Category : Other Faiths

Saturday Food for Thought from Harry Blamires

“There is no longer a Christian mind. It is a commonplace that the mind of modern man has been secularized. For…

Posted by Kendall Harmon on Saturday, August 29, 2020

Posted in Books, Secularism, Theology

(AP) Some Religious Leaders to Invoke Frederick Douglass on July 4th

About 150 preachers, rabbis and imams are promising to invoke Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass on July 4th as they call for the U.S. to tackle racism and poverty.

The religious leaders are scheduled this weekend to frame their sermons around “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” on the 168th anniversary of that speech by Douglass. The former slave gave his speech at an Independence Day celebration on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York. The address challenged the Founding Fathers and the hypocrisy of their ideals with the existence of slavery on American soil.

The initiative to remember Douglass is led by the Poor People’s Campaign, a coalition of religious leaders seeking to push the U.S. to address issues of poverty modeled after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last crusade.

“(The Declaration of Independence) was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson. Yet he owned hundreds of human beings, and enslaved them,” Rabbi Arthur Waskow plans to tell The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks. “The contradiction between his words and his actions has been repeated through all American history.”

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Posted in History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Poverty, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Carl R. Trueman–The Road to Bostock

It is here that Farrow’s book is so singularly helpful. The essay “Autonomy: Sic transit anima ad infernum” is worth the price of the book all by itself. In it he traces with both remarkable depth and enviable conciseness the rise of the modern self: the autonomous self-creator to whom reality must bend or, better still, for whom reality is merely what works best for the individual concerned. With roots in Rousseau and Nietzsche, this self lies behind Anthony Kennedy’s oft-cited fantasy of selfhood in Casey and lurks in the background of all the subsequent Supreme Court rulings on matters involving sexuality, up to and including Bostock. Indeed, Farrow makes the necessary point:

The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will.

Transgenderism is the logical outcome of all this. In fact, the annihilation of gender as a stable category tout court is the logical outcome—a point that seems to have eluded Justice Gorsuch, who apparently wants to keep his binary categories while not realizing the metaphysical depths of the revolution he has now placed into law.

The shock and awe surrounding the Bostock ruling perhaps indicates that the old task of apologetics is now being oddly reversed. The pressing pastoral need of the hour for the church is not to explain the faith to the world but rather first to explain the world to the faithful. If Richard Rorty’s famous quip—the truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying—works as a descriptive rather than prescriptive principle in terms of cultural dynamics, in terms of which arguments work and which do not, then it behooves us to ask in what kind of culture the stated logic of the Bostock decision has come to make sense. If Christians do not understand the wider context, then they will continue to underestimate the true depth of the cultural problem, be perplexed at the speed of apparent change, and be disturbed by new developments. And that will make it very hard to navigate this world as both good citizens and good stewards of the gospel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism, Supreme Court

(TGC) Americans Don’t See Human Life as ‘Sacred’—But See Humanity as ‘Basically Good’

The Story: A new study finds that a majority of Americans no longer believe human life has intrinsic value, with six out of ten rejecting the idea that “human life is sacred.” Yet a majority also say that humans are “basically good.”

The Background: According to new research from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, only 39 percent of Americans today view human life as “sacred,” or as having unconditional, intrinsic worth. Groups that still hold this view include adults with a biblical worldview (93 percent); those attending an evangelical church (60 percent); born-again Christians (60 percent); political conservatives (57 percent); people 50 or older (53 percent); and Republicans (53 percent).

Some religious groups had only a minority who viewed life as sacred, including those attending Pentecostal (46 percent), mainline Protestant (45 percent), or Catholic (43 percent) churches. Evangelicals were the group most likely (60 percent) to say that life is sacred, while spiritual skeptics were the least likely (13 percent).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(Bloomberg) Religion Meets Profit Generation in a Slew of New Faith-Based ETFs

As much as Samim Abedi loved his job as part of the team that managed Google’s corporate investment portfolio, he couldn’t always square the work with his Muslim faith. He worried that some of the companies whose securities he traded had ties to alcohol or tobacco or gambling.

