In the News: Apps, Apologies, Apocalypse and more!

via @kyrah

via @kyrah

First up this month,


The Latest Battle for Religious Women: Quran Recitation Apps That Don’t Include Female Voices” by Miriam Krule at Slate.

On Ramadan—which began on June 17 and continues for 30 days—Muslims read from the Quran each evening during the optional Tarawih prayers. The holy text is divided into 30 sections so that it can be finished in its entirety over the course of the month. Listening to it every night, Lamptey, an assistant professor of Islam and ministry at Union Theological Seminary in New York, realized female reciters were missing. She has been tweeting about this stark lacuna with the hashtag#AddAFemaleReciter. Despite the app’s lack of women, she likes the quality of the recitations and the ability to highlight passages and search for words, which is why she recommends Quran Explorer to students and fellow Muslims—and why she wants them to do better.

Egyptian Artist Wael Shawky is Pulling the Strings of Crusade and Jihad at MoMA PS1” from G. Roger Denson at Huffington Post. 

This year, however, MoMA’s Klaus Biesenbach, always a courageous if scandal-prone curator, sought to pry open the closure on art that is topically faith-based when he brought Egyptian artist and filmmaker, Wael Shawky’s film trilogy, Cabaret Crusades, to MoMA PS1. Although the films decline to make religious claims for Islam or any other faith apart from those central to the unfolding historical drama, substantial representation of the primary rituals and expectations of Islam — the Hajj to Mecca, the observance of the feast of Ashoura, the militant imperative of choosing between conversion or death — inform central and deciding scenes however impartial, yet passionate in presentation.

German TV to air Muslim prayers in historic broadcast” reports Basma Atassi for Al Jazeera. 

…the broadcast will be part of a wider two-hour coverage on the Muslim holiday that will include the sermon, narration of the Islam’s holy book Quran, Islamic chanting, and speeches by Christian Catholic and Protestant priests.

Lastly, Alan Taylor has collected some excellent “Images of Ramadan 2015” for The Atlantic. We especially like this one:

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters


Ayelet Shani declares “I’m an icon in the Haredi world‘” in Haaretz.

Marlyn Vinig, lecturer and cinema researcher, says ultra-Orthodox films are a genre in their own right, made by and intended for women.

Tom Teicholz interviews Yair Assulin about “A New Spirit in Israeli Culture” in The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Is your creative life in fiction ever in conflict with your religious life and observance?

I don’t think it should because I write about everything. My writing is very in-your-face. I believe that everything that exists in the world has a place in my literature. I don’t censor myself in the worlds I create. In my second novel, I wrote about a religious society, but I talked about all the sexual conflicts and so on. This is life; you can’t ignore it. The Bible is full of stories like this. If you ignore it, then what you write becomes flat and not interesting.

And Jonathan Paul Katz asks, “Can a Non-Zionist Synagogue Succeed — and Spread?”  at The Forward.

…there’s also something new and very “millennial” in Tzedek Chicago’s mission statement. It frames Judaism as something modern and “beyond” typical tropes: “a Judaism beyond nationalism”; “a Judaism beyond borders.” Membership is not barred to those in relationships with non-Jews or to their non-Jewish partners; the membership fee is kept low in an era of growing fees; solidarity with social justice movements is considered a core aspect of the congregational mission.


First up, this week in Pope news:

In Bolivia, Pope Francis Apologizes for Church’s ‘Grave Sins” report Jim Yardley and William Neuman in The New York Times. 

Pope Francis offered a direct apology on Thursday for the complicity of the Roman Catholic Church in the oppression of Latin America during the colonial era, even as he called for a global social movement to shatter a “new colonialism” that has fostered inequality, materialism and the exploitation of the poor.

A Radical Vatican?” by Naomi Klein for The New Yorker. 

In his introduction, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See press office, describes me as a “secular Jewish feminist”—a term I used in my prepared remarks but never expected him to repeat. Everything else Father Lombardi says is in Italian, but these three words are spoken slowly and in English, as if to emphasize their foreignness.

After the press conference, a journalist from the U.S. tells me that she has “been covering the Vatican for twenty years, and I never thought I would hear the word ‘feminist’ from that stage.”

It’s worth also reading Greg Williams‘ radical reality check,”Feminism and the Politics of ‘Our Common Home‘” for Political Theology Today. 

