23 May 2014

Jack, Bobby, Ted: Three Kennedy funerals and the progress of liturgical reform

Jack, Bobby, Ted: Three Kennedy funerals and the progress of liturgical reform, by John F. Baldovin (America, May 26-June 2, 2014)

On Nov. 22, 1963, the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church assembled for the second session of the Second Vatican Council voted on the final draft of the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” (“Sacrosanctum Concilium”). A few hours later President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Tex. Just two weeks later, the constitution was formally approved by the council. No doubt the Kennedy assassination loomed much larger in the world’s consciousness than the approval of the liturgy constitution, but like the election of the first Roman Catholic president of the United States, the liturgy constitution was to have a significant impact on how American Catholics related to the world. Since that time, the nation has also mourned the deaths of two more Kennedy brothers: Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy. The funerals of these three men were not only significant moments in U.S. history; they can also serve as markers of liturgical change.

Apple and other big manufacturers must swap less deadly chemicals for the cancerous ones poisoning their Chinese workers

Ming Kunpeng went to work for ASM Pacific Technology — a chip supplier for Apple — when he was 19 years old. Required to handle the known carcinogen benzene on a daily basis without adequate training or protective gear, the young worker fell ill at the age of 22. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with occupational leukemia. After a year-long dispute, ASM Pacific Technology agreed to compensate Ming for his illness, but the settlement was insufficient to cover the care he needed. On December 28, 2013, this young man became one of the much-publicized Chinese electronics-worker suicide cases. He took his own life, jumping from the top of the hospital where he was receiving treatment. Ming’s story is just one of many told in filmmakers Heather White and Lynn Zhang’s new short-form documentary, Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics.

Inside Europe’s Mystical Sufi Lodges

Inside Europe’s Mystical Sufi Lodges, by Mehves Levic (National Geographic, 2 May 2014)

On the dewy morning of January 24, the fog has finally lifted and we can see the pear and apple orchards that belong to Baba Ismaili’s tekke, or lodge, in the mountains near Albania’s border with Macedonia. Baba Ismaili is elderly, yet quite energetic; he has, by 8 a.m., supervised most of the morning’s farmwork. On this day, the very lively Derwish Salu (whom Baba Ismaili calls the “butterfly derwish” for his fluttering movements and quick and agile thinking) has chosen to visit Baba Ismaili, something he has been meaning to do for a while, he says—and he has indeed come a long way for it. Derwish Salu usually lives and serves at the Bektashi headquarters in Tirana, taking care of the tekke, welcoming and helping visitors around, and of course, serving them the ceremonial coffee, rakija, and candy. Such service is at times taken as a form of worship in the Bektashi tradition.

The Bektashis are a Sufi order that originated in the 13th century in Anatolia and quickly gained influence. The mystical (and in general terms, unwritten) doctrine of the order required a figurative interpretation of Islamic texts and tradition, which set the order apart somewhat quickly, and which to this day distinguishes its followers from those of mainstream Sunni Islam, at times garnering the hostility of more radical groups. The latest conflict between Bektashis and a Salafi group over the management of a tekke in Macedonia—culminating in arson—is just another installation of the cycles of slating, banishment, and return.

17 May 2014

Modi’s BJP in massive election win – and that threatens to be a disaster for India

Modi appears to have been democratically elected. But, as his record in Gujarat indicates, he has exhibited a propensity to wield power in an undemocratic way and for undemocratic ends. Within his own party, he prevents emergence of independent leadership, making sure that potential rivals are politically finished. He encourages defections from other parties, rewarding defectors with party tickets, undermining the legitimacy of opposition.

He undermines key constitutional bodies: whether agencies investigating the 2002 massacres or extra-judicial killings in Gujarat, or the Election Commission. He centralises power, once holding 14 portfolios in the state cabinet. He talks of “uprooting” opponents and “erasing” opposing political parties, and his supporters promise exile and incarceration to critics.

Chinese Atheists? What the Pew Survey Gets Wrong

Chinese Atheists? What the Pew Survey Gets Wrong, by Ian Johnson (NY Books, 24 March 2014)

Earlier this month, I came across a fascinating opinion survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The report asked people in forty countries whether belief in God is necessary for morality. Mostly, the results aren’t surprising. In advanced democracies, such as those in Western Europe, people say by at least a two-to-one margin that morality is not linked to belief in God—presumably, they think non-believers in God can be moral. In the developing world, the opposite is the case, with citizens of Muslim and poorer Catholic countries overwhelmingly saying the two are linked. And as might be expected, the United States is an outlier among developed countries, with a majority (53 percent) asserting the necessity of belief in God to anchor morality.

