More alleged misconduct, and a glitch in the notification system

I received an email today signed by Sarah Lammert, the executive secretary of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The MFC was notifying congregational leaders that Rev. Stephen Furrer had resigned from fellowship with the UUA rather than face a “Full Fellowship Review…for sexual misconduct.”

Mostly when these emails are sent out, there is just the simple notification that the minister has either resigned from fellowship before charges could be brought, or was removed from fellowship. Unusually, this email added: “The Rev. Furrer served many congregations as a settled or interim minister over more than four decades as a minister. In reviewing his record, it became clear that the Rev. Furrer had a broader pattern of boundary violations which impacted at least four of these congregations in differing degrees.”

Presumably the UUA will contact those four congregations. And perhaps the UUA will contact all the congregations the Furrer served. But there are others of us who might have reasons for wanting to know if Furrer had served a particular congregation — for example, a minister or DRE thinking of accepting a job at a congregation may want to do a little research to see if a congregation has a history of past clergy misconduct (something congregations frequently neglect to tell job applicants). Or, for another example, congregational leaders wondering if Furrer once served a nearby congregation, with possible effects on their own congregation.

So, out of curiosity, I checked the online UUA Directory of professional leaders. Not surprisingly, Furrer’s entry in that directory had already been removed, which is entirely appropriate. However, this leaves us with no official record of his employment history. His own personal website still happens to provide a listing of his ministerial positions up to 2018. That list follows, with my annotations in square brackets []:

1981-1982 Asst. Minister, Berkeley, CA [not clear if this is the Berkeley fellowship or the Berkeley church]
1983-1987 Settled Minister, West Redding, CT
1987-1988 Interim Minister, Saco, ME
1988-1991 Settled Minister, Vineyard Haven, MA
1991-1993 Interim Minister, Berlin, MA
1993-1999 Settled Minister, East Suburban Pittsburgh, PA [presumably part-time, combined with the following two contract positions:]
1994-1996 Contract Minister, Morgantown, WV
1996-1999 Contract Minister, Indiana, PA
1999-2000 Interim Minister, Binghamton, NY
2000-2009 Settled Minister, Santa Fe, NM
2009-2010 Interim Minister, Santa Monica, CA
2010-2011 Interim Minister, Long Beach, CA
2011-2013 Interim Minister, San Francisco, CA
2013-2014 Interim Minister, Redwood City, CA
2014-2016 Interim Minister, Fullerton, CA
2016-2017 Interim Minister, Rancho Palo Verdes, CA
2017-2018 Interim Minister, Livermore, CA
2018-???? Developmental Minister, Bellevue, WA [a quick glance at their website shows this was through at least 2021]

All this raises an interesting point. The UUA maintains an online list of ministers who have been removed from fellowship, or who have resigned from fellowship pending misconduct investigations. Once they’re out of fellowship, they disappear from the UUA Directory, which is appropriate. But the UUA Directory is the only place where you can find a public list stating which congregations a given minister has served. The unfortunate result is that histories of clergy misconduct may be obscured.

There’s a simple fix. The online list of ministers who have been removed from fellowship, or who have resigned from fellowship pending misconduct investigations, should include a list of where each minister had served, and when.

Oh, and here’s a caveat so I don’t get sued by someone — I have no personal knowledge of this case, and as far as I know this case has not been adjudicated in a court of law. Thus I cannot comment on the truth of the allegations. I’m simply using this case as an example to point out what I consider to be a flaw in the way the UUA reports cases of alleged clergy misconduct.

Update, 12/8: A sentence that got dropped during revision was restored (last sentence, third paragraph); two minor typographical errors fixed.

Carlton Pearson is dead

Carlton Pearson, the evangelical Christian preacher who in midlife came to accept the happy teachings of universal salvation, died on Sunday. At his death, Pearson was probably the most widely known and most influential person affiliated with Unitarian Universalism.

When Pearson announced to his Tulsa, Oklahoma, congregation that he was a Universalist, many members of the congregation left. He eventually found a home for the remainder of his congregation — and for himself — at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Tulsa.

Back in 2009, I remember hearing Pearson speak at General Assembly. The GA Web Team wrote an excellent account of that event. I remember thinking he was a charismatic, riveting, and convincing speaker. The GA Web Team’s report quotes him as saying, “Jesus didn’t come to protect us from God, but to reconnect us to God.”

