Being Scared: Fear and Authenticity by Ivy Helman

meblogMy partner is a lawyer who works with asylum seekers and other immigrants here in the Czech Republic (ČR). She’s amazing at her job and I’m constantly in awe of her passion and commitment along with her righteous anger at systematic injustices. In fact just last week, her workplace, together with a consortium of other immigration organizations in the ČR, helped organize a demonstration in the center of Prague to protest the Czech Republic’s refusal to admit Syrian children and their families into the country. She invited me to attend the event with her. I went.

It was my first time attending a public demonstration in Europe. It was moving to see many of her co-workers there and inspiring to listen to the passionate speeches against xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, the plight of the Roma people as well as the need to come together and welcome diversity. In addition, there were signs in Czech, German and English saying “No One is Illegal,” “End Xenophobia,” “Do Syrian Children Have to Wait for their (Nicholas) Winton?” “I want to have a Syrian Friend!” and “Refugees Welcome!” I wanted to hold each one of those signs! Continue reading “Being Scared: Fear and Authenticity by Ivy Helman”

What is the F-word Anyway? by Kile Jones

kile jonesSocial justice. Progressive politics. Improper media depictions. What exactly is the F-word (feminism) about?

I have always understood feminism as a project that casts a very wide net, the goals and values of which can keep quite a few people dry under the shade of its umbrella. But more and more, I see a narrowing of who can count as a feminist. There are a few reasons for this constriction. First, the more the F-word becomes a pejorative in contemporary society, the greater the need is to circle the bandwagons and set up camp. Second, when a particular group has elevated levels of in-fighting occurring, it makes sense to start psychologically splitting people into “feminist” and “not feminist.” Or, on a spectrum, “strong feminist” vs. “weak feminist.” Third, there is a pragmatic need for groups to find an optimal tension with society. When social groups are too counter-cultural or revolutionary, they get branded extremist and fanatical, but when they are wishy-washy and lukewarm, they become another extension of the status quo and lose their prophetic fire.

As an atheist, I see all of this occurring in non-believing circles as well. And I’m not really sure how to navigate it. There is also no shortage of men in this social group–from Dawkins to Boghossian–who think of feminism in the negative. All of this has to do with what they think the F-word amounts to. Continue reading “What is the F-word Anyway? by Kile Jones”

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Commitment to Life by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsA few weeks ago, I came across a postcard that I was given at a conference last year. I got the postcard (advertisement?) because it has a picture of Fannie Lou Hamer on it, and in my home and office, I like to display images and quotes from inspirational women, especially black women. Hamer was a sharecropper from rural Mississippi who became a leader within the civil rights movement in the United States. I was happy to have something with her likeness on it. It was only later that I looked at the text on the front and back of the card, which read in part, ”Often called the ‘spirit of the Civil Rights Movement,” Hamer worked tirelessly on behalf of the rights of others—including the unborn. [She said,] ‘The methods used to take human lives such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc. amounts to genocide. I believe that abortion is legal murder.’” I realized then that the card was distributed by an organization called Consistent Life, who, in support of a “consistent ethic of life,” is “committed to the protection of life threatened by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia.”

I was conflicted about the ushamere of Hamer’s image for this organization’s purposes. It is true, Hamer did have those views about abortion and birth control. But I did not know if her image and story was being manipulated for a particular political and religious agenda—one I do not align myself with. I put the card in a box of other images and quotes. I didn’t display it, but I didn’t throw it away, either, which is why I came across it again a couple weeks ago as I was cleaning and decorating my home office. I had the same misgivings about the image as before, and I set it aside again. Continue reading “Fannie Lou Hamer’s Commitment to Life by Elise M. Edwards”

The Yazidi Genocide in Iraq by Michele Buscher

Michele BuscherRoughly seven hours prior to my composing this blog, a report was disseminated across the Internet offering what is being called a first-hand account of Mosul women’s prison currently in Iraq where possibly thousands of Yazidi, Christian and Muslim women are being held.  After these women are rounded up and sent to various prisons across Iraq and parts of Syria, they are given a choice to either abandon their religious tradition and convert to Islam or be sold to ISIS soldiers for roughly 30 dollars whereafter they will be raped, forced into marriage, and in some cases will later be tortured to death.  After the women have been sold they are forced to call their families and offer detailed descriptions of what has just occurred.  This sort of psychological warfare is why many UN aid workers are calling ISIS more diabolical than al-Qaeda.

