29 August 2014

Politics of American churches & religions in one graph

Politics of American churches & religions in one graph (Religious News Service, 27 August 2014)

What are the political positions of religions and churches in America? This new graph maps the ideologies of 44 different religious groups using data comes from Pew’s Religious Landscape survey. This survey included 32,000 respondents. It asked very specific questions on religion that allow us to find out the precise denomination, church, or religion of each person.

Many religions heavily concentrated in one or two countries (Pew Research)

Earlier this summer, on World Population Day, we explained that half of the world’s population lives in just six countries. In many cases, the world’s major religious groups are even more concentrated, with half or more of their followers living in one or a handful of countries. For several years, demographers at the Pew Research Center have been studying the demographic characteristics of eight groups: Buddhists, Christians, adherents of folk religions, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, the religiously unaffiliated and followers of other religions. While Christians and Muslims are more widely distributed around the world, the other groups have a majority of their populations in just one or two nations, according to 2010 estimates from our Global Religious Landscape report.

Forum: Why is American Buddhism so White?

Forum: Why is American Buddhism so White? (Buddhadharma, 10 November 2011)

A panel discussion on the problem of “whiteness’ in American Buddhism and what can be done—and in some cases is being done—to make it more diverse.

28 August 2014

10 intriguing female revolutionaries that you didn’t learn about in history class

We all know male revolutionaries like Che Guevara, but history often tends to gloss over the contributions of female revolutionaries that have sacrificed their time, efforts, and lives to work towards burgeoning systems and ideologies. Despite misconceptions, there are tons of women that have participated in revolutions throughout history, with many of them playing crucial roles. They may come from different points on the political spectrum, with some armed with weapons and some armed with nothing but a pen, but all fought hard for something that they believed in. Let’s take a look at 10 of these female revolutionaries from all over the world that you probably won’t ever see plastered across a college student’s T-shirt.

News Reports & Analysis: Pope Francis' visit to South Korea (2014)

Last Updated: 28 August 2014
Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on Pope Francis' visit to South Korea Korea (August 2014):

Vicky Beeching, Christian rock star 'I'm gay. God loves me just the way I am'

There is no quicker, more effective way to destroy someone than to isolate them. Guards at Guantanamo Bay know this. Psychiatrists know this. Vicky Beeching, 35, British star of the American Christian rock scene, one of the most successful artists in US mega-churches and now one of the most sought-after religious commentators in Britain, knows this too.

There is also no better way to destroy a group of people than to ensure they do the job for you. And so, as Beeching's story pours out on a hot afternoon – a story of psychological torture, life-threatening illness and unimaginable loneliness, imposed all around from a supposedly Godly environment – one question fills the air: if shrinks, brutes and fascists know how best to devastate a person, does the Church of England? Or do they know not what they do

26 August 2014

The End of Liberal Zionism

The End of Liberal Zionism (New York Times, 22 August 2014)

Liberal Zionists are at a crossroads. The original tradition of combining Zionism and liberalism — which meant ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, supporting a Palestinian state as well as a Jewish state with a permanent Jewish majority, and standing behind Israel when it was threatened — was well intentioned. But everything liberal Zionists stand for is now in doubt.

The decision of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to launch a military campaign against Hamas in Gaza has cost the lives, to date, of 64 soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side, and nearly 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians.

“Never do liberal Zionists feel more torn than when Israel is at war,” wrote Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s opinion editor and a leading British liberal Zionist, for The New York Review of Books last month. He’s not alone. Columnists like Jonathan Chait, Roger Cohen and Thomas L. Friedman have all riffed in recent weeks on the theme that what Israel is doing can’t be reconciled with their humanism

Building on U.S. Tradition, Camp for Hindu Children Strengthens Their Identity

From Y.M.C.A. camps through Catholic Youth camps through the Ramah camps of Conservative Judaism, there is a long, rich history of religious and ethnic groups using summer camps to strengthen the denominational and ancestral identity of young people in a polyglot nation with an enticingly secular popular culture.

