influence on the communities where we operate and on the people we employ and serve around the world. We believe that this goal is integral to our success as a company. This commitment is expressed consistently in our actions through three main areas of focus. By acting in a manner consistent with our corporate values, Four Seasons will continue to seek opportunities to enrich and contribute positively to the global community.”

Quoted from the Corporate Values section of the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts website.

Orison Swett Marden

“The golden rule for every business man is this: ‘Put yourself in your customer’s place.’”

Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924), medical doctor and American writer associated with the New Thought movement. A businessman, best known for his writings on financial success, he believed that financial success comes as a result of the cultivation of the individual’s growth process.

John C. Maxwell

“To be accounted trustworthy, a person must be predictable. When you manage your life and all the little decisions by one guideline – the Golden Rule – you create an ethical predictability in your life. People will have confidence in you, knowing that you consistently do the right thing.”

John C. Maxwell, American best-selling author, speaker and internationally recognized leadership expert. Quoted from Maxwell’s There’s No Such Thing As “Business” Ethics.

Dale Carnegie

“Philosophers have been speculating on the rules of human relationships for thousands of years, and out of all that speculation, there has evolved only one important precept. It is not new. It is as old as history. Zoroaster taught it to his followers in Persia twenty-five hundred years ago. Confucius preached it in China twenty-four centuries ago. Lao-tse, the founder of Taoism, taught it to his disciples in the Valley of the Han. Buddha preached it on the bank of the Holy Ganges five hundred years before Christ. The sacred books of Hinduism taught it a thousand years before that. Jesus taught it among the stony hills of Judea nineteen centuries ago.

Jesus summed it up in one thought – probably the most important rule in the world: ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ You want the approval of those with whom you come in contact. You want recognition of your true worth. You want a feeling that you are important in your little world. You don’t want to listen to cheap, insincere flattery, but you do crave sincere appreciation… All of us want that. So let’s obey the golden rule, and give unto others what we would have others give unto us. How? When? Where? The answer is: All the time, everywhere.”

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American writer, lecturer, and developer of courses in self-improvement, salespersonship, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills. Author of How to Win friends and Influence People (1936), which became a massive bestseller and remains popular today. Quoted from How to Win friends and Influence People.

God Is Still Speaking

God is Still Speaking,

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Stillspeaking. It's the shorter form of "God is still speaking," a campaign by the United Church of Christ to remind us that God still has a lot more to say. Since 2004, Stillspeaking has worked with thousands of UCC churches and individuals across the country to make religion relevant again and to extend an extravagant welcome to all—because no matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here. Here at the United Church of Christ.

In 2004, it was concluded that there was a present and real need for the United Church of Christ to spread its message of extravagant welcome which continues to historically re-shape our understanding of the Christian faith and proclamation. The UCC responded to this call and challenge with a new identity and marketing campaign to let all others know that anyone could find a spiritual home in the United Church of Christ, be strengthened and nurtured in their faith and be blessed to reach out to others with their God-given gifts and talents.

Today, under one collective identity, we can enthusiastically lift up that the UCC is a welcoming, justice-minded Christian community. At a time when religion is too often portrayed as narrow-minded and exclusive, many are raising their VOICES for an alternate vision:

 - Where God is all-loving and inclusive

 - Where the Church of Jesus Christ welcomes and accepts everyone as they are

 - Where your mind is nourished as much as your soul

 - Where Jesus the healer meets Jesus the revolutionary

 - Where together we grow a just and peaceful world

Deep in our hearts

Deep in our hearts there is a common vision;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common song;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common story,

 telling Creation that we are one.

 

Deep in our hearts there is a common purpose;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common goal;

 Deep in our hearts there is a sacred message,

 justice and peace in harmony.

 

Deep in our hearts there is a common longing;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common theme;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common current,

 flowing to freedom like a stream.

 

Deep in our hearts there is a common vision;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common song;

 Deep in our hearts there is a common story,

 telling Creation that we are one.

 

Words by John Oldham

Deep in our hearts.jpg

Put Out Into Deep Water

Professor Adam Copeland teaches Pastoral Leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He knows a thing or two about how to motivate people to make a change. February is African History Month and it would appropriate to lift up one of lessons Copeland offers his students when it comes to liberation. I don’t need to tell you that music can affect us deeply. In fact, a song or a hymn can do as much to instill deep faith in a disciple as any sermon. You can all say Amen to that! Copeland says that many African American spirituals were “code songs” or “signal songs” that slaves used to send messages of freedom, messages of hope to one another that their masters didn’t understand. Slaves would sing about getting to heaven, but they were also singing of getting over the Ohio or Mississippi River, or some other large piece of landscape to a place of freedom.

Like Exodus 14 with its emphasis on Moses and his long march to freedom African Americans envisioned a time and place when freedom would be theirs, when the tight grip of the oppressor would be no more. But they were also aware of the risks. If the slave did escape a plantation, one would be pursued by dogs and bounty hunters and, if caught, would meet a horrible fate. But the slaves sang freedom songs, songs of faith. Their deep Christian faith kept them anchored in the Lord even when they lived in squalor and captivity. Even while enslaved, they sang of their freedom in Christ and their hope that one day they would find their way home.

