This graphic is designed to explain how to talk to newcomers at a church coffee hour after services without offending anyone or scaring away potential members. While put together by the Unitarian Universalists, it has wide application not just in religious communities but in any group where newcomers are entering into conversation with veteran members.
“It is time for Christians, true followers of Jesus Christ, to rise up and say NO to satan this November! As I prophetically shared last November, if God allowed the upcoming election for President to be between President Obama and Mitt Romney, it would truly be satan flipping a two-headed coin with his head on both sides!”
Given this dilemma the website states,
“I am encouraging true followers of Jesus Christ to say NO to satan and say YES to Jesus! This November, write in the name JESUS for President!”
On the other hand there is this song by Woody Guthrie:
“Christ for President”
Let’s have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That you call the Nazarene
The only way we can ever beat
These crooked politician men
Is to run the money changers out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in
O It’s Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and a pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring
Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars
But with the Carpenter on the seat
Way up in the Capital town
The USA would be on the way
How utterly American, two radically contrasting diverse views of the intersection between religion and politics.
“Emory Confronts Legacy of Bias Against Jews” read the line on the New York Times website. I was quite surprised especially when I went on to read the article which detailed the efforts by the Emory dental school to rid itself of Jewish students under a dean who was there from 1948-1961. The actions taken were quite blatant including telling Jewish students with excellent grades that they had failed out of the school.
On second thought, I wonder why I was surprised. I had read about Ivy League quotas for Jewish students. I had heard stories from Jewish friends’ parents about not being able to go certain places or join certain clubs in the city where I grew up. So, why would I expect a prominent university to be exempt from the cultural currents of the time. I think it must be the lens through which I view colleges as a high school teacher. Because schools like Emory are schools many students strive valiantly to get into, I assume that they are wonderful places, paragons of learning and openness. This is the old flaw of conflating popularity with excellence. Certainly many popular schools and other institutions are excellent, but that does not make them wart free.
I just need to remember that the histories of many schools, many of them quite elite, have some less than pleasant chapters. Consider for example Brown University’s examination of significant benefactors (including those after whom the school was named) and their ties to the slave trade.
Clearly I have not spent enough time studying fast food packaging. I just became aware the In-N-Out Burger puts Bible verses on its packaging.
No one seems to mind. When I lived in California, I knew lots of secular burger fans of various stripes who did not seem to mind the proselytizing wrappings. Now I want to go and see what verses they use besides the ones pictured above. I wonder if they do anything with the Sermon on the Mount and blessing the poor? How about some Leviticus? Perhaps some Job? I do wonder what would happen if there were references to religious texts from other traditions. Would it freak people out to have a Koranic reference? What about a reference from a sacred text (Hindu perhaps) that promoted vegetarianism? Oh the possibilities.
I’m all for diversity and having a big tent, but why exactly did the Democrats leave God out of the platform? The error was fixed through an emergency amendment process. For a moment there, though, the Democrats had the atheist, the agnostic, and the separation of church and state vote locked up. Unfortunately, all those votes combined would not counteract those lost by the omission of God.
Now, is there a footnote stating all the possible names for God or is the assumption that this God in the platform the same God as worshiped by all other monotheistic faiths? I guess the polytheistic faiths are out of luck unless it reads God(s). I guess my prior Unitarian Universalist affiliation is shining through.
Packages of bacon were left in a Staten Island park where Muslims were to pray celebrating the end of Ramadan This possible taunting and racial harassment is being investigated as a hate crime by the NYC police. The park was the gathering place of 1,500 for the celebration. The bacon was discovered before the event which was then moved. However, now someone has called a local newspaper and stated that they just left the bacon there for the raccoons, gulls and other animals to eat and had no hateful intent. I do not really believe the caller is legitimate as he or she also said the bacon was in the trunk of the car going bad so it was dumped in the park. Who keeps bacon in the trunk of of their car until it is on the verge of spoilage? Also, it just happened to be dumped in a park where a large, sacred event was to take place–highly suspicious. While at first I thought the idea of going out of one’s way to taunt Muslims with bacon a bit odd and surreal, not to mention requiring some knowledge of the faith, I guess there are people out there who might come up with such a scheme.