The Indian immigrants who arrived in the last half-century are relatively recent and especially avid adopters. Shana Sippy, a professor of religion at Carleton College in Minnesota who has studied Hindu-American educational organizations, estimated that 135 such camps now exist. These range from overnight retreats to day camps to sleep-away programs like that of the Hindu Heritage Summer Camp.

25 August 2014

The complicity cost of racial inclusion

The complicity cost of racial inclusion (Al Jazeera America, 24 August 2014)

For the past 50 years, Asian-Americans have been the so-called model minority — the minority group held up by politicians and the media to demonstrate the potential for success for people who aren’t white. It is no coincidence that this narrative arose alongside the black power movement in the 1960s. Asian-American success over time became a rhetorical bludgeon used to deny the real and ongoing effects of institutional racism and white supremacy on African-Americans. Ronald Reagan, for example, called Asian-Americans “exemplars of hope and inspiration” while denouncing black women on welfare. The existence of Asian-Americans was a way to deny the significance of whiteness and the hardship of exclusion from it.

One of the clearest examples of how Asian-Americans are afforded aspects of white privilege is the comparative freedom from police repression, which focuses so intently on blacks and Latinos. It’s one way that the dominant society hands Asian-Americans a toothbrush and a bar of soap while denying the same to other people of color. But even here, the porousness of the boundary between white and not white becomes evident, as not all Asian-Americans have access to the same privilege. Today Muslim South Asians may face discrimination that other Asian-Americans may not.

The cost of becoming white is hard to measure. It is ethical rather than material. By passively accepting the privileges of whiteness, Asian-Americans become complicit in America’s present system of hierarchy, a system in which the nation’s institutions inflict ongoing injustices on a racial underclass.

23 August 2014

China's Future - What China Wants

China's Future - What China Wants (The Economist, 23 August 2014)

As China becomes, again, the world's largest economy, it wants the respect it enjoyed in centuries past. But it does not know how to achieve or deserve it

19 August 2014

The Forgotten Christian World

The Forgotten Christian World, by Philip Jenkins (History Today, vol. 59 no. 4, August 2014)

In the first millennium, Christianity spread east from Palestine to Iraq, and on to India and China, becoming a global religion accepting of, and accepted by, other faiths. But with the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, Christianity’s eastern journey came to an end. Philip Jenkins recovers this lost history.

17 August 2014

North Korea could soon have its first saint: Hong Yong-ho

North Korea could soon have its first saint: Hong Yong-ho (Catholic News Agency, 15 August 2014)

North Korea could in time have its first canonized saint, since last year the death of the Bishop of Pyongyang, who was disappeared by the government in 1949, was formally acknowledged by the Vatican. Shortly after the aknowledgement of his death, the Korean bishops' conference asked the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a 'nihil obstat' to the opening of the cause of beatification for Bishop Francis Hong Yong-ho, as well as 80 of his companions. Bishop Hong was born in Pyongyang in 1906, and was ordained a priest of the local Church in 1933, while Korea was occupied by Japan.

16 August 2014

The data on white anxiety over Hispanic immigration

The data on white anxiety over Hispanic immigration (Washington Post, 14 August 2014)

Immigration crises, erupting like long-dormant volcanoes every few years, have redefined what ‘immigrant’ means to us. These crises cause us to react in deeply personal ways, forging our opinions on what laws we want and whether we will fight for them. The latest round hit Americans like a tidal wave, with tens of thousands of Central American children surging past the U.S.-Mexico border, looking for food, shelter and family. News coverage spiked and sparked scores of protests across the country. Politicians were panned and polls show support fell for more lenient immigration laws. What drives these reactions is not all pretty, according to research studying how we process immigration news. What immigrants look like – and where they come from – changes how we see the issue.

Special Report: The bishop who stood up to China

It was shaping as a win in the Communist Party's quest to contain a longtime nemesis, the Roman Catholic Church. In July 2012, a priest named Thaddeus Ma Daqin was to be ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai. The Communist body that has governed the church for six decades had angered the Holy See by appointing bishops without Vatican approval. Known as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, it was now about to install Ma, one of its own officials, as deputy in China's largest Catholic diocese. "The anticipation was he would be a yes man," says Jim Mulroney, a priest and editor of the Hong Kong-based Sunday Examiner, a Catholic newspaper. Instead, standing before a thousand Catholics and government officials at Saint Ignatius Cathedral, Ma spurned the party: It wouldn't be "convenient" for him to remain in the Patriotic Association, he said. Many in the crowd erupted into thunderous applause. People wept. Ma had switched sides - and a crisis was under way.

