July 2007 Archives
One of the more popular--and controversial--fraternity mixer themes has been "Pimps and Ho's," in which (typically white) guys dress up like stereotypical urban pimps and the women wear as little as humanly possible. To prevent protests, organizations sometimes call the party some variant on X "in the Hood," as in "Halloween in the Hood," on the dubious assumption that this makes the party somewhat less offensive.
Primal Youth is a New Zealand Christian youth movement whose activities include camps and conferences. For obvious reasons a Pimps and Ho's party would not exactly fly at one of their gatherings, but a Bling Party--well, click here to see what God hath wrought.
In The Rookie, devotion to St. Rita--the patron saint of the impossible--appears to result in a miracle: a middle-age man who lost a chance at the big leagues due to a youthful injury becomes a professional baseball player late in life.
Whatever one might say about its bureaucratic inefficiency, the Catholic Church has seldom missed an opportunity to capitalize on faith. Picture above: a post-Rookie St. Rita Baseball Pendant, complete with a player hitting on the back.
Of course, the guy in the film was a pitcher for Tampa Bay--and because it's in the American League, he never had an at-bat. Not even the patron saint of the impossible can overcome the designated hitter rule.
Streams in the Desert in Pahrump (!) Nevada is a Christian book store that also sells jewelry. And, by the way, offers hyberbaric oxygen treatments and Christian colon cleansing. According to the shop's owners, colon hydrotherapy is an ancient judeochristian practice described in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
And Streams in the Desert is not alone. Turns out the DSS Essenes have been appropriated by any number of modern-day practitioners who tout the spiritual benefits of inner cleansing. But if you actually read through the available collected texts of the Scrolls, you won't find the cited texts there.
In a nutshell, it goes back to a guy named Edmund Bordeaux Szekely, who claims to have discovered a pristine collection of ancient Essene texts. In his Essene Science of Fasting, the group is depicted as advocating enemas as part of its spiritual discipline. After that, the deluge.
Fun bonus fact: Jim Bakker's Heritage USA included a shop selling a seaweed drink mix that purported to give your colon a heavenly cleansing. The proprietors gave me heaps of the stuff free as a loss leader when I interviewed PTL folks for a project in grad school. Thanks to their description of what this miracle seaweed would do to me for the first three or so days after chugging it down, I never touched the stuff.
While religion columns in mainstream U.S. newspapers are going the way of mainstream religion, The Times of London features not one, but two must-read blogs on religious affairs--not to mention stories that link religion to all sorts of other affairs, such as this morning's classic headline "Pontius Pilate, Post-homosexualists and Matthew Paris." This aside in today's Libby Purves's Faith Central is absolutely fabulous:
But religion, of course, has always had a fatal tendency to grow ornate and heavy with shiny symbols. I have just discovered a site called Blingdom of God, and am off to lie down and get over it.
As we, um, are wont to say here in the colonies, mission accomplished. And in honor of our UK readers, here's a blast from the past: the secret spiritual significance of the TARDIS key!
Doctor Who extra (with spoilers for US folks):
Here's a post asking whether the season finale of Doctor Who Series 3 has a Christian subtext. More thoughts on this later . . .
Mother issues are a sign of a healthy child. That, at least, is the conclusion of a recent university study, which found that children who openly resist their mother's command reflect an emerging mature sense of self. Children who merely comply, however, exhibit a lack of self-confidence and a proclivity toward depression, traits likely to have unfortunate ramifications throughout their adult lives.
Which raises an intriguing question about what the jewelry pictured here represents more generally about religious culture. It's a pendant of the Blessed Mother from the Synchronicity Foundation, a new age faith led by an initiated Vedic monk named Master Charles. MC claims to be experiencing unique visions of this divine figure, the maternal spirit that animates the world.
As Ellen Dissanayake astutely illustrates in Art and Culture, religion tends to embody values of maternal care-taking that have a distinct evolutionary advantage, particularly the importance of transcending a narrow sense of self. As intrinsic to our development as this is, what should we make of those who elevate the nurturing mother metaphor to the highest form of good? Are they creating a religion where the followers never grow up?
Twee angels aren't exactly my style, but slap an icon on the side of a flash drive . . .
