6/30/2009 5:15:34 PM
Christian radio is becoming less, well, Christian, reports Sojourners—and the shift is treating stations well. By including more “family-friendly” songs (i.e., less overtly religious) and paring down bible-thumping programming, Christian stations have grown their pool of listeners, even nabbing listeners outside the faith who are simply looking for uplifting music.
Not all Christians are fans of the trend. Daniel Radosh, whose rollicking book Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture is excerpted on Utne.com, tells Sojourners that “the fact that committed Muslims can listen to Christian music actually says quite a bit, and I think not anything very good about Christian music these days.”
Christian music’s new listeners tend to disagree. Christian stations and artists “have an opportunity to offer the mainstream market the kind of inspiration and hope that people really need,” a Muslim listener tells Sojourners. “I appreciate it if they can touch the hearts of people like me.”
6/30/2009 10:44:42 AM
Google and the Saddleback megachurch have more in common than the undying worship of their devotees. Both organizations are set up around “campuses” that are meant to be spaces where people can do more than just work. They both have beach volleyball courts and cafes, where people can socialize and feel a greater connection to their organizations. Triple Canopy reports that the architecture “is meant to persuade church members or secular employees—especially younger people—to spend their most productive time there.”
The modern corporation and the Christian megachurch have developed simultaneously, according to Triple Canopy. Both organizations have tried to figure out how to maximize the engagement and productivity of their devotees. For the churches and the corporations, creating city-like campuses represents “the logical next step in their colonization of everyday life, part and parcel with the ever-more-diffuse protocols they have developed for managing souls.”
Source: Triple Canopy
Image of the Saddleback Megachurch.
6/29/2009 5:26:39 PM
Tourism is this day and age’s dirty word, with rightful concern for the environmental impact of travel looming over alluring vacation plans. In this line of thinking, spiritual journeys pose a special quandary, writes Philip Carr-Gomm for Resurgence.
“Our desire to visit sacred places has resulted in the creation of yet another industry that is pushing us to the brink of environmental collapse,” Carr-Gomm writes. “And yet doesn’t visiting sacred sites help us to appreciate our world? . . . Isn’t pilgrimage often a key component in many religions and an important spiritual practice in itself? . . . How can we honor these concepts and respect the Earth at the same time?”
Carr-Gomm has done serious thinking about the matter. He is the author of Sacred Places, a book detailing 50 spiritual and religious sites around the world. In the book, he endeavors to include both the ups and downs of any particular location. “Like any relationship, our interaction with sacred sites can either be harmful or beneficial, depending on the awareness brought to the relationship,” he writes.
To foster awareness, Carr-Gomm proposes building our relationships with sacred sites at the “soul level.” Visit them when one must, but focus on “building the bond primarily in the soul world and in consciousness.” Make use of Google Earth, virtual museums, and other rich writing and photography on the Internet—the wealth of information that, in part, is responsible for spurring this unprecedented interest in traveling to spiritual sites in the first place.
And if reinterpreting armchair travel isn’t satisfying spiritual hunger, well, Carr-Gomm has another idea: “We can turn our attention to our own landscapes—take care of a local sacred site, clearing it of rubbish and visiting it often.”
Source: Resurgence (article not yet available online)
6/25/2009 5:10:39 PM
Issue #5 of Philly-based sustainability magazine Grid arrived this week—chock full of summertime “how to” cheer that’s just begging to be shared. Grid is a free magazine, and you can read its entire digitized issue online. Be sure to check out:
How to make rhubarb cobbler on page 15: This tasty-looking recipe calls for delectable maple sugar instead of the loads of predictable, refined white sugar found in most rhubarb concoctions.
How to attract beneficial insects to your garden on page 12: From lacewings to ladybugs, Grid has the skinny on how to lure the good guys—insects that pollinate and keep pest populations in check—into your yard, including specific “companion plants.”
Plus: How to fix a flat bike tire (page 10), how to recycle your television (page 11), and loads of other recipes, including vegan blood orange cupcakes and sugar-snap peas with bacon.
6/25/2009 3:35:08 PM
Search results from Google are a bit too godless for some. That’s why intrepid, religious entrepreneurs started Koogle, a search engine designed to adhere to Jewish law. The name is a play on the delicious and traditionally Jewish casserole, kugel. Explicit material, including scantily clad women, will be filtered out of the search results, according to the San Francisco Business Times. Results will also exclude televisions, which are verboten in orthodox homes, and will prohibit shopping during Shabbat.
(Thanks, The Blingdom of God.)
6/23/2009 4:19:08 PM
Have the food wars really escalated to the point where we need to remind vegetarians that meat eaters are human (or vice versa, for that matter)?
According to Melanie Joy, to understand the psychology of meat eaters, vegetarians must navigate through a labyrinth of ethical and moral contradictions. Yet, doing so would help bridge the often contentious divide between the two groups. Writing for Vegetarian Voice, Joy wants vegetarians to get inside the often “baffling” minds of their meat-loving peers:
After learning the myriad nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet, the health-conscious meat eater claims he doesn’t want to risk becoming protein deficient. After reading the statistics of the environmental damage wrought by animal agriculture, the hybrid-driving meat eater says she’s got her hands full working on other social issues and she doesn’t eat much “red” meat anyway...
As frustrating as these contradictions might be, Joy urges her fellow vegetarians to avoid negative assumptions about meat eaters. Many are influenced by the dominant ideology of human primacy over animals, as well as arbitrary social norms that justify eating cows, for example, rather than, say, dogs. She reminds readers:
Many meat eaters are also loving fathers, mothers, and friends; they are fearless rescue-workers, dedicated teachers, impassioned activists, tireless community leaders, kindhearted philanthropists, compassionate animal caretakers, devoted partners, and great humanitarians.
Source: Vegetarian Voice (article not available online)
Image by star5112, licensed under Creative Commons
6/23/2009 12:18:29 PM
In “Forged in the Heat of Battle,” mental_floss shares the true story the colonialist roots of the Boy Scouts. In 1899, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell had been left, with little resources, to defend British control in South Africa. Faced with defeat, wily Baden-Powell put his smarts and adventurous upbringing to use and enlisted the Cadet Corps:
Decked out in khaki uniforms and wide-brim hats, the young cadets traveled around town on donkeys. (Later, when food became scarce during the siege, the donkeys were eaten, and the boys switched to bicycles.) Their duties kept the boys busy and gave them a sense of purpose. More importantly, the Cadet Corps left the outnumbered British soldiers free to fight, effectively quadrupling their manpower.
Baden-Powell’s success in South Africa, and the popularity of his survival books among children, spurred the birth of Boy and Girl Scout organizations abroad.
Source: mental_floss (full text not available online)
Image by Thomas Duchnicki, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/22/2009 4:04:12 PM
Sound financial advice loses some power when you believe that God is pushing you toward a sub-prime loan. In the midst of the economic crisis, there has been “a steady increase in church bankruptcies and foreclosures,” according to Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Churches are cutting back hours, laying off staff, and struggling for ways to stay afloat financially.
Churches placed their faith in the market, just like everyone else, real estate broker Eric Knowles told Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Religious leaders, though, have an extra trump card. When Knowles advises against risky loans, pastors have said to him, “I understand by earthly standards this will not work, but God has called me to do it.” And it’s hard to argue with that.
Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly
Heated Ground Photography
, licensed under
6/22/2009 12:28:23 PM
For beer enthusiasts who like some holy with their spirits, the new issue of Spirituality & Health features instructions on how to properly enjoy a traditional Trappist beer. Authentic Trappist goods—such as bread, cheese, and ale—are made at abbeys by monks and nuns (usually Roman Catholic), and often sold to support monasteries or charities.
Thanks to Madeline Scherb, author of A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Nuns and Monks, a user’s manual now exists for the finest in Trappist wares.
Here are few of Scherb's tips:
As any beer connoisseur will tell you, fine ales should be enjoyed at room temperature. Resist the urge to pop open a cold one—flavor components generally peak at 59 degrees.
Trappist beers are made from living yeasts, so they get better with age.
Accept no imitations—real Trappist goods carry an “Authentic Trappist Product” label.
Source: Spirituality & Health (full text not available online), International Trappist Association, A Taste of Heaven: A Guide to Food and Drink Made by Nuns and Monks
Image by Tavailli, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/18/2009 4:26:52 PM
How well do religion and politics really play together, wonders Will Braun in the Summer 2009 issue of Geez. The co-editor/publisher of the irreverent Canadian spirituality magazine confesses to being a “pessimist in a time of promise,” after pondering the religious bracketing in President Obama’s inauguration speech. It was in that speech that Obama spoke of reaffirming “the greatness” of the United States, and drawing confidence from “the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”
“Does the narrative of ‘richest, most powerful’ fit with religion?” Braun asks. “At one point, Obama heralded ‘the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.’ If this God-given promise applies to all God’s children—not just Americans—then how can the U.S. guard its top spot and strive for equity at the same time?”
Braun offers some food for thought: “Consider the biblical lines that would never make it into a presidential speech (in any country): ‘love your enemies,’ ‘the last shall be first,’ and from the beatitudes, ‘blessed are the poor,’ and ‘blessed are the meek.’ My point is not that presidents should be preachers but that God is not in any country’s corner. And perhaps the parts of the biblical story that could never make their way onto a presidential tele-prompter indicate the exact elements that Christians should bring to the discourse of a nation.”
Bonus time: Not too long ago, Will Braun was our guest on Alt Wire, a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a rotating cast of alternative-press luminaries.
6/18/2009 9:35:18 AM
Over the past few years, green funerals have been a hot topic in eco-conscious circles. Thanks in part to a particularly memorable (and widely discussed) funeral scene from HBO’s Six Feet Under, conversations about green burials, biodegradable caskets, and natural cemeteries often seem less morbid than they do practical.
The Walrus reports on a new technique that may, it seems, be the greenest of them all. The process, called promession, sounds like a kind of high-tech version of composting (one that avoids all the arduous turning and, uh, odor-releasing of the down-home method). It was developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who is planning to open the world’s first promatorium in Jönköping, Sweden, sometime next year. James Glave (for The Walrus) explains:
Think of the operation as a kind of corpse disassembly line. The dearly departed are first supercooled in liquid nitrogen to about minus 196°C, then shattered into very small pieces on a vibration table. “We wanted to make the body unrecognizable without using any kind of an instrument that you would see in a kitchen or garage,” [Wiigh-Mäsak] explains.
Next a vacuum is used to evaporate moisture while a metal separator, traditionally used by the food processing industry to remove stray foreign objects from meat products, shuffles aside fillings, crowns, titanium hips, and so on. (You can put that sandwich down now.) Finally, the vaguely pink crumbs are deposited in a large box made of corn or potato starch.
Surviving family members bury the box in shallow topsoil and plant a tree or shrub on top. With the exception of perhaps a few broken remnants of plastic pacemaker, in a matter of months nothing is left but memories and some lush greenery.
(Congratulations to The Walrus, which won the 2009 Utne Independent Press Award for best writing.)
Source: The Walrus
Image by McPig, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/15/2009 10:30:31 AM
Walking like a zombie on a treadmill to nowhere means you are self-obsessed and have no soul, according to Reid Buckley in The American Conservative. He compares excessive exercise to the ancient Hebrews in the desert, worshipping a golden calf.
Buckley’s proposed solution is to take a stand against the gym junkies’ soul-sucking ways by simply ignoring them. Oh, and then eat some chocolate cake. He writes:
The fitness craze is simply another escape from the consequences of metaphysical ignorance—an attempt to flee time and space and the inevitability of inexorable, unstoppable, uncamoflageable aging. One pities them: they are doomed to the disintegration of the mortal frame in which they take such pride and invest such complacent hope, doomed to the eventual rotting of their poor flesh—cold to the touch, loathsome to the sight, offensive to all the yet living: disgusting, putrid, worm-ridden, foul.
Source: The American Conservative
6/11/2009 1:41:51 PM
Hard science can back up the religious tenet of forgiveness, even in the most extreme settings. “Forgiveness is not just a state of mind,” Jina Moore writes for Search magazine, “it’s a physiological reality. And, scientifically speaking, it’s good for us.” Researchers have found that grief, anger, and anxiety can all be mitigated through forgiveness, and can the act lead to better health for both the forgiver and the forgiven.
The benefits can be found even in a place like Rwanda, the site of one of the most horrific genocides in recent memory. There, forgiveness is more than religious, it’s also a matter of public policy. The country has set up outdoor confessional courts called gacacas, where perpetrators of genocide confess their crimes and ask for forgiveness. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame recently touted the system in a blog on the Huffington Post.
The courts may grant forgiveness and leniency, but they are far from perfect, Philip Gourevitch reports for the New Yorker. Rwanda has become a beacon of security and prosperity in the region, but the calm that has settled over the country is an uneasy one. One survivor of the genocide criticized the reconciliation saying, “This is all theater. It doesn’t mean anything. A killer is a killer, and you have to abandon them…. They only asked pardon because of the gacaca. Why didn’t they ask for forgiveness before the gacaca?”
The President of Rwanda and supporters of the reconciliation are urging patience, saying that the gacacas are giving the country a basis on which they can build a better country. Gourevitch makes it clear that Rwanda has a long way to go before the reconciliation can be considered a success.
“Forgiveness and reconciliation are work,” writes Moore. The person forgiving needs to both empathize and decide—consciously or unconsciously—that the person asking for pardon is deserving of forgiveness. In fact, in terms of the health benefits , Moore writes the science shows “it is as important why you forgive as that you forgive at all.”
Image by Dylan Walters, licensed under Creative Commons.
Source: Search, Huffington Post, the New Yorker
6/10/2009 1:20:03 PM
What makes a good death scene? Obit, a website that endeavors to examine "life through the lens of death," examines the art of the movie death scene, selecting their favorites reaching back to the death of Catherine in "A Farewell to Arms" from 1932. This is not merely list candy, but neither is the treatment of the list particularily insightful. Still, the cinema is where most of us encounter death first and, if we're lucky, most frequently. The Obit list best serves as a perhaps unwitting hat tip to the filmakers who have embraced this opportunity with grace and gravity.
6/9/2009 5:38:56 PM
Homes bedecked with jewels and painted flowers. Whimsical garages with yawning mouths, and lampposts adorned with cast-metal birds. A road cobbled to look like a snake. This is a magical neighborhood, but it’s also a real place. This is the amazing, child-and-adult-designed community of Coriandoline.
Coriandoline was conceptually born in 1990, when a construction co-op in the northern Italian town of Correggio made an amazing decision to become “for inhabitants,” rather than “for habitations,” reports Landscape Architecture. Fulfilling the new ethos meant getting input about housing development design from all members of the community—including children. In 1995, two psychologists started collecting ideas from 700 local children, and fanciful, functional, playful Coriandoline began to take shape. Turning inspiration into brick-and-mortar doesn’t happen overnight: The first residents moved into their new homes, of which there are 20, in 2006.
So, here’s the deal: The article in Landscape Architecture originally was an episode of the Radio Netherlands program The State We’re In. The article isn’t online yet at LA’s website, but you can read a transcript of the broadcast over at Twin Cities Streets for People. What you should absolutely, do, however, is explore Coriandoline’s beautiful, whimsical website. This is one case where a photo truly is worth 1,000 words.
