22 February 2011

Maimonides (In Our Time)

Maimonides (In Our Time) [BBC Radio -- streaming via BBC iPlayer]

Programme Description:
Melvyn Bragg and his guests (John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, Sarah Stroumsa Alice and Jack Ormut Professor of Arabic Studies and currently Rector at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Peter Adamson Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King's College London) discuss the work and influence of Maimonides.
Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority. Also known as Rambam, his writings include a 14-volume work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which is still widely used today, and the Guide for the Perplexed, a central work of medieval philosophy. Although undoubtedly a titan of Jewish intellectual history, Maimonides was also profoundly influenced by the Islamic world. He exerted a strong influence on later Islamic philosophy, as well as on thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Leibniz and Newton.
Link: Maimonides (In Our Time)


British Gay Muslims Seek Islamic Weddings

British Gay Muslims Seek Islamic Weddings, by Adrian Golberg (BBC News, 20 February 2011)

British gay Muslims are joining the global fight for equality and seeking gay Islamic marriage. The BBC's 5 live Investigates speaks to one couple about their 'nikah' - a Muslim matrimonial contract - and asks how they balance their sexuality with the Islamic faith.
Link: British Gay Muslims Seek Islamic Weddings

Peru Anglicans set up own ordinariate for RC priests

Peru Anglicans set up own ordinariate for RC priests, by Ed Beavan (Church Times, 11 February 2011)

An “Ordinariate of Postulants” has been set up by the diocese of Peru in the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone to host a growing number of Roman Catholic priests who are keen to join the Anglican Church.

In contrast to the situa­tion in England, where three former bishops recently joined the Ordinariate for former Anglicans established by Rome, clerics are making the reverse journey in South America.

The Bishop of Peru, the Rt Revd William God­frey, said that, so far, about ten RC priests had joined the new group to explore the possibility of switching denominations. Some may bring con­gregations with them.
Link: Peru Anglicans set up own ordinariate for RC priests

18 February 2011

All About Pearl Roundabout

All About Pearl Roundabout, by Pepe Escobar (Asia Times, 18 February 2011)

Bahrain is a tiny archipelago of 1.2 million people separated from Saudi Arabia by a causeway - 65% of Bahrain is Shi'ite. But the al-Khalifa dynasty in power is Sunni. Most Shi‘ites are poor, marginalized and discriminated against - a rural proletariat. And they have been squeezed further as a mass of "imported" Sunnis - upwards of 50,000 from southern Pakistan, Balochistan, Jordan and Yemen - have been naturalized. Add to it a classic divide and rule strategy - local workforce pitted against foreign workforce; 54% of the population are guest workers, nearly half of these from southwest India.

King Hamad, in power since 2002 and a graduate of Cambridge University, is a wily ruler. There's an elected parliament, women do vote, and some political prisoners have been released. That's what Washington calls "stability". But the king is terrified to death of the Shi'ite majority; no wonder virtually everyone in the Ministry of Defense and the police is an "imported" Sunni.

Bahrain does not float in oil like Abu Dhabi, or gas like Qatar. But the development model was definitely demented neo-liberal Dubai - oil fueling real estate speculation. Winners: the al-Khalifa family and selected cronies. Losers: first and foremost, Shi'ites. Then there were the aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis. The government cut subsidies of food and fuel - while the agents and minions of global elites continued to enrich themselves. People were further enraged. To top it off, the US 5th Fleet - a self-described cop on the beat - is berthed in Bahrain.
Link: All About Pearl Roundabout


All about Zoroastrianism (a Google Knol project by RELG 110, at University of South Carolina, Spring 2011)

The 80+ students of RELG110-001 at the University of South Carolina researched Zoroastrianism online and in class. Here is the fruits of their research: All about Zoroastrianism

Evangelicals Turning to Jewish Customs? It's Complicated

Evangelicals Turning To Jewish Customs? It's Complicated, by Theo Hobson (The Guardian [UK], 17 February 2011)

