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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Wrestling with God: Church Shootings and Gay Wedding Cakes

Apr15

by: Reverend Max Lynn on April 15th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Transcribed from the sermon preached July 12, 2015
Scripture Readings: Genesis 32:22-32, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1865 painting by Alexander Louis Leloir)

The story of Jacob’s wrestling match with God falls between the stories of Jacob’s tricking his brother Esau out of his inheritance and their reconciliation. You may remember that Jacob, the younger son, conspired with his mother to trick his father into giving him both the first born birthright and blessing. Gypped twice by his brother, Esau was fuming, and promised to kill his brother after his father died. Now Esau did alright for himself despite Jacob and is coming with an army. Jacob, hoping for forgiveness and reconciliation, sends out a sequence of offerings to soften his brother’s anger.

Awaiting the actual meeting with his brother, Jacob is camped along a river. As it becomes night, Jacob runs into a man who seems to be the guardian of the river crossing. They wrestle all night. Eventually, Jacob decides this guy is related to the divine and asks for a blessing. Jacob won’t give up so the guy injures Jacobs’s groin. But Jacob still won’t give up and demands a blessing. Finally, the guy blesses Jacob with the new name Israel, because he has struggled with God face to face.

If all goes according the convention in the culture, Jacob is not someone who gets to be primary protagonist in scripture. “Bless me, make me a cake,” he might say, and his father would say, “no, that is not the way it goes. You don’t get the blessing. The established order says your brother gets the blessing.” On the one hand Jacob is a bit of a snake. On the other hand, who came up with the conventional order anyway? This bucking of the conventional culture is going to reverberate in the story of David, the young brother who makes his way from musician to giant killer and then king. This theme runs through scripture: don’t give up, be faithful to God, wrestle with him enough, and you just may get a blessing.

The other night I went over to St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church to hear Cornel West. Now one might be tempted to look at the ongoing struggle of the African American Community and just say, the heck with God. Certainly more and more people have decided God is not making much of a difference. God is not preventing racist lunatics from shooting down church folks. God has not ended racism. God has not ended poverty and violence and discrimination. Meanwhile Central America is turning into a present day Sodom and Gomorrah, where society is disintegrating before the raw violence, corruption and disrespect of human life to such a degree one might be tempted to just erase everything and start over.

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An Instruction Manual for and about Dissenters

Apr13

by: on April 13th, 2016 | Comments Off

A few weeks ago I posted an entry about how dissent strengthens collaboration. In that article I spoke some about how to respond to outliers – the people who express a divergent opinion, persist in not trusting, or in some other way stand apart from a group. While some may call them “dissenters,” when my colleague Lisa Rothman started referring to them as “outliers” I immediately took to it. The word “outlier” for me describes something wider than dissent. It can include being apart from a group even if in general agreement with it, and is more emotionally evocative for me. This is not a finished discussion, and I welcome your comments about it.

At the next Fearless Heart Teleseminar, a number of those present were grappling strongly with the topic, introducing an entire new angle: if any of us is an outlier, what can we do from that perspective, so we don’t have to wait for a facilitator or leader to be skilled enough to invite us in? This post was born on that call.

Why Outliers Matter

For the longest time, I figured that the reason to respond to outliers with kindness and interest is simply to model those qualities and to support people’s well-being. I didn’t even pause to think about the topic, even though I myself have been an outlier for as far back as I can remember. It wasn’t an epiphany that brought me to my current thinking, only a painstaking, incremental learning through practice.

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Freedom University: Students & Allies Fight for Access & Education in Georgia’s Public Colleges

Apr12

by: Sagiv Galai on April 12th, 2016 | Comments Off

“Undocumented—Unafraid! Undocumented—Unafraid!”

After a 14-hour classroom sit-in, Freedom University students and allies refuse to leave Georgia State University during the #Greensboro Now action. Eight students were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing. February 2, 2016. Photo: Laura Emiko Soltis.

Such is the slogan that has been galvanized by this nation’s immigrant youth movement. It has been heard in the hallways of Congress, it has been invoked in Miami, throughout California, and for years it has been chanted in the streets of Atlanta.

In order to fight what activists refer to as The Ban: a policy of modern segregation that prohibits access for undocumented students in public universities, undocumented students have been oscillating between the streets and the classrooms, issuing their demands in both forums. The Ban, encapsulated in policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 enacted by the Georgia Board of Regents in 2011, stipulates that individuals who are not “lawfully present” in Georgia cannot qualify for in-state tuition in Georgia’s university system, nor can they qualify for admittance in Georgia’s top-five public universities.

The discriminatory impact of the Board’s policies also entailed an unintended consequence. Almost immediately after it was instituted, a hub of resistance and education emerged—Freedom University Georgia.

