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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



What Kids4Peace Can Teach Us About Peace

Jun4

by: Susan Bloch on June 4th, 2015 | 18 Comments »

An Israeli and Palestinian girl embracing each other.

At Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, the next generation of peacemakers is learning how nonviolent communication facilitates listening and understanding rather than judgement. Credit: Mandy Price.

“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.

It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”

Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.

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Hate is Not a Catholic Value

Jun4

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on June 4th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

A beautiful photo of a rainbow flag being held by many.

Credit: CreativeCommons / It's Holly.

It has been a few weeks now since the rainbow firestorm over the firing of Rev. Warren Hall for his support of the NO H8 campaign on his Facebook page hit the media. The now openly gay Hall was the Director of Campus Ministry at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. He recently outed himself in an interview with Outsports. Hall’s coming out along with his dismissal from Seton Hall provides Roman Catholics an opportunity to look at issues of social justice. These are issues the current Pope purportedly embraces, although his stance on homosexuality remains murky at best. Whom does the church exist for? Is the design of the church to “other” people?

What are the implications for a religious organization when promoting acceptance of a targeted population becomes heresy? By firing a gay person for taking a social justice stance on LGBTQ rights, has the Catholic Church now implicated itself as part of a system of oppression? Is it then in part culpable for homophobia and violent crimes committed against this population?

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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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Re-making the Jericho Road: Martin Luther King and Economic Justice

May28

by: Reverend Andrew Wilkes on May 28th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

On the forty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Wilkes offered these remarks at a workshop sponsored by New York DSA. They have been adapted for publication.

For Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, racial justice and economic justice are inseparable. The conventional narrative is that King became radical after the 1966 Chicago campaign that addressed fair housing, equal employment opportunities, and restrictive covenants. Alternatively, some claim his radicalism originated with his Riverside Church speech against the Vietnam War in 1967. But the historical record says otherwise. In July 1952, King wrote to his sweetheart, Coretta Scott. In that letter, the twenty-three year old, reflecting on Edward Bellamy’s socialist classic Looking Backward, which Coretta had given him, says “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in economic theory than capitalistic. . . . [Bellamy] says that today capitalism has outlived its usefulness, it has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” What this means is that three years before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, for virtually his entire public career, King had a specific commitment to democratic socialism.

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People Polished the Stone of the Irish Emerald Isle

May27

by: on May 27th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

The gay pride parade in Dublin, Ireland.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to codify same-sex marriage. Above, the Pride Parade in Dublin, Ireland, 2009. Credit: CreativeCommons / Charles Hutchins.

Though the Catholic Church has scratched, tarnished, and clouded the stone that is the Emerald Isle with its wheel of oppression, the people have spoken loudly and clearly, and by so doing, have dismantled some of the spokes on that wheel and have polished the stone to brilliance once again.

In what can only be seen as an historic vote, for the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly, by a majority of 62 percent to 38 percent, to sanction marriage for same-sex couples with all the legal benefits and responsibilities already granted to different-sex couples (thereby dismantling a spoke on the wheel of Catholic oppression). An estimated 60.5 percent of the eligible 3.2 million registered voters turned out to the polls. Though the Irish government passed civil partnership legislation in 2010, which could have been rescinded by future legislative actions, this popular referendum now constitutionally codifies the legal standing of same-sex couples.

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