So he quit to join Wahed Invest, which in July 2019 launched the first exchange-traded fund in the U.S. that’s compliant with Sharia, Islam’s religious law. It’s one of eight ETFs introduced in the U.S. last year that incorporate faith-based principles, raising the total to 11. More are coming: In June, money manager Global X filed to launch a bond fund aligned to Catholic values. “We’re all trying to solve the same question,” says Abedi, the global head of portfolio management for Wahed. “How do we invest our wealth in ways that align with our ethics?”

Religion-based funds can differ on what they consider ethical. A stock fund that caters to Catholics shuns companies that sell weapons or exploit child labor. Several ETFs for Muslims steer clear of anything related to interest-based finance, which the religion frowns upon. Those funds invest in a Sharia-compliant alternative to bonds called sukuk, which provide regular payments that are considered profit-sharing rather than interest.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Other Churches, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(WSJ) Saudi Arabia Shrinks Hajj Pilgrimage Because of Coronavirus Pandemic

Saudi Arabia said it was curtailing this year’s hajj pilgrimage to only a small number of people already in the kingdom, rather than the millions who usually flock to Islam’s holiest sites, amid concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

The hajj, the Muslim world’s most important religious pilgrimage, is considered a pillar of Islam and has been held since the seventh century in Mecca. All Muslims who are able to are required to make the journey at least once in their lifetimes.

The five-day event, which begins in late July this year, is a source of great political and religious prestige for Saudi Arabia, while also generating an estimated $8 billion in revenue for the kingdom each year.

The smaller umrah pilgrimage, which takes place in Mecca throughout the year, and international travel to and from the kingdom remain suspended.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Islam, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Travel

(Sun Times Front Page) Chicago clergy on seeking God in the age of COVID: ‘The church has left the building’

Safety is also top of mind for the Rev. Shannon Kershner, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church at 126 E. Chestnut St. along the Magnificent Mile. It’s why the church livestreams its 11 a.m. Sunday services from Kershner’s living room rather than the sanctuary.

“The empty sanctuary is really a statement of our love and action,” Kershner said. “It’s an expression of God — love your neighbor, essentially — love for our health care professionals and other essential workers who would be harmed if we were to somehow contribute to the spread.

“I’m going to be in my living room, just as all my members are. There’s an intimacy to it, as well as a solidarity that’s been really interesting to discover.”

Along with its worship services, the church in the wealthy downtown community moved online the many classes offered through its Center for Lifelong Learning — 700-plus church members are over 70. Kershner and seven ministers try to do phone checks on each of them.

“Church meetings are on Zoom,” Kershner said. “Bible study is on Zoom. Prayer meetings are on Zoom. In the beginning, we were thinking: If we can just get through Easter, things will go back to normal. Then, we realized that wasn’t going to happen and that we were going to have to remain in this adaptive mindset.

“Then, it was: OK, how can we sustain the ministry that we’re doing in all these new ways, getting clearer about what needs to be our priorities? One thing that became clear is that people really want to feel connected.”

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Islam, Judaism, Parish Ministry, Urban/City Life and Issues

(CT) Kamesh Sankaran–The Humbling of a Proud Hindu: How God got my attention when I thought I was too good for grace

My experience of becoming a Christian wasn’t like flipping a switch. Believing the gospel didn’t automatically lead me to conformity to Jesus Christ or produce the immediate fruit of righteousness in me. While I desperately desired the gift of forgiveness, I was reluctant to change anything else about my life or worldview. Given the enormous differences between Christianity and my earlier Hindu beliefs, my new life had to be nurtured before spiritual growth could occur.

Intellectually, I wrestled with three fundamental questions: Who is God? Who am I? What is my relationship with God? The more I pondered these questions, the clearer it became that the answers offered by Hinduism and Christianity are utterly incompatible. I had to reject the former to receive the latter. Functionally, I had to rethink all of life from a clean slate because I simply did not have a framework or vocabulary to make sense of my new identity.