But then there is China, which at 14 percent has the lowest percentage affirming the need for belief in God of any country surveyed—even lower than in the secular democracies of Western Europe. It’s especially striking when compared to other Asian countries, such as Japan, where 42 percent of the population links morality to belief in God, and South Korea, where more than half the population asserts such a link. In fact, according to the Pew data, a full 75 percent of Chinese people say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral.

Pew doesn’t explain its findings, but they struck me as extremely odd. If there’s one trend in China that is hard to miss, it’s the growing desire among many Chinese to find some sort of moral foundation in their lives, whether by reengaging with age-old Chinese ethical traditions, or by taking part in organized religions. In view of this widely-documented situation, how can so few Chinese believe in the link between morality and a supreme being or force?

Descendants Of Chinese Laborers Reclaim Railroad's History

Descendants Of Chinese Laborers Reclaim Railroad's History (NPR All Things Considered, 10 May 2014)

East finally met West 145 years ago on America's first transcontinental railroad. The symbolic hammering of a golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, completed the connection between the country's two coasts and shortened a cross-country trip of more than six months down to a week. Much of the building was done by thousands of laborers brought in from China, but their faces were left out of photographs taken on that momentous day.

Over the years, one photograph in particular from May 10, 1869, has taken root in U.S. history. "It's a black-and-white, very historic-looking photo," says Connie Young Yu, the great-granddaughter of a Chinese laborer on the railroad. The iconic image shows a crowd of men swarmed around two locomotives. "In the middle are the two engineers shaking hands," Yu says. "And above them are workers hoisting champagne bottles." The bubbly marked the long-awaited completion of the Gateway to the American West, nearly 2,000 miles of iron rail that crossed the Rockies and Sierra Nevada.

But the portrait wasn't perfect. "History — at least photographically — says that the Chinese were not present," says photographer Corky Lee.

Related Link: A ‘photographic act of justice’ for Chinese laborers at Golden Spike (The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 May 2014)

Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s First Transcontinental Railroad. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West. The Project coordinates research in the United States and Asia in order to create an on-line digital archive available to all. The Project is also organizing major conferences and public events at Stanford and in China in 2015 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of large numbers of Chinese to work on the railroad.

Our Complicity With Excess

Our Complicity With Excess, by Vijay Iyer (Asian American Writers' Workshop, 7 May 2014)

To succeed in America means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past. Vijay Iyer’s speech to Yale’s Asian American alumni.

On Diversity, Institutional Whiteness and Its Will for Change

On Diversity, Institutional Whiteness and Its Will for Change, by W. Anne Joh (Religious Studies News, May 2014)

Ask doctoral students from underrepresented communities of color how well they are being prepared for becoming theological educators in a rapidly changing climate and most will say “not well at all.” My reflections here revolve around a few questions that seem to emerge quite frequently in doctoral studies, especially from students of racial/ethnic minority communities and what institutional racism does to them during the process of going through a doctoral program. How are the needs of these students met or not met within the predominantly white institutions and programs whose curricula often reflect absence and foreclosure of the historical legacy of systemic racism? How can institutions committed to cultivating institutional diversity transform so that all students might thrive during their studies, become well prepared to enter their profession as educators, and be equipped to integrate into their teaching the quotidian issues that our societies face?

The life of white racism has neither been transformed nor dismantled even as university demographics change. If there has been any transformation of racialized dynamics and institutional racism, one could argue that race has become “a way of organizing and managing populations in order to attain certain societal goals such as . . . social unity.” Race as a technology of management conceals more than it reveals structures of inequality. Commitments to so-called institutional diversity can easily slide to the use of that term, diversity, solely as a form of institutional public relations. This form of diversity “work” changes perceptions of whiteness but does nothing to transform whiteness of institutions. As Sara Ahmed observes, “changing perceptions of whiteness can be how an institution can reproduce whiteness,” rather than dismantle it.


MFA vs. POC, by Junot Diaz (The New Yorker, 30 April 2014)

This is a condensed version of the introduction to "Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop."

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh

Through work to bring materials from women's studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men's unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women's statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can't or won't support the idea of lessening men's. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women's disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of while privilege that was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks.