The future of Christianity in China: Sino-theology and the pope

Detentions, the kidnapping of bishops, tearing down churches -- these are the actions against Christians China has been guilty of. Even the pope has not been welcome in Chinese airspace in the last few decades. So when Pope Francis was given permission to fly over China on Thursday on his way to South Korea, many saw it as a sign of hope for religious freedom -- especially Catholicism -- in China. The state-run Global Times calls it a sign of "possible détente."

6 facts about South Korea's growing Christian population (Pew Research)

6 facts about South Korea's growing Christian population (Pew Research Center, 12 August 2014)

Pope Francis will travel to South Korea this week for Asian Youth Day, making his third international trip as pontiff. He’ll be visiting a country that has experienced considerable religious change in recent decades. Here are six facts about Christianity in South Korea.

Why South Korea is so distinctively Christian

Why South Korea is so distinctively Christian (The Economist, 12 August 2014)

South Kora, a dynamo of growth, is also afire with faith. This week Pope Francis will spend five days there, for Asian Youth Day and to beatify 124 early martyrs. About 5.4m of South Korea’s 50m people are Roman Catholics. Perhaps 9m more are Protestants, of many stripes. Yoido Full Gospel Church’s 1m members form the largest Pentecostal congregation on Earth. Belief’s farther shores include the Unification Church, soon to mark the anniversary of its founder Sun-myung Moon’s "ascension". The late Yoo Byung-eun, the shifty and versatile tycoon behind the ferry Sewol which sank in April, killing 304 mostly teenage passengers, had also founded his own sect (and the website God.com, now in other hands); its followers hid him during Korea’s largest-ever police man-hunt.

Protesters march through Delhi in support of Dalits

About 200 demonstrators gathered in New Delhi on Tuesday to protest against the treatment of Dalit Christians and Muslims. Wearing black ribbons and holding black flags, the protesters shouted slogans against the federal government and demanded immediate action to resolve discrimination against the ethnic group. Organizers said they were planning a larger protest to demand quotas for non-Hindu Dalits for government jobs and educational opportunities. "The fight against this discrimination needs to be taken to the streets. We need to raise people, not a handful, but hundreds and thousands. Only then the government will wake up," said Alwyn Masih, general secretary of the Church of North India synod.

More Churches Lose Their Crosses Despite Protests

More Churches Lose Their Crosses Despite Protests (New York Times, 14 August 2014)

Crosses have been removed from two more Christian churches this week in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, part of a continuing campaign by the local authorities to lower the profile of the country’s fastest-growing religion.

08 August 2014

Yoga in India vs. Yoga in America

Yoga in India vs. Yoga in America (Seattle Yoga News, 2 August 2014)

Initially, I had no idea what the yoga scene would be like in Seattle and in the U.S. Every day I learned something new. There is so much yoga around here, that it was and continues to be exciting for a yoga geek like me. America is a nation that seems to have an excess of everything, and yoga is no exception. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the differences between yoga in the U.S. and in India and these are a few of my observations.

U.S. Muslim Movement Accepts Once-Taboo Causes

Omar Akersim prays regularly and observes the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast. He is also openly gay. Akersim, 26, is part of a small but growing number of American Muslims challenging the long-standing interpretations of Islam that defined their parents' world. They believe that one can be gay and Muslim; that the sexes can pray shoulder-to-shoulder; that females can preach and that Muslim women can marry outside the faith — and they point to Quran passages to back them up.

The shift comes as young American Muslims work to reshape the faith they grew up with so it fits better with their complex, dual identity, with one foot in the world of their parents' immigrant beliefs and one foot in the ever-shifting cultural landscape of America. The result has been a growing internal dialogue about what it means to be Muslim, as well as a scholarly effort to re-examine the Quran for new interpretations that challenge rules that had seemed set in stone.