Even if Jesus and God aren’t at the center of your religion, this remains a powerful statement in our Western culture. It is a concise refutation of the widespread Western belief in retributive justice. When we drift away from the ultimate goodness of the universe, instead of retribution we need to be reconnected to that goodness.

I don’t recall that Carlton Pearson made much of an impact on General Assembly attendees in 2009. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls, was Pearson’s co-presenter at General Assembly, and Lavanhar talked about how difficult it was for a White upper middle class church to welcome in well over a hundred non-White Universalists, a welcome that included changes in the worship style of the congregation. The Web Team reported:

“Unitarian Universalist churches, Lavanhar said, ‘have a corner on a very small slice of the NPR listening audience.’ He worries that UUism might become so parochial that it dies out. But Tulsa’s second service [with Pearson’s followers] attracts a different, younger, more racially diverse set of people, who come both for the spirit of the service and the message of Unitarian Universalism.”

Pearson continued to espouse Universalist theology for the rest of his life. He remained an affiliated minister at All Souls in Tulsa, and went on to serve at other congregations as well. In the years after his presentation at General Assembly, the majority of Unitarian Universalists — many of whom are White NPR listeners — mostly ignored Pearson. Unitarian Universalists seem to have a difficult time connecting to, or respecting, Pearson’s message of universal love. This, despite Pearson using the theology of universal love to stand up for LGBTQ rights. This, despite (or perhaps because of) Pearson’s ability to reach beyond Unitarian Universalism’s core White upper middle class audience.

So it is that Carlton Pearson, whose spirit-filled happy teachings about universal Love have touched tens of thousands of people, has had little impact on Unitarian Universalism outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

But he had an impact on me, and I find I’m deeply saddened at his death.

Carlton Pearson quotes

Pearson, both as an author and a speaker, is eminently quotable. In his memory, here’s a brief selection of his words:

I don’t fear God and if I was going to fear anybody, I’d fear some of [God’s] so-called people because they can be some mean sons of biscuit eaters, as my brother used to say. — Quoted in The Guardian.

God is not angry with humanity. — Quoted in Christianity Today.

Belief compelled through fear is not belief, it is blind and forced obedience. — God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu (2010), p. 32.

I’m the heretic, and I enjoy that, wear that like a badge these days. … It’s like a tattoo that I can’t wash off. — Quoted in Christianity Today.

Fear of God creates more harm than good for the human race. God isn’t angry with [hu]mankind. But because of erroneous concepts of God, most human beings are secretly angry with God. — The Gospel of Inclusion (2009), p. 149.

We do not need to be saved from God; we need to be saved from religion. We need to be saved from perceptions of God that portray Him as an angry deity with a customized torture chamber called hell, managed by a malcontent called the devil, where we may be forever consigned because we didn’t believe, didn’t believe correctly, or didn’t obey. — The Gospel of Inclusion, p. 6.

Christianity (though not exclusively) has become a kind of survival-of-the-fittest ideology. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, particularly the hypothesis about the adaptation to the environment, in many ways reflects the dynamics of most religions. It is one thing to adapt to a hostile environment be developing webbed feet, as the Galapagos Islands lizards did; and another thing to resist the environment by attempting to change, confront, or retaliate against it. Religion does both. It attempts to adjust to the hostility it encounters (in this case, the perceived attacks of science or the refusal of more enlightened people to tolerate its sanctioning destructive acts) by changing its story (creationism becomes intelligent design, for example), and at the same time, it promotes a virulent theology in which we mush placate not only and angry, violent God but also Her equally vicious and sinister devil. The result is predictable: intelligent, open-minded people of a spiritual disposition are driven away by blind extremism, and what remains are the cowed and the clueless, more terrorized and enslaved than ever. — God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu (2010)

That idea of a ubiquitous, angry God has created a lot of mental illness on Earth. If there’s one thing I wish I could expel from people’s consciousness, it’s the idea of an angry God, that he hates people, not just wants to punish, but as Genesis says, regrets that he made us. That’s a very human-concocted entity that has never existed for a moment. If there is a devil, it would be that God. — Quoted in UU World magazine.