Paul needed an Ananias to spark his conversion, but he also needed a Barnabas to accompany him in his new journey of faith. God similarly ordained the support I needed to grow as a disciple. While Hinduism ties one’s religious standing to one’s birth status, Christianity teaches that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. My new Christian community cared not about my first birth but about my new birth: my confession of faith, my commitment to fellowship, and my desire to live wholly for Christ.

Every genuine Christian conversion is a miracle—a transition from spiritual death to eternal life, from enmity with God to adoption into his family. Yet God seems to take special delight in seemingly impossible cases—like Paul, a former persecutor—so that the riches of his grace might shine all the brighter. When I consider the chasm between my old outlook on life and my new life in Christ, I can only marvel at God’s work of redemption—and fall down at his feet in praise.

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Posted in Christology, Hinduism, Other Faiths, Theology: Scripture

(Guardian) ‘My rabbi’s tools now include a phone’: UK Jewish burials changed by Covid-19

Minutes before the rabbi started intoning funeral prayers over a shrouded coffin, his phone rang. The dead man: 90 years old, a victim of coronavirus, had been lying in a morgue for a couple of weeks while the authorities and his synagogue had tried to trace his relatives.

The man was one of 440 British Jews who had died from coronavirus by Monday, a statistic that belies the impact of the virus on the Jewish community, which has been disproportionately hit by Covid-19. Figures compiled by the Board of Deputies of British Jews suggest that more than 1% of all coronavirus deaths are Jewish, while Jews are only 0.4% of the total UK population.

Now the man’s grandson was on the line from Dubai. Although he had lost touch with his grandfather 30 years ago, he was able to give Rabbi Daniel Epstein valuable biographical information to supplement the man’s name, age and cause of death. Even so, the only people present to witness the coffin being lowered into its grave were the rabbi and staff of Waltham Abbey Jewish cemetery, in Essex, on the edge of London.

In normal times, it is rare to conduct a funeral without mourners, but not now. The number of burials conducted by the United Synagogue Burial Society more than tripled in April, Epstein said. Some rabbis have officiated at three or four funerals a day – and in many cases, relatives and friends were unable to say a last goodbye to their loved one due to self-isolation or restrictions on travel.Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(NYT) 15 Funerals a Day: The Pace of Death Stuns Brooklyn Muslims

All day long, wood coffins are carried in and out of Al-Rayaan Muslim Funeral Services in Brooklyn. What is meant to be a peaceful, reflective moment for grieving families has given way to a chaotic rhythm. Workers climb into a refrigerated truck and carefully carry the dead into the funeral home for a prayer, then back out to be transported to their final resting place.

They do this an average of 15 times a day in recent weeks. Before coronavirus hit, the home was holding only 20 to 30 funerals a month.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Health & Medicine, Islam, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

(WSJ) Tevi Troy–A Minyan in the Time of Social Distancing

Losing a parent is always difficult, especially as important financial and religious arrangements must be made during a time of intense grief. A global pandemic doesn’t help. But when my mother died on March 3, my family still had no idea how difficult it would be to stay safe while still honoring her in the Jewish tradition.

The Jewish response to death is communal. The local community comes together to support the mourners, who open up their home for a week of shiva. During this time the kaddish, or Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited at services three times a day. The mourner then may leave the home but remains obligated to say the kaddish three times daily for 11 months. According to Jewish law, these obligations must be fulfilled in the presence of a minyan, or prayer quorum of 10 men over the age of 13.

The current coronavirus crisis creates a challenge for those wishing to adhere to these Jewish mourning customs, especially in light of Judaism’s prioritization of public and individual health over ritual obligation. In Maryland, where I live, synagogues closed their doors last weekend to services and other community activities. In New Jersey, communities could not have communal prayer services in the home or even outdoors. In the interest of safety, similar changes are occurring throughout the country.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Judaism, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Meir Soloveichik–Queen Esther, a Hero for Our Time

Here we must understand how different the Book of Esther is from every other book in the Hebrew Bible. In this tale no mention is made of the divine; the Jews inhabit a world devoid of revelation. Whereas in every other scriptural tale political engagements are under prophetic instruction, in the Persian court God gives no guidance to the Jews facing a terrible danger. Esther, Rabbi Soloveitchik wrote, faced an unprecedented question: “How can the Jew triumph over his adversaries and enemies if God has stopped speaking to him, if the cryptic messages he receives remain unintelligible and incomprehensible?”