Let me back up here. A couple of years ago, while researching religious freedom abuses in Iraq, I came across a small religious group called the Yazidi.  Having never heard of this religious sect before, I took interest in why the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, USCIRF, was highlighting specifically this group, naming religious persecution by Sunni militants in Iraq against the Yazidi as a reason for citing Iraq as a CPC, or Country of Particular Concern, making Iraq uniquely vulnerable to U.S. government sanctions.  The Yazidi have been given the unfortunate nickname, “Devil Worshippers” in Iraq because their God is known as both Malak Taus and Shayton (or Shaitan), the latter meaning Devil in Arabic.  The Yazidi are known to be highly secretive regarding their religious praxis which allegedly incorporates elements of Islam, Judaism and Christianity; hence, there is much confusion about who the Yazidi are and what they stand for.  Articles from the BBC’s World Report and the Daily Mail in the UK have both pointed out that one of the few known cornerstones of the Yazidi faith is that one cannot be converted to the faith – one must be born a Yazidi and one may not ever denounce one’s faith.  If a Yazidi woman were to claim another religion, she would be expelled from her community not only for the rest of her life, but eternally.  This should help elucidate why imprisoned Yazidi women refuse to convert, choosing instead rape, slavery and ultimately death.

Now, who and what is ISIS and why is ISIS targeting the Yazidi among other minority groups in Iraq and Syria?  ISIS or IS represents the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  The leader of this militia goes by the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  A religious fundamentalist, al-Baghdadi is fighting for the systematic removal of the Yazidi along with all other religious minority groups in Iraq and Syria.  ISIS controls major cities on both sides of the Iraqi border which have allowed them to mobilize and procure enough weaponry to arm their fight across the entire region.  The Huffington Post has reported several incidents of Sunni Muslim insurgents celebrating mass murders of the Yazidi and other minority religious groups by shooting massive weaponry in the air and parading through the streets.

The United Nations, along with Human Rights Watch, released a statement calling the current systematic murder of Yazidi men and the imprisonment and rape of Yazidi women, “religious extermination” and an “ongoing genocide”.  An official spokesperson for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry has said that, “the terrorists by now consider [the women] sex slaves and they have vicious plans for them…these women are going to be used in demeaning ways by those terrorists to satisfy their animalistic urges in a way that contradicts all the [sic] human and Islamic values.”    The U.S. and France have been delivering aid to those minority groups that have fled to and are attempting to survive the harsh Mt. Sinjar climate.  U.S. drone attacks along with missile strikes have flooded the areas where the ISIS militia is fighting.  But is this enough?

The U.S. has an inarguably complicated political history with Iraq and many, including some UN representatives, wonder if the U.S. and its allies are truly doing enough to help the Yazidi women. There are multiple reports across social media, claiming family members in Iraq and in the U.S. are receiving phone calls from female relatives who have managed somehow to retain their cell phones.  The women detail similar accounts of being captured, separated from their husbands and children, forced onto trucks and taken to abandoned schools and mosques.  Some have witnessed other women being sold in the marketplace to ISIS men.  One woman describes witnessing a pregnant woman being shot on sight for refusing to get into a truck headed to the now infamous Mosul prison.  Certainly, the U.S. has many decisions to make regarding how and to what extent the U.S. government should help the plight of a religious minority in Iraq.  The Yazidi community is being targeted directly, but so are many other religious minority groups in Iraq.  The Yazidi specifically have been targeted by Islamic extremists for centuries in Iraq and many Yazidi have found refuge in Syria, until now.  Women are undoubtedly being targeted by ISIS in this genocide as women are so often the target in religious conflict across the globe.

The USCIRF has named Iraq a CPC since 2008 and has detailed the ongoing Yazidi religious persecution in almost every annual report.  What more can the U.S. government and U.S. allies do for the minority citizens of Iraq?  They must take the threat of religious persecution seriously and understand that when religious freedom is not equally protected and valued by the government then basic, universal human rights are equally disvalued.  When women’s rights are not protected, basic human rights are not protected.

Michele Buscher, PhD, received her degree from the Claremont Graduate University in 2013. Her PhD is in Religious Studies with an emphasis on Theology, Ethics and Culture.  Her dissertation titled, Commission Impossible: The International Religious Freedom Act and its Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy with Particular Reference to Iraq and Burma, 1999-2012 explores the relationship between the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and current U.S. foreign policy abroad.  She is interested in the role religion plays in the development of U.S. foreign policy particularly in the Middle East and how this contributes to human rights.  Additionally, her scholarly interests include Feminist Theologies and Modern Catholic Studies.  She received her BA from Seattle University in Creative Writing and her MA from Union Theological Seminary in Theological Studies.  Michele works at Pitzer College as the Language & Cultural Lab Coordinator, Instructor for the International Fellows Program and Program Coordinator for the Kobe Women’s University visiting Cultural Program.

Seeing the Humanity in the Inner Child by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah Medina

Article 6

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 37
States Parties shall ensure that:

(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;

(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

(d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.*

inner childIslam has taught me so many things over the years. One lesson, in particular, plays in my head throughout the day as a constant and necessary reminder: My soul has rights over my ego. I still remember the first time I read that. Over the years, I have expanded it to include the idea that my body has rights over my mind, my mind has rights over my body, and even that my inner child (she’s six) has rights over me (the 12-year old me and the adult me).

