In this issue:
  • June Series: Mystic Mondays
  • Summer Solstice Outdoor Labyrinth Walk
  • The Burkhart Center Weekly/Monthly Offerings
  • Things Fall Apart by Rev. David Hett
  • Understanding Fundamentalism IV: Purity Culture by Christy Caine
  • Outside Partner Recommended Resources
June 7: “Magical Modest Mysticism” with Anne Lamott
June 14: “The Great Goodness of the Little Way” with Father Richard Rohr
June 21: “Reclaiming Forgotten Women” with Elizabeth Lesser
June 28: “Mystical Experience” with Rabbi Rami Shapiro
Mystic Mondays
7-8:30 pm
Rev. David Hett, dean of The Burkhart Center, presents four of past Spiritual Searcher Mirabai Starr’s “Mystics Summit” interviews each Monday evening in June, followed by group discussion.
Summer Solstice
Outdoor Labyrinth Walk
Sunday, June 20
5–6:30 pm
The Burkhart Center hosts this spiritual practice on the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, honoring the extravagance of light in our world.

Many traditions celebrate this as a time of dance, joy, abundance, feasting. Interestingly, some traditions focus on the masculine aspect of the Divine, the “father,” and this year, since the solstice falls on Father’s Day, you might bring a father with you in spirit if not in person.
In traditional Christianity, Midsummer’s Eve is also called St. John’s Eve, as in John the Baptist, who in the birth narratives was born six months before Jesus, and in the darkness of the winter solstice, Christians celebrate the coming of the light of the Christ in the Christmas story.

We will have a short blessing ritual to begin this time, and then the gathered group will walk the labyrinth in a spaced-out but loose formation. People may depart as they complete their walk. If weather prohibits outdoors, we intend to walk the new sanctuary labyrinth.
Tuesday Morning Study Group
Tuesdays, returning September 14
9:30-10:45 am

Pick up a copy of Brian McLaren's new book, Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It, which will be the topic of our fall series, beginning Tuesday, September 14.
Women Living the Questions
9:30 -11 am

The group is meeting in-person at First Community North once again, in Room 101. They are discussing past Spiritual Searcher James Finley’s The Contemplative Heart and viewing videos of others on contemplative practices throughout the summer.

Email Linda Baldeck for more information or to register.

Contemplative Way Group
Thursdays thru June
11:45 am – 1 pm

The Burkhart Center’s Contemplative Way Group gathers on Zoom around 11:40 am each Thursday for a time of sacred reading and discussion based on Richard Rohr’s daily meditations ( Followed by a group 30-minute silent meditation. This group provides a grounding for our spiritual lives.

Hosted by Rev. David Hett.
Progressing Spirit
Saturday, June 12
9:30 -11:30 am
on Zoom

Meets on the second Saturday of each month via Zoom. Free-ranging discussions on current trends and personal feelings on faith and spirituality, theology and society based on weekly columns by authors of progressive thinking. Subscribe to receive these weekly articles at:
Rev. David Hett facilitates this Burkhart Center Zoom group.
Much Matters
Book Discussion
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
June 17
6-8 pm
Sue Simon, facilitator
Dr. Shah Hasan, Coordinator
Much Matters Book Discussion
Cycle 10 Selections

It is time again to select our next set of books for the months of July, August, September, October, and November 2021 (which constitutes Cycle 10 in our fifth year). We will be selecting a final list of five (5) books to read and discuss in Cycle 10. You are eligible to participate in this book selection if you have participated in at least one Much Matters book discussion in the past three years.

We will manage this selection process in two phases with very specific timelines:

1st Phase - NOMINATIONS (May 21 to June 4, 2021)

During this phase I ask you to nominate one to two book titles that you suggest we should consider to select to read. Please support your nomination(s) with a brief narrative (a paragraph or two) describing how your nominated book(s) meet(s) the spirit and letter of the mission of our group. Specifically, in Much Matters, we strive to read and discuss books “to learn more and understand better our personal, civic, community, and spiritual lives.”