Baby Gammy case reveals murky side of commercial surrogacy

The story of baby Gammy and his “surrogate” mother has captured the world’s attention, highlighting just how complex and fraught commercial surrogacy arrangements can be. It also shows Australia is right to prohibit commercial surrogacy – and why other countries should do the same. Gammy was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition. He is a twin, conceived as a result of a commercial surrogacy arrangement between an unidentified Australian couple (the “genetic parents”) and Pattaramon Chanbua, a Thai national whose family was struggling to pay off debts. Ms Chanbua was paid 350,000 baht (A$11,700) to carry and bear a child.

India's female Hindu priests challenge age-old tradition

The devout are seated cross-legged with folded hands, eyes closed, repeating the mantras and verses recited by the priest, who sits behind the haze and smoke of a fire ritual. As the prolonged incantation comes to a close, devotees seek the priest's blessings. But this priest is not the traditional dhoti swathed, head shaven, forehead ash-smeared man, but a charming, graceful and elegant woman, one of the few but ever growing clan of Hindu women priests. V.L. Manjul, research scholar and chief librarian at Pune's Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, estimates that India now has around 1,600 of them. In Maharashtra alone, "some 600 women have been trained as purohits [priests]," he says. Scholars, sociologists and theologians emphasize that no Hindu scripture prevents women from assuming the role of a priest.

Are Church leaders listening to the wake-up calls?

Under John Paul II, any senior priest who showed any independence of thought and action was summarily passed over for promotion in favor of those who were compliant and docile. As a result, we have a timid hierarchy, shy of taking a public stand and eager to show its obsequiousness to the government. Nor have outspoken laymen or women been encouraged either in India. So it may be worth our while to introspect a little and see where most of India’s clergy and hierarchy come from. By and large they come from ‘village and small town India,’ where opting for the priesthood is still a safe passage for upward mobility. Usually, bishops are chosen not for their pastoral abilities, but because they are trained in canon law or theology (most have been seminary professors, not parish priests).

Before War, A Punk Drummer Preserved Syrian Chants

Before the civil war in Syria destroyed ancient religious sites — and scattered some of the oldest Christian communities in the world — Jason Hamacher made several trips there, taking photos and recording ancient Sufi and Christian chants. The project got its start when Hamacher read in a book about "the world's oldest Christian music." He tracked down author William Dalrymple, who told him there were no recordings of the music — and that "it's not a monastery in the desert; it is a Syrian Orthodox church in the middle of the city of Aleppo." Hamacher ended up staying at that church as a guest of the archbishop, who has since been kidnapped by rebels.

Delhi archbishop calls for justice after new attacks on Christians

The archbishop of New Delhi has urged authorities to take more effective measures in combating religiously motivated violence in the wake of an attack on a Christian church in the north Indian state of Haryana. Vandals damaged two school buses parked in the compound of St. Francis Xavier Church in Rohtak district on Wednesday. In a statement issued on Thursday, Archbishop Anil J. Couto expressed concern over this attack and other incidents. “Reports of other attacks on Christian pastors and prayer groups are very disturbing and we request local authorities take adequate measures to bring to book the miscreants threatening to weaken the social fabric of this great nation,” the statement read. He was referring to an attack on a group of pastors belonging to the Pentecostal Church in Sonepat district of the same state last year. The prelate also quoted media reports alleging that Sangh Parivar groups (family of Hindu nationalist organizations) are collecting details of persons who converted to Islam and Christianity in western Uttar Pradesh and plan to carry out shuddhikaran – attempts to re-convert them to Hinduism.

Here's How The U.S. Sparked A Refugee Crisis On The Border, In 8 Simple Steps

The 57,000 children from Central America who have streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border this year were driven in large part by the United States itself. While Democrats and Republicans have been pointing fingers at each other, in reality the current wave of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has its roots in six decades of U.S. policies carried out by members of both parties.

Since the 1950s, the U.S. has sown violence and instability in Central America. Decades of Cold War gamesmanship, together with the relentless global war on drugs, have left a legacy of chaos and brutality in these countries. In many parts of the region, civil society has given way to lawlessness. It's these conditions the children are escaping.