I was crushingly self-critical and dealt with devastating self-loathing for many years, but learning how to be compassionate helped me to be much kinder to others, and eventually, to myself. I had not really thought about making myself a recipient of my own kindness and compassion before. It was so natural to judge that kid in me who just wanted a chocolate chip cookie, to jump in a dirty puddle, to stick my tongue out and make faces at other little kids, and all the other odd things I felt urges to do as an adult. Continue reading “Seeing the Humanity in the Inner Child by Jameelah X. Medina”

Women at the Secular Student Alliance Conference by Kile Jones

KileA few days ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Secular Student Alliance Conference on how non-believing persons can work with Churches.  Amidst the chaos of conferences–managing your time, deciding which talks to attend, and making sure you have enough water (it was a Burning Ring of Fire outside in Tempe, AZ)–I got to meet some pretty incredible secular women.

One of them was Heina Dadabhoy.

Heina speaking at SSA
Heina speaking at SSA.

Former Muslim, blogger at Freethought Blogs, and overall bad-ass, Heina spoke about ways in which secular groups can create a more welcoming environment for ex-Muslims and Muslims beginning to doubt.  Her talk, “Of Murtids and Muslims,” (a “murtid” is a public apostate) was not only about her experiences coming out as a secular humanist, but considered some of the absurd questions people ask her (and other ex-Muslims) about leaving Islam.  “So did your parents try to honor kill you?”  “Have you gone through FGM?”  It was disturbingly humorous.

What I considered to be Heina’s main point, was that we should respect each others’ individual differences and not generalize and caricature all Muslims with the depictions of some.  “Just because you read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book,” Heina notes, “does not make you an expert on Islam.”  Heina made sure to emphasize the radical diversity that exists in Islam.  She also spoke of the some of the issues that people go through when they leave Islam: How do I create a new identity when my old one was intricately tied up in my Muslim community, family, and culture?  How do I navigate popular culture when I have missed a bunch of it?  How do I find myself in this new secular world?  Heina’s answers were refreshingly honest and insightful.

P.S. Aisha (one of Muhammed’s wives) should not simply be reduced to the young person Muhammed married; she was also a war leader, influential Muslim thinker, and someone who contributed greatly to early Islam.  This is, of course, Heina’s insight.

Me and Heina at SSA
Me and Heina at SSA

Another awesome secular woman I met, was Sarah Morehead.

Sarah. Photo from Apostacon.
Sarah. Photo from Apostacon.

Sarah is a former evangelical Southern Baptist, Executive Director of the “Recovering From Religion” project, and another overall bad-ass.  She spoke on how to start up a Recovering From Religion group on your campus.  Here is a blurb about Recovering From Religion,

“If you are one of the many people who have determined that religion no longer has a place in their life, but are still dealing with the after-effects in some way or another, Recovering From Religion (RR) may be just the right spot for you. Many people come to a point that they no longer accept the supernatural explanations for the world around them, or they realize just how much conflict religious belief creates. It can be difficult to leave religion because family and culture put so much pressure on us to stay and pretend to believe the unbelievable. If this is you, we want to help you find your way out. Don’t let people convince you that you just didn’t have ‘enough’ faith, or that you just haven’t found the “right” religion.”

Sarah and I chatted (and often laughed) about our old experiences as conservative Christians.  We discussed some of the funny language (Christian-eze) we used to use, the various levels of guilt and shame that were cast upon us, and how science helps explain some of the interesting displays of piety often seen at Pentecostal services.  Sarah’s jovial and welcoming demeanor was calming, and as an Executive Director for a project aimed at helping people “recover” from religion, I cannot think of a better person for the job.

Lyz.  Photo by SSA.
Lyz. Photo by SSA.

The last woman I have in mind is Lyz Liddell.

Lyz is the Director of Campus Organizing for the Secular Student Alliance.  I have an interview I did with her a while back, on this very blog!  Besides running around with her headset on, standing on chairs for announcements, and generally keeping the world of SSA from not crumbling into oblivion, Lyz is a great motivation and example.  If you are ever interested in starting a SSA group on your campus, talk to her.

To all those who attended this years SSA West, or who are involved with helping secular students: Unite!

Kile Jones holds a Bachelors of Theology (B.Th.) from Faith Seminary, a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) and a Masters of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Boston University, and is a current Ph.D. in Religion student at Claremont Lincoln University.  He also holds a Certificate in Science and Religion from the Boston Theological Institute.  Mr. Jones has been published in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Philosophy Now, Free Inquiry, World Futures, Human Affairs, and the Secular Web.  He is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Claremont Journal of Religion (, and is the Founder/Director of Interview an Atheist at Church Day (

#YesAllWomen, the Darwin Debate, and the God Complex by John Erickson

#YesAllWomen proved that although not all men commit horrible crimes against women, the men that often get the headlines and create the most controversy are the ones that need to be watched out for.

John EricksonThe one thing I typically will choose to do on the rare occasion that I’m able to sit down and relax is to watch a documentary.  While some people may go to the gym, read a book, or hang with friends, I typically choose to stay in, nestle up on my couch, and learn.  While on my last bout of relaxation, I chose to watch the HBO documentary Questioning Darwin. Although it offers very little new insight into the evolution vs. creationism debate, it does offer an interesting new way to look at the recent social media hashtag war feminists, allies, and supporters found themselves in over the #YesAllWomen movement that took the world by storm.


