Thursday, February 26, 2009

Message from an Empty, Immoral, Godless Friend

I write this in response to the several occasions when I have read or heard religious people; including Friends, express surprised approval that those of us who identify ourselves as non-Christians are capable of ethical behavior. I write in response to the number of times that I have read or heard the suggestion or outright accusation that even if we are somehow capable of leading moral lives, we are actually empty and in danger of falling into error due to our failure to accept God as the foundation of that good behavior, and that without faith, our morality is either unsustainable, meaningless, pathetic or spiritually delusional. I write it also in response to a video in which a popular entertainer expresses bafflement at the idea of a non-religious person who chooses to affiliate herself with the Religious Society of Friends. I’m one of those irritating non-Christians who describes herself variously as a non-Christian, post-Christian, Neo-Pagan or non-theistic Friend. I write this post to both explain myself and offer my friendship despite my philosophical difference.

Is there a God? If you mean is there an Entity that exists apart from His/Her Creation that Intelligently Designed the Cosmos and intelligently oversees its functions? I don't think so. Mine is a collective "God." My definitions are plural and pantheist (or perhaps pan-en-theist) although the "theist" part is probably a misnomer. "Spirit", “Life”, “Connection”, "Energy", or even the Star Wars "Force" is much closer to my meaning than "Creator." I am, therefore, perhaps by definition, a non-theistic person, a freethinker. It isn't that I don't believe in that which is Divine. Indeed, for me, the Cosmos is infused with the Divine. I just reject an anthropomorphic god or tribal, culturally specific, historically rooted god and therefore am uncomfortable with language that trips too closely to this. (I also know that many folks who also reject an anthropomorphic God use the term "God." I'm cool with that.)

It hurts me to hear religious people disparaging non-believers (or believers who choose radically different language). I admire a system of ethics that relies on a faith in human reason and compassion and I make no apologies for it. It looks to me like the great religious thinkers appealed to human reason and compassion as the tools that bring us closest to that which may be called Divine Wisdom and I choose to value their messages above religious, supernatural, and superstitious stories about the messengers. In short, it matters very little to me whether or not Jesus turned water into wine. If his teaching failed to rise to a standard of deep compassion and what Schweitzer called "reverence for life", he could change muskrats into elephants and I'd still have no use for him. I admire and follow him (and all the other leaders and thinkers that people my philosophical bookshelf) because they help me in my own journey toward a deepening philosophical and practical compassion, not because he had magical powers. As for miracles, I maintain that the universe is naturally magnificent and surprising. Life is so incredible that it knocks me on my butt. The distinction between supernatural and natural events that occur outside my expectations eludes me. I’ve given birth three times. Have you ever seen that happen? That shit’s crazy wonderful. I’m sorry, but walking on water just doesn’t much compare.

Do we choose to be good because we are afraid of some angry god? Because we're impressed by miracles? Or are we good because our intellects (and the products of intellect including morality and ethics) teach us that it is more logical, just, and joyful to love than to be hateful? Religious people can be inhumane and cruel in their faith. It isn’t the religion itself that makes them good. People are good because they sense the divinity of Life Itself. They see the sense of justice and kindness as the only reasonable means of promoting a sustainable society.
I am a non-Christian but I am not anti-Christian. I see something profoundly rational about the Christian message of deep compassion and peace. I also see a commonality of compassionate rationalism throughout the world's religions and philosophies. If someone's thoughts and actions are thoughtful, compassionate, and humane, then it seems foolish to me to condemn them because they do not use the same words to describe the spark that inspires that compassion. I'm a spiritual pragmatist that way. I care a good deal less about a person's theology than I do about their actions. Call yourself what you will. If you have a veneration for life, if you work toward peace and justice, if you are humane and loving in your dealings with others, especially those less powerful than yourself, then you and I are on the same team whether you acknowledge it or not.

On the other hand, it hurts me deeply to hear non-theistic people disparaging religious people as fools and worse. I resent the lumping together of religious zealots who judge and kill in the name of God with the people of faith with whom I have shared my life. There are all kinds of fundamentalism. An atheist can be just as fundamentalist as a Christian. Intolerance is ugly regardless of its packaging.