Please e-mail coordinator Dr. Shah Hasan back directly with your nominations by no later than the deadline: midnight, Friday, June 4, 2021. I will make sure that your completed nomination(s), along with your brief narrative(s) is/are included in the master list for final voting.

2nd Phase - VOTING and SELECTION (June 5 to June 13, 2021)

On Saturday, June 5 morning, I will compile all received completed nominations into a final selection master list, and I will send you this master list for voting. I will ask you to review this list of book nominations, and select and vote for your top five book selections. You can only vote for each book once, which means that you cannot aggregate some, most, or all of your votes toward the same book. 

Please e-mail me directly with your top five book selections by no later than the deadline: midnight, Sunday, June 13, 2021. I will then count and compile the votes I have received, and then announce on Monday, June 14, the final list of the five books with the highest number of total votes. Any votes received that do not meet our guidelines may be discarded, and I will inform you of such action.

At the Thursday, June 17 Much Matters book discussion, all of us in attendance will formally vote to “ratify” our list of the final five book selections. As in the past, we will then proceed to assign dates and appoint discussion facilitators for each of the five selected books.
Things Fall Apart
Rev. David Hett, Dean, The Burkhart Center
I can claim to have read at least one non-Western work of literature, Chinua Achebe’s Nigerian novel of pre-colonialist tribal reality as colonialism is just about to rear its ugly head, truly making Things Fall Apart.

And his title will remind some of you of the first Pema Chodron book I read some quarter of a century after reading Achebe: When Things Fall Apart, a guide in dealing with times when that reality inevitably takes place in human experience.

This comes up for me as I belatedly admit to, and confirmed amply by orthopedic surgeon, needing knee replacement surgery later this summer, the inevitable result of thinking I was an invincible 20-year-old playing sandlot tackle football in between college years. But that’s just a personal addendum to the whole pandemic year for everyone, isn’t it, when everything seemed to fall apart?

Almost as inevitably, when things fall apart, ignored or repressed or unconscious fears come to the surface, also noted throughout the pandemic—communal fears, personal fear. A telling paragraph in Achebe’s novel describes the harsh character of his protagonist Okonkwo this way:

Perhaps down in his heart Okonkwo was not a cruel man. But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness…. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father. (That last may be more true of me than I often wish to think.)

This kind of fear begins early and becomes second nature, a veil to full participation in life. I was thinking about the fear that has been my own companion when, in a recent small group of spiritual friends, one person talked of her fear as a first, second, and third grade girl, and feeling in the immediate moment compassion toward her younger self. Her inquiry brought into my awareness the scared, shy, and helpless little boy I was in those early years, not really knowing what was going on, nor how to be in school, already learning how to play-act as though it was all ok because everyone else at least appeared to know what to do and who they were, when of course, none of us did, mine perhaps a bit more complicated because I started kindergarten when I was only 4 years old, so always felt behind socially, and maybe every other way. With my friend’s inquiry in small group I could feel compassion now for the little guy I was, coming up with survival strategies that worked then, and for a long time, until they didn’t, and which can still get in the way of so much life and learning.

Leaning in to fear is a hard practice to follow, but as all spiritual work with emotions recognize, the only way “to” is “through,” and so, allowing whatever fear arises, as we are able on the spiritual path, can itself feel at first like “things are falling apart,” can allow for a literal “shaking in our boots,” an internal quaking. I’ve tended to label this experience in the past as “anxiety,” and of course something we normally want to get rid of quickly. And so, a holding container is usually necessary for us to stay with whatever labels we put on such experiences, be it a therapist, a teacher/spiritual guide, or a trusted community, that can “hold the space” when we venture into these experiences that shake the “foundations.”

“Perfect love” may cast out fear, as the New Testament letter of 1 John says, but in my experience on the way to perfect love there can be a whole lot of fear, and even terror, and I’m clearly not nearly perfected--even my Methodist patron saint John Wesley said only that “we are on the way to perfection.”

“One of the essential requirements for true spiritual growth and deep personal transformation,” says Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul, “is coming to peace with pain.”