Now, before I discuss #YesAllWomen, I have to admit that I did not enter into the safe space women created for themselves to tell tales of the horrible things they have and have had to face on a daily basis.  I firmly believe that men should not have entered into the digital space Continue reading “#YesAllWomen, the Darwin Debate, and the God Complex by John Erickson”

Sexism and “Jerusalem” by Ivy Helman

headshot2Three weeks ago, I played a video entitled “Kingdom of David: Rivers of Babylon” from the PBS Empires series.  The series first aired in 2003.  For the first time, and I’ve played the video in class for probably six semesters in a row, I noticed that all of the biblical scholars, archaeologists and rabbis interviewed to discuss the Torah, the history of the Jews, the Talmud, the exile and the prophetic tradition were men.  This reminds me of a few months back when a female colleague of mine discussed about an encounter she had had with the producers of another documentary about the Hebrew Bible.  They had only interviewed one woman.  When asked about this decision, the producers told her that their audience finds men more authoritative than women when it comes to explaining topics of a religious nature.


Two weeks ago, on a Wednesday, an older woman walked into the liquor store where I work.  She wandered around for awhile and then appeared somewhat overwhelmed, which is usually my cue to inquire if the customer needs help.  She said she was just fine.  Five minutes later she was still wandering the store apparently unsure what to purchase so again I approached her and asked if she’d like some help.  She seemed somewhat desperate at this point and asked for my opinion on the Irish Cream Liquors and which one tasted the most like Bailey’s.  I told her I wasn’t exactly sure.  I had not tried them all but the one she was holding in her arms was very popular and we sell quite a bit of it.  She continued to hem and haw explaining to me that she was having a bunch of old ladies over for lunch.  She intended to offer them sips of Irish Cream afterwards.  Then out of the blue she looked at me and said that she still couldn’t decide so she was going to ask a man for his opinion.  This man also happened to be my boss.  He said that he hadn’t tried it, but that it was very popular.  His words, exactly the same as Continue reading “Sexism and “Jerusalem” by Ivy Helman”

Love Facing by Safa Plenty

aqua and red

This piece titled, ‘Love Facing’ is a meditation on the intergenerational dynamics of family violence and our need to move beyond labels in order to understand the complexities of American violence. It begins with a narrative critic of spanking as a corrective measure and its propensity to escalate into other forms of violence. The poem continues with reflection on how male privilege and power impact the disempowerment of women and girls. It signals forgiveness as a possible means of understanding intergenerational trauma and stress, however.  The piece advocates an understanding of male privilege and dynamics of power and control, as a means of empowering women and children, affected by family violence. Furthermore, it examines our societies failure to raise healthy men and boys, who are comfortable openly expressing their emotions. In the end, the poem signals our human need for unconditional love, respect, and honor and need for religious and spiritual practice imbued with compassion, mercy, and kindness, or feminine attributes of the Divine.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” ― Jimi Hendrix

Continue reading “Love Facing by Safa Plenty”

The Feminization of Poverty: The Impact on Migrant Mothers in the U.S. by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Durham, United Nations, Feminism and Religion, John Carroll, UrsulineI had the honor of speaking at the United Nations during the Commission for the Status of Women this past March about the Feminization of Poverty and the Impact on Migrant Mothers.  Below is the text of my speech delivered.  By posting my speech, it is my hope to use social media to help draw attention to this problem and use our resources to find solutions.

Over the last thirty years, rich countries have grown much richer, and poor countries have become, in absolute and relative terms, poorer. Global inequality in wages are striking and poor countries are turning to the IMF or World Bank for loans, which require “so-called” structural adjustments of devaluing currency, cuts in support for “noncompetitive industries,” and the reduction of public services such as healthcare and food subsidies, which has provided disastrous results for the poor, especially women and children.

The feminization of poverty not only means that more of the world’s poverty is born by women, thanks in large part to globalization of the world economy, but includes a denial of access to fundamental human rights, including health, education, nutritious food, property, representation, etc. Feminized poverty encompasses more than matters of individual suffering – it ensnares a vicious cycle of poverty that impacts their entire family.

Feminization of poverty has no singular cause. The United Nations Development Fund for Women identified 4 key dimensions that indicated a heightened rate of poverty for women:

First is called “the temporal dimension,” which means that women are often the primary caretakers of children and household duties. Women who live in developing nations may also have agricultural or physical responsibilities. With these demands, less time is available to devote to paid employment causing them to earn a smaller income even though they effectively do more work than their male counterparts.

Second is “the valuation dimension” which is defined as unpaid labor that women perform to take care of family members and other household chores. Work that is considered “less than” because formal education or training is not required.

Third, is “The employment segmentation dimension.” Women are natural caretakers and thus corralled into “women’s work”, such as teaching, working with textiles, or domestic servitude that includes caring for children or the elderly.