In this sense, Esther is the first biblical figure, male or female, to engage in statesmanship. Previous heroes — Moses and Elijah, Samuel and Deborah — are prophets who are guided and guarded by the Divine, but Esther operates on instinct, reflecting a mastery of realpolitik. As Isaiah Berlin wrote in his essay “On Political Judgment,” great leaders practice affairs of state not as a science but an art; they are, more akin to orchestra conductors than chemists. Facing a crisis, they “grasp the unique combination of characteristics that constitute this particular situation — this and no other.” Esther is the first scriptural figure to embody this description, emerging as a woman for all seasons, a hero celebrated year after year.

Purim thus marks the fragility of Jewish security, but also the possibility of heroism in the face of this vulnerability. It is therefore a holiday for our time. Around the world, and especially in a Europe that should know better, anti-Semitism has made itself manifest once again. As Esther’s example is celebrated, and Jews gather in synagogue to study her terrifying tale, we are reminded why, in the face of hate, we remain vigilant — and why we continue to joyously celebrate all the same.

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Posted in Judaism, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Recent Praise for Modi on India’s ‘Incredible’ Religious Freedom Doesn’t Match Our Research

…Modi’s record on religious freedom since becoming the leader of India has not been something to be proud of. His silence when minorities in India have been targeted and lynched by right-wing mobs has been telling. The worst sufferers of the wrath of extreme Hindu nationalists have been India’s Muslims—the targets of cow vigilantes and much hate speech—but Christians have not been far behind. The fundamental freedoms promised by the constitution of India to religious minorities are being constantly eroded, and persecution is a daily reality for many Christians in India.

Radicals affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement and its family of organizations—including Modi’s BJP—have been making concerted efforts to attack Christians both physically and socially. Groups such as Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which believe in the ideology of Hindutva as promoted by the RSS, have disrupted worship services in churches, beat up pastors and other Christians, engaged in vandalism and destruction of property, and have pressured many Christians to recant their faith and forcibly convert to Hinduism.

The lack of police action, and in too many cases the cooperation of the police with the radicals, has resulted in a culture of impunity, emboldening the oppressors to attack without fear of any consequence. This has resulted in a sense of insecurity felt by many Indian Christians. It does not help that responsible leaders of Modi’s party, including state and union ministers, routinely engage in hate speech against Christians and other minorities. This only bolsters the radicals, who view this as open encouragement to target minorities.

According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), which has been documenting incidents of persecution against Christians since 1998, incidents targeting Indian Christians have risen steeply since 2014, when Modi came to power. The commission recorded 147 verified cases of persecution in 2014; 252 cases in 2016; 351 in 2017; and 325 in 2018. The EFI commission will soon release the data for 2019.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Sun Telegraph) Why millennial atheists like me are embracing church

During the noughties, many teenage contemporaries were attracted to the shouty certainty of the ‘New Atheism’, just as today’s youngsters choose the climate change pulpit to lecture older generations. Shamefully, I accused my mother – a consummate do-gooder – of child abuse for baptising me without my consent. The canard “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 30, you have no brain”, may be trite but it reflects a fundamental truth; maturity often involves the realisation that we can learn much from the past.

Indeed, the Church of England still safeguards our architectural and artistic inheritance. National identity is inseparable from its defining texts, the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer. It is impossible to interpret much great art or literature created before the 1900s without some Bible knowledge.

But perhaps the most important lesson is how churchgoing takes us outside the trivia of our own lives – the preoccupations and obsessions induced by social media and that sense of ourselves as the star of our own B-movie biopic. It enables us to escape – if temporarily – such narcissism, focusing on the wider world and taking a longer view. For me it is at least a partial antidote to the illusory optimism, anxiety and depression that has defined my generation.