In this underground and un-accredited institution, the premise of education is its direct relationship to the students’ political environment. Beyond workshops in essay composition, tutoring, photography, graphic design, a critical history of the United States (as inspired by the late-Professor Zinn), or their A Cappella ensemble, the students of Freedom U. focus on crafting resistance strategies to The Ban and on expanding their network of artists, lawyers, veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, former and current politicians, professors, student-allies, and local activists.

During the last five years, as the student activists disseminated their message throughout their community and the nation, a coalition of Freedom U. chapters has emerged in different colleges around Georgia, California and the North East. The network depends on connections that are made between institutions and students, as the Atlanta immigrant youth movement’s focus is access to education and the abolition of admissions policies that discriminate based on the applicant’s immigration status.

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Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Apr11

by: on April 11th, 2016 | 10 Comments »

If you grew up in the inner city in the 1970s and 1980s and were a hippie, black or latino–never mind a hippie who spent most of his time with blacks and latinos–chances are you had occasion to call a police officer a “pig.” Real pigs are actually kind of nice, as Charlotte’s Web, the movieBabeand the fact that people keep them as pets attests.

But at least in places like Paterson, NJ, Harlem or the Lower East Side, cops seemed to behave with regularity the way people generally imagine pigs to be: dirty–as in corrupt, gluttonous–as in often overweight and also corrupt, sniffing into people’s business, and often running amok in the communities they were supposed to “protect and serve.”

Sadly, the rise of Black Lives Matter and the ongoing police brutality and corruption it’s brought to light reminds us that things haven’t changed too much. Is calling a cop a pig today a sign of bigotry or prejudice? Or can the insult, however crude, reflect a reality that needs to be highlighted?

I raise these questions because at its last meeting the Regents of the University of California approved a new Principles of Intolerance which, despite the ongoing epidemic of sexual assaults on UC campuses, decreasing of our pensions, weakening of health care benefits, lowering of educational quality and rise in tuition, focuses on the alleged plight of one of the least vulnerable groups at UC by most measures (including UC’s own “Campus Climate” report) – Jewish students.

As word leaked of the language being considered for the final version of the Principles, which would have explicitly equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism an international uproar ensued that condemned the equation as historically ill-informed and empirically wrong much if not most of the time (to cite the most obvious problem, Jews themselves have been and continue to be anti-Zionist).

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What Will We Do if Trump Is the Next President?

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Dorothy Thompson in 1920

In late 1931, Dorothy Thompson, then one of the US’s most respected foreign correspondents, interviewed Adolf Hitler. She spoke of “the startling insignificance of this man.” Although she could foresee the possibility that he would create a coalition government with centrist politicians, she nonetheless said: “it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.” Within a year of the article’s publication, he began doing exactly that. In 1934, after writing many articles against Hitler and exposing the reign of terror he instituted, she was the first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany.[Source]

In 1922, when Italy’s king reluctantly invited Mussolini to form a government after the liberal prime minister resigned, he didn’t imagine that Mussolini would dismantle democratic institutions and establish a dictatorship that would last about twelve years. He and his advisors apparently were hoping that Mussolini’s popularity within the military might support them in their attempt to “restore law and order in the country, but failed to foresee the danger of a totalitarian evolution.”[Source]

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Agenda 21 for Culture

Apr8

by: on April 8th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Ed Carroll, a friend in Europe, sent me a query:”How come there was not one mayor in the USA that was prompted to submit an application to the Agenda 21 for culture? … The absence on the Map is quite extraordinary.”

My reply? “What a good question!”

“The map” is a graphic on the international award page for cities and regional and local governments that have adopted cultural policies “linking the values of culture (heritage, diversity, creativity and transmission of knowledge) with democratic governance, citizen participation and sustainable development.”

This time around, 83 cities and local governments submitted proposals.As you will see when you click on the map, not a single one came from the United States.

You could say this is unsurprising, since no U.S.-based local government association takes part in the sponsoring organization, the committee on culture of the world association of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), “the global platform of cities, organizations and networks to learn, to cooperate and to launch policies and programmes on the role of culture in sustainable development.” Its mission is “to promote culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development through the international dissemination and the local implementation of Agenda 21 for culture.”

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Fiddler on My Mind

Apr5

by: Roslyn Bernstein on April 5th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Theatre Marquis. Photo: Shael Shapiro

Fiddler on the Roof has been on my mind these days, the plaintive strains of the violinist leading me uptown to the New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), then midtown to experience the current revival of the musical on Broadway starring Danny Burstein, and finally back to the MCNY on March 28th to hear a lively panel on Reimagining Fiddler.

