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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



Gays and “Unique Gifts”: Is the Catholic Church Ready for Change?

Oct23

by: Michael Orion Powell-Deschamps on October 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Catholic Church

The Vatican released a preliminary document calling out churches to welcome gays into their communities. Credit: Creative Commons/The National Churches Trust

Some big news happened earlier this month. The Vatican released a preliminary document calling for the church to welcome and accept homosexuals. It was the culmination of an expected change during Francis’ tenure. Since becoming pope, Pope Francis has made verbal overtures towards gay Catholics, famously saying, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?”

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New Developments in the Catholic Church’s Stance on Homosexuality

Oct22

by: on October 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Pope Francis

Credit: Creative Commons/Edgar Jiménez

Many years ago, as I walked back to the pew after receiving Communion, I saw the outline of a man kneeling in another pew, his head in his hands. As Catholics often do when they see someone during Mass that they have not seen for while, I wordlessly tapped him on the shoulder to say the silent hello. I was not prepared for the sight of his face. As he looked up, his face was gaunt, and there were dark circles under his eyes that I had never seen before, not even the time he cried in front of me.

Several months prior to that, I drove him back to his condo after Mass, where he finally opened up to me why he was refraining from receiving Communion: having recently had sex with men, he believed he was not in a state of grace, and therefore not worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

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Historic Moment Signals a Revolution Brewing in the American Jewish Community

Oct16

by: on October 16th, 2014 | 16 Comments »

On Saturday night, I looked out upon a standing-room-only audience, people fidgeting and giddy, barely able to conceal the significance of what was about to occur. I was onstage at Harvard University electric and buzzing, flanked by three distinguished professors – Judith Butler, Steven Cohen and Shaul Magid – the four of us representing various streams of Zionist, post-Zionist, and anti-Zionist thought.

At first, I was awed by the company I had been asked to join, thinking, What on earth am I doing here? That thought was quickly replaced by another as the room erupted with boisterous cheers when a student organizer stepped to the microphone; this is a historic moment, a thought I Tweeted when the feeling came over me, and five days removed I still deeply believe.

So what occurred that was so historic? On Saturday night, a grassroots-led and student-driven movement called Open Hillel launched a three-day conference, determined to create what Jewish institutions have largely refused to permit: dynamic spaces where both Zionists and anti-Zionists can come together and discuss Israel as equals, and with equally valuable perspectives as respected members of the American Jewish community.

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Following the Path to the Jerusalem Inside of Us

Oct14

by: Yanna [YoHana] Bat Adam -- Heartist on October 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Way to Jerusalem

Credit: Yanna Bat Adam -- Heartist

It seems to me that more and more people are realizing that we need to aspire to something higher than what life presents us on its surface. Pleasures such as good food, sex, family life, money… even honor and knowledge, simply do not feed our deepest need, which is spiritual.

Are you one of these people? Lucky you.

Lucky us.

This means that we are looking for “something else.” Something that will give us what might be called pleasure, but is in reality something far more enduring, yet hard to define. Something of deeply felt meaning that will finally bring an end to the endless boredom, compensatory diversion, and repetitive frustration that commonly comprises our lives. Something that will make us simply happy without a cause.

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Jews Recommit to Standing Against Islamophobia

Oct13

by: Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin on October 13th, 2014 | 6 Comments »


While many of us have been concerned about, and appalled by the recent Islamophobic ads on NYC subways and buses and have responded to them in a number of different ways, we also recognize that Islamophobia extends far beyond those ads.

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Youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner – yes she’s female, and yes she’s Muslim!

Oct10

by: on October 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Malala Yousafzai

Credit: Creative Commons/Southbank Centre

I switched on my computer early this morning to get a lovely surprise: Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. For all those who think Muslim women are too oppressed, too quiet, or too busy being mothers and housewives, to make international news, todays’ announcement from the Nobel Peace Committee may have come as a bit of a shocker. For me, it was validation of a lot of things.

