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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



Religious Humanism: What Was Old is New Again

Mar18

by: David Breeden on March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »

Church Attendance Free Fall

The Barna Group, a research group that keeps up with trends in religion, estimates that 48% of Millennials (born 1984-2002) are “post-Christian.” Forty-eight percent. “Post-Christian” means that they have heard of Christianity; know its claims; swim in its assumptions; and have little to no interest in it as a method for providing meaning and purpose in their lives.

The study point out, “if unchurched Americans were a nation, they would be the eighth largest nation on earth.” The study also shows that statistics indicating “church growth” are actually church transfers. There are few new conversions.

35% of Boomers, 40% of Busters, and 48% of Millennials are unchurched, and many of those have no interest in searching for a church.

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Tribute to Karen McCarthy Brown: Author of Mama LoLa or the Book that Kept Me in Grad School

Mar18

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

News that Karen McCarthy Brown passed away after years of deteriorating illness reached me earlier this month. I kept it to myself. When more official announcements from Drew University–where she was Professor Emerita of anthropology and sociology of religion — showed up on my Facebook feed this past Sunday, I shared it with the following comment:

Reading Karen’s Mama Lola kept me in grad school. Vodou got a human face from her. A tremendous loss, indeed.

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“Islam in America”: A Conversation with Jonathan Curiel

Mar11

by: Joseph Richard Preville and Julie Poucher Harbin on March 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

The book cover of 'Islam in America' by Jonathan Curiel showing the statue of liberty and a minaret.

How do Muslims fit into the quilt of American history? Jonathan Curiel investigates this question in his new book, Islam in America (I.B. Tauris, April 28, 2015). “America’s first Muslims,” he writes, “were perceived as less than human – people put in chains, forced to do field work at gunpoint, required to take new names and a new religion. So much has changed in 400 years, even if the struggle for acceptance is an ongoing one.”

Jonathan Curiel is a former staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, The Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Times, and Tablet. He is the author of Al America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots (The New Press, 2008), which won an American Book Award in 2008.

Curiel’s new book is a readable and reliable history of the Muslim experience in America. It will help Americans to understand their Muslim neighbors and to celebrate the Abrahamic diversity of religious life in the United States.

Jonathan Curiel discusses his new book in this exclusive interview.

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Truthdig chooses Rabbi Lerner as “Truthdigger” of the Week

Mar9

by: Natasha Hakimi on March 9th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Truthdigger of the Week: Rabbi Michael Lerner

Posted on Mar 8, 2015 on Truthdig

By Natasha Hakimi

Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the founding editor of Tikkun and leader of the San Francisco synagogue Beyt Tikkun. (B Hartford J Strong /CC BY 2.0)

As Benjamin Netanyahu’s fear-mongering speech echoed through the chambers of Congress, an American Jewish voice could be heard directly opposing the Israeli prime minister’s bellicose machinations—that of Rabbi Michael Lerner.

Rabbi Lerner, a political activist and longtime advocate of spiritual progressivity, in the 1980s co-founded the journal Tikkun, a journal of politics, culture and society. The quarterly, whose title comes from the Hebrew tikkun olam, meaning “healing or restoring the world,” focuses on providing an alternative to Jewish conservatism. Such an alternative has perhaps never been as important as it is today, a time when, to use Lerner’s words,“the fantasies that the right-wing discourse advances” increasingly dominate the politics of both the United States and Israel.

Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, without the agreement or cooperation of the White House. The day before the speech, Rabbi Lerner and Tikkun ran a full-page ad in The New York Times and, then, on Tuesday, repeated the ad in The Hill newspaper. It was topped with a simple, bold headline: “No, Mr. Netanyahu—you do not speak for American Jews. And … The American People Do Not Want a War with Iran!”

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Small Acts of Kindness for Purim

Feb26

by: Howard Cooper on February 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A girl in a mask and costume celebrates Purim.

Purim is often made into a Jewish Mardi Gras, but the story of Rabbah and Rabbi Zera invites us to look at a darker core of Purim. Credit: CreativeCommons / StateofIsrael.

There’s a curious Purim-related story in the Talmud about two scholars, Rabbah and Rabbi Zera. One year they got together to celebrate the festival and, as is the custom, they got completely drunk. So drunk that Rabbah attacked Rabbi Zera and killed him. On the next day, the Talmud goes on, Rabbah prayed on Rabbi Zera’s behalf and brought him back to life. The next year, Rabbah went to Rabbi Zera and said “Will my honoured teacher come, and we can again celebrate Purim together?” To which Rabbi Zera replied: “A miracle doesn’t take place on every occasion”(Megillah 7b). Once bitten, twice shy.

