Are you new to meditation and need some help? Maybe, you are an advanced spiritual practitioner and need to go back to basics or have plateaued and need some extra oomph. CJ talks to author Jay Michaelson, about his book “Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment” to discuss how spiritual practices can evolve over time.
- Segment 1: What do folks interested in meditation need to know about the intention of meditation?
- Segment 2: What are the inflection point that Buddhism is going through right now? How are spiritual concepts that we create our own reality morphing as they hit the US with movies like The Secret?
- Segment 3: Listener David from Facebook shares his isolation from his Catholic upbringing as a result of being gay. What actions can gays who seek acceptance take to be part of a community?
- YouTube Video:
Blog Post by our Guest (source: Jewish Daily Forward)
Have We Reached the End of Traditional Religion?
Jews and Christians Alike Are Straying From Affiliation
Maybe the Christian Right is right. For almost 40 years now, they’ve been warning us that we’ve entered the wilderness, that traditional religion is being eroded. Did 2013 prove them right? Item One: the Rise of the Nones. This phenomenon — nearly 20% of Americans listing “none” as their religious affiliation — was first documented in 2012, but only in 2013 did it emerge as a demographic and political fact, impacting how we vote, how we live and what we think about political issues. Strikingly, there are more and more Nones the younger the demographic sample gets. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 32% are Nones. Item Two, or perhaps One-A, is the Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jews, which showed that 20% of American Jews (there’s that number again) consider themselves “Jews of no religion,” and that their non-religious Judaism is not a deep or sticky enough of an identity to be sustainable. Third, even among non-Nones (Somes?), religious affiliation appears to be growing more polarized: There are now more fundamentalists, more liberal-to-atheists and fewer mainliners in between. Denominationally, this means fewer Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Conservative Jews and Reform Jews — and more evangelicals, Pentecostals, ultra-Orthodox and non-denominationals. Mega-churches are spreading — it’ll be interesting to see whether charismatic forms of Judaism will mimic their success — and old-line churches are dwindling. It seems that the center cannot hold. And then there’s the Pope. Under Benedict XVI, who resigned amid swirling rumors of sexual and financial scandals in the Vatican, the Catholic Church seemed to be entering a second Counter-Reformation, doubling down on its most conservative teachings and, by way of enormous “charitable” organizations, working to eviscerate legal protections for women and sexual minorities. Now, Pope Francis tells us he won’t judge gay people, that the church is too obsessed with sexuality and that untrammeled capitalism is immoral. You know something’s changing when Rush Limbaugh calls the pope a Communist. Finally, even among those who still profess religious belief, the LGBT equality movement has caused a striking moderation in views. Staying with the Catholic Church for a moment, over 60% of church-going Catholics in America support same-sex marriage (compared to over 80% of Jews), which is above the national average. Even younger Evangelicals, galvanized around the Emerging Church movement, are beginning to say “live and let live” when it comes to gays, although they remain as staunchly anti-abortion as ever. Taboos are falling. And at the same time, the influence of the so-called Christian Right is at a low point. Think about it: A few years ago, when we talked about conservative Republicans, we talked about the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council. Now, we talk about the Tea Party. Yes, many Tea Partiers are just warmed-over Christian Rightists. But the rhetoric is different, the issues are different and the churchmen aren’t calling the shots. Clearly, no one factor explains all of these disparate trends. We still don’t know why Americans are becoming more like Europeans when it comes to matters of (un-)belief: secular culture, science, the excesses of “bad religion,” interfaith marriages and so on. It may just be a matter of survey respondents feeling more comfortable saying “None.” Nor do we really know what the future holds, for Jews or anyone else. We can speculate that the growth in secularism and the concomitant growth in fundamentalism are related — but which is the horse and which is the cart? It does seem, though, that 2013 was a year in which traditional religious affiliation underwent significant change. Is this the dawning of a new, liberal age, in which America finally starts to look a little more like the rest of the Western world? Don’t count on it. American religion is nothing if not resilient. It is malleable enough to change with the times, and if anyone ever does declare war on Christmas, they will lose. We remain a weirdly religious country. There are signs of innovation and renewal, too — forms of religion which focus on the pastoral and the personal, rather than the dogmatic. And these values are timeless. No matter how shopworn and threadbare our religious language sometimes becomes, the mystery and tragedy of human experience still remains — and so religion endures. Remember, even that famous sermon about losing one’s religion begins, “Oh, life, it’s bigger — it’s bigger than you…” Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor to the Forward.
About Our Guest
Dr. Jay Michaelson is a writer, scholar, and activist whose work focuses on the intersections of religion, contemplative practice, sexuality, and law. Writing. Jay is the author of five books,Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment(2003), God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality (2011), Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism(2009), Another Word for Sky: Poems(2007), and God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice (2006) over 200 essays, articles, and works of fiction. His work has appeared in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, CNN Online, Huffington Post, Salon, and other publications. In addition, Jay was the founder of Zeek, the first Jewish online magazine, and editor of Az Yashir Moshe: A Book of Songs and Blessings. His writing has been anthologized in volumes including Queer Religion, Torah Queeries, Signs of the Apocalypse: Rapture, The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism, and Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice. Academic Background and Work. Jay holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, an M.A. in Religious Studies from Hebrew University, an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence, and a BA Magna Cum Laude from Columbia. The areas of focus for his scholarly work are sexuality, religion, law, and contemplative practice. Jay has been a visiting professor at Boston University Law School (2007-08), and has held teaching positions at Yale University and City College of New York. His academic articles have been published in Theology and Sexuality, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Duke Law Journal, Stanford Environmental Law Journal, the Journal of Law in Society, and the Yale Law Journal, and he has presented papers at the American Academy of Religion, Association for Jewish Studies, CUNY Graduate Center, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and other conferences. Contemplative Practice. A well known “BuJu” or Buddhist Jew, Jay’s contemplative path includes Theravadan Buddhism, post-denominational Judaism, and earth-based spirituality. In 2008-09, he spent five months on silent meditation retreat in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, and has sat long retreats in that tradition for ten years. Jay has also learned and taught Kabbalah for twenty years, completed the Elat Chayyim Jewish Meditation Advanced Training program, and spent two years at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. He is also a proud member of the Radical Faerie community. Teaching/Speaking. Outside the academy, Jay is a frequent scholar in residence and teacher at institutions ranging from Yale University to the New York Open Center, the Human Rights Campaign to Burning Man, and dozens of universities, synagogues, and community centers. In this work, Jay brings together scholarly rigor with a personal commitment to spiritual practice and personal growth. LGBT Advocacy. Jay was the founder of Nehirim, an LGBT Jewish organization, and vice president of the Arcus Foundation, a leading LGBT funder. His particular focus is the intersection of religion and sexuality, including the new “religious exemptions” movement. Jay’s work in this area has been featured in the New York Times, CNN, and NPR. Awards. 2012 Lambda Literary Award finalist; 2010 award for best opinion writing by the New York Society of Professional Journalists; 2009 Forward 50 list of influential American Jews. Other Work. During his legal career, Jay was a clerk to Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a Golieb Fellow in legal history at NYU Law School, a recipient of several prizes and awards for his legal writing and scholarship, and for eight years was founder and general counsel of Wasabi Systems, a venture-funded software company. Jay also co-founded of the Tibet Oral History Project, which records the testimonies of Tibetan victims of the Chinese Occupation. He also writes widely on issues of environmental protection (particularly climate change), Israel and Jewish identity, emerging forms of spirituality, and others. He lives in upstate New York. Read more: http://forward.com/articles/189560/have-we-reached-the-end-of-traditional-religion/?p=all#ixzz2qtKzJ5jH