I want to be a Friend because, and this is important, I sense that I already am. If I am to be a hyphenated Friend, it is not because I am describing my foot in two worlds, not as if I am speaking of a fractured spirituality that I am trying to make whole. No. By choosing a hyphenated spirituality, I am merely telling my history. I was reared a Christian and believed one thing with the deepest part of my soul. Then I was a Pagan and believed the same exact thing with the deepest part of my soul but with new metaphors and now I choose to be a Quaker because I wish to be among people who will push me to do better and surround me with love as I go on believing the very same thing I have always believed with the deepest part of my soul.

It is not loyalty to any creed, faith, or dogma that keeps us from being lost. The names we attach to this Mystery are merely noises. It is not contained in holy books or rituals. It is not proved by facts and theories. So what is that holds me accountable if not scientific argument alone and not faith? What holds me accountable, what I experience as primary reality; I do not typically call "God" or "Christ." My own training from seminary and in religious studies precludes this. Sometimes I play with the metaphors of Goddess and Light, of Soul and Spirit and even of Christ, but there are many times when I reject the metaphors of traditional religion entirely as wholly inadequate to the task. There are times when reason, ethics, justice and right relationship are themselves the discipline that holds me true in the same times of weakness when religious people turn to scripture and tradition. I tell you that I am true to the same truths that motivate you. Brush aside words and theories, doctrines and narratives and you and I are children of the same Flesh and Spirit.
How foolishly we strut and arrogantly proclaim our own special knowledge of the truth. We are a newborn species, too primitive in understanding to understand even our own fragile bodies and yet we presume to know the very Heart of the Cosmos? And yet a child knows that whatever this thing is (Christ, Light, Beloved, Buddha, Source, Science, Reason, Love, Father, Mother, All, Nothing) it does not need to be explained. It is does not need us to defend it. It does not need us to define it or write it up in books for people to follow. It is strong enough that the people will follow anyway. We are like moths to its flame and so have we always been. It is only when we dress it up and parade it around that things fall apart. It is only when we try to lead the Light by the Nose that we get lost.
I am not a theist in any traditional sense but I do not think that this matters in the end. It does not prevent me from feeling a depth of kinship with religious folk nor should they be concerned that I choose to make my home with them. My theories and your religion are no more than clumsy attempts to articulate a truth beyond our reach. So what is it? It is just that which is. It does not need a name or a label or a history or tradition for me to know it. It strums and I resonate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Am I a Christian?

I'm a self-identified Pagan (because I venerate nature and utilize a variety of Pagan and Neo-Pagan religious symbols and metaphors to assist me in my spiritual growth). I am a post-Christian (because I reject the history of the organized church almost in its entirety from my context in a multicultural, post-colonial, postmodernist world), a spiritual feminist (because ecology and gynocentric spirituality are deeply connected), a Goddess-woman (because although "God" is no more a woman than a man, the development of the metaphor has healing properties), a freethinker (because like Lucretia Mott, I accept Truth for Authority and not Authority for Truth).

I write this because it must be said. You have to know that I'm "that kind of person" before you can answer my question. My other blog entries begin to grapple with these labels. I am playing with theologies and thealogies, with linguistics, history, philosophies and theories here. I have written at length about all of these labels and will do so again. But not this time. Let's see what happens when I don't.

1. I am not a Christian because I don't believe in the special divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.

2. I am not a Christian because most people who call themselves Christians would certainly exclude me from the definition given my devotion to and interest in the above mentioned beliefs and affiliations.

3. I reject and do not wish to be associated with the lion's share of orthodox believers in any Abrahamic religion not just because they do not share my view (which is not a problem) but because they pronounce them inferior, dangerous or even evil (regardless of their understanding or lack thereof).

4. I do not wish to be associated with a religious perspective that has used monotheism to justify devastating those with whom it disagrees. I'd rather cast my lot with non-theists, polytheists, pantheists and complex monotheists who are open to more (and even conflicting) varieties of truth.

So why can't I leave it there? Why does THE QUESTION plague me still? Why when I answer, "I am not a Christian" does a little part of me wince?

1. Because the teachings of Jesus remain the center and foundation of my values.

2. Because despite my fascination with and knowledge of other spiritual perspectives, I judge all things as good only if they do not disagree fundamentally with his teachings especially related to love (agape).

