Friday, March 12, 2010 3:07 PM
A thankful nod to American RadioWorks and Third Coast International Audio Festival for digging up Trey Kay’s audio documentary “The Great Textbook War” in the midst of shiver-inducing news from Texas, where right-wing activists who dominate the Texas Board of Education are attempting to rewrite U.S. textbook curricula.
The audio documentary revisits the 1974 national media frenzy over one West Virginia school board’s deliberations on which textbooks to employ, pivoting on conservative Christian belief systems. Violent protests ensued and vehement coverage spread through national media outlets for months.
The listening experience here is rich, thanks to a deep well of archived press recordings and original interviews. Kay’s biography also informs the story: He was a seventh grade student in Kanawha County when the war broke out. It didn’t matter then, or now, that Kanawha’s population is slight, around 191,000 in 2008, even though it houses the state’s capitol: America loves the allegory of its small-town self demonstrating the sentiments and antics of the country as a whole. But when the sediment of media flurry settles, the ’74 textbook war and the current battle in Texas are both debates about degrees of mediating information and opinions in the school's domain. One Kanawa parent testifying on tape in 1974 hits a resonant note in each era’s textbook war: “If I have been successful as a parent, nothing my children can read in school will hurt them.”
“Revisionaries,” Washington Monthly
“How Christian were the Founders?” New York Times Magazine
“Textbook Diplomacy, Part One & Two,” BBC World Service Documentaries
Monday, January 21, 2008 5:21 PM
The gender-specific words “Father,” “King,” and “Lord” are often used in hymn and liturgy when referring to a Christian God. Feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, interviewed in U.S. Catholic magazine, is trying to change that. Johnson objects to more than the perception of God as a male (read: worldly and finite) being. She also takes issue with the paternalistic view of religion that the words instill. According to Johnson, the gendered language reinforces outdated perceptions of God that are straining the vital connection between people and spirituality.
This strain on people's spirituality, according to Johnson, runs through two common yet conflicting views of Christianity. Many Christians believe in God either as as a guiding parental force, or as a mysterious, supreme being. And both views are incomplete. Treating God as a parent or “Father,” with a give-and-take relationship based on maxims and obligations, can give people an accessible view of faith and duty. The problem is, according to Johnson, it reduces God to a mere idol. On the other hand, Johnson believes that worshipping a “theistic” God or “Lord,” whose involvement in our lives is minimal, is equally damaging.
A balanced view is of a God incarnate, who is present in every aspect of the world without being of it. That balance is difficult to find, Johnson concedes, but it’s necessary for a fulfilling religious existence.
Monday, January 21, 2008 10:59 AM
Getting in touch with your spiritual side just got tastier with the release of Geez magazine’s winter Taste Issue. The fiercely independent, Utne Independent Press Award-nominated, Canadian Christian magazine showcases its mischievous yet insightful style, covering social, political, and religious ideas, this time through a food-smattered lens. In the issue, Dan Wiens explores common perceptions of farming and the distance people have created between food and its source. Elsewhere, Barbara Kingsolver discusses growing up in the farming sect of the American "caste system" in an excerpt from her latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. The articles track food from the North American table, through the myriad channels of distribution, and back to production. They also examine the global tremors created by each of these steps. Mmm…gastro politics.
Monday, December 17, 2007 5:45 PM
With no burning bushes available, many people of faith are turning on their cell phones to stay in touch with God. Muslims are using cell-phone software to help find the direction toward Mecca for prayer, Elizabeth Biddlecome writes for Wired. Christians organizations are trying out the mobile technology too, according to Biddlecome, with Bible verses available via text message, or a “Thought of the Day” from the Pope sent directly to Catholics' pockets. Not to be outdone, the Associated Press (via MSNBC) reports that Orthodox Jews can now buy “kosher” cell phones, able to block both text messages and phone sex lines.
As religious groups embrace technology, major changes are occurring in the way the devout worship. In the future, people may begin to turn their phones on, rather than off, when entering places of worship. And when theologians struggle with technological problems, the question becomes, “Can God get cell reception in my basement?”
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