July 6, 2012
ICYMI - new at The Revealer

I’ve been a busy bee, but my colleagues at The Revealer have been writing more than me!

Rethinking Mali’s Political Culture | Jun 28 | by Alex Thurston

The MNLA and Ansar al Din have dominated the headlines about Mali this spring and summer. But how have other Malian Muslims reacted to the crisis in the north, and to the partial “Islamization” of the conflict by Ansar al Din?

The First Draft of History: Wire Agency Reporting in Egypt | Jul 2, 2012 | by Maurice Chammah

The editors weren’t pleased. It was too complex…It would be easier, they decided, to frame the story as one of religious hatred.

Intersections of Religion and Media: Interviews | Jul 2, 2012

S. Brent Plate interviews Jolyon Mitchell, Rianne Subijanto, Diane Winston, J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Benjamin Dorman and Stuart Hoover.

Missed Opportunities: a review of “Arab Media” | Jul 5, 2012 | by Narges Bajoghli

It’s true that mass media have been used (and still are, in some contexts) as a means of social engineering. Nonetheless, we must complicate our understanding of the hegemony of state-controlled media.

June 21, 2012
Rejected comment

One fun thing about working at a site, not just writing for it, is you get to see the reader comments that come in but aren’tpublished. Here’s a lengthy tome on a piece of mine from last month, on anti-abortion protesters in Ohio and their belief that anything contradictory to biblical law is, in fact, unconstitutional.

I suspect that most of the founding fathers more or less thought that life began at the moment of ejaculation.

Spermatozoa was discovered by Anton van Leewenhoek and Johan Ham in 1627, but how it worked was a mystery for another couple of centuries or so. Not until 1875 did Oscar Hertwig conclusively demonstrate, with a handy sea urchin, “that the sperm head fused with the female genetic material inside the egg to form the nucleus of a new being.” http://www.seductionlabs.org/2007/04/02/a-brief-history-of-sperm/

To a spermist, the womb merely served the the teeny tiny embryo it was given, so a child would be the property of its father. I think that was generally the Biblical view as well, with the “seed” being conceptualized as an unformed child. Conception was generally thought, I think, to have happened when the womb accepted the man’s unformed life and began to form it, rather than having rejected it. Bad womb, bad bad womb… for rejecting a man’s seed.

The mammalian egg wasn’t confirmed by the Estonian scientist, Karl Ernst von Baer, until 1827, I think.

So…when the country was founded, the founding fathers were ignorant of the very most basic scientific facts of conception.

Has Christianity ever come up with a satisfactory theology of the human ovum and the fusion of male and female genetic material? If there was one leveler of the sexes towards greater equality, I would think it would be that rather recently established fact.

In any case, life obviously began eons ago and not at any “moment” in the process of conception. Processes may have arbitrarily designated milestones, so to speak, but there could not be a “moment” when conception happens, as every
“moment” in the deep time since life appeared on earth is necessary for every other moment. Conception continues life, not creates it anew. I’m not even a new being, really, as I have the genetic material of both my mother and father. I’m not really a new being, I’m my parent’s son. The odds that I exist at all, considering the millions of sperm and egg combinations, are astronomical…but if I didn’t happen, another child like would have come along…and four followed me into the sunlight.

And…that’s not the only process which can continues life for another turn of the globe, though it is for the continuance of mammalian Homo Sapiens Sapiens life…. for the time being.

Who has that much time on their hands?!

June 20, 2012
In Jesus' Name - Right Hook!

My post today for The Revealer, on the upcoming documentaryFight Churchabout Christian MMA clubs.

The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

The second rule of Fight Club is, you talk about Jesus at Fight Club.

No, Brad Pitt didn’t change the script. Welcome to Fight Church, the upcoming documentary about young Christian mixed martial arts fighters.

What does that mean? According to the film’s Kickstarter fundraising page, the documentary “follows several pastors and fighters in a quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that some consider violent and barbaric,” or in the words of one participant, “Can you love your neighbor as yourself and at the same time knee him in the face as hard as you can?” It’s an exploration of the increasing presence of MMA in evangelical Christian communities and the tension that arises.

Read my full post here.