The Origins of "Privilege"

The Origins of "Privilege," by Joshua Rothman (The New Yorker, 13 May 2014)

The idea of “privilege”—that some people benefit from unearned, and largely unacknowledged, advantages, even when those advantages aren’t discriminatory —has a pretty long history. In the nineteen-thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about the “psychological wage” that enabled poor whites to feel superior to poor blacks; during the civil-rights era, activists talked about “white-skin privilege.” But the concept really came into its own in the late eighties, when Peggy McIntosh, a women’s-studies scholar at Wellesley, started writing about it. In 1988, McIntosh wrote a paper called “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies,” which contained forty-six examples of white privilege. (No. 21: “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.” No. 24: “I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the ‘person in charge,’ I will be facing a person of my race.”) Those examples have since been read by countless schoolkids and college students—including, perhaps, Tal Fortgang, the Princeton freshman whose recent article, “Checking My Privilege,” has been widely debated.

Losing Our Religion

Losing Our Religion (Tricycle, Summer 2007)

Have Westerners created a new and viable form of Buddhism, or has something been lost in translation? Berkeley professor Robert Sharf argues that with our emphasis on individual experience and meditation, we risk cutting ourselves off from the benefits of a greater tradition.

A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul, by Patricia Leigh Brown (New York Times, 19 September 2009)

The patient in Room 328 had diabetes and hypertension. But when Va Meng Lee, a Hmong shaman, began the healing process by looping a coiled thread around the patient’s wrist, Mr. Lee’s chief concern was summoning the ailing man’s runaway soul. “Doctors are good at disease,” Mr. Lee said as he encircled the patient, Chang Teng Thao, a widower from Laos, in an invisible “protective shield” traced in the air with his finger. “The soul is the shaman’s responsibility.”

At Mercy Medical Center in Merced, where roughly four patients a day are Hmong from northern Laos, healing includes more than IV drips, syringes and blood glucose monitors. Because many Hmong rely on their spiritual beliefs to get them through illnesses, the hospital’s new Hmong shaman policy, the country’s first, formally recognizes the cultural role of traditional healers like Mr. Lee, inviting them to perform nine approved ceremonies in the hospital, including “soul calling” and chanting in a soft voice.

Sudan woman gets death sentence for apostasy

A Sudanese judge has sentenced a Christian woman to hang for apostasy, despite appeals by Western embassies for compassion and respect for religious freedom. The case, thought to be the first of its kind to be heard in Sudan, involves a woman whose Christian name is Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag. "We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam," Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the woman on Thursday, addressing her by her father's Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah. "I sentence you to be hanged to death." Khalifa also sentenced Ishag to 100 lashes for "adultery".

Ishag, who rights activists say is pregnant and 27 years old, reacted without emotion when Abbas delivered the verdict at a court in the Khartoum district of Haj Yousef. Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader spoke with Ishag in the caged dock for about 30 minutes. Then she calmly told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."

10 May 2014

U.S. Catholic Church Must Adapt to Meet the Needs of Hispanic Catholics, Says Boston College Study

The explosive growth of Hispanic Catholics is overwhelming the Catholic Church in America, which is at risk of losing an ethnic group crucial to the future of the Church in the U.S., according to a landmark Boston College study of Hispanic Catholic parishes in the United States. Hispanics comprise 31.2 million of America’s 78 million Catholics and their growing ranks are rapidly transforming parishes in fundamental ways, according to the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry, led by Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Assistant Professor Hosffman Ospino.
Read the: Complete Report (PDF)

09 May 2014

30+ Examples of Christian Privilege

Following is a list of privileges granted to people in the U.S. (and many western nations) for being Christian. If you identify as Christian, there’s a good chance you’ve never thought about these things. In response to the ever-increasing “War on Christianity” headlines, I thought it prudent to create this list. Try and be more cognizant of these items and you’ll start to realize how much work we have to do to make the United States a place that is truly safe and accessible for folks of all belief systems.

10 Misconceptions about Buddhism

10 Misconceptions about Buddhism, by Robert E. Buswell, Jr. and Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (Tricycle, 18 November 2013)

In this series "10 Misconceptions about Buddhism," scholars Robert E. Buswell Jr. and Donald S. Lopez Jr. expand on one of these popular misconceptions on the Tricycle blog.

