In the News: Hasidim, Mormons, Borges, and more!

Recent Contributors to The Revealer 

Jenna Krajeski studies the lives of drones in popular culture in Grim Reapers” for The Nation.

In recent years, not just in novels but in movies, television, poetry, video games and the visual arts, drones have taken on a life of their own. As a character, they are menacing, melancholy or gallant; beastly, blind, snub-nosed, noisy and fast—Predators and Reapers in real life, “Helicarriers” in Hollywood. They are the oversize hook at the end of a joystick, a militarized, antiseptic video game characterized by precision; or they are a weapon system proliferating at a breathtaking rate, and leaving a trail of destruction behind. They show off the military talent of their users, or they are an expression of unbridled hubris. They represent protection or extermination—and they carry out both things at once.

Founder of The Revealer, Jeff Sharlet‘s, new Instagram journalism was featured in “The Writer Who’s Using Longform to Take Instagram to the Next Level” by Eric Sullivan in GQ.

Sharlet went shoe leather. He began interviewing strangers, taking their snapshots, and composing beautifully wrought essays to accompany the images. (The app’s character limit on descriptions, it turns out, is 2,200 characters, or around 400 words.) On September 25th, he posted on Twitter: “It’s so simple. Hang out someplace. Ask people if you can take their picture. Phone, point, shoot. Talk to them. Voila! A true story.” And then, yesterday on Facebook: “These Instagram essays aren’t distractions from my work. They’re becoming my work.”

Brook Wilensky-Lanford does the hard work of generous rethinking in “Karen Armstrong, Caped Anti-Anti-Muslim Crusader?” for Religion Dispatches. 

But although a suspicion towards universalism has stuck with me to this day, I find myself feeling more warmly toward Armstrong’s work this time around. Fields of Blood has elements of Armstrong’s patented smooth-edged history. But it’s framed as a direct retort to the argument, often leveled by New Atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, that religion causes war.

Mary Valle sets the record straight on hipster preachers in “Carl Lentz Superstar” for Killing the Buddha.

I hate to burst your bubble, all news organizations that breathlessly report on the “hipster” preacher with his “rock concert-like” services, but…Catholics and Protestants alike began rocking out in the late 60s with slide shows, guitars and occasional dry ice.


In New York

In “Inside Hasidic FashionAsha Leo goes to Crown Heights to learn about Hasidic fashion designers Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik’s modest clothing line Mimu Maxi.

Rachel Aviv has a powerful and thorough account of a what happened when an Hasidic man exposed sexual abuse in his Brooklyn community in “The Outcast.”

Kellner was still consumed by the case. It was as though he believed that if he recited the details enough times he might figure out exactly what had happened. Since his case, he said, the rabbis had become even less willing to permit victims to go to the police. Recently, when a father whose daughter had been molested asked for advice, Kellner told him, “If you go to the police, you’re probably going to end up with zero.”


In The United States

Miriam Gedwiser uses the Hebrew Bible to critique a Fort Lauderdale law prohibiting residents from feeding the homeless in “Slouching Toward Sodom” in The Times of Israel.

But what, precisely, was Sodom’s sin?  In American political/religious discourse it is generally presumed to be sexual, and specifically homosexual.  In the Torah, however, the wickedness of Sodom stems more from the fact that they wish to harm the visitors than from the particular means chosen.

Jews for Jesus has a opened up a new channel for proselytizing, “Kosher Joe.”

Hey, I’m Joe, my friends call me “Kosher” Joe – that’s because I’m Jewish and I care about being… well, kosher. And I’m Kosher sometimes, but not really. It’s only fair to tell you that some people say I’m not kosher at all. And they’re not talking about the food I eat or don’t eat… watch my episodes so I can explain.

Jia Tolentino‘sThe Truth About Witches” interview with Katherine Howe on Jezebel is fun and insightful.

Witchcraft is very much about power, and we continue to be interested in it because of that! Of course, what is threatening to an early modern religious system is not threatening in the same way today. We have different sources of authority. Back then, there was no difference between government and church and science; today, we’ve split those loci, but that question of power is still one of the reasons we find witches so intoxicating and enticing. What they represent is incredibly exciting: the idea that you have a set of secret powers that no one can perceive.

Amanda Marcotte examines why it’s a big deal that “The Mormon Church Finally Acknowledges Joseph Smith’s Polygamy” in Slate.

So why is this happening now? There are several reasons for this new emphasis on transparency, but as Goodstein writes, the Web is a big one: “The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Not only are we learning more about Mormon marriage thanks to the Internet, the Church of Latter-Day Saints has also recently opened up about underwear, reports Emma Green in The Atlantic, “Mormon Underwear, Revealed.”

