After being invited to a national prayer breakfast as the student president of Bucknell University, she became one of the eight original college graduates who lived in Washington, DC, and of the youth of the then-leading Christian organization The Family. It worked as an exit. Ko. The rigorous and isolated practices of this group are explained in Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
From there she moved to California, co-founding the microfinance charity Kiva.org with her husband at the time, and earning an MBA from Stanford University. After divorcing in 2008, Jackley left evangelicalism. In 2011, she married Reza Aslan, a Muslim and religious scholar (who was also an evangelical Christian for some time). Aslan often appears on cable news, sometimes calmly explaining Islam to a hostile audience. He wrote a book about Jesus and devoted himself to the fringe religion for his CNN show “Believer”.
They take their children to the church in Pasadena, but they also wanted to give them a wide range of religious literacy. So in 2018, they traveled around the world in 80 days, visited the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, participated in the Zen tea ceremony in Kyoto, and met the whispers of leprechauns in Ireland. They wanted other families to get the same insights, but they knew that their trip wasn’t something most people could or wanted to do.
When they came back, they started what they called “home church”. It was an hour on Sunday when the whole family sang, prayed, and read religious stories. Jackley thought it was mentally curious and could potentially sell to a huge market. For the first time in 2020, Gallup discovered that less than 50% of Americans belong to churches, synagogues, or mosques. 70 percent in 1999.
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She focused on 10 major religions, planned to explore each aspect in a weekly newsletter, and tested it with her neighbors. “I found that people have a lot of sensitivity to religion. I didn’t know. I’m married to Reza,” she said.
She also learned that children don’t want to sit down in Noah’s story, but are happy to build a small ark full of adorable animals. On the other hand, my parents didn’t even want an ark. They didn’t want any religious guidance at all. They wanted instructions on how to be a better person. “There wasn’t much innovation in volunteering,” says Jackley.
She read a Stanford University survey and said that 90% wanted to volunteer, while 25% didn’t because no one asked. “I said,’Hey! The world is asking you,” she said.
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