4/29/2011 12:33:11 PM
Some of our UIPA nominees for Body/Spirit coverage have chimed in on two of the issues dominating headlines across the country. (No, not the royal wedding. If you’re looking for an appropriate response to that, there’s this headline from Democracy Now! that pretty much sums it up: “Frenzy around Britain’s Royal Wedding ‘Should Embarrass Us All.’”)
First, Valerie Elverton Dixon at Sojournersstruggles with being a Christian when it comes to what she feels is an appropriate response to Donald Trump’s obsession (read: media ploy) with Obama’s birth certificate.
It is the moments when I am most angry and most disappointed in particular people and circumstances that I find it very, very difficult to be a Christian….When commentators asked why the president had not [released his long-form birth certificate] sooner, I screamed back at my television: “Why should he have to do it at all?”
Dixon rightly notes that the fact that the President of the United States felt forced into revealing this document is “not only a national embarrassment; it was an insult to every American who voted for him, and a special offense to African Americans.” She ends up finding her Christian footing, ultimately asking her God to “forgive [Trump] because he does not know what he is doing.” Unfortunately, I can’t get myself to that point; I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.
At The Christian CenturySteve Thorngate brings into his discussion of the House Republican budget, the still-overlooked budget plan from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. (Why “still overlooked”? Here’s what Rachel Maddow thinks is the reason.) After detailing some of the “provisions in the bill that deserve a dose of public outrage” Thorngate goes on to make a fantastic point:
Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released a detailed rival plan that includes some serious tax hikes. It'll never pass, but that's not the point: the budget negotiations will involve à la carte solutions and much compromise. The Progressive Caucus's menu of ideas will help counteract the bad ones detailed above—and its existence will make it harder for the Republicans to take Obama's moderate, pre-compromised approach, paint it as insanely and dangerously liberal and then get him to compromise even further.
Lastly, at TikkunMichael Hogue has some stronger words about Ryan’s “courageous” plan, calling it “revoltingly immoral and unjust” and “insidiously wicked.”
There is NO religious framework or lifeway that, except through disingenuous hermeneutical backflipping, could possibly justify these principles. And if that’s the case, and if these principles (which are usually dressed up a bit in public) undergird the Ryan proposal and most other Republic sensibilities about the deficit, then there is NO way that there should be any religious support for this budget proposal. Is there anything in Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or Religious Humanism, or Religious Naturalism, or Unitarian Universalism that so brazenly endorses the accumulation and concentration of wealth among a very few at the expense of the very many, and especially at the expense of the vulnerable? Absolutely not.
Source: Sojourners, The Christian Century, Tikkun
Image by ssoosay, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/29/2011 10:31:09 AM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best body/spirit coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
First published in 1884 as the Christian Oracle,The Christian Century epitomizes what it means to think critically and live faithfully, asking readers to turn a thoughtful eye toward world hunger, immigration, AIDS work, health-care reform, and other issues of great import to all of us—whatever our faith.
Progressive Christianity has come to and gone from American life in the 86 years Commonweal has been giving voice to it. From its pacifist declarations during World War II to the battles over sexual orientation in our time, Commonweal has been a beacon.
“Holy mischief in an age of fast faith” is the mission of the radical, left-leaning Christian journal Geez. In every issue, its creators offer up a collage of irreverent stories on everything from awkwardness to “experiments with truth.”
has made an art of pushing its writers to the uncomfortable edges of environmentalism and spirituality, covering stories on issues ranging from “the tyranny of trends” to farmer suicides in India. Beautifully designed and richly sourced, this British magazine is as unique as it is essential.
Faith and politics are often deranged bedfellows. In the pages of Sojourners, the relationship is treated as a sacred one. In this institution of progressive Christianity, the left’s orthodoxies are rarely questioned—but rather are infused with the searching qualities of a living, breathing faith.
Illuminated by the Jewish faith but accessible to all, Tikkunaims to “mend, repair and transform the world,” and that dream may just start with its readers. We are inspired by its measured, heavy-hitting features, which feature everything from queer spirituality to godless environmentalism to mental health, celebrity culture, and corporate greed.
Magazines that celebrate Buddhism sometimes feel redundant. Too few gurus cycle through too frequently. Tricycle searches out obscure and marginalized voices to reach beyond the mainstream, finding wisdom that turns faith into a lifelong journey.
YES! Magazine, a magazine of “powerful ideas, practical actions” published by the nonprofit Positive Futures Network, gives us information and tools to build a more sustainable, just tomorrow. Readers cannot help but be inspired by the quarterly’s celebration of human potential and community well-being.
See our complete list of 2011 nominees.
Image by quinn.anya, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/28/2011 1:21:25 PM
Using statistics collected by the Pew Foundation, Good and Column Five have plotted the shifting sentiments of Americans toward Islam—specifically, what proportion of our population regards Muslims as inherently violent. For anyone who watches this topic, the stats probably aren’t shocking. What’s most interesting, though, is how drastically people’s beliefs and assumptions about other groups can change in light of foreign affairs and a few short years. In 2003, for example, 25 percent of Americans felt that Islam “is more likely to encourage violence,” but by the summer of 2007, the percentage has increased to 45 percent. After a few years of decline, the number of American fretting of Muslim violence has increased again to 40 percent.
Image by david_shankbone, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/19/2011 4:52:40 PM
Ever wondered what makes the super rich lose sleep at night? A new, uniquely intimate survey conducted by Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy reveals the most personal fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams of America’s affluent, reports Graeme Wood in The Atlantic.
The evocative survey questionnaire—which asks questions like, “How would you describe the ultimate goal or deepest aspiration for your life?”—was completed by 165 respondents with an average net worth of $78 million. Among them were jet-setting world travelers, super-yacht owners, and family-fortune beneficiaries who have never, ever had to worry about making rent.
Even so, one respondent noted that “he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion dollars in the bank,” writes Wood.
Such complaints sound, on their face, preposterous. But just as the human body didn’t evolve to deal well with today’s easy access to abundant fat and sugars, and will crave an extra cheeseburger when it shouldn’t, the human mind, apparently, didn’t evolve to deal with excess money, and will desire more long after wealth has become a burden rather than a comfort.
Just as money fails to provide a sense of financial security, the survey also suggests it fails to provide emotional well-being. The respondents listed a host of wealth-related anxieties: that many of their relationships hinge on their wealth; that they’ll be perceived as shallow and ungrateful if they dare to bellyache about their lives; and—most commonly—that their kids will grow up to be spoiled trust-fund brats.
While the study is skewed to reveal the emotional innerworkings of only the people who took time to answer a computer survey, the results hint that those of us with less money in our wallets enjoy some things the wealthy don’t have—including the delusion that next year’s raise or winning lottery ticket just might buy us greater joy. The very rich already suspect that wealth isn’t the answer, Wood concludes:
If anything, the rich stare into the abyss a bit more starkly than the rest of us. We can always indulge in the thought that a little more money would make our lives happier—and in many cases it’s true. But the truly wealthy know that appetites for material indulgence are rarely sated. No yacht is so super, nor any wine so expensive, that it can soothe the soul or guarantee one’s children won’t grow up to be creeps.
Source: The Atlantic
Image by Tracy O, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/18/2011 5:00:52 PM
I miss the days before iPhones. With pocket-sized, portable, 24-hour access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s entirely possible to fill every free second with other people’s family photos, favorite song lyrics, video links, and ideas without connecting to them—or to ourselves—in a significant way.
In Tricycle magazine, Lori Deschene, founder of the website Tiny Buddha, asks us to take a deep breath and rethink our online lives with ten ways to use social media mindfully.
Deschene advises that we examine our intentions before posting, experience life now and share it later, give ourselves permission to ignore yesterday’s stream, and always represent our authentic selves. She writes:
In the age of personal branding, most of us have a persona we’d like to develop or maintain. Ego-driven tweets focus on an agenda; authenticity communicates from the heart. Talk about the things that really matter to you.