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Posted in Atheism, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Young Adults

(Guardian) How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart

The onslaught on JNU marked the middle of a season of nationwide protest, provoked by a new law. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by parliament on 11 December 2019, provides a fast track to citizenship for refugees fleeing into India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Refugees of every south Asian faith are eligible – every faith, that is, except Islam. It is a policy that fits neatly with the RSS and the BJP’s demonisation of Muslims, India’s largest religious minority. To votaries of Hindutva, the country is best served if it is expunged of Islam. The act was both a loud signal of that ambition and a handy tool to help achieve it.

Since December, millions of Indians have turned out on to the streets to object to this vision of their country. The government has fought them by banning gatherings, shutting off mobile internet services, detaining people arbitrarily, or worse. After protests flared at Jamia Millia Islamia, an Islamic university in Delhi, cops fired teargas and live rounds, assaulted students and trashed the library. As demonstrations spread across the state of Uttar Pradesh, police raided and vandalised Muslim homes by way of reprisal. Detainees in custody were beaten; one man reported hearing screams in a police station all night long. (In various statements, the police claimed to be acting in self defence, or to prevent violence, or to root out conspiracy.) At least 20 protesters died of bullet wounds. Police officials denied firing at the crowds, even though the police carried the only visible guns at these rallies.

Still, the protests have persisted well into February. At Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in south-eastern Delhi, hundreds of thousands of people have turned up over nine weeks to take part in an indefinite sit-in. The BJP has taken a ruthless view of all this dissent. On one occasion, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu cleric who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said: “If they won’t understand words, they’ll understand bullets.” One of Modi’s ministers used “Shoot the traitors to the nation!” as a call-and-response at a rally – the same slogan the ABVP had raised in JNU.

In its 72 years as a free country, India has never faced a more serious crisis. Already its institutions – its courts, much of its media, its investigative agencies, its election commission – have been pressured to fall in line with Modi’s policies. The political opposition is withered and infirm. More is in the offing: the idea of Hindutva, in its fullest expression, will ultimately involve undoing the constitution and unravelling the fabric of liberal democracy. It will have to; constitutional niceties aren’t compatible with the BJP’s blueprint for a country in which people are graded and assessed according to their faith. The ferment gripping India since the passage of the citizenship act – the fever of the protests, the brutality of the police, the viciousness of the politics – has only reflected how existentially high the stakes have become.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(RNS) A daughter’s duty: From Boston, a Uighur woman champions her father’s release in China

Samira Imin can’t stop thinking about the times her father took her horseback riding.

She remembers how her father, a prominent Uighur publisher and historian named Iminjan Seydin, would always spoil her and shelter her from her mother’s scoldings. She thinks of the time she went out alone as a teen living in China’s Xinjiang region and became lost, and Seydin began frantically calling around to find her, then cried when she finally returned home.

“He was like a mountain to me, so strong,” said Imin, who works as a research assistant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. “He was always my protector.”

Now, months after she learned that Chinese officials were holding her father in a detention camp for Uighur Muslims before arresting him over charges of extremism, Imin says it’s her turn to become her father’s protector and bring him back home.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(Sightings) Russell Johnson–Martin Buber’s Hope in Polarized Times

At Carnegie Hall in 1952, Buber gave a lecture titled “Hope for this Hour.” His goal was to give an honest assessment of life during the escalating Cold War. He announced, “The human world is today, as never before, split into two camps, each of which understand the other as the embodiment of falsehood and itself as the embodiment of truth.” Buber does not advocate a centrist position between these two camps, nor does he here weigh in on the disputed points between them. Rather, Buber analyzes how this disagreement over economic philosophies is a site of polarization. He makes three points that are relevant for “this hour” in our social landscape.

