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Archive for the ‘Inter-Culturalism’ Category



This Easter, forgo the eggs and, like Jesus, rise up for social justice

Apr4

by: Rev. Rich Lang on April 4th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A close-up of a statue of Jesus in despair.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Lisa.

This weekend, Christians will remember the last week of Jesus’ life. If you ask Christians what the significance of Jesus is, they will tell you that Jesus “died for our sins,” paving the way for our souls to go to heaven after we shed this mortal coil. This common view is really a rather odd answer.

Some Christians tell the story as if God, the spiritual source of the material world, is really angry with us human beings. We are a rebellious sort who eat apples off the wrong trees and have sex with the wrong people. God the spirit is so angry with us that when our mortal coil is shed, our own spiritual essence will descend into an eternal torture chamber for an afterlife marked by weeping and gnashing of teeth. But thankfully, Jesus takes one for the team, becoming the scapegoat that represents all of us filthy sinners, and in doing so, appeases the God who otherwise would roast and toast us like an eternal marshmallow at a campfire. If you don’t believe Christians talk this way, just ask one: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”


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The Prison Rabbi: Impossible Passover Blues

Apr3

by: Eliahu J. Klein on April 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Someone spreading peanut butter on matzo bread on a blue doily.

Every year there are Passover food shortages in prison. If Passover food isn't served though, Jewish inmates can sue California for violation of First Amendment rights. Credit: CreativeCommons / Idit Narkis Katz.

In the Department of Corrections Operations Manual it states clearly, that every religious group of inmates are allotted no more than two religious banquets a year. The State claims to cover the expenses for these religious banquets. The following is a narrative history of one of these events.

This year, all Jewish inmates of any race, creed and color residing at Happy Valley State Prison had their annual Passover Banquet without any delays, obstructions and obfuscations. All the memos were signed off by no less than twenty-six officials for a Jewish religious event situated in two separate yards (each yard housing a specific category of prisoner, such as violent or non violent; gang or non gang; general population or protected), for a total of fifty-two Jews. Everything went according to plan. I even coaxed some of my attendees to share what they were going through and they were warmly heard by the rest of the congregation; as far I could tell. There was the satisfaction of cutting through the enormous chain of command in order to celebrate a religious holy day, a day of freedom and redemption. I must be frank; the Passover banquets were much anticipated events, a sacred ritual performed on the first two nights of Passover. These Passover Banquets, the ones I performed and facilitated were performed four days into the Holiday or days before the holiday since I am a religious man and cannot travel during the actual holyday. Nevertheless, they still worked. Why? Well first off, the inmates receive a lot of extra food and free Passover food donations from Return- the National Outreach to Jews in Prisons. I watched their faces. I know it’s a big thing for these guys. An event that happens once a year for Jewish inmates. Two: Everybody relates to freedom and redemption. The entire Jewish community affirms with all their buddies how essential and endearing the story of the Exodus is to all oppressed peoples of the world. To be honest with you, I have experienced African American participants truly experience liberation and redemption in deeper ways than a lot of the Jewish inmates who do not let on what is truly going on deep in their hearts. The Black brothers, they express themselves and I hear from them that they “got” the Exodus story, the story of Passover and the function and meaning the telling of the Haggadah. My Jewish brothers definitely intellectually know a lot more than the non- Jewish participants and they show off more. On the other hand it is challenging to decipher the condition of their hearts.

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A Sikh and Hindu chai chat over progressive action and social justice

Apr3

by: Manpreet Teji and Murali Balaji on April 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

A red Sikh symbol.Over the past decade, South Asian Americans of all faiths have become increasingly active in social justice causes, whether it’s been combating xenophobia and anti-Black racism, fighting for LGBT rights, religious tolerance, and for comprehensive environmental justice.

Sadly, even as the community comes together on these issues, interfaith dialogue among South Asian Americans continues to be a sore spot. As Sikh and Hindu activists, respectively, we seek a way forward in discussing how our communities – which have occasionally experienced tensions among advocacy groups – can work together to solve the problems we face together. Moreover, we need to talk about how Sikhs and Hindus – who both come from inherently progressive spiritual traditions -can present a united front in championing for social change.

