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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category



69% of Jews voted Democratic in the 2014 midterm elections

Nov7

by: Rebecca Shimoni Stoil on November 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s Note:

In this week’s elections, the majority of Jews once again voted for candidates advocating more progressive economic policies (higher taxes and more government support for the poor) – 69 percent according to one poll, 65 percent according to another.

Why did even wealthy and upper middle class Jews, whose own narrowly defined economic interests might better be served by tax cuts, lean progressive? Because the legacy of Jewish religious teachings, Jewish history, and Jewish culture all push Jews to side with the oppressed even at the expense of personal financial or other forms of sacrifice. Even the grandchildren of assimilated Jews carry with them the message of the Torah that we have a special obligation toha’ger (the stranger or “other”) and the Torah’s call to “love the stranger and remember that you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.”

I’ve acknowledged in my books Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation and Embracing Israel/Palestine that there is a counter-strand in the Jewish tradition – I call it “Settler Judaism.” These two strands often appear in tandem as though the editors of our holy books could not fully decide upon which of these two voices to confer legitimacy. It’s a dynamic apparent within most cultures throughout history. In the Jewish context, both strands alternate, and which gains legitimacy depends on many extrinsic factors. What’s remarkable is how strong the voice of caring for the “other” has remained given all the traumas of Jewish history and the pressures of a capitalist ethic pervading most aspects of contemporary capitalist society. It’s true that under conditions of perceived threat, many Jews find themselves unable to apply this message to the Palestinian people. But they nevertheless apply it to domestic politics in the U.S.

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How Storytelling Opens Hearts and Minds

Nov4

by: Isaac Luria on November 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Exodus 33: 13-14

 13 [Moses said], “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

 14 G-d replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

storytelling

Credit: Creative Commons/ Guido van Nispen

On a late Spring afternoon two years ago, I vividly remember watching my colleague Macky Alston hold a room of multifaith movement for justice activists spellbound when he recounted his remarkable religious journey. Macky had grown up religious, realized he was gay, and then worked his way back to Christianity.

While I listened, I felt myself grow jealous, wishing I had a compelling story like Macky’s. Then, I felt empty. I may have joined Macky at Auburn Seminary a year earlier, but I still didn’t have a great understanding of why I had taken this new job in progressive religion.

I knew the answer wasn’t simple. My journey was different, my story hidden from view.

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Ferguson for the weekend, anyone?

Oct8

by: on October 8th, 2014 | Comments Off

Originally published in The Huffington Post

ferguson protest hands up

Ferguson protestors raise hands in solidarity in Washington D.C. Credit: Creative Commons/ep_jhu

If you are one of tens of thousands of people who can’t stand to hear another story about another black man being shot by another policeman, you may want to go to Ferguson, Missouri this October 10-13. Your showing up may not stop the shooting(s), but at least it will let people know that you see. You hear. You notice.

If you can’t go to Ferguson or get to Ferguson, there’s nothing wrong with raising your hands in worship next weekend. Yup. Hands up. Hands over the head. Hands that know they know and know that others know and know that we know what we know. Congregations all over the country will wear a kind of hoodie this weekend. We will say that we know. We see.

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“God and Goddess Emerging” and “A Beaked and Feathered God”: A Free Peek at Two Subscriber-Only Articles from Our Summer Issue

Oct2

by: Tikkun Administration on October 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Have you gotten a chance to check out Tikkun’s Summer 2014 print issue? We’d love to hear your opinions on some of the truly radical notions of God that progressive theologians are exploring.

A significant number of Tikkun readers have told us that they don’t believe in God. No worries! Our managing editor and many of our authors identify as agnostics or atheists too. Regardless of your own beliefs, it can be fascinating to learn how drastically different the notions of God currently being explored by progressive theologians are from previous sexist, racist, homophobic, and hierarchical conceptions of God.

We’re especially curious to hear feedback from you on “God and Goddess Emerging”, a provocative article by Rabbi Michael Lerner in the current print issue. In this historical moment, Lerner argues, we need to blend a panentheism that recognizes humans as in and part of God with the radical visions of God as YHVH (source of transformation) and El Shaddai (a love-oriented Breasted God). Only then will we able to see God as the consciousness of the universe, one that doesn’t intervene but instead repeats her/his/its message for a world of love and justice and compassion to anyone who will listen.

