Recent writings

Recent writings

s brent plate

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    What a Forgotten 19th Century Suffragist Can Teach Us About Women's Rights vs. the Religious Right

     

    If America is currently being “taken back” and made “great again” we seem to be landing somewhere in the late 19th century. It’s easy to say that great strides have been made toward racial and gender equality in the last 150 years, yet one can’t help being struck by the parallel discourse surrounding human rights between then and now. Nowhere is this more evident than in the battles between women’s rights and the religious right. And nowhere is it more clear than in reviewing the works of Matilda Joslyn Gage.

    From her first public speech, at age 26, in front of the 1852 National Woman’s Rights Convention in Syracuse, to her culminating thoughts in the 1893 book Woman, Church, and State, Gage used philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and science to rewrite the place of women in socio-political life throughout history. Today, her colleagues Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are better remembered—invoked in recent marches, and even a Saturday Night Live skit—but Gage offers helpful lessons for examining the gender inequalities of religion.

    [Read the rest at Religion Dispatches]

     

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    Reports of the Death of Religious Art Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

     

    When written in the same sentence, the terms “religion” and “art” tend to turn the contemporary secularized gaze back in time to Renaissance imagery. Those old, redolent, often pious pictures of Christ Child and Madonna are pleasing to look at, but these days their principal function is to confirm how religious art existed in ages past. Present-day artists can’t possibly be interested in that anymore.

    To other eyes, religion and art co-exist just fine, as long as it’s a nebulous, personal “spirituality” that the artists are trying to express — nothing too public, political, or potentially threatening to anyone who looks at it. Others light on the scandals — Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly, John Latham’s God is Great — thinking the arts now only work against religion. And still others reduce “religious art” to some proselytizing message, like you might see in Thomas Kinkade’s kitschily-lit homes.

    Which is all quite remarkable, considering modern and contemporary art is flooded with religious symbols, strivings, conceptions, and, yes, controversies. 

    [Read the rest at the Los Angeles Review of Books]

     

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    What a Father Learned from Captain Fantastic

     

    The other day, “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the classic rock song by Guns N’ Roses, popped up on my car radio and I started weeping. If you’ve seen Captain Fantastic, you might know why.

    The film has a longer emotional half-life than most as it taps not only into a stockpile of sentiments, but also triggers family ties that have kept its sounds and images bouncing about my life well after the houselights turned back on. For days following, every time I looked at my children I thought of the film. And an old hard rock song that I never much cared for now makes me cry.

    Captain Fantastic has nothing to do with superheroes, or anything “super” for that matter.... 

    [Read the rest at Sacred Matters]

     

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    State of the Art: A Q&A with the Smithsonian's New Religion Curator

     

    (RNS) The place of religion in museums has a long, troubled, and often strange history.

    In the 1930s, the Soviet Union established a series of “anti-religion” museums. Several decades later, objects from the museums were transformed for use in the Museum of the History of Religion, now in St. Petersburg. And in response to ethnic and religious clashes across Scotland, the government there helped create the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, which is dedicated to “understanding and respect between people of different faiths and of none.”

    [Read the rest, plus a conversation with Peter Manseau at Religion News Service]

     

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    A Museum of Us

    In 1938, on the cusp of World War II, the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l’Homme) opened in Paris, across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. It would never have come to fruition without the efforts of Paul Rivet, an ethnologist working alongside Marcel Mauss and Émile Durkheim between the wars, who was committed to antifascist cultural and political work. In contrast to the Nazi ideology sweeping Germany at the time, Rivet wanted the museum to portray “man as an indivisible whole in space and time.”

    At the beginning of the 21st century, the Musée de l’Homme underwent a massive renovation, spanning several years, and re­opened in the fall of 2015. The new layout, in the same architectural shell at the Trocadéro, is a beautiful, uncluttered space. The exhibition rooms and exhibit cases display archaeological discoveries, cultural curiosities, scientific data, and artistic takes on human existence. All of them speak to the questions set up by the museum coordinators: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we headed?

    [Read the rest at The Christian Century]

     

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    The Religion of Oliver Sacks

    The final essay Oliver Sacks published before his death concerned the religious duties of keeping the Sabbath. He reflects on his upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish home in England, noting the shared foods and family time of Sabbath together. 

    [Read the rest at Huffington Post...]

     

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    The Horrors and Hells of Hieronymous Bosch

    MADRID (RNS) Hieronymus Bosch may have died 500 years ago, but he’s inspired episodes of “The Simpsons,” rock ’n’ roll lyrics, children’s book characters, movies from “The Exorcist” to David Fincher’s “Seven” — even Dr. Martens boot designs. Last year when Leonardo DiCaprio visited Pope Francis, the actor brought along a book about Bosch as a gift for the pontiff.

    How does an artist who has been dead for half a millennium pull off such a feat?

     [Read the rest at Religion News Service...] 

     

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    Why We Need an Interfaith Pilgrimage

    Yet, I also think we need to move beyond interfaith "dialogue," which tends to remain verbal and cerebral, and move toward the physical activities of religious practices, including pilgrimage. We don't merely need to talk together, we also need interfaith activities, interfaith eating, interfaith art exhibitions, and interfaith walking.

    [Read the rest at the Huffington Post]