358 episodes

Expand your understanding of the ways religion shapes the world with lectures, interviews, and reflections from Harvard Divinity School.

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    • Education

Expand your understanding of the ways religion shapes the world with lectures, interviews, and reflections from Harvard Divinity School.

    When Boston Banned Christmas

    When Boston Banned Christmas

    Did you know that Christmas was illegal in Massachusetts from 1659 to 1681, and anyone caught celebrating the holiday would be subject to a fine of 5 shillings?

    And who was responsible for canceling Christmas? Was it pagans, or liberal policymakers, or the anti-religious? Nope, it was one of the most pious groups of people at the time: the Puritans.

    "Puritans abided by what's sometimes been called the regulative principle of Biblicism, which is that not only do you need to do what the Bible enjoins you to do, but you should avoid establishing, as practices of spiritual significance, things that the Bible does not expressly endorse," says HDS Professor David F. Holland. “And so the absence of Christmas in scripture was the primary source of the kind of Puritan concern about it and condemnation of it.”

    But there was also another big reason for the ban, namely that Christmas had a tradition of being a time of social disorder, similar to Carnival. And that disorder, drunkenness, irreverence, and often sexual licentiousness, was something Puritans found unacceptable.

    Even though anti-Christmas sentiment and culture was still very much prevalent in New England until the mid-nineteenth century, Christmas became a national holiday in 1870 thanks to one particular phenomenon.

    “What really kind of gives Christmas it's propriety or its legitimacy in the culture of New England is the rise of a kind of cult of domesticity in the early nineteenth century and what some scholars have referred to as the birth of childhood,” says Holland, “the recognition of childhood as a distinctive stage of human development that deserves a certain kind of indulgence and a certain kind of happiness.”

    • 23 min
    The Climate of Consciousness

    The Climate of Consciousness

    This conversation was part of the fall 2021 series "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now." The featured speaker was writer Michael Pollan.

    Michael Pollan has been educating us with illuminating prose on “the botany of desire” for a very long time. He discusses his latest book "This Is Your Mind On Plants" and his landmark bestseller "How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence."

    Pollan’s call for change, restoration, and resiliency may be the very thing we need to bolster our consciousness in the midst of climate collapse.

    Respondent: Charles Stang, director of the Center for the Study of World Religions

    About this event series:
    "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now" is a ten-week series of online conversations with poets, writers, public servants, theologians, biologists, scholars, and activists who are engaged in the spiritual reckoning and awakening surrounding climate collapse, sacred land protection, and planetary health. Environmentalist, author, and HDS Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams will lead conversations concerning our response to climate chaos: How might we recast this a time of meaning rather than despair? How do arts and activism combine to let us see possibility instead of pessimism? Where do we find the strength to fully face all that is breaking our hearts?

    • 1 hr 27 min
    The Climate of Grief

    The Climate of Grief

    This conversation was part of the fall 2021 series "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now." The featured speaker was poet Victoria Chang.

    Victoria Chang writes in her New York Times Notable Book of 2020, Obit, “I always knew that grief was something I could smell. But I didn’t know that it’s not actually a noun but a verb. That it moves.”

    After the deaths of her parents, she refused to write elegies; instead, Chang wrote poetic obituaries of the beautiful, broken world that surrounds her (many see them as love letters). How does poetry illuminate this time of uncertainty? How do we embrace grief and not look away from all that is breaking our hearts? What we thought was a pause is now a place, and grief is part of this place.

    Respondent: Jorie Graham, Poet, Harvard English Department

    About this event series:
    "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now" is a ten-week series of online conversations with poets, writers, public servants, theologians, biologists, scholars, and activists who are engaged in the spiritual reckoning and awakening surrounding climate collapse, sacred land protection, and planetary health. Environmentalist, author, and HDS Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams will lead conversations concerning our response to climate chaos: How might we recast this a time of meaning rather than despair? How do arts and activism combine to let us see possibility instead of pessimism? Where do we find the strength to fully face all that is breaking our hearts?

    • 1 hr 14 min
    The Climate of Compassion for all Beings

    The Climate of Compassion for all Beings

    This conversation was part of the fall 2021 series "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now." The featured speaker was Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies and Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs at Harvard Divinity School.

    We are not the only species that lives and loves and grieves on this planet. Janet Gyatso focuses on the phenomenology of being not just among humans but with all other sentient beings. How we can cultivate the capacity to have such experiences, in ways that might reform our ethical and spiritual practices? How might compassion and an understanding toward animals heighten and mirror reciprocal relationships toward each other. What does it mean not only to be human, but one species among many?

    About this event series:
    "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now" is a ten-week series of online conversations with poets, writers, public servants, theologians, biologists, scholars, and activists who are engaged in the spiritual reckoning and awakening surrounding climate collapse, sacred land protection, and planetary health. Environmentalist, author, and HDS Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams will lead conversations concerning our response to climate chaos: How might we recast this a time of meaning rather than despair? How do arts and activism combine to let us see possibility instead of pessimism? Where do we find the strength to fully face all that is breaking our hearts?

    • 1 hr 26 min
    The Climate of Relationships and Intersectionality

    The Climate of Relationships and Intersectionality

    This conversation was part of the fall 2021 series "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now." The featured speakers were climate activist Morgan Curtis, MDiv '24, and brontë velez, Black-latinx transdisciplinary artist.

    Morgan Curtis and brontë velez discuss the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and climate collapse, and how seeing the world whole through the lens of relationships creates communities of care rather than conflict. They consider what reparations might look like on behalf of racial justice and justice for the Earth, and why it is critical to find a radical, intergenerational, diverse and dynamic dialogue that calls for a global paradigm shift.

    Respondent: Melissa Wood Bartholomew, Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Harvard Divinity School

    About this event series:
    "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now" is a ten-week series of online conversations with poets, writers, public servants, theologians, biologists, scholars, and activists who are engaged in the spiritual reckoning and awakening surrounding climate collapse, sacred land protection, and planetary health. Environmentalist, author, and HDS Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams will lead conversations concerning our response to climate chaos: How might we recast this a time of meaning rather than despair? How do arts and activism combine to let us see possibility instead of pessimism? Where do we find the strength to fully face all that is breaking our hearts?

    • 1 hr 26 min
    The Climate of Sacred Land Protection

    The Climate of Sacred Land Protection

    This conversation was part of the fall 2021 series "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now." The featured speaker was Gwich’in activist Bernadette Demientieff.

    Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, discusses why sacred land protection matters to indigenous communities. Learn how her community in Alaska is standing strong to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—Coastal Plain from becoming an oil and gas reserve. “Our identity is non-negotiable,” she says. “We will never sell our culture and our traditional lifestyle for any amount of money.”

    About this event series:
    "Weather Reports: The Climate of Now" is a ten-week series of online conversations with poets, writers, public servants, theologians, biologists, scholars, and activists who are engaged in the spiritual reckoning and awakening surrounding climate collapse, sacred land protection, and planetary health. Environmentalist, author, and HDS Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams will lead conversations concerning our response to climate chaos: How might we recast this a time of meaning rather than despair? How do arts and activism combine to let us see possibility instead of pessimism? Where do we find the strength to fully face all that is breaking our hearts?

    • 1 hr 26 min

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