First, we need to be critical of the way disagreements are framed. In polarization, Buber says, a person is “more than ever inclined to see his own principle in its original purity and the opposing one in its present deterioration, especially if the forces of propaganda confirm his instincts in order to make better use of them.” He continues, “Expressed in modern terminology, he believes that he has ideas, his opponent only ideologies. This obsession feeds the mistrust that incites the two camps.” Put differently, polarization attenuates critical thinking, making us all too easily satisfied that our commitments are right because they are superior to those of our opponents. We also become less sensitive to distinctions and concerns of the other side, since we think we already know what really motivates their political behavior. Mistrust snowballs, then, as each side believes the other side is intentionally misrepresenting reality. The first thing we need in polarized times, Buber writes, is “criticism of our criticism.” Unless we hold ourselves to a high standard when inferring the motives and concerns of the other side, suspicion will get the better of truth.

Second, we need “individuation,” which means not treating the other side as a monolith but recognizing that each person has unique convictions. This idea is central to Buber’s philosophy of dialogue. One effect of polarization, he argues in “Hope for this Hour,” is the transformation of ordinary mistrust into “massive mistrust.” It is normal and even necessary to treat with suspicion the claims of a person who has shown themselves to be untrustworthy. We should be leery of an individual who has made a pattern of playing fast and loose with the truth. However, any transition from distrusting an unreliable individual to distrusting an opposing camp is not a change of degree but of kind. The other side’s speech becomes guilty until proven innocent. “One no longer merely fears that the other will voluntarily dissemble, but one simply takes it for granted that he cannot do otherwise.” Polarization is not extreme disagreement, but the erosion of the conditions—like trust—necessary for working through disagreement.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Philosophy, Politics in General

(EF) Pablo Martinez–“Turning the truth into a matter of personal opinions, inexorably leads to loss of hope”

Question. We went from ‘I think therefore I am’, to ‘I feel therefore I am’, and then to post-truth. What is the reference that will be an anchor to human beings in this new decade?

Answer. The two great anchors of human beings are truth and hope. Both come together, they are inseparable and make the backbone of human existence. These two do not vary with time, we need them today just like twenty centuries ago. What changes is the relationship, the attitude of Man towards these two anchors. That’s where the origin of the current deep crisis of values lies. The replacement of ‘the Truth’ by ‘my truth’ has broken one of the anchors, dragging the other one, hope, with its breakup. In his best known work From Dawn To Decay, the renowned French historian Jacques Barzun, already warned that ‘the postmodern assault on the idea of truth could lead us to the destruction of 500 years of civilisation’.

The root of the conflict is not cultural or ideological, it is a moral one. Ultimately, it is not a matter of a new philosophy, but a matter of who has the authority in my life and in the world. Does anyone rule up there or can I rule?

A strong earthquake has shaken the foundations of Western civilisation, because in the last 30 years the foundation and nature of the truth have amazingly changed. The change is summed up in one sentence: ‘Truth is dead, long live to my truth!’

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(NYT) ‘Most Visible Jews’ Fear Being Targets as Anti-Semitism Rises

A rabbinical student was walking down a quiet street in Brooklyn last winter, chatting on the phone with his father when three men jumped him from behind. They punched his head, knocking him to the ground before fleeing down the block.

When police officers arrested three suspects later that night, the student, a Hasidic man who asked to be identified by his first name, Mendel, learned that another Hasidic Jew had been attacked on the same block in Crown Heights just minutes before he was. Video of the earlier attack showed three men knocking a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

The victims in both attacks were “very visibly Jewish,” said Mendel, 23, who has a beard and dresses in the kind of dark suit and hat traditionally worn by Hasidic men. That, he said, made them easier targets.

“You could ask everyone if they’re Jewish,” he continued, “or you could just go after people who you don’t have to ask any questions about because you can just see that they dress like they’re Jewish.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) Document Shows Chinese Officials’ Calculations in Waging Xinjiang Campaign

A spreadsheet compiled by Chinese authorities responsible for tracking ethnic-minority Muslims catalogs detailed personal information—including whether they regularly pray at a mosque, possess a passport or have friends or relatives in trouble with the law.

The 137-page document, a copy of which was shown to The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations, holds records from one county in Xinjiang, a northwestern region where human-rights groups say as many as a million people have been detained in re-education camps in recent years.