And before you flood the Internet with every minor rumination, question if your contribution to the online ether is worthwhile. Deschene reminds us:
The greatest lesson we can all learn is that less is enough. In a time when connections can seem like commodities and online interactions can become casually inauthentic, mindfulness is not just a matter of fostering increased awareness. It’s about relating meaningfully to other people and ourselves.
Image by Alan Stokes, licensed under Creative Commons
4/7/2011 4:53:53 PM
Finding time for meditation is tricky, but I steal a few moments for it whenever I can: while reclined in the dentist’s chair, waiting for the hygienist; while riding the pleasantly rumbling bus on a morning commute; and, on increasingly rare occasions, while sitting on my bedroom floor in half lotus position. At this woefully meager rate, however, enlightenment—or any of meditation’s benefits—seems miles away.
For devout meditators (some with more than 10,000 meditation hours under their belts), meditation provides clear rewards. Scientists have indicated that meditation can alter experienced meditators’ brains, changing their gray matter to improve concentration and mental health. Now, even the time-crunched masses can enjoy the positive results of meditation, reports Jason Marsh in Greater Good. A study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimagingreveals that “meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy,” Marsh writes.
Researchers studied 16 participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. None of them were master meditators, yet their brains were changed by 30-minute meditation sessions.
“When their brains were scanned at the end of the program, their gray matter was significantly thicker in several regions than it was before,” writes Marsh. He continues:
One of those regions was the hippocampus, which prior research has found to be involved in learning, memory, and the regulation of our emotions. The gray matter of the hippocampus is often reduced in people who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The researchers also found denser gray matter in the temporo-perietal junction and the posterior cingulated cortex of the meditators’ brains—regions involved in empathy and taking the perspective of someone else—and in the cerebellum, which has been linked to emotion regulation.
Carving out even 30 minutes a day for meditation can feel daunting, but Marsh points out that every little bit counts:
The upshot of all this research seems to be: Small steps matter. Many of us can bring about positive effects on our brains and overall well-being—without an Olympic effort.
Source: Greater Good
Image by titanium22, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/6/2011 11:53:22 AM
Regardless of your creed or convictions (or lack thereof), it’s hard to deny that the King James translation of the Bible is an epic tome of efficient diction, unforgettable narratives, and beautifully wrought poetry. The translation—arguably the most widely read text in the English language—celebrates its 400th birthday this year and deserves praise for its enduring allure and literary relevancy.
Ann Wroe of More Intelligent Life recently lauded the elegant language of the King James Bible in a passionate piece of personal essay and approachable scholarship. First, she describes her initial interaction with the KJV, a chance reading at St. John’s College Chapel. “The effect was extraordinary” remembers Wroe, “as if I had suddenly found, in the house of language I had loved and explored all my life, a hidden central chamber whose pillars and vaulting, rhythm and strength had given shape to everything around them.” And when you open its pages, she continues, “
[I]t is to enter a sort of communion with everyone who has read or listened to it before, a crowd of ghosts,” Wrote continues. “Puritan women in wide white collars, stern Victorian fathers clasping their canes, soldiers muddy from killing fields, serving girls in Sunday best, and every schoolboy whose inky fingers have burrowed to 2 Kings 27, where Rabshakeh says, “Hath my master not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”
Although she covers many of the KJV’s linguistic curiosities, her ruminations on the specificity of vocabulary are particularly interesting:
By the same token, the reader of the King James lives vicariously in a world of solid certainties. There is nothing quaint here about a candle or a flagon, or money in a tied leather purse; nothing arcane about threads woven on a handloom, mire in the streets or the snuffle of swine outside the town gates. This is life. Everything is closely observed, tactile, and has weight. When Adam and Eve sew fig-leaves together to cover their shame they make “aprons” (Genesis 3:7), leather-thick and workmanlike, the sort a cobbler might wear. Even the colours invoked in the King James—crimson, scarlet, purple—are nouns rather than adjectives (“though your sins be as scarlet”, Isaiah 1:18), sold by the block as solid powder or heaped glossy on a brush. And God’s intervention in this world, whether as artist, builder, woodsman or demolition man, is as physical and real as the materials he works with.
Source: More Intelligent Life
Image by Ian B-M, licensed under Creative Commons.
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