The Atlanta Constitution has posted an interesting article on the popularity of St. Michael medals among both Protestant and Catholic soldiers in Iraq. As the photo illustrates below, regard for the patron saint of soldiers is so high (and the metal in the desert so hot) that he even can even take the form of a tattoo.
A UK court has ruled against a girl whose school prohibited her from wearing a "Silver Ring Thing" as a market of her Christian chastity pledge. The court's argument: that the ring was not an integral part of Christian faith.
Even if you don't feel inclined to read the whole article, the link is worth clicking through for the ad: a video from a certain Mr. Teufel, who is not exactly known for promoting sexual abstinence!
The cross pictured above is not sold in any store. It is the work of a Texarkana prisoner, one of many made and either worn by the inmates or given away as gifts--sometimes even to the sheriff and their jailers.
This article from a local paper points to why these religious crafts are so meaningful to those who make them. From the standpoint of modern network analysis and cognitive science, prison is arguably one of the most least effective ways to go about reducing crime. Detachment and sensory deprivation breed social dysfunction. The culture of religious crafts in this Texarkana prison, however, engages the inmates at the most fundamental level of what it means to be human: they connect, transform and transcend.
Elsewares recently featured this, the latest necklace in Anne Kiel's Curios series: "Meditation," a "reflective and tranquil image" of a person communing with nature. The light in the horizon; the spiraling tree of knowledge and life--the symbolic resonance is clear.
Yet nature has not always been viewed as a source of transcendental insight. Contrast the appealing imagery of "Meditation" with that of Tennyson's famous turn of phrase from In Memoriam:
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed.
Perhaps our image of natural harmony is as much a work of creative transformation as the city and machine.
The New York Post is not generally known for taking a moderate tone toward Islam--it's the newsprint home of Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly and other populist conservatives--but the paper recently published a fair and balanced look at new Islamic fashion. Click here for a revelatory interview in which one young Muslim woman explains how the clash of religious tradition and New York chic fosters creative design. Be sure also to read the comments, where (sigh) she's promptly criticized for wearing her clothes too tight.
In one passage, he describes being impressed by the looming facades of the Bank of England and Swiss Bank Corporation. "But then, in a flash, I saw the truth," he writes. "No bank - Swiss Bank or the Bank of England - would survive the promised return of Christ. Strong as they appeared, their apparent security would be broken in an instant."
We've seen a number of cases recently re the right to wear religious jewelry in school or on the job. Here's a new case in which a jeweler is accused of refusing to hire a Muslim woman because she wears a head scarf. This press release includes the whole court complaint.
The inevitability of death is a recurring theme in the Harry Potter series, so it should not come as a surprise that JK Rowling has been asked to write for Doctor Who. In DW, like Potter, the greatest enemies are those who seek absolute control over all aspects of life, include their own demise.
Why this obsession with death and change? Perhaps Harry Potter's global popularity is a sign that we all, like Britain, have come to grasp one lesson of the phoenix: there is no rising from the ashes without loss.
Mead, who married while writing the book (in a civil ceremony, wearing office clothes), has a theory: that overblown weddings result from a couple's feeling of emptiness; there's a void at the center of the ceremony that needs to be filled. With the decline in religious authority, she argues, a wedding no longer has the meaning it once did.
Rastafarians are probably one of the world's least respected and most understood faith groups. A common problem faced by Rastas centers around the religious requirement of hair growth- like the Islamic headscarf and the Sikh kesa, it is not optional for a Rasta to cut or style his/her hair. This doesn't stop government officials from dismissing Rasta beliefs out of hand, however- there are numerous cases every year of schools and prisons forcing unwanted haircuts on students, despite Constitutional prohibitions. It doesn't help much that Rastafarian belief receives little respect. For instance, a reporter for the Virginian-Pilot can barely conceal his contempt for an area prisoner who was forcibly shaven after refusing to cut off his "contraband" dreadlocks.
One can not fail to take note of the multitude of women in Jewelry and Gold Sales outlets, assessing the value of their jewelry, so they can meet their Zakat obligations voluntarily. Thus there is really no need for Zakat assessors, as they only tend to delve into extortion practices or bribery, in order to be able to keep with their wealthy neighbors, who have found their niches in other questionable enterprises, that have drained the pockets and the souls of the vast majority of the poor people of Yemen.
