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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



Interfaith Service and Vigil Protest Laws Criminalizing Homelessness

Apr27

by: Lydia Gans on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Berkeley City Council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It’s not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within three feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they’re not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building.

Voices of protest are being heard. Members of the interfaith coalition of more than 40 congregations, including Buddhists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, are speaking out against the city’s criminalization of homelessness. On April 9 they held a protest ‘in solidarity with homeless people’ at the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Starting at 5 o’clock with a meal and an interfaith service it concluded with a sleep-out at the Plaza until 6:30 Friday morning.

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5 Ways People of Faith Are Building the Climate Movement

Apr25

by: Claire Curran on April 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

People of faith aren’t just waking up to the climate crisis, they’re leading the way. Across the country, people are bringing the wisdom of their faith traditions to their work on climate change because they know they’re better together. They know its not just about individual faith communities lowering their carbon footprints, its about collaborating around shared values, and building the world they know is possible in practical and systematic ways. Check out these five inspiring stories and then consider how you can be Better Together.

1. Standing Up for Socially just Solar

A man speaking about solar energy indoors at a podium.

People of faith in Minneapolis were excited about promoting solar in their faith communities, but as they started to look at the details, it became clear that community solar gardens were not going to be accessible to low income communities. A team of solar developers, contractors, faith leaders, business owners, and college students, representing diverse faith traditions came together design a community solar garden that is accessible to all.

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Talk to Others, Transform Yourself

Apr24

by: Tim Brauhn on April 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

I took Interfaith Youth Core up on their challenge for Better Together Day on April 14th and reached out to others of faith or philosophical tradition to have a conversation about what they believe and what values inspire them to do good in the world. I did this because I believe that when it comes to religion, we’re too often told that our differences define us. I’m for fixing that. Join me.

I’m a Catholic. For the past nearly-decade, in my work as an interfaith leader and through my job at Islamic Networks Group, I’ve been lucky to meet a huge variety of non-Catholics. I’m talking denominations and sects and sub-sects and sub-sub-sects of faiths from all around the world, and even a few who believe that they are from another planet. Many of these interactions have been casual, unremarkable even, but on occasion, I’ve found myself challenging my own stereotypes and misperceptions about other faiths.

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Misrepresentations of Trans Women in Media

Apr23

by: Brian O’Callaghan on April 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A portrait photograph of a transexual Thai woman.

The reality for many Trans people in Asia is far from utopian, but there is little of the overt discrimination and violence prevalent in other parts of the world. Historically, there has always been space for a third gender in Eastern cultures. Credit: Author.

To see more photographs from Brian O’Callaghan’s “Transitions,” visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.

When I began photographing and interviewing Trans women in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I had to acknowledge to myself that I knew very little about the myriad of gender identities that exist. I had never really encountered positive Trans visibility until I lived in Asia. I began to see that my hetero-normative worldview was reinforced through the media and society at large. Even though I identify as an openly gay man, my notions about gender possibilities were policed. An essential lesson I learned from this project is that, there is not just one Trans story or experience. The women I interviewed wanted to share their stories in the hope of changing perceptions of what it means to be Trans.

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The Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

It’s time to sweep aside all the illusions:

*That the national environmental organizations have a secret plan to save the environment but just haven’t told us yet

*That local acts of environmental sanity in a few dozen urban areas will make a dent on the global degradation of the life-support-system of the planet

*That “new technologies” will solve the problem

*That individual acts of recycling and “conscious consumerism” will change what is being produced

*That good guy corporate leaders will eventually turn around the massive impact that global corporations have been having in undermining Nature’s balance

*That political sanity will prevail if only we get a new president (remember when you thought that about Obama? Are you now thinking it will happen with Hillary?)

Illusion after illusion after illusion.

We are up against a global economic and political system that has only gotten worse and worse over the course of the 45 years since Earth Day 1970. Consciousness has grown, small battles have been won, and the people who worked so hard on both fronts deserve our commendation. But don’t deceive yourself: the situation of the planet has gotten worse and worse, and it will continue to do so until we have a movement capable of fundamentally changing our economic and political system.

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Rewriting Religion: How Blogs Create a Modern Version for the LGBTQ Community

Apr21

by: Patrick M. Johnson on April 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

The Facebook Profile page of the Gay Traditionalist Catholic Group.

Blogs and social media have made it possible for isolated and discriminated-against people of faith to safely contend with the messages they encounter within religious discourse.

When you grow up in a religious environment, it has the potential to become a large part of your identity. It should be noted here that this is not the case for all people raised within a religious household, however it has the potential to become a way to identify yourself within society, as well as to help shape and form your moral and ethical guidelines and views of the world. However, this can occasionally conflict with other aspects of your identity, particularly when one identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.