June 20, 2012
Mauritania: Islamic Response to the Sahel Drought

by Alex Thurston for The Revealer | Originally published June 15

It appears part of the reason why the IIRO works in fewer countries today than in the 1990s is the effects of 9/11. The period from roughly 1980-2000 saw a blossoming of international Islamic aid agencies, Arab governmental development projects, quasi-governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations in sub-Saharan Africa. Gulf Arab wealth provided much of the financial muscle for these organizations. A desire to win new allies (especially against Israel), an ideology of global Muslim solidarity, and reactions of sympathy to Africa’s humanitarian crises helped motivate the effort. The Charitable Crescent and the chapter “Islamic N.G.O.s in Africa: The Promise and Peril of Islamic Voluntarism” in the volume Islamism and Its Enemies in the Horn of Africa tell this story in greater detail.

Read the full post here.

June 18, 2012
34 Years to Find a Mormon Voice

Amy Levin for The Revealer! It’s already attracted one great comment:

"God bless America and mitt romney. Save the constitution and america"

This must be worth reading!

We hear about the black vote, we hear about the Mormon vote, but we seldom-to-never hear about the black Mormon vote (or black Mormons at all, for that matter). In fact, when it comes to presidential politics, most of us can’t even read the word Mormon without Mitt Romney’s branded-white, male face suddenly appearing, side smirk and all. Despite the Mormon church’s efforts to diversify and “disrupt the dominant image of young white males riding bikes and knocking on doors” with examples like the “I’m a Mormon” campaign and the “Meet Mormons” website, this image of the white, heterosexual, Romney-voting Mormon tends to hover in our dim and narrow collective (voter) imagination.

Read the full article here.

June 14, 2012
Cooking the Books

A review of “The Revisionaries,” new at The Revealer by Nathan Schradle.

Hovering behind this frustration was my fellow teachers’ common assumption that, in spite of the words “California Edition,” emblazoned along the top of each book, the content of the textbooks had actually been decided in settings far removed from the one in which we taught. Teachers didn’t feel enabled by the textbooks—we felt hamstrung. So I came to “The Revisionaries” with certain expectations. I expected it to give me a deeper and better-informed loathing of the way that the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has managed tooverhaul high school curricula to conform to the standards of a particular brand of hard-line Creationism and political conservatism shared by a small fraction of the population, even in traditionally conservative Texas. It is a testament to the film’s quality and the filmmakers’ perceptiveness that it gave me my anticipated dose of horror, but not at all in the way I’d expected.

Don McLeroy,

Texas State Board of Education member.

Read the full article here.

June 11, 2012
"The two fighters in the ring : sleep / awake. Not believing is not an argument. It is not a scholarly exercise. It is simply an awakening. A realization that all there is… is the world, nature, us, you and me… as we are. Once awake, we can begin our earthly trek. Alive in the present."

— Comment on my most recent article for The Revealer that we will not be publishing. But I appreciate it, nonetheless.

June 11, 2012
Al Shabaab: Where Do They Go From Here?

New from Joe McKnight for The Revealer, June 7:

Ever since Somali President Siad Barre’s government was removed from power in 1991, Somalia has lacked an effective central government. For the past 20 years the country has been sacked by myriad civil wars between competing local clans … and more recently trans-national wars, including the current one with Kenya.

The question is political: what kind of franchise should be given to al Shabaab members in the wake of their defeat? If, like Ethiopia in 2006, the Kenyans or the African Union tries to drive al Shabaab into the ground, they can expect just that: an underground “problem” in Somalia, Kenya, and potentially, throughout East Africa.

Read the full article here.

June 11, 2012
Schooling Muslims in Northern Nigeria: Politics, Policies and Conclusions

New from Alex Thurston for The Revealer, June 6:

In March, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan launched a policy of opening religious schools for Muslims in Northern Nigeria. The policy came in response to the militant movement Boko Haram, which has been burning government primary schools in Northern Nigeria as part of its campaign of violence against the government, Christians, and other designated adversaries. Government officials suspect Boko Haram, whose name is often literally translated “Western education is Islamically forbidden,” of using some Islamic schools as recruiting centers, and of drawing recruits from Northern Nigeria’s large population of itinerant, and often desperately poor, Qur’anic students (Hausa: almajirai, singular almajiri). Government-run Islamic schools, then, are to be a source of “counter-radicalization” as well as a means of moving almajirai into more “productive” schools. But the policy is unlikely to succeed.

Read the full article here.

June 6, 2012
Atheism vs Religion: The Final Countdown? | The Revealer

My newest post for The Revealer, on how a HuffPo blogger gets religion - and secularization - wrong.

Congratulations, godless heathens- you’re winning!

According to biopsychologist and blogger Nigel Barber over at our favorite aggregator, The Huffington Post, atheism will “defeat” religion by 2038.

I didn’t know they were in a timed fight to the death. But I suppose, in media, everything is really an epic battle.

Read the full post here.

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