3. At the end of the day, my love for him is somehow different than my admiration for any other historical figure. The thought of him still brings me to tears regardless of my belief that he was "just a man." My brain may always deny his divinity but I believe my heart would leap in his presence.

4. I know that many Christian individuals and groups do/did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God or otherwise specially divine. Heterodoxy is not the same as unbelief or disinterest. That orthodox people exclude me does not mean that heterodox people would exclude me. Should I exclude myself?

5. My relationship with his teaching and with his history, his mythology, his people is undeniable, deep, permanent, and emotionally significant. He remains at the center of who I am as a spiritual person. His story lies at the center of what I believe and who I am.

So am I a Christian? God only knows.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Injustice of Proposition 8


"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

I'm not big on romance but I believe in Love and I believe in Justice. There is nothing loving or just about Prop 8. I watched this video and signed the letter of protest and post it here so that others may also have that opportunity. In a nation in which we all have religious freedom, no one has the right to dictate religious morality to anyone else. When the state can legally dissolve a family, all our marriages are demeaned. And when my own child learns that the government can break up a marriage and says to me in a voice both trembling and defiant that we would still be a family no matter what they said, I know that I must stand up for other families founded on love and threatened by bigotry so that my child's fear does not become another child's reality.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quaker Pagan Q and A

Q: What is the difference between Pagan and Neo-Pagan?

A: Pagan is a term, often derogatory, that refers to those who practice spiritualities outside the Abrahamic religions. Pagan is also an umbrella term that includes Neo-Pagans. Neo-Pagans are Pagans who believe that we cannot return to the "Old Ways" whatever they were. We are modern people who are dependent upon modern philosophies, technologies, and morality. The spiritual solutions of the ancient world cannot work for us even if we wanted them to. Our worldview is dramatically different than theirs. Neo-Pagans are interested in consciously creating an earth/body centered spirituality. For Neo-Pagans, immanence rather than transcendence of the divine is stressed as a matter of faith and practice.

It is critical to understand that there is no single definition or doctrine that can help us with a more accurate description of Neo-Pagans. They resist organization and categorization. The most populous branch of Neo-Paganism is Wicca but there are multiple varieties and interpretations of this manifestation. I am not Wiccan. In fact, my beliefs and practice related to Wicca are similar to the beliefs and practices of a Christian Friend in relationship to a Roman Catholic.


Q: What are Goddess women?

A: Goddess women are scholars and practitioners who are interested in reintroducing the idea of feminine divinity into the discussion. They are those who consciously include feminine metaphors into religious dialogue and who often find that such metaphors are the most powerful and helpful in their lives. Goddess women are feminist theorists who do their work in religion studies and thealogy and are typically post-Christian in their approach.

Q. What do you mean by thealogy spelled with an A?

A. There are two possible meanings of the word thealogy. I use the word to describe the intellectual process of studying the feminine divine. It is a useful word for Goddess studies, which is a part of the research in which I am engaged. I also use it to refer to that religion studies work undertaken by those who are specifically interested in the relationships women have with their religions and spiritualities. It is gynocentric religion studies. I do differentiate between thealogy (which tends to be done by Goddess women and Neo-Pagans) and feminist theology which is done by feminist Christians. Both offer significant contributions to the discussion. I am indebted to both.

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. I believe in the concept that many liberal Christians and other spiritual people call "God." I believe the word itself is problematic inasmuch as it holds a great deal of sexist, imperialist, and racist connotations which it has gathered over time. Such things happen to words as they travel with us through the ages. I prefer not to attach a sullied word to a concept I honor with the deepest part of me (although sometimes expediency requires it).

In English, the word "God" is gendered because of the existence of the word "Goddess". Because the word goddess is derivative, the message of the word god is that such an entity typically excludes the feminine (which is derivative rather than primary). I find that even those people who believe that the exclusion of the feminine from the Godhead is sexist silliness, are affected by this linguistic limitation. Words have intense power over us at an unconscious level.

