The Door by John Erickson

Faith is something we get from each other, and sometimes in the most magical of circumstances, faith becomes embodied by the person you love the most.

I have a Ph.D. in American Religious History but I’ve never been much of a religious person.  It’s been one of the conundrums of my life but nevertheless, I found religion and its role in influencing, for good and bad, the lived experiences of the LGBTQ community something worth exploring.

I’ve been struggling with writing this post ever since I graduated and officially became “Dr. John.” In preparing for my defense, the Chair of my Dissertation Committee requested that at the start of the defense, he wanted me to introduce my project, its overall scope, and most importantly why I wrote it.

Why did I write it?  How does one answer why they chose to devote 8 years of their life to a single subject in search of an original idea?  While some would sit and grapple with this question, I knew what the answer was all along because it always was (and always will be) about my maternal grandmother, Gladys Hritsko.

I wanted to know what made me different.  Throughout my dissertation, I interviewed people who, much like myself, grew up in similar small towns, attended the same conservative church services, and heard the same damning things that I did about my sexuality being preached from the pulpit. Many of my subjects were deeply hurt by religion and it set some of them up for years of searching and painful memories and experiences that both forced them to leave their religious and faith-based communities they grew up in or, in the worst case, being kicked out by their family as a result of their religion.

Continue reading “The Door by John Erickson”

What is the Cause of Violence? A Response to Karen Armstong by Carol P. Christ

 “So, when we in the West talk about religion as the cause of this violence, how much are we letting ourselves off the hook, and using religion as a way to ignore our role in the roots of this violence?” Karen Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood
carol p. christ photo michael bakasThis statement was made by scholar of religions Karen Armstrong in an interview in Salon magazine in response to characterizations of Islam as a violent religion by Bill Maher and others. Speaking in the context of the rise of anti-Islamist prejudice in Europe, Armstrong said that Maher’s demonization of “the other” was the kind of talk that could lead us back to the concentration camps.

Bill Maher makes blanket statements against religion in general and Islam in particular. Maher clearly does not have a nuanced view of any religion. He is fueling anti-Islamic sentiment when he singles out Islam as a violent religion. If religions are going to be criticized as violent, then we must not limit ourselves to criticizing Islam, but must begin closer to home, by discussing the relation of religion and violence in the Bible, in Christianity, and in Judaism. My rule of thumb is always to begin with Christianity because it is the hegemonic religion of western cultures. Continue reading “What is the Cause of Violence? A Response to Karen Armstong by Carol P. Christ”

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