If I say everybody’s going to heaven, then I can’t raise money from you to get me to keep people out of hell. — Quoted by ABC News.

Jesus didn’t come to protect us from God, but to reconnect us to God. — Quoted by the GA Web Team, 2009.

Says it right in the Bible

Conservative Christians in the U.S. are lining up to tell us that the Israel Hamas war is a harbinger of the End Times. A number of Bible-based preachers are telling their followers to get ready for the Apocalypse.

Robert Jefress of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Tex., recently said: “We are on the verge of the beginning of the End Times…. Things are falling into place for this great world battle, fought by the super powers of the world, as the Bible said. They will be armed with nuclear weapons….”

Actually, nuclear weapons are not mentioned in the Bible….

Greg Laurie of Harvest Riverside Fellowship, Calif., recently said: “The Bible predicted hundreds of thousands of years ago that a large force from the North of Israel will attack her after [Israel] was regathered and one of the allies with modern Russia, or Magog, will be Iran or Persia.”

Well, actually, Russia is not mentioned in the Bible….

John Hagee of Hagee’s Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Tex., recently said: “Israel is God’s prophetic clock; when the Jewish people are in Israel, the clock is running. When the Jewish people are out of Israel, the clock stops.”

Um, actually, the Bible says nothing about Israel being a clock….

Each of these three people claims belief in the literal truth of the Bible. I assume each one of them also honestly believes what he preaches. While I respect their belief that they are doing a literal reading of the Bible, looking at what they say from the outside I don’t see that any one of these three people shows evidence of a literal belief in the Bible. From my perspective, they are each engaged in substantial reinterpretation of the Bible. Their interpretations veer farther from the Bible’s text than any of the progressive Christians I know. So I think I would argue that they have actually started a New Religious Movement. While this New Religious Movement was originally based on Christianity, it now includes a large proportion of anachronistic beliefs that have little to do with Christianity.

Finding the sacred for Gen Z

Springtide Research Institute recently published a study of Gen Z titled “The State of Religion and Young People 2023: Exploring the Sacred.” They charge twenty-two bucks for the full report, so you might want to check out Religion News Service’s excellent summary.

A key finding, in my opinion: Gen Z are quite willing to find and define sacred moments outside of traditional religion. Tricia Bruce, executive director of Springtide Research, told Religion New Service:

“‘Certainly, we might expect young people to tell us, “Yes, I’ve experienced the sacred when I attended a religious service or in prayer,” and they do, but they also told us “I experienced the sacred in nature,” “I experienced the sacred when I got into college,” “I experienced the sacred in a virtual connection,”‘ Bruce told Religion News Service in an interview. ‘Creative spaces that we may not think of as sacred themselves, or as religious, or we may not materially construct as such, young people are telling us that, in fact, that’s where the sacred lives for them.'”

Actually, some of us do in fact view “creative spaces” as sacred. (1) I’m one of those people, and I’m not even in Gen Z. I’ve had some of my most intense sacred experiences through the arts — in my case, through things like the visual arts, making music with others, poetry, and so on. (2)

Apparently, the survey also found that 69% of people in Gen Z have experienced a sacred moment in nature. Here again, although I’m not in Gen Z, I’m one of those people who experiences the sacred in nature.

Honestly, I don’t often experience the sacred in a worship service. (When I do, it mostly comes through music or group singing.) For me, the point of a worship service is not to experience transcendent experiences, but to provide a community where I can make sense of the transcendent experiences I have in the rest of my life. And then, once I make sense of those experiences, I want to figure out a way to use them to make the world a better place.In my opinion, transcendent experiences can be justified only if they bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice (otherwise they’re just self-indulgent), and if you want to make justice happen you’re going want to be part of a community.


(1) I actually don’t like the term “sacred experiences.” It sounds too Christian-centric to me, and not in a good way. I prefer to talk about mystical experiences, or better yet transcendent experiences.

(2) I’ve always taken this for granted, but I guess it’s not obvious to others. Maybe I need to write more about how I have transcendent experiences through the arts.