Pope Francis is right. Everything is interconnected. That is precisely why those of us in the environmental and Christian Left movements cannot settle for his encyclical. We cannot settle for a commitment to environmental justice without a commitment to sexuality and gender justice, or for a movement that is not feminist, queer positive, and trans inclusive from its foundation. We cannot settle, in short, for anything less than total freedom, anything less than the complete abolition of every system of domination, and the establishment of God’s reign of love on earth. Amen, come Lord Jesus!

Bemused Or Irritated? Pope Reacts to Gift of ‘Communist Crucifix‘” by Scott Nueman for NPR.

Pope Francis normally receives all gifts with a polite thanks and smile. But the pontiff’s reaction earlier this week when Bolivia’s president gave him a crucifix in the shape of a communist hammer and sickle is open to interpretation.

Osservatore Romano/AP

Osservatore Romano/AP

In non-papal church news,

Mormonism and the Problem of Jon Krakauer” by Max Perry Mueller for Religion & Politics.

The fact that the LDS Church hasn’t been able to shake off the scarlet letter of polygamy has a lot to do with, I would argue, the continuing popularity of Under the Banner of Heaven. This is what I call the “Krakauer problem”: more than twelve years after it was first published, and after Romney’s presidential campaigns helped make Mormonism an acceptable American religion, Under the Banner of Heaven remains the definitive book on Mormon history in popular culture. Under the Banner of Heaven spent months on The New York Times bestseller list, and it is still ranked number one on Amazon’s bestsellers in the “Mormonism” list. Its popularity is also reflected at social events—even social events with other scholars of religion. When historians of Mormon history like me explain what they study, most of those who have read one book on the faith will tell us that they’ve read Under the Banner of Heaven. And, as Krakauer himself intended, they will also tell us that they understand it to be not only an exposé of Mormon fundamentalism, but also a reliable history of the origins of the LDS Church, too. 

Activist who took down Confederate flag drew on her faith and on new civil rights awakening” by Jesse James DeConto for Religion News Service. 

As she prepared for her mission — scaling the 30-foot flagpole outside the South Carolina Statehouse to bring down the Confederate flag — Bree Newsome reread the biblical story of David and Goliath.

Thomas J. Whitley writes about “Religious Dog Whistling in Scott Walker’s Announcement Speech” in the Marginalia Review of Books.

While the religious politics of Scott Walker’s presidential announcement are less glaring than that of others in the field, they are still present and must not be overlooked. His understated approach will play better more broadly while still offering plenty for the evangelical voter, if only he knows what to listen for. This may not be dog-whistle politics at its finest, but I suspect that it will prove an effective strategy.

A Pilgrimage to America’s Burnt Churches” by Jared Yates Sexton for The Atticus Review.

There’s no way to explain what it’s like to stare into the gutted remains of a burnt church. The mind works desperately to reconstruct the roof, to reassemble the ruined boards, to recreate the shattered and melted windows, while the heart struggles to understand how somebody could ever be responsible for something so vile.

And, finally, “First Watch: Rhiannon Giddens’ Stunning Charleston Response” by Katie Presley for NPR.

“Cry No More,” a new song released solely as a one-take, live video and written in direct response to the Charleston shooting last month, features only Giddens’ haunting frame drum, her voice and a choir that echoes her. Its genre delineations apply more to the human condition than to music. This song is about black suffering at white hands, so it’s the blues. It’s about a distinctly, inescapably American problem, so it’s American roots. It’s a plea to forces greater than any one person and any one voice, so it’s gospel.


First up, a couple of quizzes:

Luke Lewis and Paul Curry ask “Heavy Metal Lyric Or Bible Verse?

And Josh Worth texts to see if you can tell the different between excerpts from memoirs by first time parents and ones from post-apocalyptic novels in “Your World Will Never be the Same.”

…We took turns on night watch while the other tried to claim a few minutes of much-needed rest.

Mary Valle suspects that “Netflix Knows Me” and she has proof in Killing the Buddha. 

I was browsing Instant Watcher last night and this crazy thing happened. There were all these movies that were literally about me! I was like “what is the Universe trying to tell me?”

A Video Featuring Snoop Dogg Has Caused Uproar Among Religious Group in India” reports Time.

Members of the Parsi Zoroastrian community in Calcutta have filed a petition in a local high court against the music video for the song “King” by Amitis featuring Snoop Dogg, calling it blasphemous and disrespectful toward their faith, the Times of India reports.

India’s third-gender ‘hijra’ community balances acceptance with religious identity” from Yasmine Canga-Valles and Olivia Lace-Evans for Religion News Service. 

