In the News: It’s grim, but at least there’s a GIF

A round-up of recent religion news. Continue Reading →

Dangerous Temptations

From Nidhal Guessoum’s “New Media and Islam” at HuffPo:

Similarly, the Los Angeles Times recently related the strong reactions expressed by some Iranian clerics and other opinion makers to the youth’s alarming addiction to the web. One cleric warned his students of the “dangers and temptations” of the Internet and advised them to “spend more time praying and less time clicking through cyberspace.” An opposing view, however, was expressed by “an activist and son of a well-known reformist cleric,” who saw no conflict between being a practicing Muslim and using Facebook and social networks; he insisted that “any practicing Muslim can embrace all kinds of modern tools and technology while maintaining his or her faith in Islam.” Continue Reading →

From Birchers to Birthers?

An excerpt from Heather Hendershot‘s new book, What’s Fair on the Air:  Cold War Right-Wing Broadcasting and the Public Interest (Chicago, 2011). 

Hendershot, a professor at Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center, will be reading from What’s Fair TONIGHT, Friday, September 23 at 5 pm at the NYU Bookstore.  Our founding editor, Jeff Sharlet, will be there to talk with Hendershot about her book.  Click here for more details.

Two recurring arguments of this book have been that the broadcast ultras were the embarrassing nuts who had to be left behind for a more legitimate and effective conservative movement to emerge in the 1970s and ’80s, and that contemporary conservatives, while sharing some of the anxieties and presumptions voiced by the cold war extremist broadcasters, are generally much better at couching right-wing ideas in more moderate-sounding rhetoric. The first claim would be hard to deny, but the latter contention may seem a bit more open to debate, especially in the wake of the election of President Obama in 2008 and the ensuing rise of “Tea Party” conservatives in 2009. The Tea Party, a most immoderate (and certainly not unified) group, initially grabbed headlines by marching with picket signs portraying President Obama as Hitler (or the Joker, or a Muslim), calling for a new American “revolation,” and decrying abortion as an American “Hollowcost.”

Angry, white, and mostly male and over forty-five years old, this group—egregious spelling errors aside—has somewhat higher education and income levels than the average American. Tea Party supporters are adamantly opposed to government bailouts specifically, and federal spending in general, although by hollering things like “keep your government hands off my Medicare check!” they sometimes reveal a shallow understanding of what federal spending actually encompasses. There are, of course, also people involved in this grassroots uprising who know how to organize, strategize, and fundraise. This new movement is no laughing matter: it is potentially a powerful force to be reckoned with. Continue Reading →

John Piper v. Rob Bell:Battle for the Soul of Evangelical Christianity?

by Becky Garrison

Rob Bell, a bestselling Christian author and founder of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids became a top trend on Twitter last week after Justin Taylor posted a blog article titled “Rob Bell: Universalist?”  Taylor, vice president at Crossways International, a Christian educational non-profit, based his commentary on select chapters of Bell’s forthcoming book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived that were sent to him and on a promotional video produced to accompany this book’s release on March 29th. Those who picked up on Taylors’ post included bestselling author and Reformed pastor John Piper, who tweeted a succinct “Farewell, Rob Bell.”

The bulk of those generating the ensuing online buzz appear to have reached their conclusions regarding Bell’s book not based on the book itself, which few have actually had the chance to read, but on a position they’ve already taken in the ongoing battles between reformed and progressive (aka emergent) evangelicals. Bell’s detractors claim that he’s abandoned “biblical Christianity” and the belief that only Christians can enter heaven. Instead, he’s charged with adopting universalism, a concept which states that everyone will eventually be saved.  In other words, critics claim, what’s at stake is nothing short of Bell’s soul and those of his followers and readers. Continue Reading →

Christmas Island: Refugee Politics and an Orphan

by Nasya Bahfen

It was not nearly as dramatic as the footage beamed around the world of thousands of jubilant Egyptians celebrating in Tahrir Square, but the image of nine year old Seena Akhlaqi Sheikhdost caused a quiet revolution in Australia this week. Last December, the flimsy boat carrying Seena and up to a hundred Iranian, Kurdish and Iraqi asylum seekers smashed into a rocky cliff on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island in the Indian ocean. Seena survived the shipwreck. His parents and brother did not. In early February, the first of the victims were buried in Sydney, including Seena’s father (the bodies of his mother and brother have not been found). Over and over again, Australians saw on television and in the newspapers gut-wrenching images of Seena’s face crumpled up in tears watching his father laid to rest in a traditional Muslim funeral, as members of his Sydney-based extended family tried in vain to console him.

The issue of asylum seekers who arrive by boat is a fiercely divisive one. It is played out in the media through a paradigm of xenophobia (those seeking refugee status have largely been Middle Eastern, at a time when the nature and legitimacy of Islam’s presence in Australia is being questioned); exaggeration about the size of the problem compared to, say, illegal immigrants who arrive by plane and overstay their visas; and false claims about the supposed entitlements of the overwhelming majority of boat arrivals who are ultimately found to be genuine refugees. Continue Reading →

Breadth of View

From the introduction to Witness, a publication of Black Mountain Institute, volume XXIII (2010), “Captured:  Writing about Film and Photography”:

As we sought manuscripts for ‘Captured: Writing About Film and Photography,’ these questions resonated deeply with the material we collected: How does the lens shape our vision? How does the act of filming affect our behavior? Our writing? How do we represent our ideas about how representations are made, and what, if anything, does this tell us about ourselves as readers? About the (post)modern creative process? And in what ways does the modern writer utilize tropes and familiar trajectories from the worlds of film, movies, photography, and video to express his or her own breadth of view?

Continue Reading →