Ecological consequences

Back in 2004, Brian Donahue, an environmental historian, noted:

“Beginning in the seventeenth century England was able to rationalize the production of its own countryside partly by genuine improvements, partly be replacing scarce firewood with boundless coal, and partly by drawing on its new colonies and on trade with the wider world, whether cattle from Ireland and Scotland, sugar from the West Indies, tobacco from the Chesapeake, or cod from the Grand Banks exchanged for Madeira wine. All this marked the birth of twin forces that have since transformed the relationship between people and their environment all around the world and that have remained closely related. The first was the increased substitution, via the market, of imported resources for local resources. The second was the unlocking of fossil energy, which has provided the power to both fetch and manipulate all other resources on the modern industrial, global scale and which has also had enormous environmental consequences.” — Brian Donohue, The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord [Mass., U.S.] (Yale Univ., 2004), p. 72.

The first of Donahue’s twin forces has resulted in the spread of invasive species; the second has resulted in global climate change. Yet as Donahue points out, these twin forces were in part human responses to seventeenth century ecological challenges. Human population in England increased during the seventeenth century, so that humans had to either figure out how to produce more food or face famines. Humans began burning coal in England because there wasn’t enough firewood to keep them warm during the Little Ice Age, and part of the reason there wasn’t enough firewood was because woodlands had been cleared to create more arable land to grow food crops.

England had faced similar problems a few centuries earlier. Donahue says that during the High Middle Ages in England:

“…it appears that a population in the neighborhood of two million (and surely well under three million) in 1086 more than doubled to something like six million by 1300…. The ecological expression of population growth was the steady expansion of the arable fields to produce more grain, at the expense of other important elements in the interlocking agrarian economy. This imbalance resulted in scarcity and degradation….” (p. 65)

In 1346, the bubonic plague put an end to England’s population growth — which temporarily solved the problems of food production and firewood scarcity.

All this is worth remembering when we’re trying to figure out the origins of the current environmental crises: it all comes back to human overpopulation.

Noted without comment

A short excerpt from The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart. In this excerpt, the author and Rev. Chris Liles, a Bible-believing Southern Baptist preacher, have just attended a meeting of the Family Research Council, a Christian nationalist group. Neither one of them felt comfortable at the meeting. As they leave, Pastor Chris begins speaking to Katherine Stewart:

“‘It’s ten degrees hotter than normal, and these people don’t believe in climate science,’ he grumbles. Then his words start tumbling out like a waterfall.

“‘Do we not owe people more than simply reducing “pro-life” to one issue?’ he says. ‘I mean, no one wants babies to die. No one is “pro-abortion.” That is a false dichotomy. Do we not owe people more than to force them into one box or another? As much as abortion is a pro-life issue, so is affordable health care, access to contraceptives, and real, comprehensive sex education. Minimum wage. Fighting poverty. These should all be part of the “pro-life” conversation.’

“Chris falls into silence for a few minutes, then speaks again.

“‘And shouldn’t we show compassion to people regardless of how they identify? They, too, are made in God’s image. We find in Scripture the imperative to love our neighbors and care for the least of these. That is by far one of the clearest messages we receive.’

“I feel bad for Chris [says Katherine Stewart]; he seems dismayed by the event precisely because the Bible is his greatest source of comfort and moral direction…..

“Stopping at a red light, Chris picks up his Bible and turns to the Old Testament book of Amos. ‘Here, for instance, in chapter five, the prophet says, “You, Israel, you were supposed to take care of the poor and you’re not doing it,”’ Chris says. ‘“You’re using power and wealth to tilt the system in your favor.” For society to be just, it was necessary for everyone to be seen as equal.’ He falls silent for a few moments. ‘Sometimes,’ he adds, ‘it’s almost like people are reading a different Bible. That’s the trick with Scripture. You can make the Bible say just about anything you want it to.’”…


I received a long email today from a research group called “Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations.” The email began:

“Dear Pastor, Greetings! This past spring, you or your church completed a survey for the national study entitled Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations.  At that time you were willing to be contacted for follow-up questions. In that survey, we found that 51% of clergy had thought about leaving the pastoral ministry. This was a considerable increase from our earlier survey. Because of this finding, we wanted to better understand the challenges clergy were facing. Religious leaders have suffered especially hard due to the pandemic and the many other challenges in our changing society. This short survey specifically addresses clergy health and well-being….”