I reject the word God as a default term because it is anthropomorphic. The overwhelming cross-cultural perception of a "god" is of a male deity in a human form. Adding a capital G to the word does very little to effectively challenge that perception. The popular media continues to promote the notion of God as an old man. I prefer to think of Mary Daly's advice that we consider God as a verb rather than as a noun. I sometimes write "God/dess' as a means of indicating duality and inclusion. This also shows that God is included in the term Goddess. I'm not overly thrilled with any of these approaches. Too often when it comes to conversational treatment of the Ineffable, I just muddle through and expect that others are doing the same. I'm careful about terms but rarely deeply offended. In the end, it is important that we not confuse noises and scribbles for the Divine Itself.

My solution to what I see as a language problem with the word "God" is to vary my ways of expressing the concept of divinity. By changing up my metaphors, I remind myself that I do not have the ultimate power of naming the Divine. In believing that none of my varied words is right, that a thousand other complementary and even seemingly conflicting word can be applied, I remind myself that I am dealing with something far outside my understanding. Therefore, God is also Goddess and Death, Life, Light, Compassion, Righteousness, Nothingness, Depth, Height, Child, Lover, Beloved, Space, Time, Nature, and Cosmos. The divine energy is also found in smaller and humble spaces; in grief and laughter, in sex and humor, in searching and in doubt. I do not wish to be like the Millerites climbing onto haystacks to wait for a Christ to swoop down from on high. Such people will always be disappointed. I prefer to look for the divine even in my dishwater. I see holiness peeking around every corner.

Q: Since you are a Pagan, does that mean that you are a polytheist?

A: Because I use multiple metaphors and honor multiple cultural narratives to discuss the nature of divinity, I appear to be a polytheist. One of the stories that has the most profound influence on my sense of myself as a spiritual person is a German story in which "God" appears as several persons. If I say I honor Hel, the German Goddess of the Underworld, I do not imagine her as an actual person with a separate existence. She is a thought form and a cultural tool that assists me in understanding my relationship to death and failure just as Balder helps me understand my relationship to rebirth. I am a great fan of cross-cultural spirituality. I enjoy finding commonalities and subtle, nuanced differences in various accounts of the human quest to understand its nature. I love to see repeated themes of sin, suffering, death, rebirth and redemption across a wide range of spiritual stories. I do not think it diminishes the story of the Christ to also know the story of Persephone, of Tammuz, of Balder and of Asherah.

I don't use the word polytheist to describe myself. I prefer the term pantheist. For me, the Universe is imbued with Divinity. It may appear that the many forms of divinity that I acknowledge mean that I see different Gods. In truth, my pantheism is a complex monotheism. Because I am a process thealogian (note that a instead of an o), I see the Divine as not separate from Creation but working within it and through it, sharing in its destiny. We are co-creators with the Divine and the manifestations of our work together are infinite.

Q: So do you see yourself as equal to God?

A: No. I see myself as a tiny facet of the ongoing story of revelation in which all life takes part. In that sense, all life is Holy but I am merely bios to the Divine Zoe. I am a flash of revelation, insignificant in many ways but beloved because I alone can offer up my story. I believe we are each called toward this process of revelation. I believe that sin is the failure to acknowledge our yearning for our Source. To fail to answer the call to ourSelves is a grave sin. To stand in the way of another who is engaged in that process is perhaps a graver sin.

Q: Is that the only Sin? If everyone is called to do their own thing, is there really anything anyone can do that is wrong?

A: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (Lk 10.25-27) As a Neo-Pagan, I understand that all things are of the body and mind of the OverSoul. My understanding is that physically and spiritually, we are all of one Body. To fail to love my neighbor (and ecology tells me that all life is a neighbor to me)is to fail to love "the Lord my God." So while the Pagan Rede begins with "Do what you will shall be the whole of the Law," it is important to recall that it ends with "So long as you harm none." Sin, therefore exists when we turn away from our Source. It exists when we turn away from each other.

Q: You quote from the Bible. What is your source of authority?

A: I love the Bible and find myself utilizing its riches frequently. I also find what biblical scholar Renita Weems has called "texts of terror" within its pages. I reject the process of canonization or that any man or group of men (or women for that matter) have the right to put limitations on the expression of Truth. My source of authority is wisdom which I view as the meeting point of rationalism and compassion. My wisdom is imperfect and immature because I am human and I am young. I therefore continue to check my understanding against the wisdom of those who seem to me to be full of the love I seek to learn. I look to a broad range of secular and religious texts to assist me in this process. Such texts are the echoing voices of a community of wise people and are of great value to me. However, I discipline my readings with skepticism and caution recalling that even beautiful words must be understood within context. I therefore employ various methodologies of biblical criticism and other critical theories to assist me in my discernment process.

On the other hand, sometimes I find that I must trust my heart. I believe that we are given the gift of knowing, deep within, that we all belong to each other. Love is not a feeling but a Reality, a golden thread that links us together in spite of our violent differences. Life is a Mystery and our journey in it is often long and lonely. Love is the clue that will eventually lead us Home, hand in hand.

Q: You seem content with your Paganism. Why do you also wish to be a Friend?

A: I long for a beloved community. I long for those who will challenge me toward growth, honor my individuality, and hold me to a corporate standard of decency. I believe in the Friends' testimonies of simplicity, integrity, equality, community and peace. I wish to partake in their historic witness of these testimonies. I find that, for the most part, even when our language differs, I find my soul in deep agreement with Friends' motivations and methods. When I am with Friends, I am more centered. I have found a trembling tenderness in their presence that intellect alone has denied me. I know they have done me good and I am hopeful that I will be able to offer something of myself in return.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Quaker Video Game Idea

My daughter, who will be ten this week, told us about her idea for a video game for Friends. She started by telling us that to gain strength, you attend meeting. Then once you have built up your strength, you go outside the meeting where you can buy things like organic food and plain dress and bring peace to the world. When your energy stores are depleted, you must go back to meeting for renewal. It made me laugh to hear it but it showed what she's been picking up about the goals and practice of the Friends in her life. It seems like a pretty good summation of our Quaker experience and one heck of a game. I wonder what we should call it?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quaker Pagan Postmodernism

On Postmodernism. Because I began my undergraduate career in the 1990s, I'm a child of postmodernism. My undergraduate and graduate research were under a woman who was educated by a professor who was educated by Umberto Eco. My prof. told me that made me Eco's intellectual great-granddaughter. Cool! More directly, I am influenced by my father's doctoral work in history that utilized a postmodernist methodology and by my own doctoral work in feminist methodology which relied strongly on standpoint theory.

I find standpoint theory to be a valuable tool of what some might call Third Wave feminism inasmuch as my generation is deeply concerned not only with the naming of oppressions but in the cross-listing of them. So we have people who need not only to tell their stories as members of marginalized races, genders, cultures, sexualities, abilities, religions, etc. but people who need to tell how their membership in a wide range of identities uniquely affects their development as human beings and their relationships to others. In this way, we use storytelling as a corrective for the oppression of labels. That's where all those hyphens come in with people in my generation. I'm a liberal-Anglo-Protestant-rural-Northeastern-Tennessee-born-New Yorker who is college educated, able-bodied, and a mother of three. I'm middle-class but married to a man with a blue-collar job (although he is middle-class in background). I'm an animal loving-story-writer. I'm a green-feminist-crunchy granola earth mama with strong socialist sympathies. And I could go on and on (as each of us can) and then start telling you how each of these little words affects the others. How does being raised a liberal Protestant great-granddaughter of a British suffragist affect my standing as an animal rights activist? How does being culturally middle-class and white affect me as a pacifist, as the wife of a truck driver, as a teacher? How do I tell my story without the hyphens? Don't tell me that you are gay or straight or black or white or evangelical or atheist. Give me a thousand different adjectives and tell me how they love and fight with each other. Give me a saga. Give me angst and conflict. Give me details! Now that's a story!

This insistence upon a complex and fluid narrative means that I must reject the meta narrative. And that's my postmodernism. Postmodernism isn't, as I understand it, necessarily a rejection of Ultimate Reality: it is a rejection of the human capacity to define it. It isn't some kind of cop-out moral relativism. I don't believe that anything goes. I acknowledge that there are bad answers and better answers. No, I don't reject Reality. I'm just saying we ain't smart enough to keep hold of it. Sure, sometimes we get blown away by a brilliant revelation but the moment we try to express it in words, art, or dance or muffins, we find that we didn't really get it quite right. Reality, whatever it is, is messy as hell. The best we can do is create an increasingly complex and meandering facsimile of reality. *shrug* Such a philosophy is a clusterf@ck pain in the ass but it leaves fewer of us on the margins of what has long constituted the definition of the Real and the Central in our culture. From the position of standpoint theory, no other person can tell another's story; each must tell his/her own and therefore, the storyteller, whatever their marginalized background in relationship to power, is their own center. (And this is why I am so deeply attracted to the idea of the Light within each soul. The Light may be constant but the soul is not. We're all a bunch of warped prisms and not a single one of us is straight enough to define the Vision for the rest of the party.