Xinjiang, on the doorstep of Central Asia, is home to millions of Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

Officials in Xinjiang describe the camps as vocational-training schools. In December, the region’s governor said all students had successfully “graduated.” The spreadsheet appears aimed at helping decide who would stay in custody and who would be let go, often for “management and control” at home.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

(NYT) ‘I Lose Sleep Over This Building’: A Rush to Make Synagogues Safe

The East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn needs $250,000 to replace its aging roof and another $250,000 to repair the water-damaged ceiling of its sanctuary, its director said. Then there is the aging boiler — the size of a small apartment — that has needed $20,000 worth of maintenance so far this winter.

Looming over those everyday concerns is something more existential: keeping everyone in the 96-year-old building alive and well at a time of rising anti-Semitism in New York and around the country.

Enhancing security for Jewish institutions, and how to pay for it, has become an urgent issue for religious leaders and local and state governments.

“I lose sleep over this building every night because I care about this institution and I want to protect it and I need the money to do it,” said Wayne Rosenfeld, the executive director of the synagogue, which provides Hebrew lessons for 50 students twice a week and social events for 150 older people on weekdays.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(NYT) George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90

George Steiner, a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature’s moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. David Steiner.

An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic — he succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for The New Yorker from 1966 until 1997 — Mr. Steiner both dazzled and dismayed his readers with the range and occasional obscurity of his literary references.

Essential to his views, as he avowed in “Grammars of Creation,” a book based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, “is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, France, History, Judaism, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Esther Brown–Scrolls Of Hate And Hope

My mother and grandparents survived the Holocaust. When I was growing up, I resented how often they read anti-Semitism into seemingly innocuous exchanges. “They will always hate us,” they warned. I naively dismissed their anxiety as paranoia, and questioned their capacity to move beyond their own pain. Now I recognize how wrong I was.

Anti-Semitism is hardly a thing of the past; it’s a constant, vicious drumbeat—and it’s louder today than it has been in decades. Anti-Semitism—cloaked and overt, polite and crass—has permeated discourse for millennia. The recent rise in anti-Semitic violence should force us to reevaluate not only the way non-Jews regard Jews, but also the way Jews have come to see themselves through the eyes of those who despise them.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., displays a “Scroll of Hitler”—Megillat Hitler, in Hebrew. It tells of the rise of Hitler, the requisition of Jewish property, and the Nazi attempt to deport Jews from North Africa. The Megillat Hitler was written by Prosper Hassine, a scribe from Casablanca. There is a copy of the scroll on display at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. This copy, according to the museum’s archives, was once owned by the Corcos family. They fled to Casablanca from Florence in 1939, hoping to escape the fate of other European Jews.

The scroll is modeled after the Scroll of Esther, a biblical story that has its own Hitler: the Persian courtier Haman.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(ABC Nightline) Important but difficult Viewing– The Children of Auschwitz: Survivors Return 75 years after Liberation

Take the time to watch it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Germany, History, Judaism, Military / Armed Forces, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

(CBC) How they lived: Families share memories of Quebec City mosque attack victims

The six men shot to death by a lone gunman who walked into a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017 had all made the choice to trade one continent for another.

They’d left behind friends, relatives and familiarity to make new lives in Canada.

All were husbands and fathers: 17 children lost a parent.

They were educated men who had come to Quebec City seeking opportunity, nature, peace and democracy.

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Posted in Canada, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

David French–‘And No One Will Make Them Afraid’ When Jews are under violent attack for building a home in this land, it repudiates the American promise

Indeed, it’s not only the most American of stories—of people welcome nowhere else coming to a land that promised them liberty, it’s a story of unique resonance to American Jews dating back to our nation’s founding. As New York Times editor and writer Bari Weiss relates in her outstanding and moving book, How To Fight Anti-Semitism, George Washington wrote to a Rhode Island Hebrew congregation all the way back in 1790 that American Jews “possess alike liberties of conscience and immunities of censorship.”

