Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Does Chanukah Really Have to Jump on the Commercialism Bandwagon?

December 23, 2006

One of the benefits of being a member of a minority faith/race/culture is that marketers of stupid shit usually don’t cater too much to you, leaving the crass displays of commercialism to other groups with larger numbers.

Well, not always. While reading one of the local papers I saw an ad for Chanukkah related chew toys. This is the closest I could find online, but it really doesn’t do it justice.dreidel

Sweet. I too can watch a dog shred a symbol relevant to my religion. Archana, you got anything similar to deal with?

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An early Christmas present for YOU

December 20, 2006

… the 12 Days of Indian Christmas!

Lots of religion in the news/blogs lately: the New Atheists, Matthew LaClair and his crazy proselytizing high school history teacher, Sam Brownback (is he always in the news lately or what??)…

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Happy Burning of the Devil Day!

December 7, 2006

Today is “Quema del Diablo”, or the day that residents of the city light all their old stuff in flames! How cool is that? (Although I guess there are some environmental problems…) Students burn their old notes from the school year gone by, residents burn everything they don’t need.

Yesterday, while walking to the library, I saw stands set up by the side of the road selling fireworks and bright red, paper mache devil pinatas! I don’t have much to burn since I haven’t been here long, but I thought that given the religious tone of our blog, it would be fun to celebrate Burning the Devil Day together!

Don’t forget to keep checking out Seth in Peru!

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Fun Stuff from our Blogroll

November 22, 2006

Just three small notes from my favorite sites:

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Bush’s terrible pick to head HHS family planning dept.

November 17, 2006

Check it out – the HHS’s new family planning director will be a MAN who is AGAINST contraceptives for American women since he considers them “demeaning to women”… Like TGW, I wonder why Bush couldn’t find a WOMAN for the post???

And, I personally find it totally demeaning to prevent my access and choice to what science has made possible… I think the last elections show that Americans don’t want Republicans meddling in their personal lives or going too far to the crazy-religious-right. These people don’t want us to have access to: CONDOMS, THE PILL, THE PATCH, IVF, STEM CELL RESEARCH. Their tyranny is inexcusable and the more Bush panders to them, the more he and his party will lose. (At least I have more confidence in my fellow Americans now!) 

Write to the White House right now and oppose Eric Keroack as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs! I did it, and so can you…

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Evangelical rock concert

October 31, 2006

So I spent the past four days trapped in an evangelical torture chamber, or Profecía 2006. On the invitation of a friend, I attended this four-day Neo-Pentecostal mega-church conference with participants from around the world. (As background, Guatemala is experiencing a massive conversion from Roman Catholicism to Evangelical/Neo-Pentecostal Christianity. There are about five mega-churches in the city, each with stadium-style seating, packing in 3,000 to 5,000 people per service, several times a day, every Sunday. There are also countless smaller, store-front evangelical churches throughout the city and countryside. Basically, it’s something I’d definitely like to learn more about as a phenomenon while I’m here.)

The most striking thing about the conference for me was the utter lack of ANY quiet time. (Thus the torture chamber reference.) It was constant noise – speaking in tongues, screaming, singing with a loud Christian pop band, what they called “clamoring” for God. I came home and instituted a silence policy each night – NO speaking to my husband, NO television, NO music. It was like being at a loud rock concert for the entire waking day (9am to 9pm everyday), with no time to process.

As a practicing Hindu, I’m used to silent meditation retreats to commune with God, daily meditation, and soothing chanting… On a related side note, every time I was asked about my heritage during the conference, I obviously said India (my Spanish is certainly not good enough to pretend that I’m brown-skinned because I’m Latina). The response is ALWAYS, “There is so much work to be done in India” – i.e., so many souls to be saved.

A whole group of “prophets” came here from the U.S. as the conference’s headliners. They were very charismatic, fire-and-brimstone preachers from the American South and Midwest (and one guy from home in the Bay Area). Although much of what the U.S. speakers said and did bordered on the intolerant, offensive, or charlatan (and strangely out-of-context for Guatemala), I was really impressed by many of the people I met over the course of the four days. In addition to being very sweet and kind, they were extremely intelligent and well-read about religious history, poverty in Latin America, and social movements. Every one of them had a strong belief (which I share) in God’s ability to grant us each a mystical, individual experience and inspire us to acts of bravery and charity… I guess I found that it’s good to go outside of my comfort zone sometimes if I really want “inter-faith” experiences…

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Kol Nidre at Beyt Tikkun

October 2, 2006

Tonight is Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of antonement. Usually I spend Jewish holidays with relatives at their synagogues. I could’ve gone to Etz Chayim where my aunt and uncle belong yet again, but I thought I would try out Michael Lerner’s Beyt Tikkun.

Beyt Tikkun is a part of the Jewish Renewal movement, which seeks to:

heal the world by promoting justice, freedom, responsibility, caring for all life and the earth that sustains all life —tikkun olam.”

There’s lots of singing and dancing and the prayers have a comparatively modern language. Michael Lerner is a pretty well known figure in the religious lefty world. He’s the editor of Tikkun magazine, author of The Left Hand of God, one of the organizers of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and all kinds of other stuff as well. His version of Judaism places great value on the concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. As a result, he frequently brings up Darfur, torture, the Bush administration, AIPAC, “Israel/Palestine”, and a host of other relevant political issues.