Finally, “the spatial dimension.” When employment is non-existent or difficult to find, women may have to migrate to other areas to find work temporarily. If a woman has children, she may refuse to take the job and stay to care her family. However, Some opt to leave their families behind, to secure what they consider a better life – a means of support – but this choice often comes a great cost. Continue reading “The Feminization of Poverty: The Impact on Migrant Mothers in the U.S. by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

In Memoriam – God Hates Fags

Phelps didn’t just live a life filled with hate but he also embodied the very reasoning why so many communities cannot cross that proverbial bridge to work together to see past their differences and maybe never will. In the case of Phelps, sticks and stones may break our bones, but words really do hurt.

Fred Phelps, an American PasFred Phelpstor who headed the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas died at the age of 84 on March 19, 2014.  While some individuals leave behind legacies of their good deeds and loving memories, the only thing Phelps left behind was a family and church founded on the principle of hate.

A frequent eyesore at various events ranging from military funerals and gay pride gatherings to mainstream events that captured the attention of our pop-culture obsessed society, Fred Phelps and his clan believed it was their sacred duty to warn others of God’s anger over the growing acceptance of not only modernity in general but also issues like gay rights and abortion.  From slogans and signs such as ‘God Hates Fags’ to ‘Thank God for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), Phelps has caused many controversies both during his lifetime and after his death.

Continue reading “In Memoriam – God Hates Fags”

Sex, Religion, and Discourse: An Interview with Judith Butler

One of my academic joys is interviewing people I find particularly interesting (see most of my posts here). This time I am honored to present a recent interview I did with Judith Butler.

Image from The European Graduate School
Image from The European Graduate School

Many wonder how gender performance relates to chromosomes, phenotypes, genitalia, and other scientific “evidence” for innate sexual differences. Continue reading “Sex, Religion, and Discourse: An Interview with Judith Butler”

Evangelical Missionaries Preach Death in Uganda by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismA former evangelical Christian friend of mine sent me information on the intriguing documentary God Loves Uganda. The newly released documentary addresses how the American evangelical movement has prompted a political and social shockwave in the country of Uganda. While missionaries are typically associated with delivering aid and improving the conditions of third world countries, the spreading of Christian values and ideals has inflicted suffering upon ethnic communities through evangelical indoctrination.

The intent of the film is to raise awareness of the political and social brutality that the evangelical missionaries are instigating; specifically through their teaching that homosexuality is a sin and should be dealt with accordingly. In Uganda this means death. Given the rise of globalization, transnational religious actors have been more enabled to engender other nations with their respective religious beliefs, often with minimal regard for the cultural and political landscape of the nation they wish to transform. Continue reading “Evangelical Missionaries Preach Death in Uganda by Andreea Nica”

“Never Again…” by Ivy Helman

headshotEvery year, the Greater Lowell Interfaith Leadership Alliance, GLILA, sponsors an interfaith service on genocide.  During these services, the community gathers together to remember, to mourn, to heal, to honor and to work towards a world in which Elie Wiesel’s words, “Never Again!” ring true.  Three years ago, we focused on the Shoah and the year after that the Armenian genocide.  Last year it was Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and this year our focus is Rwanda.  Part of this preparation is self-education.  I would like to share with you a few of the things I have learned through my own research about the Rwandan genocide as well as some reflections on this difficult, yet extremely important topic.

In many ways, the Rwandan genocide is a direct consequence of colonialism as well as a United Nations’ failure to respond to warnings.  Before colonization, first by the Germans and then as a spoil of WWI for the Belgians, the Hutus, Tutsis, and Twa peoples lived in relatively peaceful coexistence.  Yes, there were acknowledged differences between the three groups based on caste-like descriptions, but they also all spoke the same language, practiced the same religion, intermarried, and co-existed together for a long time.  Generally, the Hutus who made up 85% of the population were the lower caste, so to speak, and were associated with labor and farming, while the Tutsis, 14% of the population, were the herders.  This occupation often generated more wealth and prestige than farming did, so Tutsis were also long associated with the elite in economic and political terms running small chiefdoms and the like.  According to Philip Gourevitch in We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, these were fluid categories of sorts where it was possible to become part of another group through the acquisition or loss of wealth (see page 47).  Continue reading ““Never Again…” by Ivy Helman”

5 Interesting Facts about Religion and Modern Society by Kile Jones


Following up on an older (and my most popular) post, 5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion, I am going to draw your attention to 5 other telling facts.

1: Women clergy are blowing up in the Anglican Church!

In U.K. Church Statistics, 2005-2015, Dr. Peter Brierly shows that out of 9,615 Anglican ministers, 1,928 are women.  This is a radical spike since 2005.  That is 20.05% of all Anglican ministers.  This is about double compared to lead pastoral roles in U.S. Protestant Churches (see here).  The year of 2010 showed the first time women outnumbered men in Anglican ordination, and it continues to rise up to the present day.  And although they are growing as ministers, they are still blocked from becoming Bishops.  The vote for allowing female bishops at a General Synod in 2012 failed to get the 2/3 support BY 6 VOTES! Continue reading “5 Interesting Facts about Religion and Modern Society by Kile Jones”

Yes, You’re a Homophobe by John Erickson

Jesus loved sinners and Jesus would rather be dancing with me in West Hollywood on a Friday night than lugging through a swamp luring ducks into a trap with a duck caller made by a clan who think that my sexual actions are similar to that of an individual having sex with an animal.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.