“Hijras are resistant to all categories,” said Katherine Ewing, a professor of religion at Columbia University in New York and coordinator of the Master of Arts Program in the South Asia Institute.  “There is not a real orthodoxy in this community but rather a local inheritance of practices. The community was at first created because it was seen as a threat to everyday gendered order.”

For Love of God, Love of Laughing: An interview with Okey Ndibe”  by Shobana Shankar for Africa is a Country.

Foreign Gods, Inc. is the rare novel that makes you laugh about religion. A young Nigerian named Ike has graduated with honors from the prestigious Amherst College in Massachusetts, but is forced to drive a taxi in New York City. He is not only broke, he is wracked with guilt, the kind that any good (or bad) Christian, Muslim, Hindu, pagan, or otherwise can understand: he has strayed from his family who sacrificed everything to send him to the United States and is regularly bothered about it via email by his sister, Nkiru. 

Sikh Postman at Disney World Wins Fight to Work in View of Guests” by Sarah Begley for Time. 

Gurdit Singh has worked at Disney World since 2008, when he was assigned to one delivery route that is not visible to the park’s guests. Other post workers, he said, are rotated through different routes where they can be seen by the public. He said the company told him the reason for the discrepancy was that he violated a “look policy” because his “costume” did not match what the Florida park was looking for. Singh took this to be a comment on his ethnic and religious appearance.

Scripture for a Dead God” by Edward Simon for Killing the Buddha. 

Whitman’s theology was large; it contained multitudes, and a characteristic American enthusiasm that is not only pluralistic, but also promiscuous, if not queer. We do not reject these past gods; Whitman did not. We take what is useful in them and we discard the rest. From the detritus of their pronouncements he fashions a new system, lest we be enslaved by those of another man. The great “I AM!” may now be silent, the fiery Tetragrammaton’s voice now mute and silent, but Whitman has proven it is still possible to write scripture. This fact alone may be Leaves of Grass’s most important lesson, that the oracles need not be dumb even if God is dead, that we may still deliver supplication even if the kosmos is silent, a lesson that in and of itself may be as important as anything contained in scriptures new or old. Walt Whitman was a christ, for he taught us that we are all christs.

In “Sing the Glory of the Smoke: The Spiritual History of Jazz” Andrew Aghapour interviews Jason Bivins about his new book, Spirits Rejoice!: Jazz and American Religion.

There are thousands of people living out their lives in ways that seem to reflect theoretical conversations that we have elsewhere; a kind of resistance to attributions, a poetic playfulness, even as these are combined with immensely embodied concrete forms. All of this situated in the complex history of religion and racial representation in the United States. So I was overjoyed to find that there was so much similarity in these practices and the challenge was to transcribe them in what I think are historically, scholarly, but also poetically interesting ways.

Lastly, “Photos from New York’s Annual Gathering of Witches” by Farah Al Qasimi for Vice.

Photo by Farah Al Qasimi

Photo by Farah Al Qasimi


We’ll be taking a break from the round-up next week, but we look forward to seeing you again in August!


Past links round-ups can be found here:

Heathens, Hymns, and Holy Men (July 8, 2015)

#LoveWins, #TakeItDown, #WhoIsBurningBlackChurches (July 2, 2015)

Racism, Ramadan, Romanian Witches, and more! (June 25, 2015)

Emanuel A.M.E., Encyclicals, Etsy, and more! (June 19, 2015)

Satanism, Sacred Music, Shasta Seekers, and more! (June 11, 2015)

Hip Hop, Hijabs, Hasidic Fashion, and more! (June 5, 2015)

TLC, THC, OMG! (May 29, 2015)

Mad Men, Mormons, Monks, and more! (May 22, 2015)

Candles, Kombucha, Crocodiles, and more! (May 15, 2015)

Lindsey Graham, Garland, TX, God’s Plaintiff, and more! (May 8, 2015)

Pamela Geller, Prophesy, PEN, and more! (May 1, 2015)

Talal Asad, Taylor Swift, Turbans, and more! (April 2015)

Passover, Prison, Pop Music, and more! (March 2015)

The Crusades, Anti-Vaxxers, Chocolate Gods, and  more! (February 2015)

Paris, Witches, the CNN Apocalypse, and more! (January 2015)

#black lives matter, #Illridewithyou, TL;DR Bible Stories, and more! (December 2014)

Hasidim, Mormons, Borges and more! (November 2014)

Wicca, Climate Change, Gaza, and more! (August 2014)

Prison Churches, Museums, and, of course, Hobby Lobby (July 2014)


-Kali Handelman, Editor, The Revealer

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