Our publisher has also made a special exception to allow non-subscribers to get a taste of an entirely different theological approach in “A Beaked and Feathered God: Rediscovering Christian Animism,” a lyrically written piece that celebrates the enfleshment of God in many forms. Mark I. Wallace, professor of religion at Swarthmore College, examines the rich variety of natural phenomena given sacred presence in biblical accounts and hones in on the avian spirit in particular. By further tying God to flesh and feathers, he hopes people will begin to rebel and counter the utilitarian attitudes toward nature that now dominate the global marketplace.

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What Happens when a Ritual Works: The People’s Climate March

Sep29

by: on September 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

People's Climate March 2014

Credit: Creative Commons/South Bend Voice

Originally published in National Catholic Reporter

Religious folk are not so good at a lot of things but we are experts at ritual. The mass. The wedding. The baptism. The Bar Mitzvah. The funeral. The Praise service.

At the climate march we multifaith types joined the rest of the people who love the earth enough to march and create a ritual. When a ritual works, people feel something. They are changed. They come in the door one person and go out another.

The best moment was at 12:58 p.m. when a call went out for two minutes of silence. It was real. Quiet in New York City? Very much so. And then a secular ritual – the wave – joined the quiet, starting from the back and waving all the way through the thousands gathered. Like an ululation – an Arabic shout that accompanies ritual – the sound built its joy and pierced the quiet with happiness. EVERYBODY I know says that was the moment worth the bus rides, the sleeping on the floor and the expensive packaged food. For me, it was an urban bliss, a sacralization of all that has been desacralized, a punctuation marking off the time before we had hope we could love the earth from the time when we forgot or did not. Hope waved its arms and its voice at us, and we waved back. I know this mostly happens at large sports events. So what? The blend of the sacred and the secular, the earth and the heavens was everywhere.


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The name of the Goddess

Sep15

by: Genevieve Vaughan on September 15th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/torbakhopper

The escalation towards war is continuing, the media is beating the drum and tension is increasing every day. In the Middle East the new enemy is ISIS. When I first heard the term I thought of the great Egyptian Mother Goddess of that name. Did this terminology mean that the US would soon be fighting against the Mother Goddess? In a way this is true. Wars are always patriarchal; men against men, and mothers always suffer. All their years of love and work are gone in the flash of a gun or a bomb. The Goddess is discredited and disempowered by war.


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Progressive Faith Communities Take Back the Discussion on Morals

Sep15

by: on September 15th, 2014 | Comments Off

For far too long, the political and theocratic Right have hijacked the social dialogue by taking as their own the “F” words – “Faith,” “Family,” “Freedom,” and the “Flag” – in addition to the term “Values.” This set of buzz words served as the litmus test by which the Right would have us decide who is truly worthy of our votes.

Within this discourse we find coded racist and classist dog whistles. For example, when politicians employ terms such as “poor,” “welfare,” “welfare state,” “European-style socialism,” “inner city,” “food stamps,” “entitlements,” and “bad neighborhoods,” they tap into many people’s anxieties and past racist teachings of people of color. In addition, the buzz phrase, “personal responsibility” now has become a catch phrase to justify cutting benefits from those who have fallen on hard times and need assistance.

Over the past couple of decades, I have examined what may actually be left of the Left, and how we can take back the discourse and reclaim these “F” words with progressive definitions. I have been particularly encouraged by a number of faith-based movements bringing people together to highlight issues of compassion and justice.


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A Real Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Sep10

by: Sigfried Gold on September 10th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

meditation

Prayer without belief in a supernatural listener is not the same as meditation, but is it worth the extra effort you'd need to bring to it as a non-believer? Credit: Creative Commons/Sebastien Wiertz

Sam Harris has just published Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (Simon & Schuster, 2014), and for those of us who care about such things, a call to spirituality from one of the New Atheism’s four horsemen is a cause for rejoicing. This book, however, does not quite deliver on its promise. In a review I wrote for Skeptic I discuss some problems with Harris’s argument and approach. Here, though, I want to describe the book I wish Harris had written, a book that could really serve as a guide to spirituality without religion for readers skeptical as to why they should be interested in spirituality at all but willing to consider it seriously and maybe even to give it a try.