To be able to walk down the street holding the hand of the one you love is a great feeling and an action that some of us aren’t able to perform without fear.

A line has been drawn in the sand between those who support gay rights and those who do not.  While some call it being on the “right side of history,” I simply now refer to it as not sounding and looking like a bigot in the halls of history and in the various books, Facebook posts, and Tweets that our children will one day read. Continue reading “Yes, You’re a Homophobe by John Erickson”

Water, Activism, and Thirsting for Change by Xochitl Alvizo

XA yellowMike Wilson’s persistent replacement of water sources in the desert for those who may be dying of thirst is part of his affirmation that we are all inextricably connected…the affirmation that our individual well-being cannot be separated from our collective well-being.

I carry two water bottles with me at all times, one for water and one for change – quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies, as well as the occasional dollar bill. I carry the first bottle because, here in the U.S., I have the luxury of accessing potable drinking water, from which I am able to refill my reusable water bottle, almost everywhere I go. I don’t go anywhere without it. Even at a friend’s house or out to eat at a restaurant, when offered a glass of drinking water I simply pull out my water bottle and if needed refill it from the tap. No need to wash an extra cup. I especially find it necessary to have my water bottle with me when I am at conferences or business meetings where the default is to provide people with brand new single-use disposable water bottles that more often than not end up in the trash can instead of the recycling bin – which is often not even available. I carry my water bottle with me at all times.

Sadly (and, criminally, really), people in the U.S., 90% of whom have access to perfectly good drinking water from their tap, are the top consumers of store bought bottled water – and unnecessarily so. The great irony is that 40% of bottled water comes directly from public water supplies – from the city’s public works for which tax-payers are already paying. Meanwhile, in many parts of the world people are literally dying of thirst and access to fresh drinking water continues to be a growing crisis. Single-use bottled water makes me angry, for unless water is being bottled in order to be transported to people in places that have no access to it, buying bottled water is unnecessary, indulgent, and willfully planet, water crisis, Mike Wilson Continue reading “Water, Activism, and Thirsting for Change by Xochitl Alvizo”

Saudi Women Drive by amina wadud

Amina Wadud 2 I am Muslim, by choice, practice and vocation

Saudi Women Drive

So what’s the big deal in that? Thanks for asking.

I have been actively spreading the word, giving support and showing my enthusiasm for the Saudi women’s initiative to be permitted to drive their own cars.  I celebrate with them the success of this latest initiate on October 26th which was without government backlash.  About 60 women took to the wheel. None were arrested, detained, fired from their jobs, harassed in the streets, or banished from their communities.  We call that progress.  Continue reading “Saudi Women Drive by amina wadud”

What Would Malala Do? by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileOctober 11th was International Day of the Girl – a movement that empowers girls around the world to see themselves as powerful change agents. This year’s theme is “Innovation for girls’ education.”  Certainly, this makes sense given that education is one of our most powerful resources – just ask Malala.  During her recent interview on The Daily Show, Malala reminded the world that it is education that can solve global problems – not war.

The youngest person in history to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Malala is clear in her message; the only way to make change is through peace, dialogue, and education.  When asked about her reaction to the threat to her life by the Taliban, Malala responded saying that she thought quite a bit about what she would say if she came face to face with a Talib.  “I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Although the Taliban has continued to threatened her life, Malala says striking back is not the right approach.  “If you hit a Talib, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty. … You must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education.”  Such words of wisdom from a child. Continue reading “What Would Malala Do? by Gina Messina-Dysert”

No More Of This in Academe! by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Last week, social media was ablaze over a September 18 Pittsburg Post-Gazette column entitled “Death of An Adjunct” by Daniel Kovalik that had the following teaser: “Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor of French for 25 years, died underpaid and underappreciated at age 83.”  Inside Higher Ed reports that the column went viral as “adjuncts across the country reported seeing something tragically familiar in her story.”  The Chronicle of Higher Education likewise covered the story with this tagline: “An Adjunct’s Death Becomes a Rallying Cry for Many In Academe.”

This tragedy involves all sorts of issues with which readers of this blog are concerned: power, structural injustice, job insecurity, underemployment, unions, healthcare, and Catholic values (the last of these since Margaret worked at a Catholic institution), to name a few.

Continue reading “No More Of This in Academe! by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

The Purity Complex: Are Men Really Less Affected Than Women? by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismWomen’s bodies continue to receive an inexhaustible amount of attention. As a society, we have glorified, scrutinized, degraded, hypersexualized, underrepresented, and misunderstood the female body. Purity culture has orchestrated a movement around the management, perception, and regulation of women’s bodies. As a former Pentecostalist, I grew up knowing there was more focus on my body versus those of my  brothers in Christ. There was a bodily divergence between men and women that I did not fully comprehend but felt obligated to adhere to; the ideological basis of this difference was filled with much ambiguity.