New Jersey is not generally known for being a place that has exotic objects you can't find in Manhattan, unless you're looking for a lawn, cheap real estate . . . or a Zoroastrian jewelry shop. Sure, Manhattan has a gazillion Tibetan stores and new age emporia, but you'll find the Zoroastrian Shop in good ol' Voorhees, NJ.
When Valenzuela was 15, a family crisis sent her to live with an Egyptian relative in Cambridge who became both her guardian and her guide for a lifelong journey into ancient cultures and spiritual practices. Soon she was given her Egyptian name and educated in Egyptian culture. “I learned that in Egypt, every occasion is an opportunity for dance and music,” Khadija says. “As the women spontaneously tied scarves around their hips and moved with obvious pride in their rounded femininity, I began to feel included in a secret community, one of a shared power and presence requiring no words.” A graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Massachusetts College of Art and The American University in Cairo, Khadija has also taken extended courses in the healing arts, which she subtly weaves into her dance instruction. “Most ancient dance forms are a blending of spiritual and healing powers,” she says.
From a newspaper article on a Vancouver Himalayan art store, a meditation on the transformative power of craft:
While Lama is Buddhist, he prefers not to carry religious or overtly spiritual items in his store. He would rather quietly and holistically apply what he has absorbed from Buddhism into his daily life.
"I focus on art and culture, not religion or politics. We need an artifact like a singing bowl that everyone can use, not an image or a statue for decoration."
While open to requests for more religious items, he wants to share with his customers the humble power that multi-dimensional folk art possesses. Picking up a silver pendant, he describes how the ancient emblem keeps the wearer from harm, how it opens to store medicine or photos inside, and finally points out its all-around beauty as a piece of jewelry.
. . .
Like Lama's own practice of Buddhism, the spirituality inherent in readily-usable folk art is sometimes obscure, but to discover that deeper content lies just beneath the surface comes as no surprise. Relying on a strong foundation and a daily personal practice of meditation, Lama says that Buddhism has served him in his life to "always keep cooled down," as it fosters forgiveness, friendship and respect for other cultures.
From New York photographer ddc95's engaging collection, "Jesus and Passed Out People," here's American Jesus, Part 2:
What does it mean to be human? For some people, it's all about distinguishing ourselves from our animal nature to the fullest extent possible, from shaving off hair and abstaining from sex to living forever as a spirit. For the furry community, however, our drive for creative transformation takes shape in a different way--namely, in visual representations of anthropomorphic animals.
Cartoon furries abound on the web, but at the annual Anthrocon--held this weekend in Pittsburgh--people dress up like animals to show that there is more to the lifestyle than the stereotype of pervy animal sex. Like, um, playing furry Twister.
For more overtly religious furry adornment and iconography, here's
a furry church
a furry Christian fellowship group
the "spirituality track" at a local furry conference
Christian furry kitsch
And, last but not least, here's one writer's meditation on secret furry jewelry:
Q. How many folks out there have furry-based jewelry of some sort?
A. Well, the closest that I have on me at all times is my shamrock necklace. While at first this may not seem furry orieneted to the untrained eye, it is in fact a secret trademark of mine. the secret (was) is that is you flip it from the green onyx side over to the purely silver side, yo would notice the strange exact resemblance to a paw . . .
You see, he called his operating system Windows, and eyes are a window of the soul, and eyes in Hebrew is singular, and the eye of Horus is an occult symbol.
Spooky, isn't it?
If you're still not convinced, check out the whole article and haunting symbological* video.
*They have a whole department of symbology at Harvard. No, really.
Here's a story about an ex-college football star opening a Christian jewelry shop after injuries sidelined his NFL career.
Of course, you might want to watch the video all the way through to see how Home Shopping answers the eternal question, "Would Jesus sell a gold cross necklace with close-ups on a busty model's chest?"
That's the theme of this interesting article from the Kansas City Star. Note the theme of necessity, linking the charm to a deeper natural order:
“I’m not a particularly religious person, but my mother was,” [the professor] said. “I just had to have that medal today after the week I’ve had.”
. . .
On the recent 15th anniversary of her daughter’s death, when [another interviewee] attended an annual foundation scholarship fund luncheon in Stacy’s honor, she said, “I had to wear all three things.”