While there are religious denominations and beliefs that are very accepting of those within the LGBTQ community — the Unitarian and Episcopalian Churches are prime examples — this is not the case with all religious beliefs. While there is sometimes an easy knee-jerk reaction to proclaim that those who identify as homosexual should just switch their beliefs to a sect that is accepting (an opinion I have seen stated in more than one discussion about this topic), that is not always desired, as the core beliefs that come along with religious convictions are not (and should not) be that easily swayed. This represents the common way this debate is usually framed (especially among non-religious individuals or among LGBTQ individuals who are religious but belong to a very accepting church, such as Unitarian), which is the question, “How can you believe in a religion that doesn’t accept or tolerate your lifestyle?” It is seen as much easier to simply find a religion that fits your life and modify your beliefs to mold to that, rather than live in a state of cognitive dissonance where you know that your life and your religious beliefs are (at least on occasion) at odds with one another.

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Much Ado About Nothing – Is Religious Freedom Really Threatened by Anti-Discrimination Laws?

Apr18

by: on April 18th, 2015 | No Comments »

Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi are co-founders of Reach And Teach and manage Tikkun/NSP web operations.

As we waited to check our luggage and get our boarding passes at the Charlotte NC airport we watched as couple after couple got to the counter, handed over their tickets, chatted with the agent, and then went on their way to their gates.

All seemed normal.

Then, when we stepped up to the counter, the agent looked at me and said “You, get back in line!” Pointing at my travel mate, and husband, I responded “We’re together.” She very loudly said “No. You have to come up here separately.” I responded quietly “You’ve had couple after couple come up here and check their bags and get their boarding passes.” She boomed out “You ARE NOT a couple.” “Yes, we are.” “Not in my line you’re not.” She then asked me if I wanted to travel at all that day, because if I didn’t get back in line she would make sure I didn’t fly anywhere that day.

This was around 20 years ago. Humiliated and near tears, I quietly stepped away from the counter while my husband checked his bag.

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Don’t Say We Did Not Know: One Man’s Struggle to Bring the Truth to Light

Apr16

by: Mechapesset Atid on April 16th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

The front cover of a small book written in Hebrew.

"Don't Say We Did Not Know" is the defense invoked by Germans after World War II. Activist Amos Gvirtz's mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians. Credit: Donna Baranski-Walker.

When accused of being a traitor to Israel, as Amos Gvirtz has sometimes been, the sexagenarian activist author responds by advising caution.

“If I am a traitor,” he replies, “then Israel, by its very essence, is against peace.”

Gvirtz, who is careful to describe himself as an activist rather than a journalist, is the author of a weekly email blast called “Don’t Say We Did Not Know.” This title and concept refer to a common defense invoked by Germans after World War II when questioned about atrocities committed by their country. Gvirtz’s mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians.

“I try to tell stories that I did not see in the mainstream Israeli media,” he says. “I think the Israeli media is ignoring the great majority of the daily human rights violations.”

Gvirtz has recently compiled a number of his own essays for a book with the same title as his weekly email. At present, the book is available only in Hebrew, but he hopes to have it translated so that it can reach a wider audience.

“My editor asked me, ‘Who am I writing to?’ and I said, ‘To everybody who wants to know.’”

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Religious Justifications for Oppression: A Brief U.S. History

Apr15

by: on April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.

Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.

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Terrorism is Terrorism and Islam is Islam

Apr13

by: on April 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

President Obama is correct to characterize efforts against terrorist groups as a struggle against violent extremism and not as a struggle against “Islamic” terrorism. He is correct to deny groups such as Islamic State/Islamic State in the Levant/ Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS/ISIL/ISIS) the imprimatur of Islam, to deny them the cover of religion.

Just as words have multiple meanings, groups, individuals, acts, and texts have multiple meanings. Meaning comes not only from what an individual or a group says it is, but meaning also come from what we agree, to what we say: “yes and amen.” When IS says it is Islamic, we can agree to that or we can say no. I say no. President Obama and other world leaders also say no. ISIS is not religious, and it is not Islamic. It is a death-dealing cult of destruction. It deserves no respect. Thus, let us call it by its Arabic name of derision: Daesh. (pronounced daEEsh or dash)

Some people argue that the reason to say “Islamic” terrorism is because to deny the so-called Islamic elements of its ideology would cause misunderstanding and miscalculation in war. It would break an important rule of warfare: “Know the enemy.” I say it is possible to know the ideological goals of Daesh while demonstrating how its ideology falls short of the goals of Islam and is not religion.

Let us consider the meaning of Islam – submission to the will of God. The Koran refers to God as the Most Gracious, Most Merciful Master of the Day of Judgment. Thus, Islam is submission to a gracious and merciful God. The concept of radical means extreme, basic, the root of the thing, so radical, extreme Islam would require an extreme, basic submission to a God of grace and mercy. Too often we use the term radical as a synonym for violent. Further, in Islam, Jesus is a revered prophet whose teachings ought to be obeyed. So Muslims, like Christians, have an obligation to love one’s enemies, to turn the other cheek, and to go the extra mile. So to refer to Daesh and other terrorist groups as Islamic is to insult Islam. To even refer to Daesh as religious is a mistake.

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