Each time the church organized a sexual purity event and/or discussion, boys and girls were unfailingly segregated. I was always so curious about what was discussed in the boy’s group so I would ask my brother, Christian boyfriend, and male friends at the church to fill me in on the gossip. In my teens, I didn’t know how to perceive the information relayed to me. Looking back now, I am surprised at the discourse around purity culture and masculinity in the church. During my earlier years at college, I convened with the male pastoral leadership, and they confirmed the following main themes taught to men during sexual purity discussions. Continue reading “The Purity Complex: Are Men Really Less Affected Than Women? by Andreea Nica”

Cultural conditions and Spiritual Subtleties by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaI am very grateful to Carol P. Christ and other contributors for their insightful comments and thoughtful questions to my post “Blindness of the Gals”. As I promised to Carol, here is my post that starts answering some of the issues raised in the comments.

I cannot say that it was giving birth to my daughter that first made me question my blindness to patriarchy in religion and culture. Rather, it was a gradual process of educating myself by reading works by feminist thinkers, and learning about the brave women and men who have been fighting and are still fighting for women’s rights.

Continue reading “Cultural conditions and Spiritual Subtleties by Oxana Poberejnaia”

The Hot Seat by John Erickson

Being a man in feminism isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be.

men_feminist_mainI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a male feminist lately.  As the only man to be a permanent blogger on this very site until my colleague and friend Kile Jones came on board, I took my role, as a man in a traditional feminist (online) space very seriously.  Although the ongoing struggle to be a male feminist is one continually wrought with dialogues about power and positionality (amongst a host of many other topics), I am often conflicted when I see male feminists take advantage and destroy the hard work that many, specifically on this site and beyond, worked hard to build and defend.

Not wanting to reopen old wounds or start new online battles, men have been involved in feminism for quite some time.  From James Mott chairing the first women’s rights convention, to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin’s life partner John Stoltenberg, to Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman’s life long work to legitimize not only men in feminism but also what it means to be a man who works for gender equality, being a man in feminism isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be. Continue reading “The Hot Seat by John Erickson”

Forgiveness (is a two-way street) by amina wadud

Amina Wadud 2 I am Muslim, by choice, practice and vocation

I don’t know why this came to me as the discussion I want to have in blog form today, but here you go–

Imam al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) said that Allah (God) only stops forgiving when the believer stops asking for forgiveness.  This is the crux of the Islamic view of divine forgiveness.  Start with the fact that we have NO FALL story, because despite mis-conduct in the Garden, Adam and Eve ASKED for and were granted forgiveness.  Thus, they leave without the mark of some eternal “original sin.”  They live as we all do, here on earth, not as some punishment but because that is where they were intended to live in the first place.  The creation story in Islam describes human creation as per a primordial conversation between the Creator and the unseen creatures known as angels, when God says, “Indeed, I will create ON THE EARTH a khalifah (moral agent, vice-regent of God).”

Thus, the relationship between divine forgiveness and human sin or error is fixed in a dialectic where sin and error might be part and parcel of the human being but likewise forgiveness is part and parcel of the Divine Creator.  In fact, the language used is telling.  Taubah, which is also translated as forgiveness, means “returning to the original place/station.”  Our original place is at one with the Creator, and we are in that station in harmony with all of creation ~ a sort of cosmic bliss.  When we err, we fall away from our true nature and the nature of the entire universe so must return to realign ourselves with this cosmic harmony… and everything will be alright. Continue reading “Forgiveness (is a two-way street) by amina wadud”

5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion by Kile Jones

Kile Jones, atheistPart of my research is focused on how the social sciences relate to “religion” and religious studies.  More specifically, I spend time examining the sociology of religion.  I look at stats, demographics, and polls.  I look at rates of attendance, frequency of prayer, levels of “religiosity,” apostates (or the less religiously-loaded term “exiters”), and political outlooks.  I also look at how bias this area of study is in favor of religion.  One facet of this work that has always interested me, is the differences in “gender” and “sex” as they relate to religious beliefs and observances.  Accepting the fact that there are spectrums of sex, gender, and identity, and the presence of difficult philosophical questions surrounding self-identification and the limits of labels, some really interesting facts and statistics crop up time and time again.  In what follows I will lay out a couple of these interesting facts, along with some thoughts on them: Continue reading “5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion by Kile Jones”

To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question

If a conservative religious traditions can’t give their mothers or sisters full equality, how can we expect them to give a GLBT individual the time of day?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.Outrage.  Anger.  Fear.  Hatred.  These are just a few of the words that flashed across my Twitter feed as I woke up on that fateful Wednesday, June 26 morning when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional and that supporters of Proposition 8, the hotly contested voter initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage, had no standing.   People were mad.  However, it wasn’t just the typical kind of mad that is associated with hatred, it was a type gay_marriage_81102178_620x350of mad that was met with impossible anguish because what I was reading and feeling was a result of one thing: there was nothing more they could do.