America is Israel’s closest ally. America is the home of the second-largest population of Jewish people in the world, behind only Israel. And now, in communities where Jews have lived and thrived for generations, they don’t know if they’re safe. They don’t know if they’ll be victimized by random, vicious attacks. Even worse, those attacks aren’t coming from a single movement that can be identified, isolated, and defeated. They come from radical left and radical right. They come from Americans black and white. The ancient hatreds have re-emerged to such an extent that I’ve heard more than one friend question whether this land can truly remain their home.

In fact, one of the central political, cultural, and spiritual challenges of our time is reassuring Americans increasingly divided by religion and still divided by race that this nation is, indeed, home.

That’s America’s 400-year challenge with an African-American population that endured 246 years of slavery, 99 years of widespread legal discrimination following Appomattox, and has lived only 56 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

That’s America’s challenge as increasing diversity is accompanied by increasing cultural clashes, and the omnipresent human will to power prefers victory and domination over pluralism and accommodation.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) You owe it to yourself to listen and watch this piece about Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen

Posted in Canada, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Church Times) Faith leaders call for unity, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz

THE 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz should be used “to come before God in worship, conscious of our need for forgiveness, but committed to action that would seek the common flourishing of all”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In a statement released this week, in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday, Archbishop Welby said: “The Holocaust, the Shoah, remains a unique stain on the history of Europe, and a chilling reminder to me of how millennia of Christian anti-Jewish hatred could provide a seedbed for such evil.”

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) has released a prayer for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day. It was launched at an event in the House of the Lords on Monday, where it was read by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally.

The chair of the CCJ, the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “Through prayer, we will be asking Christians to remember the pains of the past, and to recommit to a better future for all people, and, in particular, of course, to commit themselves to combating anti-Semitism, which is such a scourge in our society and our world.”

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Posted in History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) Dozens of world leaders attend the the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp at the Yad Vashem remembrance centre

The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is the largest diplomatic event in Israel’s history.

More than 40 dignitaries attended and laid wreaths, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, US Vice-President Mike Pence and the Prince of Wales, who is making his first official trip to the Holy Land.

In the opening address, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked them “for your commitment to remembering the Shoah [Holocaust], for your commitment to the citizens of the world, to those who believe in the dignity of man”.

He said their countries should not take for granted the common values that people fought for in World War Two, such as democracy and freedom, saying that Jewish people “remember because we understand that if we do not remember then history can be repeated”.

“Anti-Semitism does not only stop with Jews,” he warned. “Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles people and countries, and no society and no democracy is immune to that.”

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, History, Israel, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Violence

Al Mohler–Why Mormonism should not be considered Christian

The most important question is this: should we consider the Mormon Church, the church known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as a Christian denomination? No, we should not. It simply fails every major test of Christian orthodoxy. It is itself at its very foundation a repudiation of historic Christian orthodoxy. It claims an authority of a living prophet, living apostles and the book of Mormon as a successor. They call it another Testament of Jesus Christ to the Bible itself. They deny the most basic Christian doctrine of all, which is the doctrine of the Trinity, and they also reformulate the doctrines concerning Christ not only in terms of the person of Christ but also of his work. They preach what the apostle Paul identified in the book of Galatians as another gospel. And this must be recognized.

At the same time this is also a very timely reminder to Christians that in the name of Christ and in the service of the gospel it is never wrong to live amongst our neighbors with mutual respect. But that respect does not mean it’s a respect at the expense of the truth. We should expect our Mormon neighbors to believe in Mormonism, and we should also protect their religious liberty to do so where religious liberty that is threatened for both Mormons and evangelicals. But at the same time our respect for religious liberty and our respect for our neighbors does not prevent us in any way from either the responsibility or the urgency of evangelism. And we should note that goes both ways. Mormons are seeking to evangelize biblical Christians even as biblical Christians are seeking to evangelize Mormons. That’s honest and it need not be disrespectful. Furthermore there should be the recognition of the fact that we in terms of the biblical doctrine of common grace are glad to find the affirmation of certain very essential moral principles and affirmations of the structures of creation wherever they are found. We should be very happy to find a rightly ordered family wherever that rightly ordered family is found. That’s simply a testimony to the goodness of God in the very structures of the creation that he made for human flourishing.

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Posted in Apologetics, Mormons, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology