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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category



Birthwrong: Meet the Pranksters Celebrating the Jewish Diaspora

Jun3

by: Hannah Gold on June 3rd, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A swastika with the "No" symbol across it.This piece was originally published on Transformation at openDemocracy.net.

Every summer, young Jewish people from around the world go on a free holiday to Israel. Run by a company called ‘Taglit-Birthright,’ the tours aim to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel”.

The ten day trips are funded by the Israeli government and international donors, and have been criticized for promoting a biased view of Israel, ignoring the state’s complex history and ongoing human rights abuses. Several alternative tours now exist, offering trips to the West Bank and meetings with Palestinian activists.

In early 2015 another contender emerged: ‘Birthwrong‘. Organised by Jewdas, a bunch of radical left-wing pranksters, political commentators and party planners, Birthwrong is “a trip for anyone who’s sick of Israel’s stranglehold on Jewish culture… [a] fiesta of the oppressed, marginalized and ridiculously, obscenely hopeful.”

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Religious Discrimination and Bullying

Jun3

by: on June 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A tableau graphic of the AFDI's winning Draw Muhammad cartoon.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tjebbe van Tijen.

Imagine this: You read on a Facebook page that people opposing your religion have planned a large-scale protest rally at the major Christian church in your home town on your Sabbath day of prayer. The organizers instruct their supporters to bring posters denouncing Christianity and pictures of Jesus on the cross wearing a Hitler-style mustache with captions reading: “He Deserved To Die,” and “He Was a False Messiah,” because, as stated on Facebook, “…it’s what needs to take place in order to expose the true colors of Christianity.”

At the protest rally, organizers will be selling and wearing T-shirts announcing: F— Christianity. “Everyone is encouraged to bring American Flags and any message that you would like to send to Christians,” continued the message on Facebook. Though organizers have promoted the demonstration as a First Amendment “Freedom of Speech” rally, they urge supporters to carry weapons to express their Second Amendment rights as well.

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Why Schools Should Include Hip-Hop in the Curriculum

Jun2

by: Brian Mooney on June 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off

Two students in a hip-hop cypher in a classroom.

A hip-hop cypher, where students each contribute a line of rhyme or poetry in a circle, is the pedagogical foundation of author Brian Mooney's curriculum.

Most classes start with a “Do Now” or “Warm-Up.” Mine often start with a hip-hop cypher. In a cypher, students stand in a circle, spread at equal distances, and one at a time, contribute a rhyme, line of poetry, thought, idea, or affirmation. This circle is the pedagogical foundation of the work I do in hip-hop education.

On a recent February afternoon, just outside of New York City, only miles from hip-hop’s birthplace in the South Bronx, I asked my high school students to answer this question in the opening cypher; why should schools include hip-hop in the curriculum?

Christian, now a junior, told us that, “hip-hop is a culture and it’s just like learning about the Aztecs or the Mayans. We learn the origin, customs, and traditions [of hip-hop].”Recalling a recent lesson on hip-hop’s fifth element, Christian went on to explain that hip-hop offers students an opportunity to learn, “”knowledge of self,” which is knowing who you are.”

Hip-hop was born in the South Bronx of the 1970s under oppressive conditions. In response to limited resources, poverty, and gang violence that riddled the New York City borough, black and Latino youth came together in an effort to improve the community, expressing themselves through rapping, breakdancing, graffiti art, and turntablism.

Over forty years later, hip-hop has become a worldwide phenomenon, reaching every corner of the globe and shaping the identities of a whole generation of young people. Kids today are just as invested in hip-hop culture as they were in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

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Buddhists, Christians, and Godly Prosperity

Jun2

by: Philip Jenkins on June 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off

The Buddhist magazine Tricycle sometimes offers really fine writing, and the past Spring issue included an outstanding example that raises all sorts of questions and parallels for historians of Christianity.

The piece in question was “The Buddha’s Footprint,” by Johan Elverskog of SMU (subscription needed for full access). It’s a substantial article, and not surprisingly it will be the core of a forthcoming book. Elverskog looks at Buddhist attitudes to the environment, and he shows that by no means have they always involved the kind of militant environmentalism and tree-hugging that we might expect of American practitioners today. Contrary to myth, early Buddhists were not necessarily in tune with the natural world, dreamy lovers of untamed wilderness.

Instead, he shows that early Buddhism was very clearly an urban movement: “Of the 4,257 teaching locales found in the early Buddhist canon, for example, fully 96 percent are in urban settings. Similarly, of the nearly 1,400 people identified in these texts, 94 percent are described as residing in cities.” Not surprisingly, then, the faith’s earliest texts showed a definite preference for human domination over the environment. A landscape was good if it was controlled, fertile and working for the human good.

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Right or Wrong? Climate Change

Jun1

by: David Morgan on June 1st, 2015 | Comments Off

Some people claim, “Environmentalism is just another religion” to rebut people who link climate change to human activity. What about organizations such as Jesus People Against Pollution, which cite Scripture? Are their views grounded in the Bible?