What does all this mean?  Questions from friends and family were filling up my inbox and although I wanted to take a moment to just hit “Reply All,” and input the words: Equality, I had to hold back and start to examine the notion that although equality may now be firmly on the proverbial table, there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically for gay marriage and those wanting to marrying inside the traditional church spaces they grew up in and not just the ones that have come out as open and affirming in recent years towards LGBT individuals. Continue reading “To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question”

“We Are Atheism” and Amanda Brown by Kile Jones

Kile Jones, atheistSo far, as a regular contributor to Feminism and Religion, I have interviewed a “pro-science” woman and one who started an online community for grieving unbelievers.  In this post, I will interview Amanda Brown, an atheist activist who co-founded a project called We Are Atheism.  Amanda grew up in Independence, MO, in the Assemblies of God and the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since then, she has been involved in helping atheists “come out” and share their experiences.  So without further ado, here is the interview:


Why did you start “We Are Atheism”?

I started We Are Atheism because I saw a gap in the age of atheists coming out of the closet.  I also wanted a way for people to see for themselves that atheists are real people.  We Are Atheism is focused on the fact that atheists are mothers, fathers, teachers, brothers, friends, and so much more. When I was at the 2011 Secular Student Alliance Conference in Columbus, OH, I heard most of the leaders tell stories about their groups and how many of them didn’t know other atheists. I thought this was horrible, and being a person who was in the same position, I wanted to start something that would bring our community together.  Those who met on the internet could take their community from online to the neighborhood. Continue reading ““We Are Atheism” and Amanda Brown by Kile Jones”

What’s Your Super Power? (And Who’s Allowed to Have It?) by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergI recently went to see Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.  I saw it two times actually.  Readers familiar with my posts about cosplay and video gaming will not be surprised to learn that I am also a fan of comic book heroes and heroines; and Superman was my childhood favorite.

I was both attracted to and wanted to be like Superman, specifically, Christopher

Christopher Reeves as "Superman."
Christopher Reeves as “Superman.”

Reeves’ Superman.  One of my strongest childhood desires was also to fly like a bird.  I remember jumping off the end of my parent’s bed over and over again, convinced that if I flapped hard enough and kept on trying that I could fly.  The older I got, the more I realized that I also did not want to be “rescued” by Superman.  Rescue from the difficulties in my life was an unattainable fantasy.  So, I desperately wanted to be Superman.  Though I knew this too was impossible, perhaps I had only to try. Continue reading “What’s Your Super Power? (And Who’s Allowed to Have It?) by Sara Frykenberg”

Genetic Testing: The Ethical Implications of Expanded Newborn Testing – Who Benefits? (Part Two) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John Carroll

With Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy due to a genetic test that revealed she carried the BRCa gene, the issue of genetic testing is in the forefront once again.  This is the second part of a three-part essay exploring genetic testing on newborns (part one and part two) and concludes with exploring personal choices and the psychological ramifications of genetic testing.

False Positives, Lack of Empirical Evidence, and Dangers in Expanded Newborn Screening

In the year 2000, most states only screened for about four conditions.   As of November 2008, most states adopted screening for the 29 recommended primary conditions and up to 25 secondary conditions (See President’s Council on Bioethics, “The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening,” 36).    Since no federal mandate on newborn screening exists from state to state, this number varies due to the lack of understanding of the diseases or showing no proven benefit.   In fact, the twenty-five secondary conditions recommended  by the American College of Medical Genetics do not need urgent treatment in the newborn period or have no proven treatment (Also see Mary Ann Baily and Thomas J. Murray, “Ethics, Evidence. And Cost in Newborn Screening” Hastings Center Report (38, 2008), 28 ).

Then there is the multiplex technology of tandem mass spectrometry (MS/ MS) that can screen for over 40 “inborn errors of metabolism” from a single drop of blood (See President’s Council, “The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening,” 9).  While this technology has reduced the numbers of false positives, it is still far from being reliable.  This is due to screening forBabySeq rare disorders on a population wide basis – about four million babies annually.  To illustrate this point, in 2007,  3,364,612 infants were screened for Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) in the United States and 1,249 tested positive. After retesting, only 18 cases confirmed a positive result (See President’s Council, “The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening,” 14).  MSUD is a well-understood condition that shows some benefit for screening.  However, when we expand screening to add conditions that are not understood as well as mandate all newborns in the United States to be tested, false positives are likely to be in the tens of thousands (See also Beth Tarini, et al. “State Newborn  Screening in the Tandem Mass Spectrometry Era: More Tests, More False Positives” Pediatrics,  118 (2006), 448-456).

Continue reading “Genetic Testing: The Ethical Implications of Expanded Newborn Testing – Who Benefits? (Part Two) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson

oes God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity? Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions. After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space.  Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality.  An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar

The Palms, the last local and only lesbian bar to be found in city of West Hollywood, CA is closing its doors and I can’t help but wonder where its patrons or parishioners will now go? Continue reading “God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson”

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