Myanmar’s Dangerous Military Coup by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

On February 1st, a successful military coup took place in South Asia. The national military of Myanmar arrested top non-military officials and seized all power. While this February coup happened in South Asia, it could have happened on our very shores. Myanmar’s successful military coup d’état took place almost a month after the unsuccessful January 6th attack on the US Capitol.

Continue reading “Myanmar’s Dangerous Military Coup by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Photo Essay–Long Beach, California by Marie Cartier

Long Beach Pride 2019
**All photos by: Marie Cartier**
See the photo essay from last year’s Pride week-end here.
And the photo essay from Pride 2017 here.

Continue reading “Photo Essay–Long Beach, California by Marie Cartier”

Pleasure, Touch, and Spirituality by Chris Ash

Sitting in front of the computer, I slowly and intentionally insert earbuds, click to start my favorite writing playlist, and open up Microsoft Word. I feel the tips of my fingers resting lightly on the keys, and notice the slight give of each printed square, glossy in the middle from months of 80 words per minute. I lightly tap my fingers on the keys, not pressing enough to type a letter, body motionless except my fingers, watching the absolute stillness of the screen, exploring the edge between pressure and performance with slow, shallow breaths, finally noticing the moment when the edge is breached, the key catches, and a letter appears on my screen, taking it in with satisfaction.

This is how all my writing starts, with a ritual of simple pleasure and partial attempt at channeling. My partner recognizes this move when he sees it. It’s one I repeat throughout the writing process, as I’m waiting (hoping) for the next words to come to me. I’ll stop, lift my head and close my eyes, and allow my fingers to wiggle lightly over the keyboard as if inviting the unseen to move through me and write my piece. If that still doesn’t produce words, I might run my hands from thigh to knee, fingers pressing with increasing depth into denim-covered flesh. Or I might bring my hands up to my face, fingers resting on my hairline, palms lightly covering my eyes, as I experience the instant soothing of darkness and warming effect over closed eyelids, connecting to the me-within so she can help me bring forth missing concepts. Continue reading “Pleasure, Touch, and Spirituality by Chris Ash”

Second Class Citizen by Sara Wright

Second Class Citizen


When he backed me

up against the tree

inching towards me


with his big powerful car

I couldn’t believe

what was happening.

I was holding the space

for a car full of dogs

waiting to park

just behind him.


He got out of the car

And I said

You can’t do this

this spot is taken.

Six feet tall, he sneered

You can’t save spaces

in a parking lot.

Continue reading “Second Class Citizen by Sara Wright”

Beyond Human Rights by Esther Nelson

For way too long, the only meaning I found in my life happened when peering through one specific, religious prism. Then I discovered what’s called the academic study of religion.  Observing the many ways people find meaning through their own experiences with God (or their “ultimate concern”) shattered the tightly-sealed insulation around my worldview.  Those things that comprise religion (stories, concepts of the holy, ritual, symbols, social structures), coupled with our individual experiences create a powerful reality affecting us individually and communally.

Some of my students identify as agnostic or atheist. They’re happy to have shed (or never put on) garments they perceive as obstacles.  Rarely do they realize that religious “truths,” because they are taken to heart by people and implemented into the social fabric, shape the world they inhabit. When we discuss the ways religion affects women within society, they are far more likely to think about women’s lived realities in terms of human rights, not religious identity.  Religion is seen as something superfluous (at best) or an impediment towards progress (at worst).

Continue reading “Beyond Human Rights by Esther Nelson”

Religion and the #StateofWomen by Gina Messina

Pledge PhotoThe White House Summit on Women was held this week on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 and it was a great privilege to be among those invited to participate in this inaugural event.  There was an incredible line up of speakers and so much was shared. It proved to be an overwhelming day – in a very good way.  Topics addressed included violence against women, economic empowerment, and education.  In addition to the main event, there were breakout sessions on a myriad of topics presented by the most preeminent authorities in their fields.  I walked away from the day with a sense of urgency to find news ways to engage gender issues and social policy.  However, I also wondered how to bring religion into the dialogue and give greater attention to its impact on women’s issues in the US. Continue reading “Religion and the #StateofWomen by Gina Messina”

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.

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”

Appealing to Values and Interests in Consumer Choices by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“What the report also makes clear is that sweatshop labor is highly gendered. Between 71-85%…are women, the majority of whom are also under the age of 35.”

