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A DoubleTweet in which two religious icons confront urban decay

Monday, August 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — I spend a fair amount of time showing the ways in which religious extremism across many religions results in violence — it’s my pleasure here to show how simple religious devotion can have a positive impact ]
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This is a very simple example of one positive aspect of religions, plural:

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BTW, anyone who wonders whether Twitter can be worthwhile might take a look at this exchange between scholars of religion, as an example of the simple notion that two minds are better than one.

In this case, I’m grateful both to Judy Silber, who posted How a Buddhist shrine transformed a neighborhood in Oakland, and to Andrew Chesnut, aka Dr. Death & Divinity, for his quick and profound reponse to my original tweet.

And the Word was made Script and dwelt among us

Friday, June 7th, 2019

{ by Charles Cameron — the embodiment of the word in script affords calligraphers of all religious beliefs the opportunity to illuminate the written script with beauty }
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And the Word was made Script and dwelt among us…

This would describe the indwelling of the numinous presence within scriptures, a doctrine found in the Christian usage that terms the Bible the Word of God, and even more explicitly in the Islamic doctrine that the Qu’ran is the Word of God in a manner equivalent to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation — that is to say, Christians teach that Jesus is the Word of God, Muslims that the Qu’ran is.

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Incunabula had tweeted:

The historian Tom Holland picked up on this, and commented:

How incredibly beautiful. It looks like something out of Rivendell.

H’e not the only one thinking along similar lines — there’s a Reddit that’s relevant here: The Tibetan Script looks much like Tengwar to me…could it have been Tolkien’s inspiration for written Elvish?. So let’s take a quick look:

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Let’s take a look: DoubleQuote:

Above, Tolkien’s Quenya script from the inside front leaf, lower border, of the first edition Lord of the Rings, in comparison with the silver Tibetan calligraphy of the interior of Incunabula’s Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 Verses.

To be fair, Incunabula’s 13th-15th century work in gold and silver ink is a remarkable work of art, and it may be fair to compare it also —

—with the 9th century illuminated gospels of the Irish Book of Kells.

**

Beauty, anyway — the word becoming scripture in script offers us a manner in which some glimpses of beauty — transcendent sister of goodness and truth — beauty become word..

DoubleVision: two troubles with religions

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — religious violence and sexual abuse scandals from a perspective grounded in comparative religion ]
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Two images from my feed a couple of days ago, similar enough that they make a (visual) DoubleQuote:


The Atlantic, Abolish the Priesthood


WaPo, Sri Lankan government blocks social media and imposes curfew following deadly blasts

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The first image above comes from an article in the Atlantic about child sexual abuse by members of the Catholic priesthood and accompanying cover-ups by the church hierarchy.

  • The Atlantic, Abolish the Priesthood
  • The abuses are horrific.They are horrific, horrific.

    My grouse here is that articles such as this focus on the Catholic Church, although Billy Graham’s grandson claims the situation is similar if not worse among Protestants; sexual abuse of spiritual authority and cover-ups are also found in so-called “sects” such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in other religions altogether:

  • Vice, Billy Graham’s Grandson Says Protestants Abuse Kids Just Like Catholics
  • The Atlantic, A Secret Database of Child Abuse
  • Tricycle, a Buddhist magazine, Sex in the Sangha … Again
  • And if that’s not enough — consider this list of non-religiously specific sources of sexual abuse the Feeney Law Firm, LLC encounters in its practice:

  • Feeny Law Firm, Sexual Abuse and Assault Lawsuits
  • **

    The second image above is from a Washington Post piece of April 22nd, about “the aftermath of suicide attacks that killed hundreds of people” in churches and hotels across the island. The coordinated attacks were claimed by ISIS, but appear to have been locally planned and executed.

    Executed: what a word!

    My plea here is simple: that extremists should cease targeting followers of other religions in the names of their own various religions.