Piketty shrugged: How the French economist dashed libertarians’ Ayn Randian fantasies

Libertarians have always been flummoxed by inequality, tending either to deny that it’s a problem or pretend that the invisible hand of the market will wave a magic wand to cure it. Then everybody gets properly rewarded for what he or she does with brains and effort, and things are peachy keen. Except that they aren’t, as exhaustively demonstrated by French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page treatise on the long-term trends in inequality, Capital In the 21st Century, has blown up libertarian fantasies one by one.

Chinese authorities remove holy symbols from park in Wenzhou

Authorities in Wenzhou have removed all religious statues and images from a hilltop Catholic site, in another instance of what appears to be a widening crackdown against Christianity in this southeastern Chinese port city. More than 50 workers sealed off roads around Longgang Hill and removed the Way of the Cross and holy statues on Saturday, two days before bulldozers were ordered to begin the forced demolition of the sanctuary at the US$4.8 million Sanjiang Church, also in Wenzhou.

Revisiting the Vincent Chin Case: Confronting the Asian American Race Relations Issue

Neal Rubin's controversial revisionist op-ed that caused a stir: What we all assume about the Vincent Chin case probably isn't so (Detroit News, 29 April 2014).

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) weighed in: AAJA seeks retraction from The Detroit News for Neal Rubin’s column revisiting the Vincent Chin murder case (29 April 2014)

Professor Frank H. Wu wrote two rebuttals:

Remembering the Fall of Saigon and Vietnam’s Mass ‘Boat People’ Exodus

On April 30, 1975, American troops withdrew from Saigon as the city fell to the North Vietnamese. One refugee remembers the chaos of the day and her long odyssey to freedom.

Heidegger’s notebooks reveal an early blindness to the Nazis' reality

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) is easily the most controversial philosopher in the 20th century. To a large extent this is due to his implication in Nazism, which is a scandal to some, a fascinating spectacle to others and an intellectual dilemma for many a serious reader of Heidegger’s texts. The inevitable question is whether Heidegger’s Nazism infected his philosophy.

Heidegger’s support for the Nazis is well known and has been meticulously documented. Six years after publication of Being and Time, Heidegger joined the NSDAP and was elected rector at the University of Freiburg in 1933. In that role he gave a number of speeches in support of the new regime and wrote denunciatory letters about liberal and left-leaning colleagues.

The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States (Pew)

The Shifting Religious Identity of Latinos in the United States (Pew Research Religion & Public Life, 7 May 2014)

The Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos and Religion finds that a majority (55%) of the nation’s estimated 35.4 million Latino adults – or about 19.6 million Latinos – identify as Catholic today. 1 About 22% are Protestant (including 16% who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical) and 18% are religiously unaffiliated.
Links to the Report:
Related Links:

03 May 2014

LA Riots, In Our Own Words

LA Riots, In Our Own Words, by Eugene Yi (KoreanAm, 29 April 2012)
The events of April 29, 1992, have been referred to as a riot, a rebellion, an uprising, a civil unrest. For many Koreans, it’s always been 4.29, following the standard cultural shorthand for the dates of historic tragedies. Yet over the past 20 years, the primary narrative of 4.29 has rarely included Korean American perspectives beyond stereotyped notions of victims or vigilantes. This oral history seeks to rectify that in some small measure, and to give those who didn’t witness the traumatic days and nights of fires, chaos and violence a sense of what Korean Americans went through. The events, after all, have been referred to by some as the birth of Korean America, a characterization that isn’t far off.

In the period leading up to 4.29, the mainstream media had fed the public a series of stories on the rising tensions in South Central Los Angeles between African American residents and the Korean merchant class that had become a fixture there. Then, in March 1991, Soon Ja Du, a Korean immigrant storeowner, shot and killed Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African American customer, following a violent scuffle between the two at Du’s South Central liquor store, worsening an already strained situation. Just 13 days earlier, the brutal beating of African American motorist Rodney King by four white Los Angeles Police Department officers vividly demonstrated the iron-fisted tactics under then-Chief Daryl Gates. The social, economic and political structures seemed aligned to oppress, and the city waited uneasily on April 29, 1992, for the verdict in the excessive force case against the police officers who beat King.

TULIPs for the Tolerant

TULIPs for the Tolerant. By Carol Howard Merritt (The Christian Century, 21 April 2014)

Neo-Calvinists are all the rage, but there are many of us who don’t fit that mold. We are the faith of Frances Grimke, Maggie Kuhn, and Mr. Rogers. We have wonderful feminist theologians. We have theologians who think deeply about marriage equality. But our ultra-conservative rep continues. A dear friend recently wrote that she was learning about TULIP in seminary and she was horrified. She didn’t understand how I could believe all that. TULIP was constructed after Calvin. It’s a shorthand that makes the rich history of the Reformed movement palpable in a 50-minute seminary class. Though paltry, TULIP is what most people grasp, so I’ll let you know how I understand it. I may not be able to wrestle the Calvinist microphone from the Baby Boomer, neo-Calvinists who have captured it, but at least I might be able to make some sense out of it for people who automatically equate Calvin and conservative.