So I took their survey. First they asked a lot of questions about the congregation (e.g., our average annual attendance went from 68 in 2018 to 48 in 2022). Then they asked questions about me: Am I employed full-time or part-time? How’s my financial well-being? Do I doubt that I am called by God to ministry? (Left that one blank, that’s not my theology.) Am I part of a clergy support group, do I see a shrink or spiritual director, do I still pray as much as I did before the pandemic? (Yes, and yes, and I pray as much now as before the pandemic which is not at all.)

The survey ended with two open-ended questions: What’s the biggest challenge in my ministry right now? and: What do I find most satisfying in my ministry? I was able to say that my biggest challenge, and also the most fun part of my job, is coming up with creative ways to respond to the rapidly changing world around us while maintaining the integrity and traditions of a 275 year old congregation. Then I was able to say that pretty much everything is satisfying, because I love my job.

Yep, I love my job. I was surprised at how positive I felt. I know that quite a few Unitarian Universalist ministers have left pastoral ministry, and that many others are unhappy with the way pastoral ministry has changed. Not me. I feel excited and energized.

Huh. Maybe there’s something wrong with me.

Screenshot of one of the questions from the online survey
Questions from the survey. Have I ever doubted that I was called by God to ministry? I left that one blank. Have I ever seriously considered leaving pastoral ministry? Not since 2020. Have I seriously considered leaving this congregation for another one? This was kind of difficult to answer, since I just started serving this congregation in 2022, and I left my previous congregation for reasons unrelated to COVID — so I answered “never.”

Pure Land

I got interested in the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) after reading Jeff Wilson’s book Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South. Ekoji Temple, the one Wilson writes about in this book, was founded by Rev. Takashi Kenryu Tsuji in the 1980s. Tsuji had retired as a bishop of BCA, and Ekoji Temple was one of his retirement projects. In his book, Jeff Wilson quotes Tsuji extensively, and I found I resonated with what Tsuji had to say. As in this passage from Tsuji’s book The Heart of the Buddha-Dharma: Following the Jodo-Shinshu Path:

“Shinran Shonin and the teachers before him explained that the Pure Land was situated in the western corners of the universe, zillions of miles away. It was pictured as a very beautiful place, free of suffering, where everyone is happy. Philosophically speaking, however, the Pure Land does not refer to a specific location out there somewhere. Rather, the Pure Land is symbolic; it symbolizes the transcendence of relativity, of all limited qualities, of the finiteness of human life. In this transcendence, there is Compassion-Wisdom, an active moving, spiritual force. The Pure Land ideal is the culmination of the teaching of Wisdom and Compassion.”

First of all, Tsuji makes Pure Land Buddhism sound a little like Universalism. The old Universalists, coming out of the Christian tradition, said that everyone gets to go to heaven. Similarly, Pure Land Buddhists said that everyone can can enter Buddha’s Pure land, that is, everyone can achieve Buddhahood. We Unitarian Universalists translated the old Universalist ideas into modern terms, and that’s what Tsuji does for Pure Land Buddhism in this passage: “The Pure Land ideal is the culmination of the teaching of Wisdom and Compassion.”

What I like is that both groups have not only translated their religious traditions into Modernity, both groups say that all persons are radically equal. Maybe this is because I know I’m not good enough to be one of those Christians who gets into heaven, and I lack the self-discipline to become one of those Buddhists who reaches Enlightenment. Whatever the reason, I prefer the radically egalitarian religious groups.

Healing from religious trauma

Religion New Service interviews Laura E. Anderson, a psychologist who has written a new book, When Religion Hurts You: Healing from Religious Trauma and the Impact of High-Control Religion. In the interview Anderson makes the obvious point that the cure for religious trauma might not be renouncing all religion:

“[Religion News Service:] Why might it be important for therapists working with religious trauma not to be anti-religion?

“[Laura Anderson:] Anti-religious messages can quickly become prescriptive and fundamentalist. To say all religion is terrible and you just have to get rid of it, or the idea that God is dumb and only for mentally weak people, is incredibly shaming and discouraging. It’s also not necessarily helpful for the healing process. My job as a therapist is not to get you to a belief that I might hold. It is to help you heal and to lean in more to who you are authentically. I think that includes religion or spiritual practices. Now I always say I’m not anti-religion, but I am anti-harm and power and control, and anti-abuse. So if you can find a religion or faith or spiritual practice that isn’t including those things, I think that’s wonderful.”