Known as temple garments, the inner layer of clothing worn by many observant Mormons has been an object of non-Mormon curiosity for nearly two centuries, in large part because the Church has intentionally kept information about the garments private. Or at least until today, when the LDS church released a video on its website explaining the ritual purpose of temple garments, requesting that non-Mormons and members of the media to treat “Latter-day Saint temple garments as they would religious vestments of other faiths. Ridiculing or making light of sacred clothing is highly offensive to Latter-day Saints.”

In “Dispatch from the Front Lines of Orthodox Jewish Feminism” DeDe Jacobs-Komiar writes about contemporary uses and abuses of the mikveh for The Toast. 

Before Mayyim Hayyim, there was hardly anywhere in the world where an openly genderqueer or trans person, an LGBT couple, or even a bat/bar mitzvah girl or boy could immerse. Now it’s a normal, daily occurrence, here and at a growing number of community mikvehs around the globe. We’ve unlocked this ritual and given it back to the people.

In the World

Thomas Fuller reports that “The Right to Say ‘God’ Divides a Diverse Nation” for the New York Times. 

Malaysia, with its collage of ethnic groups and religions, has a long history of tensions over issues ranging from dietary differences to the economic preferences enshrined in Malaysian law for the Malay Muslim majority.

But there is probably no dispute more fundamental and more emotionally charged than who owns the word God.

Glenn H Shephard Jr. reviews The Falling Sky by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert, translated from the French by Nicholas Elliott and Alison Dundy in “The Voice of the Shaman” for the New York Review of Books.

The Falling Sky is several things. It is the autobiography of Davi Kopenawa, one of Brazil’s most prominent and eloquent indigenous leaders. It is the most vivid and authentic account of shamanistic philosophy I have ever read. It is also a passionate appeal for the rights of indigenous people and a scathing condemnation of the damage wrought by missionaries, gold miners, and white people’s greed. The footnotes alone harbor monographs on Yanomami botany and zoology, mythology, ritual, and history.

Simran Jeet Singh argued in Time that “It’s Time India Accept Responsibility for Its 1984 Sikh Genocide.”

If we were to accurately update the language we use to describe the anti-Sikh violence, maybe we could then finally begin a proper discussion about accountability and reparations. Acknowledging the malicious intent underlying the massacres is the first step towards reconciliation.

And then gave a talk at The White House entitled: “Guru Nanak at the White House

WenZhou gives a detailed account of the current status of religion in China in “Cracks in the atheist edifice” for The Economist. 

Christianity is hard to control in China, and getting harder all the time. It is spreading rapidly, and infiltrating the party’s own ranks. The line is blurring between house churches and official ones, and Christians are starting to emerge from hiding to play a more active part in society. The Communist Party has to find a new way to deal with all this. There is even talk that the party, the world’s largest explicitly atheist organisation, might follow its sister parties in Vietnam and Cuba and allow members to embrace a dogma other than—even higher than—that of Marx.

Any shift in official thinking on religion could have big ramifications for the way China handles a host of domestic challenges, from separatist unrest among Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs in the country’s west to the growth of NGOs and “civil society”—grassroots organisations, often with a religious colouring, which the party treats with suspicion, but which are also spreading fast.

Deepa Kumar writes about “Imperialist Feminism and liberalism” for Open Democracy.

What explains this tendency among liberals to take positions that go against the interests of Muslim women and women of color? While there are numerous factors, two are worth noting—racism and empire.


Jason Motlagh reports for Al Jazeera on the Royingya Muslims of Burma in: “Outcase: Adrift with Burma’s Rohingya.

With xenophobic currents on the rise across Burma, the inflow of refugees is not about to slow anytime soon. The government refuses to recognise them as citizens and there is still no talk of Rohingya returning home.

Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation writes about “Science, Religion, and the Assumptions We Make” for The Huffington Post.

One of the great advantages of being a Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Observatory is that, since we are supported by the Church, we don’t have to worry about writing proposals, sitting on committees or even teaching classes. We can concentrate on doing interesting, long-term scientific projects.

The New York Review of Books published a conversation between Jorge Louis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari entitled: “Borges and God.”

Borges: At times I feel, how can I put it? Mysteriously grateful. When I have an idea that will later, sadly, become a story or a poem, I have a sensation of receiving something. But I do not know if that “something” is given to me by something or someone or if it bursts out on its own.

Patton Dodd counts “15 Ways the Onion Tells 1 Joke About God” for Faithstreet.

Actually, most God-humor at The Onion is is driven by the classic theological problem of theodicy: If God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? How can a good God allow bad things to happen? The Onion plays with these questions by answering them the same way every time, “God isn’t good. He’s evil. And the joke is on us.”

Megan Garber writes that “Interstellar Isn’t About Religion (and Also It Is Totally About Religion)” for The Atlantic.

The latest to explore the spiritual implications of space is Hollywood’s reigning philosopher-poet, Christopher Nolan, and his reigning philosophy-film.

Lastly, Look at this fucking martyr.



– Kali Handelman, Editor, The Revealer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *