Posted by Guest Contributor on March 29, 2020

Lindsay McLaughlin lives at Rolling Ridge Study Retreat, an intergenerational community living on and with 1400 acres of forest and streams on a small mountain foothill of the Blue Ridge in West Virginia. She offers and coordinates retreats there — when social distancing allows — and is beloved by many for her soulful writing, especially about our kinship with nature. In the following piece, she brings new depth to the democratic value of the common good by showing how even in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic we can cultivate virtues of appreciation, caring, and empathy through different kinds of activities — including walks.

On the Schoolhouse Trail I passed an old tree with a craggy opening near the forest floor, an intriguing portal to the Underworld. Meanwhile, the serviceberries are out, their delicate creamy blossoms like fallen stars in the woods. Serviceberries are so named because they bloom at the time when the ground softens after the winter freeze thus readying the earth for burials and making services of parting and remembrance possible. Gray fog is wrapping itself around the high, still bare branches, shrouding the tree tops. So much is about fog and loss and descent. Collectively we have fallen out of a world we thought — even worried — was immutable. Mystery cloaks what comes next, what the eyes of the future see.

What do we do now?

Posted by Aizaiah Yong on March 23, 2020

A few months ago I had the privilege and opportunity of meeting with several Asian and Asian-American seminary students in the San Francisco Bay Area. I wanted to create a space where they could reflect on their experience with U.S. democracy and consider how resources from our project could support their own lives and vocational interests in ministry.

We began our time together by showing this Practicing Democracy Video . . .

Posted by Aizaiah Yong on March 16, 2020

Much has been written recently about the ways that social media negatively impacts mental health and can impede political processes. Research has also shown, though, that social media can have positive effects on people. With both realities in mind, we can reasonably conclude that social media is a neutral tool that can be used for destructive purposes or to strengthen human relationships and personal well-being.

To help foster positive uses of social media . . .

Posted by Sheryl Johnson on March 9, 2020

I have always been amazed at how much more I notice when I slow down. A street that I have driven down looks so different by bike, and even more detail emerges when I am walking. Walking meditatively brings the details to a whole new level, especially when done intentionally with someone else.

I am a person who tends to move through the world fairly quickly . . .

Posted by Mary Ann Brussat on March 2, 2020

Will D. Campbell, a progressive Baptist preacher, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham and Selma, and served as a race relations troubleshooter for the National Council of Churches. Yet he was known as the "chaplain of the Ku Klux Klan." (For more about his remarkable life and his reconciliation work, see our Naming the Days feature for his birthday.)

How could a committed civil rights activist befriend white supremacists . . .

Posted by Patricia Campbell Carlson on February 24, 2020

The word "democracy" can be traced back to the Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos "the people" + -kratia "power, rule." The people rule — but what kind of people? If most people who make up a democracy are immature, selfish, foolish, or cruel, their rule will reflect these qualities. A thriving democracy depends on people who care about polishing their character for the sake of a greater whole.

Many different philosophies . . .

Posted by Keziah Grindeland on February 17, 2020

I first began listening to podcasts in the fall of 2015 and a favorite soon became Invisibilia, which “explore[s] the invisible forces that shape human behavior — things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” While I can’t recommend Invisibilia enough as a whole, I was completely blown away by one episode in particular and have found myself reflecting on it for nearly five years since.

The central concept behind the episode “How to Become Batman” . . .

Posted by Sheryl Johnson on February 10, 2020

Generally, when I consider online conversations, I think of stark polarization and echo chambers — people harshly judging others across differences or just connecting with those who are similar to them and re-affirming what they have to say. I was surprised by my experience of participating in an online conversation through “Living Room Conversations,” as it was neither of those things.

Instead, it was personal, it was respectful, it was nuanced . . .

Posted by Jay McDaniel on February 3, 2020

I’m not sure about the future of democracy, but I do believe in moments of democracy.

A moment of democracy may last only for five seconds, but its memory lingers in our imaginations for many weeks, a year, or a lifetime. It is a moment when we hear others on their own terms, for their own sakes. Even as we may find some of their attitudes -- about race and class and gender, for example -- completely reprehensible. Even as we may disagree completely with their politics. Even as we may sense in them a hostility, an anger, that frightens us. We may sense that beneath the anger there is a pain, but we don’t know what it is. We know their rage but not their pain.

I’m guessing that you’ve had many moment of democracy in your life . . .

Posted by Aizaiah Yong on January 27, 2020

I first met Victor Akioyame when we worked together in the student affairs office at a small liberal arts university in California. We became close friends due to our shared interests and passion for diversity, inclusion, and conversations on spirituality. Victor is an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Convention and works as a student life professional at Vanguard University (VU) in Costa Mesa, California, where he ministers to students, staff, and faculty.

In his work, Akioyame has witnessed how spiritual practices can build healthy communities . . .

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About This Blog

Democracy is more than a system of government; it is a way of life. We can assess the vitality of a democracy by how well it is serving the people's needs and hopes. But a democracy's health is best reflected in examples of how people practice it through their commitments to shared values and virtues. In this blog, we will present stories of democracy-in-practice. More.