Even though you may not actually like the feelings of inner disturbance, you must be able to sit quietly inside and face them if you want to see where they come from. Once you face your disturbances, you will realize that there is a layer of pain seated deep in the core of your heart. This pain is so uncomfortable, so challenging, and so destructive to the individual self, that your entire life is spent avoiding it. Your entire personality is built upon ways of being, thinking, acting, and believing that were developed to avoid this pain. … Since avoiding the pain prohibits you from exploring the part of your being that is beyond that layer, real growth takes place when you finally decide to deal with the pain.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle calls this “the pain body.”

As the pandemic lockdown recedes, maybe you are like me, and in a period of discernment about what’s next in regular life, who am I now, and what is calling to me. And maybe like me you have personal elements that amplify such discernment into what is essentially the unknown (and, really, isn’t each new moment an arising of the Loving Mystery into which we are all continually held in this existence).

So I was intrigued this week by an article out of the Duke Divinity Leadership Education program, “The opportunity of fruitful fear,” wherein Kelly Ryan points to the work of Elizabeth Liebert, who advises us to bring our whole selves to God in any discernment process, including our emotions:

When we are convinced that God loves us exactly as we are, with all of our feelings and rebellions, we can then be about the business of integrating our emotions into a healthy spirituality.

In her article, Ms. Ryan makes an important point about all the biblical commands to “Be not afraid.” These words easily lend themselves to seemingly make denial of fear a command of Jesus and God for those who follow a spiritual path. A spiritual life, however, that leads us to accept all our emotions helps us to understand, she says, that “those commands don’t tell us not to feel afraid; rather they tell us not to be afraid.” This is a valuable distinction, recognizing that identifying with an emotion is not the same as simply inquiring into and exploring emotions that arise: “God is bidding us not to incorporate such fear into our identities as beloved children of God but rather to trust God and let go. (My italics.)

In a 1933 sermon on Jesus’ calming of the storm, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, says Ms. Ryan, urged Christians to recognize that it is in such fear that God is especially close, quoting him as saying:

God wants to show us that when you let everything go, when you lose all your own security and have to give it up, that is when you are totally free to receive God and be kept totally safe in God.

Clearly, trust in the Holy One, the Source, is key when things fall apart. The Beloved is the true holding container for our spiritual search.
Understanding Fundamentalism:
Purity Culture

by Christy Caine

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NRSV

If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
– 1 Corinthians 3:17 (KJV)

While other folks learned about the Ark of the Covenant from Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we learned about the Ark in Sunday School and sermons, Bible class and weekly chapel services. In the Biblical story, God has Moses build the Ark to house the tablets of the ten commandments. The Ark is a key element in the Tabernacle which becomes the holy place where God dwells. The Ark is so holy, God forbids anyone from even touching it. The penalty for touching (and thereby defiling) the Ark is death, as was the case in 2 Samuel where Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark after the oxen pulling it stumble and the Ark begins to fall. Because he touched the untouchable, God strikes him dead. Ultimately the Tabernacle is replaced by Solomon’s Temple, and this becomes the place where God dwells. When we memorized these verses for Bible class in elementary school it was in the King James Version: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” For this reason, we were taught not to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco or use drugs: like the Ark of the Covenant, as Christians, our bodies literally house the Holy Spirit. To defile our bodies would defile the very temple of God, something scripture says God will not tolerate and for which the punishment is destruction. This concept is central to understanding purity culture.

Purity is also a theme in traditional Judaism as the Hebrew scriptures contain many cleanliness rituals. There are numerous references to being purified or clean vs. “impure” or “unclean” as a way of being pleasing and acceptable to God along with rules about not touching or eating unclean things. Even though modern Fundamentalists and Evangelicals believe keeping Jewish law is no longer required under the new covenant with God in the New Testament through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, it’s hard to ignore the common themes of purity and cleanliness that pervade both cultures and traditions.

