Joseph Bottum argues that contemporary American progressivism resembles Christianity sans salvation. [more inside]
NSFW: so very NSFW. In recent years, a religious sex-toy industry has developed for devout Christian, Jewish, and Muslim folks (who, in this case, can't buy sex toys but massage oil and lube). Note: For the love of all that is holy, do not confuse the religious sex-toy industry with the religious-sex-toy industry, which sells blasphemous items like a baby Jesus butt plug, a Buddha dildo, and a dildo called Damien.
Ruthanna Emrys's debut novel Winter Tide is in the world of her novella The Litany of Earth (previously), a story about about secrets, furtive faith, government mistakes, and the silenced Other from a well-known narrative -- specifically, H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. Winter Tide will come out April 4th, but Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are available to read now. [more inside]
The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi Rozina Ali revisits the cultural legacy of Rumi in the West: 'The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a “desert religion,” with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was “that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” This was a time when Muslims were singled out for legal discrimination—a law from 1790 curtailed the number of Muslims who could come into the United States, and a century later the U.S. Supreme Court described the “intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.” In 1898, in the introduction to his translation of the “Masnavi,” Sir James Redhouse wrote, “The Masnavi addresses those who leave the world, try to know and be with God, efface their selves and devote themselves to spiritual contemplation.” For those in the West, Rumi and Islam were separated.' [Rumi previously]
Many believe Bifatima Dualetova to be one of the last Sufi dervishes in Kazakhstan. I first met her in September 2010 while traveling in Central Asia. The locals that I was staying with in Almaty told me about a shaman woman living on the outskirts of the small village Ungurtas, close to Kyrgyzstan's border. "The last house in the village, at the foot of the 'Sacred Hill,'" they said. ...... I ended up staying with her for more than two months, from January to March 2011, documenting her rituals and practices, herding sheep, and working on my van.Photographer Denis Vejas documents the practices of one of the country's last Sufi dervishes. Russian language post (Google Translate). Note: some images of animal sacrifice.
There are now only two living members of the Shaker faith. In 2016, there were three. [more inside]
"So here you are, dead and alone. Chances are you didn’t want this, but your wishes were ignored. Whatever happens to the part of you that you recognize as somehow quintessentially you (call it soul, self, spirit, spark), the other part isn’t finished yet—the fleshly part, the limbs and guts that ached and pleased you in so many ways, the meaty bits that you vainly or grudgingly dragged around for all those years. That piece is still of interest to the bureaucrats. It is still a potential source of profit. In your absence its journey is just beginning." ~ What Really Happens After You Die?
Around the world, people keep reaching out for something to sustain us. Enjoy these mantras, prayers, hymns, and chants. [more inside]
I was at a Sheetz eating mac 'n' cheese bites, considering my faith—or lack thereof—on my way to a Christian rock festival in rural Pennsylvania. My interests in the Creation Music Festival and reasons for being there were layered. As a music editor who'd noticed a lot of artists becoming more vocal about their beliefs (rappers like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance the Rapper, who earlier this year released an album that was essentially a banging hip-hop gospel record), I wondered if there'd been a change in the long tradition of Christian music sucking. I also wanted to know what it's like when tens of thousands of Christians gather in the name of rock 'n' roll, a genre steeped in and born of a tradition of substance abuse, sex, and rebellion. Like, do people smoke weed? But most dauntingly, I wanted to better understand why I left this faith. But if I'm being honest with myself, all the other questions were just excuses to answer this last one.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival, a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, is observed primarily in Southeast Asian countries. Thailand’s celebration is called the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, and is notable for devotees called Ma Song—“entranced horses”—whom the gods enter during the festival. [more inside]
One month before Election Day, with the Trump campaign reeling from enough October Surprises to fill an advent calendar, the Washington Post's intrepid David Fahrenthold has landed what may be the mortal blow: vulgar 2005 footage of the Republican nominee bragging about his sexual abuse of married women, just months after marrying his third wife, Melania. "When you’re a star, they let you do it," the future presidential candidate declares. "Grab 'em by the p***y. You can do anything." The bombshell has forced GOP leaders to recoil from Trump and issue a parade of rebukes, with Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz revoking support, House Speaker Paul Ryan cancelling a joint rally, and top donors pulling funds and demanding a new candidate. Hours after a terse press release from the then-59-year-old calling it "locker room banter," Trump released a rare apology in a midnight video maligning the Clintons while vowing to attend the presidential town hall debate Sunday. Betting markets aren't so sure. Unfortunately for the GOP, there’s no longer any way to boot Donald Trump from the ballot. [more inside]
Athletes Jesse Owens and Carl Ludwig "Luz" Long, competitors at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, became devoted friends and corresponded long after Owens returned to America. [more inside]
From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
The New Face of India Is the Anti-Gandhi - "The violence, insecurity, and rage of Narendra Modi." (via)
To "more fully understand why conservative [American] politics [has] become synonymous with no-questions-asked support of Israel," Author Tom Bissell went on a ten day “Stand with Israel Tour” hosted by right-wing Jewish Conservative talk show pundit Dennis Prager. My Holy Land Vacation: Touring Israel with 450 Christian Zionists, is this month’s Harper’s Magazine cover story. [more inside]
Young Advocates For Fair Education, or YAFFED, is an NYC-based advocacy group of Orthodox Jewish youth and young adults who complain that their limited high school educations left them ill-equipped to support themselves as adults, and demand that the New York City and New York State education departments enforce laws on minimum school standards. Recently the ED of YAFFED co-wrote an op-ed, Why Do Jewish Leaders Keep Ignoring Ultra-Orthodox Education Crisis?
