God Is Trans: Discovering the Divine Feminine

THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

It was my first year of college. Easter. Even though I hadn’t been to church since starting at Boston University–glad to be rid of the Southern Bible Belt I had left behind–I still felt a twinge of guilt. A need to go to church for Easter, if nothing else.

So I corralled one of my friends into adventuring into Trinity Church, the beautiful Episcopal parish in Copley Square in Boston. I’d seen it often in my forays to the Boston Public Library, which was my personal sanctuary in the city, and decided that if I was going to guiltily slink back into church for Easter Sunday, it might as well be in a visually stunning place.

And stunning it was. I gaped as we went inside, staring up at the soaring stained glass windows and the Easter lilies dripping from the balustrades. A full ensemble of woodwind and brass players sat at the front, producing fittingly angelic music.

All this was nothing, however, to what I felt when the service started. The minister came out to the podium and began to speak–and she was a woman.

Continue reading “God Is Trans: Discovering the Divine Feminine”

Growing Up White

THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

It’s funny how racial identity works. Especially whiteness. Especially when you’re taught, implicitly and overwhelmingly, that white is the norm.

It’s funny how it’s not until you’re older—when you take classes on critical race theory and start understanding your own white privilege—that you realize how many moments from your life provide case studies in the twisted system of racism in American society.

It’s funny how, when your professor asks you to start thinking about those moments in class, they begin to spill out onto the pages of your notebook:

I’m in my junior year of high school. It’s 2008, late in the evening as the election results are rolling in. Barack Obama has won the presidency. My phone starts buzzing; I look down. It’s a text message, one I’ll receive multiple times that night as my high schools peers forward it to everyone on their contact lists: “Us white people better get to the cotton fields. The negroes are in charge now, and they’re going to make us their slaves.”

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Christmas Is Never Over: What Bethlehem Taught Me

THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

This summer, Abigail received a scholarship to join a two-week-long Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME) human rights delegation to Israel and Palestine. UUJME’s mission is “to promote peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, including a settlement of the conflict affirming the equality, dignity, freedom and security of all peoples involved.”


O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

This past December, I was sitting in a holiday concert by my city’s symphony orchestra. They were playing carols about the little town of Bethlehem, and all the sudden—I realized I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

I was back there again, suddenly, in Bethlehem—seeing the high concrete wall that surrounds three-fourths of the city, pressing my face to the bus window as we passed the graffiti of doves and machine guns and hope as we drove in. Wandering the dark streets at night, lit with Christmas lights even in the middle of summer because it was perpetually the place where Jesus was born, a city distilled in that moment of all the Christmas carols.

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Beautiful Resistance in Palestine

THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

This summer, Abigail received a scholarship to join a two-week-long Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME) human rights delegation to Israel and Palestine. UUJME’s mission is “to promote peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, including a settlement of the conflict affirming the equality, dignity, freedom and security of all peoples involved.”

Since returning from Israel and Palestine this summer, I’ve been especially sensitive to how skewed our mainstream US media reports are—the continuous narrative of all Palestinians as violent, the underreporting of Israeli settler attacks, the refusal to explore the complexity of the conflict.

And one of the things that hurts me most is how the inspiring nonviolent action and art—what so many Palestinians we met called “Beautiful Resistance”—happening in Palestine is completely ignored. Meeting with the Palestinians who are innovating creative means of nonviolent action was one of the most affecting parts of my trip. So here. Let me share it with you. See the beauty and the resilience I too saw…

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Statues Will Never Be Enough: #BlackLivesMatter

THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

It was the summer of 2012. I was nineteen years old, working as an intern in Washington, DC—that swamp of politics, and humidity, and the slow-moving Potomac. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial had just opened the year before, and, curious, I went to see it one morning.

It was swarmed with tourists, mostly busloads of white suburban kids hauled in from summer camps. I squeezed between them, through the entrance, and there he was—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Standing there, arms crossed. Carved in white (white?) stone. The black man who fought to end segregation, Jim Crow, disenfranchisement, lynching against black bodies. The man the FBI and US government called “the most dangerous man in America.”

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A Study in Contrasts: Israel and Palestine

A SHORTER VERSION OF THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

Abigail recently returned from a two-week-long Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME) human rights delegation to Israel and Palestine. UUJME’s mission is “to promote peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, including a settlement of the conflict affirming the equality, dignity, freedom and security of all peoples involved.”

I believe in the power of narrative. Often, I see that as a positive thing—the power of stories to allow us to learn, to connect, to do activism. Yet narratives also have the power to divide, when two groups involved in the same conflict live and breathe two separate stories.

I saw that over and over again on our delegation to Israel and Palestine. People have written books about it. Two different stories of the Holy Land. Two different faces of the many coins of experiences. Over and over again, there they were.

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Disrupting the Narrative: Stories of Palestine and Israel

A SHORTER VERSION OF THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

Abigail recently returned from a two-week-long Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME)  human rights delegation to Israel and Palestine. UUJME’s mission is “to promote peace and justice in Israel-Palestine, including a settlement of the conflict affirming the equality, dignity, freedom and security of all peoples involved.”

“Be careful,” people told me. “It’s dangerous there.” Silent, but implicit, the message carried—they are dangerous there. The people. The children—“little snakes,” according to a recent post by Israel’s justice minister. Terrorists.

And then I went there. To Jerusalem. To the West Bank. To Palestine.

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Charleston: #BlackLivesMatter This Ramadan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

I logged onto Facebook Tuesday night, about to post a “Ramadan Mubarak!” wish for all my Muslim friends. And then, scrolling down my news feed, I saw it—the news that a white man had entered a black church in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire, killing nine people.

“Terrorism,” one of my friends wrote in her post about it. And, as the fear and grief flooded my veins, I knew she was right. I started contacting my family and friends, trying to make sure everyone was alright. I thought about beloved teachers and parents and elders who might have been there for a Wednesday evening bible study. Relatives of my friends. The teachers and parents at the all-black school my father used to work at downtown. Pillars of the community, with wise words and life experience. Perhaps even children, running down the aisle and laughing. The news is still coming out about the victims as I write this, but we know at least one of them: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, South Carolina state senator and pastor, an advocate for justice and a recent leader in the movement against police brutality in South Carolina.

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To Post or Not to Post: Interfaith Activism Online

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON STATE OF FORMATION, AN ONLINE PUBLICATION FOR EMERGING RELIGIOUS AND ETHICAL LEADERS WHICH WAS FOUNDED AS AN OFFSHOOT OF THE JOURNAL OF INTERRELIGIOUS STUDIES, HOUSED AT CIRCLE, A SHARED CENTER AT HEBREW COLLEGE AND ANDOVER NEWTON THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL.

Oh, the internet. And the lingo—and dregs—of the internet. Trolls. Flame wars. Click-baiting.

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people about the value of social media. I’m normally the pro-internet person, pointing out the powers of the web for organizing and spreading messages and disrupting mainstream media narratives. I like to quote Opal Tometi, co-founder of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, who says, “We organize online to have impact on our lives offline.”

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