China denies declaring war on Christians after mega-church is razed

China denies declaring war on Christians after mega-church is razed By Tom Phillips (The Telegraph, 29 April 2014)

Communist Party officials have rejected claims they have launched an orchestrated campaign to slow the spread of Christianity in China, after demolition teams razed a church in a city known as the "Jerusalem of the East". The Sanjiang church in Wenzhou, a wealthy coastal city in Zhejiang province with one of China's largest Christian populations, was reduced to rubble on Monday night after excavators spent the day tearing parts of the building down. Congregants accused the provincial government, which is controlled by Xia Baolong, an ally of Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, of promoting an orchestrated anti-church campaign in order to slow Christianity's rapid growth.

‘Dreamings’ and place – Aboriginal monsters and their meanings

‘Dreamings’ and place – Aboriginal monsters and their meanings By Christine Nicholls (The Conversation, 30 April 2014)

A rich inventory of monstrous figures exists throughout Aboriginal Australia. The specific form that their wickedness takes depends to a considerable extent on their location. In the Australian Central and Western Deserts there are roaming Ogres, Bogeymen and Bogey women, Cannibal Babies, Giant Baby-Guzzlers, Sorcerers, and spinifex and feather-slippered Spirit Beings able to dispatch victims with a single fatal garrote. There are lustful old men who, wishing to satiate their unbridled sexual appetites, relentlessly pursue beautiful nubile young girls through the night sky and on land – and other monstrous beings, too.

World Council of Churches Annual Review 2013

This report on the ministry of the WCC in 2013 centres on the WCC 10th Assembly, which took place in Busan, Republic of Korea, 30 October to 8 November 2013. It also includes many other aspects of WCC work through the year.

Defending True Religious Liberty: Church Files Lawsuit in Support of Marriage Equality

This morning in Charlotte, North Carolina, the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. This suit argues that the current law in North Carolina, as it pertains to marriage, violates religious freedom by prohibiting UCC ministers, and other clergy, from officiating at same-sex marriages.

After the passage of Amendment One in 2012, it became illegal for a member of the clergy to officiate at a wedding where a marriage license is not present. And, of course, in North Carolina, it is impossible for a same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license. That means that any member of the clergy who officiates at a same-sex marriage in the state may be sentenced to "120 days in jail and/or probation and community service." In other words, the state of North Carolina is telling clergy that it is illegal to pray in the manner in which they see fit.

The 'two-spirit' people of indigenous North Americans

The 'two-spirit' people of indigenous North Americans, by Walter L. Williams (The Guardian, 11 October 2010)

Native Americans have often held intersex, androgynous people, feminine males and masculine females in high respect. The most common term to define such persons today is to refer to them as "two-spirit" people, but in the past feminine males were sometimes referred to as "berdache" by early French explorers in North America, who adapted a Persian word "bardaj", meaning an intimate male friend. Because these androgynous males were commonly married to a masculine man, or had sex with men, and the masculine females had feminine women as wives, the term berdache had a clear homosexual connotation. Both the Spanish settlers in Latin America and the English colonists in North America condemned them as "sodomites".

Rather than emphasising the homosexuality of these persons, however, many Native Americans focused on their spiritual gifts. American Indian traditionalists, even today, tend to see a person's basic character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Thus, they are honoured for having two spirits, and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female.

UK's first purpose-built deaf church to close

UK's first purpose-built deaf church to close, by Emma Tracey (BBC News, 27 April 2014)

The St Saviour's foundation cornerstone was laid in 1870 on London's Oxford Street by the Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Alexandra, who had progressive hearing loss. The first service took place in 1873. Fifty years later the building was demolished to make way for development and the church relocated to Acton.

Fred Cuddeford is 105 years old. He was deafened a century ago in the same horse and cart accident that killed his mother. He has been a regular at St Saviour's Church and Deaf Centre for 94 years - in its old and new home. For him and many other, St Saviour's has not only been a church, but a social club for deaf people. These were once very important places to meet, where sign language users were able to have conversations.