Spiritual Experience, Spiritual Practice, Spiritual Wisdom, Spiritual Community

A guide to spirituality without religion should give a broad account of what spirituality is and why people do it, without, of course, relying on the metaphysical assumptions of religions. So, sure, you can be spiritual because that’s what God commands or that’s the way to escape suffering in future incarnations; but in terms of this life, referencing nothing beyond the material, psychological and social realities of this world, where does spirituality fit in?

What needs to be resisted here is any single idea of what spirituality is for and how it’s done. We can do it for the earthshaking transcendent experiences we luck into once in a while, we can do it to give our lives a sense of purpose, we can do it to get through a rough patch, we can do it because we need a rest and zoning out with our eyes closed chanting a mantra is probably healthier than zoning out in front of the television, we can do it to explore and strengthen our ethical commitments, and we can do it to deepen our connections with and compassion for other people or other creatures.

And the ways we can do it are legion: we can meditate or engage in less formal types of contemplation or reflection, we can pray, we can sing, we can consult spiritual leaders or any kind of trusted adviser, we can commune with nature, we can intentionally try to infuse everyday activities with serenity or love or awareness, we can light incense or candles, we can read things that might inspire us, we can engage in charity or social justice work, and we can participate in rituals alone or with others.

What a guide to spirituality without religion should offer, though, is not just a broad account of all the various forms of spirituality, but some discussion of the particular challenges involved in practicing these for people who are unwilling to accept the tenets of any particular religion. For instance, can you pray if you don’t believe any otherworldly being is listening to you? You can, but you may have to think about it in a different way than people usually think about prayer. Prayer without belief in a supernatural listener is not the same as meditation, but is it worth the extra effort you’d need to bring to it as a non-believer?


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6 Reasons that Debunk the Myth of Islam Promoting Hatred of Jews and Christians

Sep2

by: Ro Waseem on September 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Amidst the tragic situation in Palestine these days, a few Muslims seem to have found a way to express their anger and frustration. No, not by constructively doing anything about it, but by bashing Jews and hailing Hitler as a hero! Wrongly equating the actions of the Israeli government with Judaism, they continue generalizing approximately 15 million Jews – painting them all with the same brush!

A few days earlier, as I was browsing through my Facebook news feed, I came across this meme praising Hitler for killing Jews, with the hashtag #Hitlerwasright:

Hitler meme

Exasperated as I was, I tried to maintain my composure and calmly responded to this individual that there are many Jews who condemn the actions of the Israeli government, much like us Muslims who condemn the actions of Jihadist terrorist groups, and so it is naïve to generalize all Jews based on the situation in Palestine. Without taking a minute, he responded back to me quoting the Quranic verse that “asks Muslims not to be friends with Jews”, justifying his bigotry through the Quran!

Checkmate? Probably, if I hadn’t known better!


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Pope Francis’ Lesson: The Abrahamic religions need a spiritual summit meeting, not dialogue-by-press-statements

Aug28

by: on August 28th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Pope Francis appeared to step into the quagmire in Iraq last week when he reportedly “endorsed the use of force” against ISIS. He was speaking a week after Obama authorized U.S attacks on ISIS military positions to stave off the threatened destruction of refugees in the Kurdish mountains. So was the “Pontiff of Peace” sprinkling holy water on airstrikes, perhaps even embarking on “the last crusade”?

No, in fact, the pope was doing nothing of the sort. His message was garbled through glib and superficial reporting, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has shown in an excellent analysis in The Daily Beast of what the pope said and didn’t say.

However the pope’s statement – and subsequent misinterpretations – clearly show how urgently the leaders of the three Abrahamic religions need to start talking face to face rather than through press statements. The crisis in the Middle East goes far beyond the military and political conflict, horrific as it is. At a deeper level, the spiritual identity of all three religions is under assault from the militarization of language and glorification of conflict.

To respond to these spiritual temptations of power and dominance, there’s an urgent need for these religious leaders to declare a “spiritual emergency” and meet in a “spiritual summit” to speak clearly to their faithful, from their respective traditions and scriptures, in defense of their shared values and vision of faith as applied to the current circumstances.


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