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The Tikkun Passover Seder Supplement

Apr1

by: on April 1st, 2015 | 2 Comments »

This is meant as a supplement to the traditional Haggadah. You can use it in addition to a traditional Haggadah, introducing whichever parts you like to your Seder to provoke a lively discussion, or you can use this as the basis for an alternative Haggadah, which can then be supplemented by the traditional Haggadah.

"Passover" by Lynne Feldman (lynnefeldman.com).

A Note to Non-Jews: You are very welcome at our Seder! Jesus was a Jew, and the Last Supper was a Seder. Our supplement affirms the liberatory message that is part of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is found in many other religious and spiritual traditions as well. You may find some of this ritual helpful if you create your own rite to celebrate the key insight of Easter or of any of the spring holidays of the world: that rebirth, renewal, and transformation are possible, and that we are not stuck in the dark, cold, and deadly energies of winter. Judaism builds on that universal experience of nature and adds another dimension: it suggests that the class structure (slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or neoliberal imperialism) can be overcome, and that we human beings, created in the image of the Transformative Power of the Universe (God), can create a world based on love, generosity, justice, and peace.

We understand God in part as the Transformative Power of the Universe – the force that makes possible the transformation from that which is to that which ought to be, the force that makes it possible to transcend the tendency of human beings to pass on to others the hurt and pain that has been done to us, the force that permeates every ounce of Being and unites all in one transcendent and imminent reality. In short, we understand God in part as the ultimate Unity of All with All, of whom we are always a part, even if we are not always conscious of the part of God we are, or the part of God that everyone and everything is. And you are welcome at our Seder even if you think all of this makes no sense and there is no God.

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The Iconography of Sorrow: How Easter Transforms Our Response to Suffering

Apr1

by: Luke Bretherton on April 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

From pictures of poor farmers in Depression era America to bloated children in Sudan, the contemporary aesthetics of poverty subtly reinscribe the ancient division between the children of the soil (chthonoi) and children of the gods (theion) familiar to us from the Greek and Babylonian myths.

Those who live some form of what is often deemed the ideal “Western” lifestyle look down from Olympus with sympathy on the sons and daughters of the soil and their visceral imprisonment to nature and necessity.

“We” who benefit from consumer lifestyles, technological advancement and decent sewers contemplate the photographs of stricken faces and think: “If only they can be more like us.”

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Easter Lilies

Mar30

by: Susan Little on March 30th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A painting of two young girls holding lanterns in a garden of lilies.

Credit: CreativeCommons / John Singer Sargent.

When I was a young child nurtured in the Methodist Church in Earle, Arkansas, the word “dead” meant nothing to me. But “rose from the dead,” that was something captivating, a phrase I heard far, far more often than just the word. Every Sunday, in fact, I learned to proclaim as an article of faith that Jesus, on the third day, “rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.” Resurrection.

A six-year-old makes what she will of words and concepts she doesn’t understand. And that is what I did. Because “resurrection” was accompanied by pictures of a risen Christ in white robes, moving toward a light-filled heaven, arms reaching out for me, I could tell that the word meant “life.” I reached in return for Jesus, and for the promise. From the beginning, for me, Jesus was life.

My parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. Even now, I can hear my father saying it, again and again. At the same time, the church taught me that God loved me and would help me grow up into a good person, a loving individual, doing meaningful things, someone to be proud of. God was love. I believed in God. I believed in Jesus. Love and Life.

Much has changed since those days in Earle. Schools and degrees; jobs at home and overseas; marriages – two of those; children and grandchildren. Many joys; many hardships. Through it all, I have grown familiar with the word “dead.” Death, disappointment, disease – I know about them now. And, of course, I know more about life and love as well. Unlike the little girl in Earle, who had never met an atheist or a Jew or a Greek Orthodox or a Catholic or even an Episcopalian or a Lutheran, I have fallen in love with at least one of each of them in my adult life. I observed how their faiths – practicing or not – had molded their hearts in compassion. I could see the light of God shining through them, even as they might not have named it so. The circle of my understanding grew wide and my spirit began to throw off the bonds of exclusivity.

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Admissions: A Peace-Oriented Film About Israel/Palestine

Mar30

by: John Viscount on March 30th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

A poster for the movie "Admissions."

After the devastating events of 9/11, it became tragically clear that war was once again on the horizon. As a personal response, I wrote the script for Admissions, a film about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. My intention was to put forth a more forgiving interpretation of life’s events so people could find a pathway to peace no matter how crazy things got.