I have no doubt organizations that support environmentalism can find strong scriptural foundations. Care for creation is embedded in the creation accounts of Genesis and in Christians’ responsibility to care for the marginalized in society. I have addressed this subject in earlier “Right or Wrong?” articles titled “Building ‘green’” and “Going green.”

Oil refineries and their smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases at twilight.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Kris Krüg.


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Channeling Our Passions Into Effective Action

May28

by: on May 28th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

I recently had the honor, with Rabbi Michael Lerner, of speaking with over 20 amazing leaders, activists, authors and others about how we can build a politics of love and justice and a world based on these values.

As the executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), members often tell me they can imagine what a better world would look like – one that judges the efficacy and rationality of our institutions, not on how much profit they earn, but that they treat living creatures and the earth with the dignity and respect that we all deserve. Yet, many folks feel disheartened that this notion is not often discussed in popular media or that there isn’t a successful political party championing our shared values. These individuals have turned to the NSP because they want to be a part of a movement that holds that realizing this world is not simply naïve idealism, but, in fact, is realistic if we work towards making it so.

As with any movement, it’s important to glean wisdom and turn to those who are leaders in their own right for inspiration. The speakers in this series offered a profound sense of hope as well as real-world steps for action, which deeply resonated with the summit’s attendees. One of the participants told me that the calls had instilled in her a sense of inspiration and excitement she had not felt for years and did not expect to feel again.

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Flying Home from Home (Part 2)

May21

by: on May 21st, 2015 | 7 Comments »

My previous piece about Israel was posted here and included some of my personal experiences of present day Israel and my life as an exile and immigrant. In this part, I take a look at the complexities emerging from the particular national identity that has been forged before, during, and after the establishment of the state of Israel.

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) pronounces the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948

Hebrew has two words for nationalism. They are close to each other linguistically, and far from each other in connotation. One translates more accurately into chauvinism, in that it has distinctly negative connotations. The other, the “good” nationalism, is exalted. This time was the first since I left in 1983 that my visit coincided with the few days of the year where the national identity of a Jewish people fighting for its life against all odds becomes center stage in three separate holidays. Israel was created, after all, to be a Jewish state that serves as the sanctuary for all Jews in the world, a safe haven from the anti-Semitism that defined Jewish life, at least in Europe, for millennia.

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The Seeds of Intolerance

May20

by: on May 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Raw Story.

Hate disguised as free speech is a particularly ugly thing. Google Maps labeling the White House as N****r House is no less disgusting than a French magazine drawing the Prophet Muhammad in a stereotypical or untrue sketch. As I see the intolerance among us grow and ultimately divide us, I fear for the world we will leave our children and grandchildren in. Instead of learning to live in peace and love, we still think of ourselves as Muslims, Jews, Christians, white, black, brown, Israeli, Palestinian.


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Worldwide Spiritual Resurrection Happening

May19

by: on May 19th, 2015 | Comments Off

A futuristic graphic of a human with energy fields around them.

The basic underlying force of the universe is a psychic energy field of universal love. Gravitational and electromagnetic fields, all other forces of nature, time and space, are merely conditions of state. Credit: Cameron Gray.

You can also read this from Rabbi Lerner on Tikkun.org.

As Teilhard de Chardin once correctly wrote: we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience — for right now the innate evolutionary forces of love and light are manifesting on the planet and they are demanding that we all participate and find our role in this rapidly evolving loving plan in action.

I am observing a strange and wonderful phenomenon in my ongoing work as a heart centered consultant, advisor and mentor –people are no longer resisting the pull of their soul and want to be part of a growing worldwide spiritual resurrection.

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Ethiopian Israelis Rise Up Against Discrimination and Injustice

May18

by: Rachel Kutcher on May 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Ethiopian Israelis gathering protesting outdoors.

Programs like Yahel Social Change are eradicating individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the Ethiopian Israeli community. Above, protestors react to police brutality in Israel earlier this month. Credit: CreativeCommons / Lilach Daniel.

There seems to be a broad consensus that the protests over the last few weeks are not only about police violence, but rather that police violence against an Ethiopian Israeli soldier was simply the catalyst for protests against broader discrimination against and disparities experienced by the Ethiopian community. Indeed, during my time in Israel and the Yahel Social Change program, I have often become angry when learning about these disparities. While volunteering at Tebeka, a legal aid organization serving the Ethiopian community, I’ve been appalled by both individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the community. I’ve been frustrated by the ways in which Israel’s absorption of the Ethiopian community failed to respect a strong Ethiopian Jewish culture, with strong leaders and community social systems. I’ve wanted to shake some sense in to the people who have claimed the primarily Ethiopian neighborhood in which I live and have been warmly embraced is “dangerous.” I believe the anger and frustration that is fueling the protests is well justified. Both the news media and a few of my Yahel peers have written about these social disparities and discrimination, and about the challenges in the Ethiopian aliyah to Israel, so I’d like to offer a complementary perspective.

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