Back in American history there was intense anti-Catholic prejudice. The Klan along with its racist beliefs also promoted anti-Catholic views. Popular beliefs included the idea that Catholics could not be trusted because they were loyal to the Pope rather than to American institutions. When John F. Kennedy ran for president, he had to overcome this bias and assure the populace that his loyalties were not divided. Now Catholics are accepted as part of the political mainstream with individuals such as Paul Ryan and Antonin Scalia achieving high levels of influence and acclaim.
Could such an evolution happen with Muslims in America? Could they go from being seen in many ways as foreign and beholden to foreign powers to being accepted even celebrated members of the American community, received without a second glance. Could the experience of being a Muslim candidate for office become no different than being a member of any other faith?
This piece by Eboo Patel for a CNN blog suggests that this trajectory is possible. I wonder, however, about two factors. The first is 9/11. There was never a massive attack on an essential American landmark by a band of terrorists bound together by their Catholicism. There were wars in Europe that had religious components, but that animosity had time and space to die down in America. The second factor is race. A majority of the Catholics being accepted into American society are white. The Muslims come from many different backgrounds but do not generally come across as white. I would like to say this racial factor would not be a barrier, but it might be.
I hope that I live long enough for this parallel acceptance to occur, but I do wonder if it will.
I have seen and heard that on his bus trip in Iowa Barack Obama has been consuming and beer and talking about beer consumption. In fact one piece talks of his offering a bottle of the beer brewed at the White House to a person he met. In most elections, this sequence of events would just be part of the I am an average person message which any candidate must send.
But for this election the uptake in alcohol emphasis makes me wonder. NPR mentioned today that Romney is teetotaler, abstinence from alcohol being a tenet of the Mormon faith. Could it be Obama strategy to distinguish himself in this way? He is an average guy who drinks beer while Romney is an abstemious outsider? On an even more subtle level is this a way to twist the religion narrative so that instead of being on the receiving end of hints that he is a secret Muslim, Obama can turn the tables and show the he represents heartland Christianity while Romney adheres to a foreign faith that goes against an essential element of middle class American life?
To be honest, I would not put such symbolic, subconscious code work past campaign professionals on either side. As an Obama fan, though, I am torn. I admire what might be a crafty strategy, but it could also be a Machiavellian play on religious intolerance.
I am currently reading Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein for first time in preparation for teaching it in the fall. While I am enjoying it on many levels, the few passages addressing Middle Eastern and Asian individuals are a problem.
When Victor is recovering and studying with his friend Clerval who is interested in “Persian, Arabic, and Hebrew,” Frankenstein reads “the orientalists” and finds:
“Their melancholy is soothing, and their joy elevating, to a degree I never experienced in studying the authors of any other country. When you read their writings, life appears to consist in a warm sun and a garden of roses,—in the smiles and frowns of a fair enemy, and the fire that consumes your own heart. How different from the manly and heroical poetry of Greece and Rome!”
Later on the creature Frankenstein created talks listening to a reading of a history text stating:
“I heard of the slothful Asiatics; of the stupendous genius and metal activity of the Grecians…”
In addition, the family the creature resides next to is in its reduced situation due to being betrayed by a “treacherous Turk” whose daughter Safie is only redeemed because she abandons her father, follows her mother’s Christianity and possesses ”an independence of spirit forbidden to the female followers of Mahomet [sic].”
These passages are not essential to the main themes of the text and could easily be ignored in discussing the book as I focused instead on romanticism, monsters, and multiple allusions. However, I am concerned for students, particularly those who might see themselves or their families or communities in the groups stereotyped by Shelley. I wonder what doing a ten minute sidebar discussion of the stereotypes would achieve? In some ways that might at least show that I am aware of the passages potential offense, but would it have any real deeper meaning? The best idea I have is to weave the issue of stereotypes into a consideration of the way we create and label people as “other,” a tendency that the creature also represents.