If you can’t tell from these words that I am bursting with pride, let me break it down: I am absolutely ecstatic! Here’s why:

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Sukkot and the Transience of Life: A Meditation on Three Films

Oct9

by: Howard Cooper on October 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

sukkah

Inside of a sukkah, a temporary hut constructed during the festival of Sukkot. Credit: Creative Commons/Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis

Just as the lulav that we shake on Sukkot, the festival of rest amidst the desert wanderings, is made up of three different trees — palm, myrtle and willow — I want to share with you another group of three that I’m going to bind together and wave in your direction. And we’ll see if we can add in that exotic etrog element along the way.

Over the last few months I happen to have seen three films, each as different from the other as are the species that make up the lulav. Taken together, they add up to more than the sum of their parts.

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It’s Israel’s Behavior That Produces the “New Anti-Semitism”

Oct9

by: on October 9th, 2014 | 35 Comments »

netanyahu wolf blitzer

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sits down for an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Credit: Creative Commons/IsraelinUSA

It has now become a full fledged campaign: stifling criticism of Israel by warning of a new wave of anti-Semitism that is seizing the planet. The latest entry comes from French philosopher, and life-long Israel defender, Bernard-Henry Levy in (naturally) the New Republic who screams that anti-semitism in 2014 is a “ticking time bomb” that, if not countered, will inevitably lead to Binyamin Netanyahu’s vision: the return of 1942.

Like all opinion pieces of this genre, Levy’s case is built on the idea that there is no causal relation between Israel’s actions and the outbursts against Jews that he describes.

In its essence, the argument goes like this: Anti-Semitism is not caused by anything. It is innate, a poison that lives in the hearts and minds of evil people, needing only a pretext for it to explode. Israel’s actions can’t cause anti-Semitism. They can only be a pretext for it.

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Finding Strength Through Spiritual Art

Oct8

by: Roni Finkelstein on October 8th, 2014 | No Comments »

Ruth Golmant believes in the process of creating art as a powerful tool for healing. The art therapist located in Stafford, Virginia lives with one husband, two children, two invisible disabilities, and her ever-evolving Jewish spirituality.

After studying art as an undergraduate at Mills College in Oakland, California, Golmant moved to Virginia to complete a degree in art therapy at George Washington University. Upon graduation she began working with patients in St. Elizabeth’s hospital’s acute trauma unit, where she realized the power of art amidst pain. She recalled:

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And Who Shall I Say Is Calling?

Oct6

by: Melissa Weininger on October 6th, 2014 | No Comments »

One of David Mitchell’s literary preoccupations is interconnectedness, the way that, as the theory goes, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings might change the course of history (or at least the weather). Or, say, the way that a trapped and depressed FAA contract worker might set a fire that cancels your surprise trip to Chicago to see your dad who’s recovering from a hip replacement (still not over it!). Mitchell makes connections, so when I’m reading him I see connections.

Bone Clocks

David Mitchell's novel, The Bone Clocks, focuses on central themes of Yom Kippur. Credit: Melissa Weininger

As I was reading The Bone Clocks, his new novel, in which one of the peripheral characters rides a Norton motorcycle, I happened to see a guy wearing a Norton T-shirt at the diner near my house as I ate brunch with my family. As I re-read the review of the book in the New York Times Book Review, I noticed that the review underneath it (yes, I still get a hard copy of the paper) referred to events that took place in January 1967, the year my husband was born. And the world shrinks a little bit, everything stitched together a little tighter.

Perhaps that’s why I was tempted to see so many of the themes of the season in this book, even though there’s nothing remotely Jewish about it (and organized religion generally comes in for a beating – more on that later). Reading during Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of the Yamim Noraim, the ten days between the New Year and Yom Kippur, the day of repentance, I felt like the novel had something to say about so many of the central themes of the holidays: memory, death, rebirth, mortality, choice and free will, and second chances. These are Mitchell’s touchstones, the big questions he goes back to again and again in all of his novels, but The Bone Clocks brings them together both abstractly – in the form of recurring characters and names, places and events, both within the world of this novel and across his oeuvre – and concretely, as a largish subplot (more later on why it seems like the main plot but isn’t) focuses on a group of immortal souls and their fight against those who would induce immortality by artificial and predatory means.

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