I’m not really sure what to make of my experience. I was raised in a very conservative synagogue where dancing and other mystic tools for achieving “a connection with the G0d-Energy” were not present. It was pretty buttoned-down. And even though I’m not a particularly buttoned-down kinda guy, I feel a little uncomfortable in mystical Jewish settings.

Actually, I’m sort of uncomfortable around dance in general. It’s the one thing I’m pretty self-conscious about. I don’t really care what people think of my looks or attire (I don’t own a comb or a brush) but I do have something left inside me from awkward middle school years that has me feeling weird dancing in public. Lots of alcohol helps ease the discomfort in a club atmosphere, but that’s a no-go during services. I’m not proud of my self-consciousness, a trait I view as a negative, but I admit it and am trying to change. I knew Beyt Tikkun was pretty touchy-feely and dance-heavy, and I partly chose it over other shuls to challenge myself. When I see the rhythm-challenged middle aged white people dancing their way towards the Divine I’m more than a little jealous. After a while I felt more comfortable dancing with the crowd of several hundreds, but I was still pretty restrained.

The services were nice but a little long. There was a really good band and the content fit my level of understanding of Hebrew, customs and traditions. One of the interesting things was the translation of the Ashamnu. The prayer seeks forgiveness for an alphabetical list of sins that anyone in the community has committed during the previous year. Most translations, in order to keep the alphabetical aspect in English, tend to be for sins like stealing, lying, cheating, etc. Tonight it was sins like poisoning the sea and land with toxic chemicals, homophobia, xenophobia, building weapons of mass destruction, etc.

The services really challenged me. I’m not used to my religion and my politics intersecting so closely, and I felt a little uncomfortable. Which is good. That’s why I pray, to get outside my comfort zone to expand my mind to a higher level of consciousness.

So to all those who are fasting, have an easy one. To those that I’ve wronged in the past year, sorry ’bout that.

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Great Ramadan Blog: Blogging Ramadan

September 27, 2006

Check out Blogging Ramadan, it’s a bunch of Muslims (and some non-Muslims) from around the world talking about their experiences during Ramadan. There’s a very wide range of opinions, viewpoints and personalities, and should be required reading for anyone who has ever started a sentence with “The thing about Islam/Muslims is…”. A great read and worth perusing multiple times over the next month.

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L’Shana Tovah Tikatevu and Ramadan Mubarak

September 27, 2006

Friday night was the start of both the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of the Jewish new year) and the Muslim month of Ramadan.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of an intense ten day period of fasting (at the end on Yom Kippur), reflection and repentance. Ramadan is a month-long period of fasting, reflection and repentance. Both began at sundown.

The Arabic word for blessing is “Mubarak” (Ramadan Mubarak is a common greeting between Muslims during Ramadan), and the Hebrew word is “Baruch”.

The Arabic word for peace is “Salaam” and the Hebrew word is “Shalom”.

Jews and Muslims have much in common. Here’s to hoping that all who celebrate these holidays have blessed, peaceful, reflective holiday seasons that allow people to recognize our faults and forgive those of others.

For instance, by staying up late writing a blog that no one reads I’m pissing off and neglecting my girlfriend. And I apologize publicly to Sara for being mildly annoyed at her that she won’t ever post here and to Archana for secretly enjoying her horror stories about her time in Guatemala. See folks, that wasn’t so bad!

On a more cheery note, my good friend Lenny wished me the following blessing which I’d like to pass on to all of you:

“I hope the holiday season is joyous and meaningful for you, filled with a renewal of faith in the possibility of radical change – from the most personal to the most global. And treats. Always treats.”

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The Sepoy Mutiny, the Pope on Islam, and President Bush on Torture

September 15, 2006

Check out this BBC article my mom e-mailed me about the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British. Through archival research, the author found that the mutiny was much more about religion than about nationalism or anti-colonialism, as I had always thought. Turns out that the soldiers all believed the British were trying to convert the nation and curtail religious freedoms, and Hindus and Muslims banded together in mutiny. The narrative about the bullets being greased with pig fat was just too simple – this incident merely triggered religious fears about the British. It is interesting to think about this in the context of today’s secular India, which is plagued by communalism and violence between Hindus and Muslims…

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about the Pope’s comments on Islam and only have a brief thought – the Pope shouldn’t have used a quote about Mohammed that has become the flashpoint for all the controversy. As a recognized world leader, it’s fine for him to call for reform among Islamic extremists and support moderate clerics, but to equate Islam with violence, or to ignore centuries of scholarship about the spiritual dimensions of Jihad – and its misuse by terrorists – was just wrong. Unfortunately, this was my fear when Pope Benedict was elevated to become the Pope, based on his strident comments as a Cardinal. One can only hope that he apologizes sincerely and uses his pulpit to promote genuinely positive interfaith dialogue as his predecessor did…

Was it me, or did President Bush seem like he was unraveling just a little bit in today’s news conference? He yelled a lot, didn’t give any straight answers, and generally appeared a little bit on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Why did he mention McCain so much if the Senator opposes his proposals? Why wouldn’t he give a straight answer to David Gregory about the danger posed by his proposal to US soldiers captured in combat? And, he raised the specter of Middle Eastern countries using oil as “economic punishment” – revealing that Bush’s foreign policy has never been about liberty and democracy; it’s about protecting our consumer culture – ironically at the price of liberty, democracy, and international human rights…

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