What do we make of this story? Obviously it’s a fable—not quite a parable, but a piece of imaginative playfulness: we know that (pace the New Testament) once they are dead, people don’t come back to life. So what is the story getting at? Is it a critique of the dangers of drunkenness? Is it an implicit acknowledgement—a millennium and a half before psychoanalysis and Melanie Klein – that aggression, murderousness, is just below the surface of even the most educated or pious of human hearts? And that it doesn’t take much, just a few drinks, to loosen up inhibitions and for this innate and powerful energy in us to burst out in violent and destructive fashion?

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Muslim Lives Matter: Double Standards and Islamophobia in Chapel Hill

Feb12

by: Jacob Klein on February 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The news that three young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were killed Tuesday near University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is finally making its way into the mainstream press following social media outcry over an initial silence on the evening news and in local newspapers.

Picture of a man and two woman smiling at a graduation.

We must take action in memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha so Islamophobic violence like the Chapel Hill shooting doesn't happen again. Credit: Our Three Winners (www.facebook.com/ourthreewinners).

The media’s slow response to this tragic loss – something that would otherwise be all over the 24-hour news cycle – is a painful reminder of how racism and Islamophobia distort reporting on crimes like these. This wasn’t a favored story because the victims were Muslim, and because their alleged killer is a white man.

Most sources that have reported on the Chapel Hill Shooting, as it’s come to be called, make mention of a parking dispute as a potential cause for the killings. Some highlight this more than others, a Fox Nation post going as far as to say in the headline that “Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder.”

However factual the parking dispute may be, how does it come to pass that neighbors disagreeing over parking turns into an execution-style murder spree? Police have reported that all three were shot in the head, an act that undermines potential arguments of a heated fight. And according to some reports, gunshots may have numbered up to ten.

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If a Muslim Dies in the Forest Does Anybody Hear?

Feb11

by: on February 11th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Social media is fast becoming my main source of information, a fact that speaks volumes in itself. This morning I checked my Twitter feed and found myself filled with horror and sadness. Three young Muslims were killed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by a 46-year old madman. What was their crime? What was the murderer’s motivation? The police are silent, or rather they parrot the same lines they always do whenever this kind of incident occurs. Every lead must be investigated, we will not say anything until we are sure. The latest? The murderer had a beef with his victims over parking.

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The Insanity of Extremism

Feb6

by: on February 6th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

Oh my name it is nothin’

My age it means less

The country I come from

Is called the Midwest

I’s taught and brought up there

The laws to abide

And that land that I live in

Has God on its side.” (Bob Dylan)

The latest propaganda missile in the current political and theocratic Right’s Christian Crusade aimed at followers of Islam worldwide was detonated by Fox News commentator and radio host Todd Starnes who asserted that Jesus would love the film “American Sniper” and would graciously thank all the American snipers who assassinate “godless” Muslims and transport them to the “lake of fire.”

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American Sniper: Chris Hedges’ “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A screenshot from the movie american sniper

A still from the movie 'American Sniper.' Credit: remolacha.net/ Creative Commons

Editor’s note: While we at Tikkun do not feel it’s fair to blame Christianity or imply that all Christians somehow implicitly support the kind of Christianity that leads some American Christians to feel that their murdering of Arabs or Muslims is doing Jesus’ work, and want to remind our readers of the many progressive Christians who join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and other organization that oppose the US “Strategy of Domination” and instead identify with Tikkun’s Strategy of Generosity (as manifested in our proposed Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (please re-read it by downloading the full version at www.tikkun.org/gmp), we do think that Hedges’ powerful critique of the movie “American Sniper” should be read by those who are too willing to forgive the American media for its implicit and sometimes explicit glorification of the U.S. military. And shame on President Obama and liberal Democrats for not having stopped the (what was at first just Bush’s) war in Iraq when they had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency 2009 and 2010, instead backing a “surge” and providing the background and equipment that eventually led to ISIS and all its cruel perversions and murderous ruthlessness.

Below we have excerpts from Chris Hedges’ piece, “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”, which can be found here, at Truthdig.com.

Kneading Challah as a Springboard to God

Jan26

by: Dahlia Abraham-Klein on January 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

kneading challah

Credit: dreamstime

Every week before Shabbat in the sanctuary of observant Jewish homes, we are graced with a special capacity to meditate and to converse with God while kneading dough to make challah. The kneading is an action meditation, best understood as the performance of commandments and rituals. While meditatively kneading, you can clear the mind for a holy intention and open the channel as a springboard to reach God.

The first step to having the right intention is through practicing breath control. When God created Adam, the Torah says, “God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life. Man [thus] became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for breath is neshima, while the Hebrew word for soul is neshama. We can understand from this verse that breath and soul are intimately connected. God breathed into man and by doing so, bestowed upon him a spark of the divine – a soul. God did not breathe into any other creature but Adam. Only man has the ability to use his breath in order to control his mind and thereby body, to draw closer to God.

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