Mecca Goes Mega [The New York Times] A building boom in the city’s sacred center has created a dazzling, high-tech 21st-century pilgrimage. [more inside]
"You probably haven’t heard of the Constitution Party. They have no seats in the House or the Senate, and probably never will. They don’t have any spokespeople telegenic enough for Fox News. They’ve only been around since 1991, and they’ve only been called the Constitution Party since 1999. (They were the Taxpayers’ Party before that.) Basically, it’s a party for conservatives who think Republicans are too secular." - GOD AND COUNTRY, Kaleb Horton spends 36 hours with the dying embers of The Consitution Party
When Scientology Sponsored Race Cars [Road and Track] John Travolta. Mario Andretti. The Pope. Aliens. Germans. The Indy 500. Milwaukee. The Church of Scientology. Welcome to 1988's bizarre intersection between motorsports, religion, and sponsorship. [more inside]
The Faithful. "René and Juan Carlos set out to convert their Colombian megachurch to Orthodox Judaism. This is what happened."
Can an Outsider Become Amish?
Up until that summer, ... Alex’s knowledge of the Amish was derived solely, like any ‘90s child, from the Weird Al Yankovic song “Amish Paradise,” and from the few times his family drove by them while on their way to drop him off at summer camp in Northern Pennsylvania when he was a kid. But he entered his senior year of high school ... with the Plain people in his mind. He bought Twenty Most Asked Questions About the Amish and Mennonites and “hauled it around with [him] everywhere;” he’d occasionally wear button-down shirts and slacks to school and when other students would ask him if he had some sort of presentation that day, he’d cheerfully respond, “Nope, I’m just dressing Mennonite!”
When Middle East correspondent Carla Power began studying the Koran with a conservative Islamic scholar, she wasn’t expecting to learn that it nowhere advocates the oppression of women - or that Islam has a rich history of forgotten female leaders.
The Guardian reports on an accusation by a former Muskegon County, Michigan health official claiming that a Catholic healthcare provider forced five women between August 2009 and December 2010 to undergo dangerous miscarriages by giving them no other option. Catholic hospitals must follow the Ethical Health Directives issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with consolidation in health care providers, more and more Americans are affected. [more inside]
"The way these governments are handling the virus is foolish, highly unrealistic, and insensitive to women." But Zika Virus Isn't The First Disease To Spark A Debate About Abortion [more inside]
Chrindie '95: A collection of essays about a seminal year in Christian indie rock. [via mefi projects].
1995 was also an incredibly important year for the scene we've come to call “Chrindie,” for Christian indie rock. Much has been written about the weird world of contemporary Christian music, but whatever you think it is , you’d be surprised by how many genuinely great Chrindie records were released twenty years ago. During the course of the year, we’ve been writing about brilliant, beautiful, challenging, difficult, weird albums that went mostly unnoticed by mainstream radio and the music press and MTV, in part because they were released on tiny labels with no budgets and marketed primarily to evangelical teenagers in the suburbs.[more inside]
Following the Christian Reconquest and unification of Spain, concluded with the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, the victorious Catholic sovereigns decreed on March 31, 1492 that all Jews convert to Christianity or leave Spain by the last day of July. Whether they stayed or left, many Jewish families continued to practice their faith in secret. Such crypto-Jews passed their traditions down the generations and around the world, some ending up in the Southwest. 500 years later, New Mexico's "hidden Jews" were found among strong Hispanic Catholic communities. Though some were skeptical about the origins of certain family practices, additional research and a pattern of breast cancer lead to genetic testing and confirmation of prior beliefs. [more inside]
I would feel bad about this pop theological education, except I'm not alone. As part of Sojourner's series on God in sci-fi and fantasy (in honor of Star Wars Week), Rose Marie Berger discusses Hell as a trope and a reality.
