31 January 2011

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (Pew Forum)

Event Transcript: American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us: A Conversation with David Campbell (Pew Forum)

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life held a press luncheon with political science professors David Campbell and John Green on the topic of how religion both divides and unites Americans.

Campbell has written a book with Harvard professor Robert Putnam, entitled American Grace, which examines the changing role of religion in America since the 1960s. In addition to teaching at Notre Dame, Campbell is a research fellow with the Institute for Educational Initiatives and the founding director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the university. He is the author of Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life and the editor of A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election.

Putnam, who was unable to attend due to bad weather, is a professor of public policy at Harvard University and a visiting professor at the University of Manchester in England. He is a former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a past president of the American Political Science Association. He has written more than a dozen books, among them the national bestseller, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Green is a senior research adviser at the Forum and the director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. He is distinguished for his widely cited surveys, conducted in presidential election years, on the political fault lines running through America’s religious landscape. In addition to his latest book, The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections, Green has coauthored a number of other books, including The Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics.
You may also view the edited transcript

Link: American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us: A Conversation with David Campbell

The Future of the Global Muslim Population (Pew Forum)

The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030 (Pew Forum)

The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to new population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades – an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4% of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.


In the United States, for example, the population projections show the number of Muslims more than doubling over the next two decades, rising from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030, in large part because of immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims. The Muslim share of the U.S. population (adults and children) is projected to grow from 0.8% in 2010 to 1.7% in 2030, making Muslims roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States today. Although several European countries will have substantially higher percentages of Muslims, the United States is projected to have a larger number of Muslims by 2030 than any European country other than Russia and France. (See the Americas section of the full report for more details.)

Link: The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030

20 January 2011

Mao, Meet Confucius: China’s Religious Revolution, by Kwok Pui-Lan (Religion Dispatches, 18 January 2011)

In another marker of the new, more pluralistic religious landscape in China, President Hu Jintao will visit a Confucius Institute in Chicago on January 21, 2011, after his meeting with President Barack Obama and a state dinner at the White House.

After a stringent purging of Confucian teachings during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Confucius has been rehabilitated by the government. Books and TV programs about Confucian teachings have become hugely popular, making some authors millionaires. And less than a week before President Hu’s state visit, a new eight-meter bronze statue of Confucius was put in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in front of the National Museum of China—directly opposite Mao’s portrait.
Link: Mao, Meet Confucius: China’s Religious Revolution

Confucius Takes A Stance

Confucius Takes A Stance, by Francesco Sisci (Asia Times, 21 January 2011)

In a ritual equal only to that of the church, last week China placed a statue of Confucius in its political heart, Tiananmen Square, before Mao Zedong's portrait and near the modern obelisk to the People's Heroes, two symbols that materially defined China's national identity for 60 years.

This is a political statement, not a celebration of art, and it reshapes the country's ideological mission. The removal of images of saints from churches was the pronouncement of the Protestant Reformation and unleashed a wave of radical development in European and world history with the rapid spread of modern capitalism.
Link: Confucius Takes A Stance

19 January 2011

The Coming Christian Divide

The Coming Christian Divide, by Howard Bess (Consortium News, 8 January 2011)

The Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister.

Five years ago, we became aware that something significant was happening among Christian churches. Young people were leaving churches in huge numbers, most with no intention to ever return.

Many became associated with a new phrase, the emergent church, and formed themselves into small groups as house or home churches. The gatherings are marked by both worship and vigorous discussion, which are far-ranging but typically focus on Jesus, the rural rabbi from Nazareth.

At or near the top of the questions being debated by emergents is the meaning and significance of the death of Jesus from Nazareth, which is not a new debate but is one the emergents are taking in a new direction.
Link: The Coming Christian Divide

18 January 2011

Why Korean American Churches Need A Makeover

Why Korean American Churches Need A Makeover by Tammy Kim (11 January 2011)

... Although I am not a believer, it was neither the liturgy nor the scripture that got to me. Rather, it was the sense of displacement, the feeling that I could not be properly Korean American outside the confines of that place. An astounding 70 percent of the 1 million-plus ethnic Koreans in the United States identify themselves as Christian. Of this, approximately 131,000 belong to either the Southern Baptist Convention or the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), two of the most conservative evangelical denominations. Another 90,000 Korean Americans are adherents of the Catholic Church. On college campuses, Korean American students are overwhelmingly active in Protestant student organizations, including ethnically specific campus ministries, according to Rebecca Kim, a professor at Pepperdine University and the author of God’s New Whiz Kids?: Korean American Evangelicals on Campus.
Link: Why Korean American Churches Need A Makeover by Tammy Kim (11 January 2011)

14 January 2011

Palin Cries ‘Blood Libel’: Can Words Harm Us?

Palin Cries ‘Blood Libel’: Can Words Harm Us? By Susannah Heschel (Religion Dispatches, 12 January 2011)

Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College.

It’s curious then that in a video posted to her Facebook page, Sarah Palin would so vociferously insist that language played no role in the Tucson shootings. The angry, sometimes violent, rhetoric and imagery could not have influenced Jared Lee Loughner, claimed Palin in a preemptive ploy for innocence. Toward the end of the video, to emphasize her argument that language plays no role in influencing action, she threw in the phrase “blood libel”:
Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
Do words have consequences or not? For Palin, it seems, acts of criminality stand alone; yet in the very next sentence she goes on to assert the opposite: that the “journalists and pundits” who want our political rhetoric toned down, and who’ve criticized her image of Rep. Giffords and others caught in the “crosshairs,” are themselves manufacturing a “blood libel” that may well “incite...violence.” So language can manufacture a “blood libel” and incite violence yet she can be so sure that it played no role in motivating a gunman?

As is often the case, we’re never quite clear what Ms. Palin is arguing, and we’re left to wonder whether even she knows. Indeed, I would join other Jewish leaders who hope that, despite having the benefit of Jewish advisers, Palin was simply unaware of the history of “blood libels,” and used it out of ignorance. If she did use the term deliberately, with full knowledge of its connotations, I tremble at the political fabric she is manufacturing. Either way, Ms. Palin may have just garnered a spot in the Jewish history textbooks. Invoking “blood libel” in an utterly inappropriate context, she will be remembered for her manipulative use of one of the ugliest yet most persistent anti-Semitic canards Jews have faced.
Link: Palin Cries ‘Blood Libel’: Can Words Harm Us?

Mammoth Sculpture of the Ancient Philosopher Confucius Shows Up on China's Tiananmen Square

Mammoth Sculpture of the Ancient Philosopher Confucius Shows Up on China's Tiananmen Square, by Anita Chang (Art Daily, 14 January 2011) [AP]

There's a new face keeping Chairman Mao company on Tiananmen Square. A mammoth sculpture of the ancient philosopher Confucius was unveiled this week off one side of the vast plaza. It's a jarring juxtaposition for a square the ruling Communist Party treats as politically hallowed ground: a mausoleum holding revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's body sits in the middle and his giant portrait hangs at one end.

Placing the statue at China's political heart is the authoritarian government's most visible endorsement yet of the 2,500-year-old sage and, selectively, his teachings. Confucius is enjoying a revival, in books and films, on TV and in classrooms. His message of harmonious social order and deference to authority is unthreatening to the party, while his emphasis on ethics resonates among Chinese coping with fast-paced social change on the back of torrid economic growth.
Link: Mammoth Sculpture of the Ancient Philosopher Confucius Shows Up on China's Tiananmen Square

Thomas Nast's Anti-Irish Cartoons at St. Joseph

Thomas Nast's Anti-Irish Cartoons at St. Joseph, by Roger Catlin (Hartford Courant, 13 January 2011)

Thomas Nast, the granddaddy of American political cartooning, had his own perceived ethnic enemies. He created the popular image of Santa Claus and helped devise the visual shorthand of the political parties through the creation of their representative animals.

But he also had serious reservations toward the Irish, who were flooding the shores as immigrants and getting jobs.

Nast had some progressive views toward the recently freed African American slaves, Chinese immigrants and Native Americans. But there was something about the Irish and their elaborate Catholic practices that caused some of his most stereotyped work for one of the leading publications of its day, Harper's Weekly.
Link: Thomas Nast's Anti-Irish Cartoons at St. Joseph

13 January 2011

GM Crops Breed Economic Dependence, New Form of Slavery, Says Cardinal

GM Crops Breed Economic Dependence, New Form of Slavery, Says Cardinal, by Carol Glatz, (Catholic News Service, 5 January 2011)

If farmers in Africa had greater access to fertile, arable land safe from armed conflict and pollutants, they would not need genetically modified crops to produce food, said the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Making growers reliant on proprietary, genetically modified seeds smacks of "the usual game of economic dependence," which in turn, "stands out like a new form of slavery," said Cardinal Peter Turkson.
Link: GM Crops Breed Economic Dependence, New Form of Slavery, Says Cardinal

10 January 2011

Adding Islam to a Latino Identity

Adding Islam to a Latino Identity by James Estrin (New York Times Lens, 8 January 2011)

[Why Latino Muslims? Why do you think so many are converting?]
Many describe disillusionment with the practices of Catholicism and the church establishment. These Latinos are lured by Islam’s simplicity and the Muslim’s independence from a mediating clergy in his or her relationship with God. Converts are seeking a different identity. Islam provides a moral code of conduct in everyday life, providing them with a more regimented and disciplined lifestyle.

I met women who were affiliated with the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center in Union City, N.J., which has a large Latino Muslim congregation. They have created an extended family for themselves. I was fascinated by the duality of being Latino and Muslim and how religion could bring two disparate cultures together. Most converts were still immersed in their original culture — through food, music and closeness to their families — but had created a Muslim identity through their daily devotion to the religion, modest dress, prayer, preaching and fasting.
Link: Adding Islam to a Latino Identity