I call this an “obvious point,” though it might not be obvious to everyone. But think of this analogy: if someone is sexually assaulted, psychotherapists don’t tell them to never have sex again. Instead, the therapeutic goal is healing so that the person who survived sexual assault can go on to have healthy relationships, including health sexual relationships.

The entire interview with Anderson is worth reading, not just for her thoughts about religious trauma, but also for her insights into trauma and healing from trauma.

Confucian quiet-sitting

I’m slowly making my way through a 19,000 word article on Confucian quiet-sitting — “A Study of Cheng Yi’s Quiet-Sitting Meditation and Other Contemplative Practices in the Confucian Context” by Bin Song, Mandala Texts (2023), 1-46 ( Accessed October 6, 2023.)

Not only is it a fascinating article, it might have a real-world effect on the way I think about my own contemplative practices.

I’ve tried the the usual sitting meditation practices taught in North America, and I haven’t felt comfortable with them. Most of the sitting meditation techniques we learn in North America are based on Buddhist sitting meditation, or less often on meditation techniques from the Indian subcontinent. Both Buddhist and Indian meditation techniques are based on distinct end goals (e.g, nirvana in the case of Buddhism). Buddhist and Indian meditation techniques also presume a certain social orientation, often involving some kind of retreat or separation from society. So if you’re like me, and you don’t buy into the end goals or the social orientation of the usual sitting meditation, you’re likely to wind up not wanting to do sitting meditation.

The Confucian — or, to use scholarly jargon, Ruist — technique of quiet-sitting offers another type of contemplative practice. Quiet-sitting differs significantly from Buddhist sitting meditation. Bin Song writes:

“The term ‘sitting at ease’ (??) is used in Chinese Buddhist texts to refer specifically to the Buddhist style of cross-legged sitting meditation. These two quotations suggest that [Ruist scholar] Cheng Yi had reservations to this style for two reasons: first, it encourages Buddhist practitioners to talk about miraculous but impractical deeds and events, and second, it detaches meditators from their everyday human affairs. Cheng Yi aimed to distinguish his contemplative practices from Buddhism and Daoism….”

In addition, Cheng Yi taught that quiet-sitting was just one of several contemplative practices that would achieve the same goal. Bin Song describes several of these. I was specifically interested in the one called “beholding the vitality of the myriad things,” which Song calls “among the most emblematic of Ru contemplation.” Here’s how Cheng Yi and his brother Cheng Hao describe this practice:

“By beholding pattern-principles in things, one can examine oneself. Once able to illuminate pattern-principles, there is nothing that cannot be understood. All things in the world can be illuminated by pattern-principles; if there is something, there must be a norm, and every single thing must have a pattern-principle.” — Cheng Hao ?? and Cheng Yi ??, The Collected Works of Cheng Brothers ??? (??: ????, 1981), 193.

Based on this description, “beholding the vitality of the myriad things” sounds like it has a family resemblance to the contemplative practice that Henry Thoreau did while living at Walden Pond. As in this example:

“In front of Cheng Hao’s window, the lush grass covered the pavement. Some people advised him to cut it, but he refused, saying that he wanted to witness the vitality of the creative universe (?????). He also kept a small pond and raised a few small fish, which he beheld (?) from time to time. When asked why, he said he wanted to behold how all things remain content in themselves (??????).” — Huang Zongxi ??? et al., Learning Cased in Song and Yuan ?????vol. 14 (the He Shaoji print, ?????1648): 8, accessed March 30, 2023,

Not the same as Thoreau, but you can see the family resemblance — close observation of the non-human world as a way of deeper understanding.

Bin Song begins the article by pointing out that, in the West, the field of contemplative studies has pretty much ignored Confucian, Jain, Jewish, and Sikh contemplative practices. Popular culture never gets much beyond Buddhist and Christian contemplative practices. Learning more about Confucian quiet-sitting might help all of us better understand the strengths and weaknesses of Buddhist meditation and mindfulness — just as happened a generation ago, when learning about Buddhist meditation helped us in the West better understand the strengths and weaknesses of Christian prayer. Not that we all have to go out and start pretending to be Confucianists — but another perspective might help us better understand ourselves.