“Black Folk Don’t...” is an open conversation that invites everyone to take a second look at the grey areas between us all, no matter the race, and most importantly to do it with a sense of humor. This documentary web series is a special presentation of BlackPublicMedia.org, directed and produced by Angela Tucker, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Did you know that black folk don't… [more inside]
Judaism's core texts grew out of millennia-long conversations and arguments across generations, with interconnected dialogues, source citing and (re)interpretation. Now, it's all going digital: Sefaria is creating a massive public domain, interactive "living library of Jewish texts and their interconnections, in Hebrew and translations." Their goal is to build a reference resource and community that "gives a better learning experience than anything that comes before it," from ancient to modern texts and "all the volumes of commentary in between." Read texts, browse submitted public source sheets on dozens of topics or visualize associations between texts.
"He believed that since the coconut grew high up in the tree, closest to God and closest to the sun, it was godlike. And since it had hair and looked like a human head, he thought it came closest to being a man. According to his rather crackpot theory, to be a cocovore was to be a theophage — or eater of God."
Holy Ghost People (1967) Dir. Peter Adair. Sound. Steve Reich "Ground-breaking example of "cinema verite" filmmaking at its best! This documentary explores the individual experiences of Pentacostal Christians. Film culminates with ceremonial handling of poisonous snakes. Ironically, it is the preacher that gets bitten."
A new Pew survey looks at attitudes towards free speech from around the world. It explores how different nations think about free speech and government, the press, religion, minorities, the internet. Also in the report: attitudes towards democracy, religion, and gender. (SLP)
"I can still hear him signing off his show similar to the way he concluded his letter to Amy Melder: “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.” Some have suggested that this message sought to instill children with a sense of self-importance, but to believe that is to fundamentally misunderstand Fred Rogers. At the core of Rogers’ mission was the paradoxical Christian belief that the way to gain one’s life is to give it away." (SL Atlantic)
Sixteenth century European Catholics with sufficiently heavy purses could upgrade their rosary beads with Prayer Nuts, virtuoso boxwood carvings of astonishing detail. You can get lost in these things, and probably the more so back in the day when, some believe, they were infused with scent, mixing the visual with the olfactory. They've been known to hit the market, latterly in the low six figures. [more inside]
[Megan] Phelps-Roper spent the summer and the fall in an existential spiral. She would conclude that everything about Westboro’s doctrine was wrong, only to be seized with terror that these thoughts were a test from God, and she was failing. “You literally feel insane,” she said. Eventually, her doubts won out. “I just couldn’t keep up the charade,” she said. “I couldn’t bring myself to do the things we were doing and say the things we were saying.” - How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs. (content warning : extreme homophobic & anti-Semitic language)
The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World A new study published in Cell shows that "Parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies." [more inside]
Today, the Union of Reform Judaism, the body that represents synagogues in the Reform movement —Judaism's largest U.S. branch — unanimously passed the most far-reaching resolution on transgender rights of any major religious organization. The resolution affirms the equality of transgender people and welcomes them into congregations, camps and other Reform Jewish institutions. [more inside]
President Obama & Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation in Iowa. "It seems to me as if democracy is the logical, the inevitable consequence of this kind of religious humanism at its highest level. And it [applies] to everyone. It’s the human image. It’s not any loyalty or tradition or anything else; it’s being human that enlists the respect, the love of God being implied in it."
"Every society struggles to care for people with mental illness. In parts of West Africa, where psychiatry is virtually unknown, the chain is often a last resort for desperate families who cannot control a loved one in the grip of psychosis. Religious retreats, known as prayer camps, set up makeshift psychiatric wards, usually with prayer as the only intervention." NYTimes. Links contain upsetting images and video. [more inside]
On the Nature of Things Humanity Was Not Meant to Know: Cosma Shalizi considers Lucretius' De Rerum Natura ('On the Nature of Things') as a "real-life Necronomicon, a book full of things humanity was not meant to know."
Conservative Christian communities are split between doubling down on their advocacy, or walling themselves off from mainstream culture. - Laura Turner, Atlantic [more inside]
For the second time, Memorial University professor Ranee Panjabi refuses to wear an FM transmitter that will allow a hearing-impaired student to hear her lectures. The student, history major William Sears, is forced to drop out of her History of Espionage course. Now Memorial University has discovered an agreement that it signed with Panjabi nearly 20 years ago that allows her to refuse to wear the transmitter on religious grounds.
Holly Salzman of Albuquerque, NM, had to attend 10 court-ordered sessions with counselor Mary Pepper to resolve co-parenting conflicts with her estranged husband. Local KRQE reports that the class has highly religious overtones, which Salzman disagrees with but she could not get the courts to change the counselor. [more inside]
"For nearly three years, there has been considerable controversy and confusion about whether a business-card sized papyrus fragment dubbed the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is an authentic ancient artifact or not. The current scholarly consensus already holds that the fragment is forgery. In addition, a recent development has confirmed that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife is a forgery created using a specific internet edition of the Gospel of Thomas [pdf]. It seems that the Gospel of Jesus' Wife forgery debate has finally come to an end. " [Previously]