In 2011, the script was given to Academy Award nominee and peace activist, James Cromwell, and he graciously agreed to play the lead role. When the film was finished, Admissions began its festival run where it has won 26 international awards, been translated into Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi, and Spanish, and broadcast to 80 million people worldwide.

As a result of the positive response to Admissions, a number of peace organizations coalesced around the film’s message and several efforts were synergized. The result was a new mission to create Ministries and Departments of Peace in governments worldwide.

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Netanyahu Removes the Mask: The Two-State Solution is Dead

Mar27

by: David Glick on March 27th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

Protesters in London holding 'Free Palestine' signs.

Israel is the home of Jewish and non-Jewish followers of three great religions. Liberal Zionism is nothing but a fiction. Above, activists from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign march in London. Credit: CreativeCommons / James_London

Prime Minister Netanyahu has finally removed the mask. “If I am elected there will be no Palestinian state,” he said in the clearest possible terms. Netanyahu, of course, was merely publicly aligning his words with what have long been his actions. Throughout his entire political career he has done everything possible to thwart the emergence of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s barely coded racist remarks about Palestinians “coming out in droves to the polls” demonstrates there is no place for Palestinians in the Israeli Zionist polity.

The two state solution is officially dead and it is time to give it its proper burial. The truth is that under both Likud and Labor governments, negotiations with the Palestinians have long been nothing but a theatrical production as Israel continued to seize more Palestinian land and build more settlements even as it proceeded with the negotiations. Netanyahu is simply acknowledging what has been true of all of Israel’s leaders, whether of the right, left, or center. For the past 22 years all have been misleading the world, pretending to seek peace with the Palestinians while pursuing policies to ensure there will never be peace and never be a Palestinian state. Had the Zionist Union prevailed, it would have simply tried to restart the same moribund negotiations that have served as a cover for Israel to talk peace while destroying its prospects by building more colonies.

It is time for American Jews to face the fact that liberal Zionism is nothing but a fiction. It is time to sit shiva to mourn its passing. It is time to confront the fact that a Jewish state that maintains a brutal and illegal 48 year occupation over millions of Palestinians and privileges the rights of its own Jewish citizens above those of its Palestinian citizens is incompatible with any reasonable understanding of liberalism. This latest election was essentially a referendum on the peace process and the two state solution and the outcome was clear. Israelis have rejected both. For American Jews the choice is clear: Israel can either continue to embrace its Zionist underpinning in which case it will remain a Jewish state but not democratic state or it can abandon its Zionist underpinning and become a democratic state but no longer a Jewish state.

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Religious Humanism: What Was Old is New Again

Mar18

by: David Breeden on March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »

Church Attendance Free Fall

The Barna Group, a research group that keeps up with trends in religion, estimates that 48% of Millennials (born 1984-2002) are “post-Christian.” Forty-eight percent. “Post-Christian” means that they have heard of Christianity; know its claims; swim in its assumptions; and have little to no interest in it as a method for providing meaning and purpose in their lives.

The study point out, “if unchurched Americans were a nation, they would be the eighth largest nation on earth.” The study also shows that statistics indicating “church growth” are actually church transfers. There are few new conversions.

35% of Boomers, 40% of Busters, and 48% of Millennials are unchurched, and many of those have no interest in searching for a church.

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“Islam in America”: A Conversation with Jonathan Curiel

Mar11

by: Joseph Richard Preville and Julie Poucher Harbin on March 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

The book cover of 'Islam in America' by Jonathan Curiel showing the statue of liberty and a minaret.

How do Muslims fit into the quilt of American history? Jonathan Curiel investigates this question in his new book, Islam in America (I.B. Tauris, April 28, 2015). “America’s first Muslims,” he writes, “were perceived as less than human – people put in chains, forced to do field work at gunpoint, required to take new names and a new religion. So much has changed in 400 years, even if the struggle for acceptance is an ongoing one.”

Jonathan Curiel is a former staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, The Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Times, and Tablet. He is the author of Al America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots (The New Press, 2008), which won an American Book Award in 2008.

Curiel’s new book is a readable and reliable history of the Muslim experience in America. It will help Americans to understand their Muslim neighbors and to celebrate the Abrahamic diversity of religious life in the United States.

Jonathan Curiel discusses his new book in this exclusive interview.

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