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 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.

June 4, 2012
He Winketh with His Eyes, He Speaketh with His Feet « The Revealer

Our new intern/writer/buddy at The Revealer has done it again! He’s learning fast. I think we’ll keep him.

Joe McKnight: Walter Wink was, among other things, an outspoken critic of the “biblically-based” homophobia that has long plagued Christianity. Through editing “Homosexuality and the Christian Faith,” and authoring numerous articles on the same matter, Wink showed that by approaching the subject, “from the point of view of love, rather than that of law, the issue is at once transformed.” He continued, “There is no biblical sex ethic. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.”  (The italics are Wink’s.)  Statements of this nature had no small part in making Wink unpopular in the 1980s and 1990s, during the rise of the Moral Majority.

The loss of Walter Wink on May 10th, 2012 was significant not only for the liberation theology to which his life was devoted, but for the declining number of clergy committed to the kind of activism not seen since the days of the Civil rights and anti-war movements five or six decades ago.

Read the full post here.

June 4, 2012

The Tennessean has some amazing footage of snake handling! (via The Revealer)

Hamblin and other handlers say the Bible tells people to obey the law. So he wears a seat belt while driving, obeys the speed limit and files his taxes on time.

But he won’t give up serpent handling, which he says is a command from God — even though Tennessee outlawed it in 1947 after five people died of serpent bites at churches in two years.

“It is the closest thing to heaven on earth that you could get,” he said.

Of course the article is interesting… it’s trying to frame itself as, I don’t know, accepting? “Just covering the story”? It brings to mind Robert Orsi’s contact with the “repugnant other.” And It’s interesting how the article also tries to couch itself in issues of “freedom of religion” - they should be allowed to practice their faith, although it’s been outlawed. Blurring issues of faith, politics, and practice.

Snake handlers - they’re just like us, only different!

Among the 50 or so people at the picnic were Adam Gibson and his wife, Ashley, both childhood friends of Hamblin.

Like him, they didn’t grow up in the serpent-handling movement. They first attended a service in November after Hamblin agreed to do their wedding.

Gibson used to think serpent handlers were crazy. But during a service he knelt at the church’s tiny altar and prayed for God to save his soul.

On New Year’s Eve the onetime scoffer took up his first serpent, a 4-foot-long canebrake rattler.

“It’s a great feeling to know that God is on your side,” he said.

Gibson hopes more people will join the church.

“I would like to let everyone know if you don’t have a home church, come to the Tabernacle,” he said. “We believe in the Bible, we believe in the signs — and if you come out we will treat you like family.”

June 1, 2012
The Dalai Lama is Home

Becky Rynor’s first piece for The Revealer is a pretty interesting one. Can you really go home again? Should you? Oh, and also the Dalai Lama.

I was looking for the chink in that unfailingly optimistic armor, a moment of emotion from the man who was forced by invading Chinese forces to flee his homeland of Tibet in 1959. I was watching for the beatific smile to slide, perhaps even for tears to well in the eyes behind the glasses perched on the nose of the Dalai Lama.

As a journalist, I was also looking for the perfect lede, the emotional hook with which to pull readers into a story about the Dalai Lama’s public speech before roughly 7,000 people in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, on April 28th. Here’s a man who hasn’t been able to go home since he was 16 years old because he is considered a threat by the Chinese Communist regime. I was more interested in the personal than the political and as a skeptic, I was curious – just who IS this guy who can attract, charm and sway the masses the world over? What His Holiness was about to remind me was that sometimes you don’t need to go home, and yes, the personal is political.

The diminutive man with the delighted smile is not only a religious leader, he’s a politically adroit, media savvy, influential icon. If I thought I could coax him in any direction for the sake of a quotable quote, a look, a camera-ready moment, I was wrong. In other words, he’s on to you.

March 17, 2012
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Albert Einstein (via physicsandchemistryrevision)

March 17, 2012
Occupy’s heiress

Leah Hunt-Hendrix, the granddaughter of an oil and gas billionaire, is determined to radicalize America’s wealthy

Salon | 17 March 2012

“For Aristotle,” says Leah Hunt-Hendrix, “ethics is not a question about right and wrong, it’s a question about who you are. It doesn’t come down to a decision in an instant. It comes down to what kind of life you live, and what kind of life you live as a community.”

That question is an essential one to Hunt-Hendrix, 28, the granddaughter of the late billionaire Texas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt. She grew up surrounded by 1 percent privilege — but has spent the last several months neck deep in general assemblies, human microphones and consensus twinkles. She’s made the study of popular protest her life’s work – and Occupy Wall Street has allowed her to roll up her sleeves.

“And the way to get re-formed,” she says, “is by participating in a collective movement, collective resistance. Through that process, the whole public is transformed, little by little. Their consciousness is reshaped, and they become agents of change. I think that’s also what is happening with Occupy Wall Street. Everyone who participates is becoming re-formed a little and their character is being reshaped. And their consciousness is definitely being reshaped. That’s how change will have to happen in America.”

Read the full article…

March 14, 2012
"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature."

Albert Einstein, column for The New York Times, Nov. 9, 1930 (reprinted in The New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955) | via Freethought of the Day

Happy birthday, Al!

On this date in 1879, Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Zurich by 1909. His 1905 paper explaining the photo-electric effect, the basis of electronics, earned him the Nobel Prize in 1921. His first paper on Special Relativity Theory, also published in 1905, changed the world. Einstein split his time and academic appointments between various European universities. After the rise of the Nazi party, Einstein made Princeton his permanent home, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1940. Einstein, a pacifist during World War I, stayed a firm proponent of social justice and responsibility. He chaired the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, which organized to alert the public to the dangers of atomic warfare. In an article for The New York Times (Nov. 9, 1930), Einstein wrote about his views on religion, and wonder at the cosmic mysteries:

"This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, also has given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men."

Confusion over his beliefs stemmed from such comments as his public statement, reported by United Press in April 25, 1929, that: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony in being, not in God who deals with the facts and actions of men." Einstein’s famous "God does not play dice with the Universe" metaphor—meaning nature conforms to mathematical law—fueled more confusion. At a symposium, he advised:

"In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task … " ("Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium," published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941).

In a letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind, dated Jan. 3, 1954, Einstein stated:

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this," (The Guardian, "Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear," by James Randerson, May 13, 2008).

D. 1955.

March 7, 2012
"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

-via Nick Snow

"I find your lack of faith disturbing."

-via Nick Snow

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