That said, I learned my postmodernism from idealists who came of age during the late 1960s. There really was no way that this idealism wasn't going to rub off on me and so it would not be completely honest for me to deny my own idealistic beliefs. At some point, when you push my intellectual process, you'll hit my core beliefs in an ultimate right and wrong that exists regardless of one's particular standpoint. Whatever our diverse backgrounds, I believe, in my heart of hearts, that we are all called to agape. We may be too diverse for modernist notions to adequately describe us but I believe that we are still bound together by obligations of love and service.

My belief in both radical difference and ultimate obligations of love also means that service requires deep humility. In the context of radical diversity, one cannot assume that one's spiritual perspective is ascendant. We can't go around enforcing our answers onto those in need of our help. This means that a religious morality just ain't going to fly. In short, and from an explicitly feminist perspective, this means that religious perspectives on family and sexual relationships are no more than intolerance. I think it is telling that when I said the word "Evangelicals" my husband thought I said, "Evil Genitals." Well, that has unfortunately been the great message of Abrahamic cultural teaching, that somehow sexuality is at the heart of evil (as if Jesus was some kind of sex-obsessed prude). I don't think this can be the point of the evangelical movement and I see evidence that lots of evangelicals would agree with me on that point. Sadly, when the public hears "religion" and "morality" they are thinking about prudes who want to control what everyone does with their party equipment.

So basically, I reject the notion of religious morality while I judge ethics as essential for spiritual development. But aren't they the same? No. I don't think so. Practically speaking, I approach the issue of morality and ethics by splitting the two. Morality refers to the codes of behavior maintained by a society. Ethics refers to the system and/or process one utilizes to determine moral behavior. As far as I can tell, all human behaviors (even those determined by biology) are influenced by culture. Morality is that which a culture believes is right and wrong. Because cultures change, morality cannot be linked to any notion of that which is ultimately right. Ethics, on the other hand, I understand as a method whereby one determines right relationship and right action. Ethics is therefore both situational and constant. It is situational in the sense that one must apply an ethical standard to each individual situation but it is constant in the sense that within each and every situation, the goals remain the same- to act as agents of Love. In this way, the sex act itself is not morally wrong but one must judge the ethical impact of the sex act within each situation with each individual involved. My mother explained sexual ethics to me when she explained homosexuality to me when I was in elementary school. "Being gay is just another way of loving somebody and as long as you aren't hurting somebody, loving somebody is never wrong." Compare this to the Pagan Rede: "Do what you will shall be the whole of the law- so long as you harm none."

Morality gives us answers. It says this thing or that thing is wrong no matter what. Morality demands simple obedience. Ethics, on the other hand, calls us to active intellectual engagement in the pursuit of good. An ethical person asks questions. How do I act in a manner that best preserves the dignity, autonomy, and health of both the other individual and myself? In this situation, with this other creature (human, animal, etc.) how can I be the most loving?

Love is key. The morality of the modernist world doesn't help me love. Its focus on right and wrong as products of obedience or disobedience to a set of (someone else's) Realities asks me to judge myself and others. Ethics calls me not to judgement but to discernment. The ethical process itself requires intellectual engagement and compassion. It requires that one understand oneself in the I/Thou relationship in which one can no longer objectify the Other.

I make the critical point here that the Christian method and message cannot be (and indeed never accurately was) found in so-called Christian morality. In the end, (surprise, surprise) my Pagan ethics are exactly the same as my Christian ethics. That commandment that meant so much to me as a Christian, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" is the same as "Do what you will shall be the whole of the law- except that you harm none." There is no mistake here. I would never have accepted any commandment that violated that primary commandment. As it turns out, in most, if not all major world religions, one can find similar commandments. As President Obama said yesterday at the prayer breakfast, much harm has been done in the name of faith but we can do better. The commandment to do no harm and to love one another unconditionally is an ancient human commandment obeyed across faiths.