Antisemitism on rise across Europe 'in worst times since the Nazis'

Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is breathing new life into some very old, and very ugly, demons. This is not unusual; police and Jewish civil rights organisations have long observed a noticeable spike in antisemitic incidents each time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares. During the three weeks of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009, France recorded 66 antisemitic incidents, including attacks on Jewish-owned restaurants and synagogues and a sharp increase in anti-Jewish graffiti.But according to academics and Jewish leaders, this time it is different. More than simply a reaction to the conflict, they say, the threats, hate speech and violent attacks feel like the expression of a much deeper and more widespread antisemitism, fuelled by a wide range of factors, that has been growing now for more than a decade.

02 August 2014

James Baldwin's "Open Letter to the Born Again"

James Baldwin's "Open Letter to the Born Again" Originally published in The Nation (29 September 1979). Reprinted in The Nation (23 July 2014).

Jews and Palestinians know of broken promises. From the time of the Balfour Declaration (during World War I) Palestine was under five British mandates, and England promised the land back and forth to the Arabs or the Jews, depending on which horse seemed to be in the lead. The Zionists—as distinguished from the people known as Jews—using, as someone put it, the “available political machinery,’’ i.e., colonialism, e.g., the British Empire—promised the British that, if the territory were given to them, the British Empire would be safe forever.

But the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests. This is what is becoming clear (I must say that it was always clear to me). The Palestinians have been paying for the British colonial policy of “divide and rule” and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience for more than thirty years.

Hundreds of police dismantle cross at Wenzhou church, while fire guts Ningbo cathedral

Hundreds of police took down a church's cross yesterday in Wenzhou, known as "China's Jerusalem" because of its many houses of worship, amid a crackdown on church buildings in the Zhejiang provincial city. Evangelist Qu Linuo said he and about 200 others had rushed to the Longgang Huai En Church to protect the building, but peacefully made way for the police, who used a crane to remove the three-metre red cross from its steeple.

The authorities told the church the cross violated building height limits and returned it to the parishioners, who wept and prayed around it, said Qu, who is a member of another church. Photographs posted on social media showed parishioners holding banners reading: "Anti-graft, anti-corruption, protect religion."

01 August 2014

'We're married, we just don't have sex'

'We're married, we just don't have sex' (The Guardian, 8 September 2008)

'We're married, we just don't have sex' Despite not being physically attracted to other people, Paul Cox, 24, explains how he and his wife found love and happiness as an asexual couple

Related Interest: Asexuals leave the closet, find community (San Francisco Chronicle, 24 August 2009)

Historians slam Dina Nath Batra's books

Historians slam Dina Nath Batra's books (Hindustan Times, 28 July 2014)

Leading Indian historians on Monday slammed former school teacher and activist Dina Nath Batra's books which have been recommended as secondary reading in Gujarat schools, saying they were nothing but works of “fantasy”. Academics say the 85-year-old Batra's books seeking to Indianise education are often factually incorrect. According to media reports, the books contain several moral and political prescriptions such as a proposal to redraw the map of India in line with the right-wing idea of an Akhand Bharat.

Related interest: Lessons on how ‘gau seva’ begets kids, why not to say ‘professor’ (The Indian Express, 28 July 2014)

Why young Chinese Americans don’t go to church?

Why young Chinese Americans don’t go to church? (Studying Congregations, 28 July 2014)

Lying at the intersection of America’s most nonreligious ethnic group and America’s most nonreligious age demographic, young adult Chinese Americans (aged 25-40) are one of the most secular groups in the United States. That is, they are the most likely to be unaffiliated with any institutionalized religion. What are the experiences, assumptions, and values that specifically make church so unappealing to young Chinese Americans?

In an ongoing research project investigating the worldviews of young second-generation nonreligious Chinese Americans, we’ve come across some of the reasons for why, in their own words, they find church unappealing. Despite being surrounded by Christian influences from childhood, these Chinese Americans cite three top reasons that church is not for them.

News Reports & Analysis: Myanmar Buddhist Violence Against Muslim Rohingyas

Selected news reports, op eds and analysis on Myanmar Buddhist monks and violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar: