Goodbye, Roger Ebert

roger ebert

I am mourning the death of Roger Ebert, a man who taught me about so much more than movies.

Ebert’s TV shows played an important role in my childhood, from Siskel and Ebert, to Sneak Previews, to Ebert & Roeper, to Ebert’s last television effort, co-produced with his wife Chaz, Ebert Presents: At the Movies. I somehow never felt like I had the final word on a movie until I had looked up Ebert’s review. I found that I agreed with Ebert’s reviews fairly consistently, perhaps more often than any other single reviewer.

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Dr. Rupert Sheldrake on scientific dogma

In this video, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, of Clare College (a college within the University of Cambridge) outlines ten beliefs that have become dogma for the majority of scientists and well-educated people. There isn’t time in the video to get into sufficient detail, but I will definitely be reading his book, “The Science Delusion,” as many of these remind me of issues I have continually brought up with my atheist/materialist friends.

If you don’t think there is dogma in science, head over to YouTube and check out some of the responses to this video, including calls for it to be censored. For several years I have been convinced that we have as much to fear from scientific dogma as from religious dogma. “We already know that such and such is impossible. How dare you entertain these ideas.”

Dogma is dogma, and fundamentalism is not exclusively the domain of uneducated religious fanatics. Perhaps we have a great deal more to fear from fundamentalism that does not know it is fundamentalism, that wears a lab coat and comes to us in the guise of scientific knowledge. I am a great supporter of science, to the chagrin of some of my religious friends. But I grew up a religious fundamentalist. I know what fundamentalism, and the dogma that gives it life, looks like. Where science frees us from fundamentalism it does us a service. Where it leads to a new fundamentalism, it drops us in the same ditch on the other side of the road.

Here, according to Dr. Sheldrake, are the ten dogmas of science:

1. Nature is Mechanical (i.e., works like a machine)
2. The Total Amount of Matter and Energy Always the Same
3. The Laws of Nature are Fixed
4. Matter is Unconscious
5. Nature is Purposeless
6. All Biological Inheritance is Material (i.e., coming through genes only)
7. Memories are Stored as Material Traces in the Brain
8. Minds are Confined to Brains
9. Psychic Phenomena are Illusory
10. Mechanistic (Western) Medicine is the Only Kind that Really Works

Guidelines for sharing my posts

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image courtesy of

If you like sharing my posts on Facebook or another social network, or on your own blog, that is always fine. In fact, I love it! But remember, the idea of sharing my posts is not only that people will read the content, but so that people will come to my website. If the way you share my work only keeps people on your website, that is of no benefit to me. A huge part of my work is continuing to build my platform (“audience,” “reach,” etc.). Below are some guidelines for sharing my posts responsibly.

  • Post links to my website and individual blog articles and pages as often as you want on any social network, any time. No permission needed — ever. You are even welcome to quote a piece of my post, along with the link you provide to my post. Please do not quote my work without links back to my website.
  • Sharing my posts on your own blog, too, is fine, but please do not simply copy and paste my entire post into a post of your own. Post a paragraph or snippet, with a link back to my website where your readers can read the entire article. There is no charge for the work I post on my blog, so all I ask in return is that you always link back to my website.
  • The images on my site have different rules. Any artwork you see that mentions Creative Commons may be shared, but you must cite the work as I do on my site, and provide a link to the CC license that I provide in the citation under the artwork. If the work is not linked to Creative Commons, then I obtained specific permission from the artist to use the image, and you will need to do the same. In the case of or, those are subscription artwork services and I paid for those images and the right to use them. Please go to those sites and purchase the images — costs are very reasonable. If there is no citation, I either overlooked it (please let me know!), or I was unable to find to whom to attribute it. Those I use subscription services now for my blog artwork, for a long time I used Creative Commons Search and highly recommend it to beginning bloggers who aren’t prepared to invest much money into their blog yet.

With the above guidelines in mind, sharing my posts is a great idea! I need your help in disseminating my work as far and wide as possible. Thanks for reading.


Basic Decency

chris and whitney

It seems that it is usually the conservatives in our country who are constantly decrying the loss/lack of basic human decency. It’s hard to be against the idea of decency, but it’s good to be clear and honest about what lack of decency looks like. I found the picture above on a friend’s Facebook wall. It is disgusting and I’m sorry to put it here. I do it only to show how it betrays a profound lack of decency by people who are complaining about a lack of decency.

As a pastor, counselor, and graduate school professor, I am constantly involved in the normal lives of normal people. If there’s anything I have learned, it is that every human being on the planet is struggling with something. The majority are 1) suffering badly; and 2) suffering in silence. That’s the human condition.

This photo speaks of Whitney, a person struggling with something millions of people struggle with, in such a disrespectful and demeaning way, just because the poster is angry that the other guy didn’t have flags lowered for him. Certainly this is understandable frustration. Chris was obviously an honorable soldier whose life should be celebrated, but the way it comes out in these comments made about Whitney is lacking in basic decency and compassion.

Whitney wasn’t a zero. No human being is a zero. If we have had even halfway competent parenting, we all learn this on our mother’s knee.

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My Experience with Meditation

When I first started meditating, it nearly always made me angry. I felt such disgust and even self-hatred for how useless it seemed, that I couldn’t seem to ‘get it,’ that I couldn’t control my thoughts. Of course I realized that was exactly the reason I was doing it, and gradually that anger began to subside. In other words, I hesitated trying it because I feared it wouldn’t “work.” When I started trying it, I was angry and disappointed that it didn’t “work.” But the first thing meditation did in my life was pretty much put an end to that awful perfectionism and toxic anger and disappointment in myself and others. And it did it simply by being what it was – something I couldn’t control. I was forced to let myself be a beginner, to be out of my league and feel worthless at something that seemed so simple. I had to accept my limitations. As I did, meditation began producing a humility I had always wanted but frankly had always lacked.

Strangely enough, humility only comes when we learn how to stop trying to be humble. Trying is just more of our own efforts and therefore, of course, we’ll be immensely proud of our successes and immensely ashamed of our failures because we’re still living as if it all depends on us. That is ego. At least that’s Freud’s term. The Apostle Paul called it the flesh. Pink Floyd called it the wall. Billy Joel called it the stranger. The great mystics called it the shadow. Carl Jung called it the false self. It doesn’t matter what you call it, all that matters is knowing that if you spend your life living from that place, your whole life will feel, and be, false. Meditation, slowly and surely, leads us out of that place.

A great gift of meditation is learning the contemplative mind. When you start learning what that looks like, then your own emotions and reactions become cues to you when you are in your “natural” (i.e., “false”) mind and you just need to get alone and get quiet and let God bring his mind to you (“the mind of Christ” in Christianese). Then every moment of life becomes a school where we are learning obedience and humility, as we begin learning to literally surrender in every moment of life, to let it all go, to realize that our obsessive worrying, controlling, and fixing is the problem, even and especially when we apply that to our spiritual lives. It is in meditation, and only in meditation, that we learn to let go of ego/flesh/shadow/false self.

Question: Do you think meditation is weird, or only something super spiritual people do? Have you considered it but have never really seriously tried it? Do you find yourself fearing it a little bit, and if so, what are you afraid of?

For more info on meditation, download this packet of brief audio lessons.