The lights dimmed and the actors who play Tevye’s rebellious daughters, Chava, Tzeitel and Hudel, appeared on stage, belting out Matchmaker, as the warm-up act for a panel moderated by the exhibit’s guest curator, Edna Nahshon, a Professor of Jewish Theater and Drama at The Jewish Theological Seminary. The lyrics were perfect, Sheldon Harnick at his best, with clever rhymes—”I’ll bring the veil, you bring the groom, slender and pale”—and puns at the end. The audience smiled when the sisters delivered the line: “Playing with matches a girl can get hurt.”

My memory flashed back to 1965 when I saw the original musical, one year after it opened in 1964, with Zero Mostel commanding the stage. Fiddler broke records and ran for over 3,000 performances.

The big question of the evening: Why was Fiddler such a sensation?

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The UC Regents and Anti-Semitism: A Q&A with Judith Butler

Apr4

by: Ben Rowen on April 4th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

There has been a lot of discussion, and furor, about a recent statement approved by the University of California Board of Regents.

The original statement of “principles against intolerance” contained language both condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the UC system.

“Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California,” the proposed statement read.

The language asserting anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and discrimination became the center of debate about free speech and the suppression of political viewpoints. Jewish Voice for Peace, California Scholars for Academic Freedom, and activist Judith Butler, among many others, all voiced opposition to the clause.

The UC Board of Regents eventually approved a revised draft of the statement. The language about anti-Zionism was changed to: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

Tikkun reached out to Butler to discuss the revised statement, free speech, and anti-Semitism on UC campuses. Below is our Q & A.

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After the Delegation

Mar31

by: Talia Bornstein on March 31st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Al-Quds University (Source: Keleti, Transferred from he.wikipedia)

The first time I went to Israel, I was two. Since then I have returned for various different reasons. But it wasn’t until my gap year that I realized that Israel, a place I had the privilege of traveling to over six times, was at the center of a conflict I knew almost nothing about. On my gap year I took classes on the conflict, traveled to the West Bank, visited Israeli settlements, and learned about the complexities within Israeli society regarding ethnicity and religion. I returned from my year in Israel with the intention and determination to advocate for a two state solution, voice the reality of Palestinians’ lack of human rights, and fight for Israel’s tarnishing image.

But once I settled back into my apartment in New York, I realized that the in-depth global experience I had in Israel was not quite as well-rounded as I thought it was. I left Israel without ever having had an intentional conversation with a Palestinian. How was it possible that I lived in West Jerusalem for a year yet never even stepped foot in Palestinian East Jerusalem?

I was eager to begin my freshman year at Brandeis, where the conversation on Israel and Palestine dominates campus politics. But once I got here, I was disappointed to learn that I would not have the opportunity to engage with Palestinians’ narratives as I would have had several years earlier, before the suspension of Brandeis’ partnership with Palestinian Al-Quds University. Without this partnership, Palestinian narratives are scarcely represented at Brandeis.

In 2013, President Lawrence suspended Brandeis’ ties with Al-Quds in response to an Islamic-Jihad affiliated political rally held on the Al-Quds campus by a small group of students. Despite the Al-Quds administration’s condemnation of the protest, Brandeis suspended its ties indefinitely. Though Brandeis’ administration is unwilling to restore contact with Al-Quds, students from each school have maintained this valuable relationship for two and half years. The Brandeis-Al-Quds Student Dialogue Initiative (B-AQU SDI) is comprised of students from each university, working to take steps toward renewing our universities’ relations. 

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What Can We Learn from the Presidential Race?

Mar23

by: Michael Nagler on March 23rd, 2016 | 2 Comments »

I have never voted Republican, but I stand with those Republicans today who are aghast at what Donald Trump has done to the level of political discourse in this country and the future of their party.  I also stand with the smaller number – but I will have more to say on this in a second – who realize that Mr. Trump did not spring from nowhere but is in fact the logical extension of the direction in which this party has been going for some time.  After all, as Rosalyn Carter said astutely of then-Governor Reagan when her husband was running against him, “The trouble with that man is that he makes us feel good about our prejudices.”  Is this not exactly what Mr. Trump is doing?  The only thing different now is the greater openness of the appeal to egotism and prejudice.  And therein lies its value as a teaching moment.  A number of people, most recently the President of Mexico (of whom I’m not otherwise an admirer) have compared Mr. Trump to Hitler.  Well, to use an important term in the field of peace studies and nonviolence, Hitler inadvertently did one useful thing: he delegitimized racism by carrying it out on such a scale that the world was shocked.  To delegitimize is not necessarily to eliminate – that takes a bit more work; but the possibility here, if we would only make use of it, is that this year’s campaign could delegitimize prejudice, vulgarity, and incivility (they’re closely connected).  As conservative columnist E.R. Dionne writes (March 7, 2016), “the crudest, most vulgar, and most thoroughly disgusting campaign in our nation’s history.”  It has therefore created an opportunity for us to restore some dignity to our political culture.

To do that, however, we have to get deeper into what is driving this race to the bottom that has made this year’s campaign a national disgrace.

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