Many of us live our lives in relative abundance. As a society, we have more stuff than any could ever need. But how is our faith? I recall a preacher one challenged us in the congregation to ask upon our pastoral visits, “How are you with God?” Perhaps a little intense for our sensitive ears, too direct for our typical conversations. But I ask you this morning, where is God pushing you? How is God challenging your faith in a way that is uncomfortable or scary, but ultimately helpful and holy? Where is God calling you to journey, to be set free from that which enslaves you, that which is holding you back from exercising your God-given spiritual gifts? Perhaps it has come time to “push out from these shallow waters, into the deep end, into the places of deeper conversation, where we talk about what really matters.

Let’s take this story from Luke in particular. We pick up with Jesus standing by Lake Gennesaret and the crowds pressing in on him to hear the Word. Imagine, if Jesus had been preaching in a church, the congregation would be filling the front pews and pressing in at him in the space between the pews at the pulpit. So Jesus gets a bit claustrophobic, and gets in the boat of a fisherfolk and puts out a little-ways in the lake to get some elbow room. And Jesus preaches sitting in the boat. Now those fisherfolk had just returned from a long night of fishing, and they hadn’t caught a thing. Jesus met them when they were failures. As usual, Jesus had something up his sleeve and he tells them to put the boats out a little-ways in the deeper water and try again. We know the result, nets filled with fish. And, once they got to shore, the text says, “They left everything and followed him.”

deep water.png

I have heard this text preached many times. Often the preacher uses it to focus on how we can bring people to faith, whether in an evangelical context with more converts or a mainline church, drawing people to our cause of justice and peace. But what if this text this morning is not about the manipulation of numbers, the numerical growth of the movement, but rather the pursuit of deeper connections with others, a deeper connection with Jesus? Pushing out to deeper waters would then be less a place of “capture” and more a place of removing fear (Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid”) and transformation (they left everything and followed him).

And what does Luke tell us about Jesus after he has pushed his followers to deeper waters? What does he do next?

Jesus Cleanses a Leper. Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Be made clean.” Jesus Heals a Paralytic. Jesus said, “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home. Jesus Calls Levi. After this Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. But then things get very interesting. Luke goes so far as to say, “Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

Things get stranger. Then Levi gave a great banquet for Jesus in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician... What I love about this transition in Luke 5 is how a text that began with fisherfolk being pushed to go to deeper waters, to find what they are looking for in that scary and mysterious place in the deep, ends with a banquet meal that includes persons around the table others label sinners and outcasts.

Deeper conversations that include the question, how are you with God and where is God pushing you, will inevitably take place in deeper waters, around tables that include people you might not necessarily invite to your dinner table. The focus is not ease or familiarity, it is deep and diverse. Maybe the time for us to push ourselves in the deeper water, around table with people not like us. Maybe the time has come to ask where God is with you or where God is pushing you?

I am eager to have those conversations, those connections, with you. Whether it is at the church, at a coffee shop or at a banquet table. And most importantly I hope you will have these deep conversations with each other, at coffee hour, at a coffee shop or restaurant, at one of our community meals. We need not be too intense, people don’t react well to a conversation that begins with “so how are you with God?” If I spoke like that with everyone I met on the bus it would be one lonely ride! Even sitting next to Jesus on a boat need not start like that. Surely we would begin by talking about the weather, after all this is Nova Scotia. Then perhaps we might ask Jesus “who’s your father?” “So what do you do?” “You come here often?” But at some point all conversation get to a place where we need to talk about what matters, “what makes you happy?” “Where is a place you feel deeply connected?” “When do you feel truly alive?” Listen as well as talk. God gave us two ears and one mouth. And listen to where, in these deep conversations, you feel God is pushing you.

Like our sisters and brothers from African heritage there is a song in our heart that is reminding us of our freedom, freedom not only from something but for something. We are free from the chains that hold us down, free to connect with others, free to be “fishers of people”, not as converts, but as fellow travelers with Jesus; cleansing, healing, calling. In Jesus we are free, we are healed and we are called to leave behind what enslaves us and follow. Thanks be to God, Amen.

My Favorite Words

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For years, believing creatives of all sorts have eschewed the dreaded title “Christian artist.” We don’t say that Christian chefs make “Christian food,” some variation of the argument goes, so why must we have “Christian movies” and “Christian music”? In his new book, Paul: A Biography, renowned biblical scholar and historian N.T. Wright suggests...

Love Nevers Ends

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing...

Offering/risking an alternative

In the mid 1980’s and late 1980’s I undertook my theological studies. The more academic Masters of Theological Studies and the more profession-related Masters of Divinity afforded me the opportunity to dig deeper in my faith, ask questions and ponder deeper possibilities, ask myself what kind of a God I imagined, what kind of faith I wanted to live into and what kind of discipleship I wanted to embody...