I was recently drawn into a facebook discussion about the ethics and efficacy of refusing to eat at Chick-Fil-A on account of its president’s public “we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation” opposition to same-sex marriage as well as the chain’s financial support of socially conservative groups.

I noted that consumers who boycott businesses generally do so because they believe that (1) continuing to patronize a place would be at odds with their core values, or that (2) their actions will “make a difference” by exerting financial pressure on the company to amend their ways. These two reasons could be related, though they often are not. People can act in accordance with their conscience without believing that they have accordingly instigated social change (n.b., just think of the earlier 2004 decision by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to selectively divest from certain companies in Israel), just as companies can be compelled to alter their policies by other means than by their clientele taking their business elsewhere.

Continue reading “Appealing to Values and Interests in Consumer Choices by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

The Tale of Two Breast: From Religious Symbol to Secular Object by Cynthia Garrity Bond

I am less concerned with the legitimacy or morality of public breast-feeding . . . rather I am asking what contributes to this strange binary of, on the one hand, social acceptability of near-porn-like images of breast used in advertising, i.e. Victoria Secret, while on the other hand, internal conflicts some feel when viewing a baby/child feeding at the breast?

Beyond the “war on women” initiated by the Republican party on women’s reproductive rights, the issue of women’s breast, or more specifically, the nursing breast, has been making itself know in the media.  The recent Time magazine cover of Jamie Lynne Grumet breast-feeding her three-year-old son produced a flood of  
controversy centering on “attachment parenting,” which promotes, among other things, breast-feeding beyond infancy. Parent magazine recently profiled two military mothers breastfeeding in public while in uniform.  For some, this perceived breach in social decorum is akin to urinating and defecating openly while wearing your uniform.  Responding to the outcry, Air Force spokesperson Captain Rose Richeson states, “Airmen (sic) should be mindful of their dress and appearance and present a professional image at all times while in uniform.” In other words, it is suggested nursing military mothers pump and bottle-feed their babies when wearing their uniform in public spaces.  And finally, Hadley Barrows of Minnesota was asked to leave the library by a security guard because her nursing in public was a form of “indecent exposure.”  In this post I am less concerned with the legitimacy or morality of public nursing (although I have no issue with it), instead I am asking what contributes to this strange binary of, on the one hand, social acceptability of near-porn-like images of breast used in advertising, i.e. Victoria Secret, while on the other hand, internal conflicts some feel when viewing a baby/child feeding at the breast? Drawing from the work of Margaret Miles and her text, A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750, social attitudes and the public display of women’s breast can best be understood when the breast is viewed as a coded symbol that informs, through artistic representation, complex patterns of discourse. Continue reading “The Tale of Two Breast: From Religious Symbol to Secular Object by Cynthia Garrity Bond”

“If You Allow Gay Marriage…” by John Erickson

“We need to start examining the underlying questions of counter-cultural relationships that view one man marrying many women to be hip because we begin to see that although a polygamist idea of marriage may be sexy from a popular culture standpoint, the thought of legally recognized gay marriage always then gets likened to bestiality.”

… you have to allow polygamy, bestiality, and everything else!” The title for my post this week is a quote from an individual I used to associate with.  This individual, haling from a conservative evangelical background, tried to explain to several others and myself the reasons why gay marriage would eventually lead to the repeal of anti-polygamy and bestiality laws across the United States.

The problems that I have with this particular argument are conflating gay marriage with religious freedom.  Activists and scholars can draw comparisons to anti-polygamy cases such as the 1878 U.S. Supreme Court case Reynolds v United States and the 1882 Edmunds Act and 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act that disfranchised and led to the imprisonment of Mormon polygamists. But in the end, gay marriage is not about religious freedom but rather human rights.

I often feel that there is this need both within and outside religious communities to promulgate the idea that LGBTQ individuals want to get married within the sanctified walls of “the church” just as much as heterosexual couples do.  Although I do not want to disqualify those who desire to see LGBTQ equality within their faith based communities, buying into a heternormative ideal of what traditional marriage should look like needs to result in LGBTQ individuals asking why marriage should be performed in sacred spaces in the first place The normative traditions that have often defined marriage have also served as shackles keeping LGBTQ couples in the mindset that to achieve fully marriage equality with their heterosexual counterparts is to fully immerse themselves within the same traditions and practices. Continue reading ““If You Allow Gay Marriage…” by John Erickson”

%d bloggers like this: