8/28/2008 1:12:26 PM
With the Clinton-Obama rift story finally being put to rest, pundits are turning to the supposed rift between Obama and the Jews as potential fertile ground for controversy. The story isn’t new: Back in May, the New York Times reported on the blatant falsehoods believed by some Jewish retirees in Florida. And Republican strategists may see an opportunity to grab some Jewish swing votes, with Joseph Lieberman’s name being kicked around as a possible Republican VP nominee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani trying to attack Obama on his Israel policy.
In spite of the media coverage, the story of the Obama-Jewish rift is just a bunch of schlock according to Joshua Keating writing for the Foreign Policy blog. Keating cites Gallup polls showing Obama clearly beating McCain among Jewish voters as proof that the storyline just doesn’t hold up. “The idea that Jews are disproportionately suspicious of Obama has a lot to do with the stereotype that they vote solely on which candidate is more hawkish on Middle East policy,” Keating writes, and that stereotype simply isn’t true.
Not taking any chances, Jewish groups have begun aggressively courting Jewish voters for Obama. Writing for the Politico, Ben Smith reports on JewsVote.org, a new website launched during the Democratic National Convention aiming to convince more Jews to vote for Barack Obama. Mik Moore, one of the group's founders told the Politico "[t]he goal of this website is to provide a series of powerful tools to Jews who are supportive of Obama and dismayed at the rumors that have made a lot of Jews question whether or not they can support Obama in the election."
Moore gained some attention in 2004 with “Operation Bubbe,” an effort to convince Jewish grandmothers (or Bubbies in Yiddish) to vote for John Kerry. Similarly, a website called “Bubbies for Obama” has popped up this year, enlisting more Jewish grandmothers to get out the vote for the Democrats.
For a more humorous take on the subject, be sure to watch Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show try and get to the bottom of controversy:
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.
8/26/2008 1:30:40 PM
Clutter detracts from our ability to function, tangling our physical spaces and muddling our minds. Streamlining can be a relief, even a rush, but then there are those pesky boxes of unwanted stuff. In the Sept.-Oct. 2008 issue of Natural Home, Utne Reader’s sister publication, editor Robyn Griggs Lawrence suggests a top-notch idea for how to dispose of clutter—and serve the greater good.
Griggs Lawrence hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and traveled there this summer to visit family during the aftermath of the floods. She was in the midst of working on her magazine’s Sept.-Oct. issue, which contains advice on how to declutter kitchen space. “While I’m sure it’s little solace to the folks who lost everything, seeing all that stuff lining the streets of Cedar Rapids was a heartbreaking reminder of how lucky I am to be contemplating my own clutter,” she writes in her editor’s note (article not available online).
“When I returned home to Boulder, it was much easier to clear out unnecessary items from my kitchen cupboards. I would love to send them directly to the folks in Cedar Rapids, but wooden cake plates and food processors probably aren’t their most pressing needs right now.”
Isn’t that always the rub? From kitchen appliances and electronic gadgets to appliquéd shrugs and china figurines, most “clutter” doesn’t go far in alleviating those pressing needs Griggs Lawrence saw in Iowa. Not deterred, she decided to take her castoffs to a consignment store and allocate the proceeds for the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s Flood 2008 Fund. As September draws near, brining with it the annual migration of college students, I frankly can’t think of a better way to bring “a whole new dimension” to cleaning out closets and bedrooms.
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8/26/2008 12:03:56 PM
Every culture has a responsibility to care for its warriors. Working with soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Edward Tick believes the United States can do better. In the September-October issue of Utne Reader, Tick writes about different societies' warrior cultures and how their ideas can help returning U.S. soldiers.
For the latest episode of the UtneCast, editor in chief David Schimke sat down with Tick to talk about PTSD, warrior cultures, and easing the burdens carried by soldiers.
You can listen to the interview below, or to subscribe to the UtneCast for free through iTunes, click here.
Interview with Edward Tick: Play Now
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8/25/2008 3:54:49 PM
By refusing to renew an executive anti-discrimination order, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has paved the way for faith-based discrimination in the state, Sandhya Bathija writes for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The order, issued by Jindal’s predecessor Gov. Kathleen Blanco, prohibited discrimination in government services, hiring, or business contracting on the basis of religion, disabilities, race, gender, political affiliation, and sexual orientation. Jindal maintains that such anti-discrimination measures and “additional categories of special rights” are unnecessary. Bathija insists that the governor’s so-called “common sense approach” opens the door for companies to discriminate in hiring and employee treatment. She writes that Jindal is merely “catering yet again to his Religious Right friends at the Louisiana Family Forum… a group that seeks to ‘persuasively present biblical principles’ in political and other issues.”
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8/22/2008 2:58:59 PM
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, authors of the end-times fiction Left Behind have confirmed: Barack Obama is not the Antichrist. The question came up recently after the John McCain campaign released an ad not-so-subtly implying that his political opponent may be the harbinger of the apocalypse. "I've gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist," Jenkins told the Christian NewsWire. "I tell everyone that I don't think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics." LeHaye added, “I can see by the language he uses why people think he could be the antichrist, but from my reading of scripture, he doesn't meet the criteria.”
Here’s what I struggle with figuring out: Will the apocalypse enthusiasts be relieved that the final battle between good and evil isn’t here yet, or will they be disappointed?
(Thanks, Adult Christianity.)
8/15/2008 5:13:07 PM
At its core, psychoanalysis is a quest for self knowledge, in some ways similar to religious study. Patrick Lee Miller writes for the Immanent Frame that psychoanalysis is a “source of self,” borrowing a phrase from author Charles Taylor, and is able to “enrich our lives with meaning, arrange our activities to serve higher goals, and thus motivate us at times to act beyond our narrow interests.” And if psychoanalysis is able to generate wisdom and reveal meaning, why can’t it be considered alongside other modern worldviews and religions?
8/14/2008 3:24:11 PM
As much as people try to avoid it, religion and politics have taken center stage in the 2008 Olympic games. The Israeli coach of the Russian basketball team made headlines recently by shaking hands with the captain of the Iranian team, the Jerusalem Post reports, in a show of interfaith support. The gesture occurred the day after an Iranian swimmer refused to race against an Israeli. President Bush then added his own dose of religious politics to the games in a speech saying, “No state, man, or woman should fear the influence of a loving religion.”
For many competitors in the Olympics, athletics and religion are inexorably linked. Josh McAdams, a Mormon American steeplechase competitor, told the Washington Post, “athletics is not only physical and mental but spiritual.” Unfortunately for McAdams, practicing that spirituality is difficult inside the Olympic Village, as China has banned many foreign chaplains from living with the athletes. China promised to provide their own religious leaders, but the Washington Post reports that religious facilities on the Olympic grounds are remote, often don’t have enough space for worshipers, and participants are getting frustrated by the inadequate language skills of the service leaders.
Private worship aside, athletes are also under threat from the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee, should they express their religion openly during the games. In another article for the Washington Post, Wang Baodong, a Chinese Government spokesperson said, “There are very specific provisions on how an athlete should practice his religion or beliefs during the games.”
Many have pointed out that hampering religious practice violates the Olympic commitment to freedom of expression. It also goes against the explicit religious traditions of the Olympic Games, Louis A. Ruprecht writes for Religion Dispatches. Ruprecht points out that the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, once referred to the event as religio athletae, explicitly positioning the competition as religious. Even today, when the event is being held in an expressly non-religious country, Ruprecht writes that “the Modern Olympics are choreographed to give the athletes, and to a lesser degree, the spectators, a spiritual experience of enormous and lasting power.”
8/14/2008 12:32:27 PM
Strongly held beliefs regarding religion, politics, and sexuality can complicate relationships with loved ones. Those relationships are even more difficult when they involve blood relations, and their beliefs differ markedly from ours.
In a poignant essay for the group website BlogHer, Zoe Gaymo describes her difficult relationship with her father. He is a practicing Catholic, and she is a lesbian. While they get along most of the time, issues have a way of flaring up. “Over the years , I have learned that when my dad gets to talking about religion or politics, I should just let him say what he has to say and not argue with him. ... But every once in a while, he pushes my buttons (the gay ones) and I just can't not say something, which usually ends in me pushing his buttons (the Catholic Church ones).”
The essay illustrates how, even with the best of intentions, parents and their adult offspring can spend their whole lives in a cycle of upsetting disagreement and tenuous reconciliation, never able to find common ground. Gaymo ends her essay resigned, saying: “I know my parents will never change. I just wish they would.”
Image adapted from a photo by Chris Darling, licensed by Creative Commons.
8/13/2008 10:20:33 AM
Are miracles real? Are they archaic notions of events that could be explained by science? Or are they allegories for wider concepts? In Buddhism, miracles are all of the above, according to a panel discussion in Buddhadharma (full article not available online).
Three devout students of Buddhism, Glenn Wallis, Judy Lief, and Ari Goldfield, all believe that miracles are real, although today's miraculous events might not be as easily understood as those in religious legends. People living in ancient times may have been more comfortable with the supernatural as a part of reality, while a modern, scientific mindset may not allow for an understanding of miracles. Instead of getting caught up the scientific, the panelists encourage people to reopen their minds to the possibility of “everyday” miracles, like displays of love and compassion. "Quite simply, if you look at reality closely and directly," says Lief, "ordinary reality becomes more and more strange and miraculous."
8/13/2008 10:01:11 AM
Sometimes, the best way to achieve a mindful life is by keeping it simple. Renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh recently published the book Mindful Movements: 10 Exercises for Well-Being (Parallax Press), offering simple activities designed to help anyone reduce stress and achieve more physical and emotional calm. The movement descriptions, accompanied by endearing illustrations by Wietske Vriezen, encourage readers to smile, relax, and enjoy the experience. Beliefnet is featuring an excerpt from the book with seven of the exercises, to give readers one movement to perform each day for a week.
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