Phew! It’s been a while since I’ve had a moment to come up for air and get a Faith Forum post together. In the time since I last did so, I’ve sold my house and had one of the roughest work weeks in my career. Enough of that, however, and on to some of the news!
It seems like we’ve heard a lot recently about legislating blasphemy, especially in the context of the Youtube video mocking the Prophet Muhammad and the violent reaction to it. However, a recent case in Greece resulted in the arrest of a man for “malicious blasphemy and religious insult” via a Facebook page for Elder Pastitsios the Pastafarian (the original site seems to be only available via website caching systems, in this case Google’s). The name of the profile plays on a famous and well-loved Eastern Orthodox monk, Elder Paisios, who died in 1994. The Christian Science Monitor has a full write up. The CSM notes that Greece is one of the few countries in the European Union with blasphemy laws.
In our own country, the dust-up over the aforementioned video included the often insulting (in my opinion) American Atheists. Their president, Dave Silverman, commented that “criticizing any religion is often equated to racism or hate, when really it’s just honest expression that must be protected.” While that’s actually an argument that I might be able to get behind, he was then criticized (even within the atheist community) for the photo which accompanies the article linked above where Silverman uses the hashtag #IslamIsBarbaric for undermining his own argument for the sake of a twitter’s 140 character limit.
With respect to blasphemy and tolerance, President Obama had some things to say at the United Nations. The link above includes the full text as well as a video of it, but the Religion News Service provided a summary of the points relating to our particular sphere of interest.
On September 24, HuffPo Religion (and HuffPo Gay Voices) posted a translation of an interview from their the HuffPo Spain site with Mr. Gay Denmark who speaks on his choice to be a part of the pageant despite and because of his Muslim faith and on what his faith and his sexuality means to him. Particularly interesting are his comparisons between life in Denmark and Turkey, where he frequently visits.
Daniel Denvir at the Atlantic Cities writes about how Dearborn, MI has become the city that Americans come to hate Muslims. It’s a longer article, but worth reading to help get an understanding of what life is like, at times, in one of the largest Muslim enclaves in the states.
The past two weeks were somewhat dominated, with respect to religion news, by stories about and reactions to advertisements that appeared in 10 New York City subway stations condemned as anti-Muslim hate speech. The ads are run by Pamela Gellar of the American Freedom Defense Initiative who told CNN that she is “running them because [she] can.” In response, an interfaith group ran their own counter-ad with a much different message: “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.” The AFDI ads will go up as of today, October 8, in some DC Metro stations as well.
September 26th marked the beginning of the three-day Crown Nominations Commission which work to fund the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Anglican faith. In a fairly candid interview, the Guardian gives us a look at what the outgoing Archbishop, Dr. Rowan Williams thinks of his 10 year role in his church. The same source also reported on the 30th that deliberations for the next Archbishop were deadlocked and the Telegraph reported the same on the 6th.
We talked briefly in the past about a papyrus fragment unveiled by a Harvard professor which seems to portray Jesus as a married man. The process has begun to authenticate the claim (and the papyrus) and Professor King, who made the announcement, tells the Boston Globe that she is “open to the possibility that the fragment could be a forgery.”
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released an interactive map covering 53 controversies over Mosques and Islamic Centers across the U.S. There’s also the full report as a PDF about these controversies.
The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, is working with a Muslim man suing the US government over his terrorist status. The Chicago Tribune provides not only a look at the Quakers’ motivations for their help but also the conditions of life for Muhammad Salah:
[He] has been prohibited from buying virtually anything — including food and clothing, according to his lawsuit. He also cannot make regular donations to charity — called “zakat” — infringing on his religious liberty, his lawyers argue. It also is a crime for U.S. citizens and groups to provide him anything, even medical services, they said. His attorneys think he is the only resident U.S. citizen living under such harsh restrictions.
The Indian Country Today Media Network reported on a MotherJones article which reveals 14 “facts” that kids will learn within Louisiana’s new voucher schools. The one of particular interest to the Staff at ICTMN is the “fact” that God used the Trail of Tears to bring Native Americans to Christ. Because nothing says love they neighbor like the forced relocation of a people from their ancestral home to designated lands elsewhere on the continent.
Hitting closer to home for the Pagan community was a story at the National Catholic Register defending an increased need for exorcists based on an increase in occult and New Age practices.
Finally, I could find information about a few holidays during this time frame. First, two Jewish holidays: Yom Kippur (warning: automatically playing video) and Sukkot. But, secondly, I learned about a holiday celebrated in the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches called Meskel. It’s a celebration of a the finding of the true cross by Saint Helena of Constantinople in the fourth century.
Obviously, the belief in that event and in the nature of the True Cross is clearly a matter of faith. But, two things struck me as interesting about the holiday. First, the these orthodox churches believe a piece of the true cross was brought to Ethiopia and is said to be kept there at Amba Geshen explaining the prominence of the holiday in this region. Second, that the date of the finding of the cross is thought to have been in March but the holiday was moved to avoid having a celebration during Lent.