What's going on here? Why are evangelicals so keen on Jewish traditions? It is, of course, complicated. There is no single explanation for the philosemitism that has blossomed in evangelical theology and culture in recent decades. The assumption of the liberal observer is that the key factor is Zionism, political support for Israel. These Christians are Zionists because they believe that Christ's second coming will be heralded by a powerful Jewish state (a theory called premillennial dispensationalism). Maybe some evangelicals do indeed have a rigid belief in this account of eschatology, but I don't see this as the source of evangelical philosemitism; it is more a symptom of it. The key point, surely, is that evangelicals admire aspects of Jewish religion and culture: the emphasis on the family, and community, the clear moral precepts, and the biblical fusion of religion and nationhood. They are drawn to the idea of religion permeating every aspect of cultural life, rather than being an optional event on Sundays.
Link: Evangelicals Turning To Jewish Customs? It's Complicated

Christians Embrace A Jewish Tradition

Christians Embrace A Jewish Wedding Tradition, by Samuel G. Freedman (New York Times, 11 February 2011)

n a San Antonio chapel last August, after reciting their wedding vows and exchanging their rings, Sally and Mark Austin prepared to receive communion for the first time as husband and wife. Just before they did, their minister asked them to sign a document. It was a ketubah, a traditional Jewish marriage contract. The Austins’ was not an interfaith marriage. Nor was their ceremony some sort of multicultural mashup. Both Sally and Mark are evangelical Christians, members of Oak Hills Church, a nationally known megachurch. They were using the ketubah as a way of affirming the Jewish roots of their faith.

n so doing, the Austins are part of a growing phenomenon of non-Jews incorporating the ketubah, a document with millennia-old origins and a rich artistic history, into their weddings. Mrs. Austin, in fact, first learned about the ketubah from her older sister, also an evangelical Christian, who had been married five years earlier with not only a ketubah but the Judaic wedding canopy, the huppah.
Link: Christians Embrace A Jewish Wedding Tradition

Spanglish Lessons: Diversity and Theology

Spanglish Lessons: Diversity and Theology U.S. Catholic 76 no. 3 (March 2011): 18-21

Asked to introduce herself at a Hispanic ministry meeting a few years ago, Carmen Nanko-Fernández gave her name and then added, tongue firmly planted in cheek, “I’m a theologian, and my preferred theological method is pastoral hostility.”

It was mixed company, Nanko-Fernández recalls. “The folks who were not Latinos started to laugh. The Latinos didn’t laugh. They came up to me later and asked me, ‘Can you explain more about this hostilidad pastoral?’ ” They immediately appropriated it into Spanish and adopted it as “the oxymoron that best suited the reality of our ministries,” she says.
Link: Spanglish Lessons: Diversity and Theology

07 February 2011

How Democracy Became Halal

How Democracy Became Halal, by Reuel Marc Gerecht (New York Times, 6 February 2011)

One of the great under-reported stories of the end of the 20th century was the enormous penetration of the West’s better political ideas — democracy and individual liberty — into the Muslim consciousness. For those of us who speak and read Persian, the startling evolution was easier to see. Theocracy-versus-democracy has been a defining theme of the Islamic Republic of Iran since the revolution, which harnessed both Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s religious charisma and the secular intelligentsia’s democratic aspirations. Over the last three decades, clerical Iran has nurtured an intense intellectual discourse about the duties that man owes to God.

When the legitimacy of theocracy started to unravel amid the regime’s corruption and brutality in the late 1980s, democratic ideas, including powerful democratic interpretations of the Islamic faith, roared forth. The explosion on the streets after the fraudulent presidential elections of June 2009 was just the most visible eruption of the enormous democratic pressures that had built up underneath the republic’s autocracy. More regime-threatening moments are surely coming.
Link: How Democracy Became Halal

05 February 2011

The Neocatechumenal Way in Japan

The Neocatechumenal Way in Japan, by Archbishop Peter Takeo Oakada of Tokyo (UCA News, 2 February 2011)

Over about the past 20 years, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan (CBCJ) has expended great time and energy on problems concerning the Neocatechumenal Way (which I refer to hereafter as simply ‘the Way’). To our extreme disappointment, these efforts have not improved the situation.

Of the passion and good intentions of the people of the Way, I have not the slightest doubt. Nevertheless, the Way’s activities over the past 30 years can in no way be called a success. The fact is that the character and conduct of the Way have not adapted well to the Church or society of Japan.

It is perhaps necessary for the Way in Japan to suspend its activities for a period of consideration and reflection which could pave the way for dialog with the Church in Japan.
Link: The Neocatechumenal Way in Japan

02 February 2011

John Courtney Murray on Religious Liberty

Fulltext articles of US Catholic theologian, John Courtney Murray's ground breaking writings on religious liberty (provided by America Magazine):