Among those things deemed impure which can defile our bodies, sex stands out among them. Abstinence until marriage is expected. Significant effort is expended in elevating and maintaining virginity and sexual virtue among young people. This includes not only keeping one’s physical body pure, but also one’s mind. Traditions common to some conservative groups include promise rings and purity balls1 where young people sign a pledge to remain chaste until marriage. A purity ball celebrates female virginity in a formal ball setting where daughters promise their fathers their chastity until marriage and their fathers’ pledge to protect and
defend their virginity which they will one day pass on to their daughters’ future husband (this ritual is a metaphor for what Corinthians says about our bodies not being our own but belonging to God).

Not only are we to keep our bodies pure, but also our minds. “Inappropriate” music, television, movies, books, people, and pornography are ways for “unclean” things to enter our thoughts and minds and defile us, derailing our abstinence and “thought life”. The near obsession with total abstinence, pornography and pornography addiction in these circles is likely to some degree a self-defeating, self-perpetuating problem. Psychology has shown that the best way to alter or avoid an undesired behavior is to replace the undesired behavior with positive, desired ones. Instead, by focusing so much mental energy and attention on trying to avoid the very thing one wants to avoid it can create an unhealthy fixation. As I referenced in a previous article, the shooter from the Atlanta shootings several weeks ago targeting businesses offering massage services referenced his pornography addiction as the reason for the shootings.2 Nothing justifies his behavior, but it certainly helps to better understand what he meant by what he said and his reasons for saying it. Unfortunately, this view of sexuality as impure doesn’t allow for or include accurate information about normal human growth and development. Normal sexual thoughts and feelings are treated as sinful, wrong, and disordered. This leads to unhealthy thoughts, feelings and sexual development, actually causing problems. While there is nothing wrong with abstinence when it is framed in a healthy way, chosen and undergirded with accurate biological knowledge, limited and shame-based messaging of abstinence at all costs can be harmful. It’s very difficult to go from understanding something as wrong, sinful, dirty, and to be avoided because of how it can harm your relationship with God to, on your wedding night, being encouraged to suddenly accept sex as something good, healthy, pleasing to God, and required in a Godly marriage. If churches address sexuality in their youth curriculum, it’s an important responsibility to be committed to teaching accurate, healthy information about sexuality in the context of faith while still being grounded in science and devoid of shame.

Ultimately, purity culture extends beyond the individual to theology, ideology, and beliefs. Protecting theological positions from defilement by unorthodox perspectives is something organized religion has been engaged with for quite some time. It’s why some churches require signing affirmations of faith or a faith statement for membership and why we have seen similar requirements of members of political parties to sign purity pledges to political platforms. Protecting the purity of belief or ideological positions is why shunning those who diverge from the approved orthodoxy is common. Protecting the belief system of the group helps ensure those beliefs aren’t watered down (defiled) by dissenters so the desired theology survives. It’s also why many aren’t tolerant of different points of view, or people who hold them, thus leading to a more insular and anti-ecumenical perspective. Avoiding people who might negatively influence or dissuade one from holding the “right” beliefs is also a way of protecting the purity of one’s beliefs and mind. The importance of purity of belief is, in part, how the evolution of holding proper orthodoxy has come to be seen as critical to being pleasing to God and as a measure of being a “true” Christian.

References and Recommended Reading:
  1. The Innocence Project –
  2. Don’t Discount Evangelicalism as a Factor in Racist Murder of Asian Spa workers in Georgia -Religion Dispatches
  3. Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals – The New York Times

Christy Caine is the former Director of The Burkhart Center. Questions can be sent to The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of First Community or The Burkhart Center.
Additional Recommended Resources
Introducing SHALOM: a Series of Webinars Focused on
Issues of Peace & Justice

June 8, June 29, July 13, July 28, August 10, August 24

You can register via TicketSpice on our website
using the button below.
Practicing the Presence of God

Monday, June 14 - Friday, July 09
Rumi - Living a Spiritual Life

By Kabir Helminski
Sunday, June 13 - Saturday, July 10
Are you seeking support and enrichment for your daily prayer life?
Living Word, Living Way

6 sessions beginning

Sunday, June 13- Sunday, July 25

Registration deadline:
June 27, 2021
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