~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Friday, January 15, 2016

Roots, Vines, and Religious Liberty

As I settle into our new home in the southwestern Missouri Ozarks, I’m embraced by trees and vines and roots, by bloodlines and history, by two hundred years of cellular community. Do the trees protect or isolate? Do the vines support or choke? Do the roots nourish or taint? How does any of this help me become stronger and more compassionate? 
I turn to the wisdom of nature and the beauty of landscape for messages of growth and healing. I step into new communities and listen with my heart. I invite the past to share its journey through story. 

I’m reading like mad, as usual, and one of my absolute favorite books has been Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty by Steven Waldman.* Founding Faith is a gorgeous distillation of America’s process toward religious freedom, and a good reminder for all of us right now not to persecute a religion because of extremists within it. Founding Faith is one of those books that, if I were one to highlight pivotal phrases or “ah-ha!” moments, would be a text of almost exclusive yellow markings. This means I find it nearly impossible to narrow my focus and provide only a few quotes, so the blurb from the back of the book will have to suffice in wetting your appetite: 
“The culture wars have distorted the dramatic story of how Americans came to worship freely. Many activists on the right maintain that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation.” Many on the left contend that the First Amendment was designed to boldly separate church and state. Neither of these claims is true, argues Beliefnet.com editor in chief Steven Waldman. With refreshing objectivity, Waldman narrates the real story of how our nation’s Founders forged a new approach to religious liberty. 
Founding Faith vividly describes the religious development of five Founders. Benjamin Franklin melded the Puritan theology of his youth and the Enlightenment philosophy of his adulthood. John Adams’s pungent views on religion stoked his revolutionary fervor and shaped his political strategy. George Washington came to view religious tolerance as a military necessity. Thomas Jefferson pursued a dramatic quest to “rescue” Jesus, in part by editing the Bible. Finally, it was James Madison who crafted an integrated vision of how to prevent tyranny while encouraging religious vibrancy.”
 This book is one that I wish everyone would read; with excellent information (massive amounts of footnotes and extensive bibliography to follow up on any details) and beautiful flow to the writing and layout (resulting in a fast read), it also provides common ground for people to meet each other in conversation. 
An acquaintance on Facebook recently told me, after a brief chat clearly showed our political differences of opinion, that we needed to stop before the dialogue could damage our friendship. A few years ago, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with that comment. But now, I find myself wondering if that’s where our political system has gone haywire? Is that part of what has led to such tremendous polarization? If friends and family cannot participate in civil conversation, and respect each other across and through our differences, how can we expect politicians to do so?

The seasons change, the wheel of life turns, and new visions emerge within and without … below are two photos from nearly the same angle and location on our deck, yet the view is so different. Time and awareness can change everything.
August 2015

January 2016


*I bought Founding Faith after listening to “Liberating the Founders,” an interview with Waldman by On Being with Krista Tippett. If you don’t have time to listen to the hour-long podcast, even just skimming the transcript is a delight. 


  1. What a beautiful view you have from your deck. It is wonderful to watch the trees change with the seasons. Founding Faith sounds fascinating, I'm going to check it out!

  2. The polarization of our country is distressing and painful -- but when one ethnicity, one religion, and one sex has dominated for most of our history, it's not surprising that change, though ultimately healthy, is accompanied by growing pains.


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