Sources: Landscape Architecture, Twin Cities Streets for People
Image by gurms, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/9/2009 1:53:33 PM
Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal, the incoming U.S. commander in Afghanistan, eats just one meal per day. He is called an ascetic and a “soldier monk” in his disregard for the earthly pleasures of three-meal days. Writing for the Morning News, Mike Smith tried to emulate McChrystal’s routine by skipping breakfast, lunch, and all between-meal snacking for one week. He doesn’t make it all the way through to his goal, but the effort makes for an amusing read. Here’s an excerpt:
I probably deserve rebuke from nutritionists, but global security rests on the shoulder of a man who only eats one meal a day! It’s my duty as a concerned citizen to test his methods. Unless McChrystal spends much of the day snacking, I imagine that after he consumes his single meal, he too must need to sleep. But I can’t quite picture him giving heed to fatigue.
In his command roles, says the Washington Post, McChrystal “favors flatter, faster organizations and is known for preferring a small staff that is overworked rather than a large one that has time to grow unfocused.” His asceticism isn’t just eclecticism, but a managerial style and a dieting method, even a productivity seminar. I see a self-help book on the horizon.
Source: The Morning News
6/5/2009 6:11:06 PM
The world of competitive eating is one of impressive (and wholly bizarre) records, practice food, eating challenges, and pre-contest candy-only binging. In a recent issue of Tin House, Thomas Burke spent some time trailing Eater X, who is a stock trader by day, but ranked fourth in the world of competitive eaters. To earn that nobility, he’s claimed six food titles for eating 71 tamales in 12 minutes, 26 large cannoli in six minutes, four pounds of tiramisu in six minutes, 11.81 pounds of long-form burritos in 10 minutes, 10.5 pounds of ramen noodles in eight minutes, and 141 pieces of nigiri sushi in six minutes. Do you feel queasy yet? Here at Utne we’re collectively doing our best to polish off a five-pound bag of 760 Tootsie Roll midgees… but not anytime soon.
Source: Tin House
6/2/2009 2:17:35 PM
Science and spirituality don’t always get along. A few scientists are trying to change that through a new, peer-reviewed journal called “Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.” The journal’s editor, Dr. Ralph Piedmont, sat down with Interfaith Voices to talk about how scientists can explore big issues, including the meaning of life, while retaining scientific integrity.
Source: Interfaith Voices
6/2/2009 2:00:55 PM
Spirituality is all about connection. Spiritualism, Gordon Haber writes for Killing the Buddha, “encourages self-involved people to become more self-involved.” In an amusing shot at astrology adherents, Haber mercilessly mocks the recently released book Cosmic Connection: Messages for a Better World, written by psychic medium Carole Lynne. “As much as I’d like to be tolerant of other’s beliefs,” Haber writes, “I’d rather have my eyes put out than suffer through another page of such unbridled narcissism.”
The problem isn’t in the spiritual beliefs, it’s in the way people use the spirituality as an excuse to disconnect from the real world. Haber writes: “I’ve never heard of anyone visiting a psychic in order to learn how to be more generous with other people.”
Source: Killing the Buddha
6/2/2009 12:16:42 PM
In 1979, a class on transcendental meditation was banned from New Jersey public schools on the grounds that it violated the separation between church and state. Today, transcendental meditation is making a comeback, supported by stars including filmmaker David Lynch and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.
“Slowly but steadily, TM seems to be gaining a foothold in public schools across the country,” Church & State magazine reports. No matter how you package the practice, Church & State asserts that transcendental meditation is rooted in Hinduism, and any classes taught in public schools would violate the first amendment. The article quotes one angry parent who called the practice a “cult.”
Adherents, according to Church & State, are “promoting the program as the solution for everything from poor academic performance and fidgety kids to unruly student behavior and gang violence.”
David Lynch, in an article for Utne Reader, gave people this advice on the benefits of meditation: “Grow in happiness and intuition. Experience the joy of doing. And you'll glow in this peaceful way. Your friends will be very, very happy with you. Everyone will want to sit next to you. And people will give you money!”
Image by Kanzeon Zen Center, licensed under Creative Commons.
Church & State
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