    As I’ve noted before, attacks here in the US and abroad have included:

  • The Gurdwara (Sikh temple), Oak Creek, WI, 2012
  • Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, NC, 2015
  • The Tree of Life and New Light synagogues in Pittsburgh, PA, 2018
  • The Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, NZ, 2019
  • and violent extremists can be found claiming affiliation to these religions:

  • Judaism
  • Christianity
  • Islam
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • **

    Violence in the name of religion — whether personal violence as in sexual abuse or political violence as in the case of terrorism — is both human and deeply abhorrent. Understanding how widespread the human urge to violence in fact is will tend to put our recriminations against any particular religion into a clearer perspective. Religions, too, can benefit greatly from acknowledging, and not hiding, the shameful skeletons in their various closets.

    As David Ronfeldt would say: Onwards!

    To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts

    Monday, May 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — if i may be a bit presumptuous, language is a topic for the wise — in this case, how language can be used as a knife ]
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    I was reading a Vice News piece, Leaked chats show white nationalist group’s plot to infiltrate Turning Point, and was struck by the phrase “weaponize metaphors” in the paragraph:

    Part of Identity Evropa’s strategy now relies on its ability to weaponize metaphors to make their white nationalism seem more acceptable, like referring to “European heritage” — which white nationalist often use as a euphemism to mean “white” — or seizing on mainstream conservative issues like immigration.

    I frankly don’t see”metaphor” and “euphemism” as equivalents, but at least we’re looking at the language used to convey a political stance, albeit an abhorrent one.

    **

    Semioticians won’t be surprised to see that clothes can also be a mode of signalling — of conveying meaning — every bit as much as verbal language. In fact, to paraphrase my title, we can see here that thoughts can be viewed as clothes, clothes as thoughts.. Indeed, in the paragraph immediately before the one I just quoted, we read:

    According to the leaked Slack chats, about 200 members were expected to attend a secret Identity Evropa conference in Kentucky last weekend. Consistent with their brand overall, the event had a fairly strict dress code: Attendees were urged to wear “dress slacks or chinos” — no jeans. Some attendees fretted about whether they had enough time to get their suits dry-cleaned.

    Clothes as thoughts, thoughts as clothes..

    **

    Speaking of semioticians — Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of semiotics, coined the phrase “the play of musement” which I’ve been toying with recently. Here’s a play, a musement of my own:

  • There’s the music of the spheres, around and within us.

  • Then there’s the boundary layer, the troposphere, the ozone layer, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, the exosphere and so forth, space, deep space, and deep deep space —

  • or if you’ll believe the brilliant jazz comedian Lord Buckley riffing on Albert Einstein — we should also add “the zonesphere, and the vautisphere, and the routesphere, and the hippisphere, and the flippisphere, and the zippisphere, and the gonesphere, and the way-gonesphere” — hey, the “way-gonesphere” has a distinctly Prajnaparamita feel to it, no? —

  • or better yet, there’s the atmosphere, which includes equally both the sphere of weather out the window and the realm of emotional tensions within a room, group or event..

  • and what Dylan Thomas calls “the weather of the heart”..
  • **

    But really, listen to the whole Hip Einie thing, Buckley gets into the 1905 Annalen der Physik and more:

    And consider the profound beauties of the Heart Sutra with its mantra, and Dylan Thomas marvelous poem:

  • Prajñaparamita, Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond, Enlightenment hail!
  • Dylan Thomas, A Process In The Weather Of The Heart
  • Christian, Piano-playing, ISIS-sympathizing terror

    Friday, May 3rd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — it’s a good and bad speckled universe ]
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    Christian terrorist?

    Both words, Christian and terrorist, need examining, but they’re not the wrong words, nor the right ones. Also, note (in big print) that this is the view from a Progressive, Secular, Humanist perspective — those three words are also worth pondering.

    Context, context, context, as the realtors would say if they were selling attention-space..

    **

    To give you some context, then, let’s consider these terrorist killings with religious targets:

  • The Gurdwara (Sikh temple), Oak Creek, WI, 2012
  • Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, NC, 2015
  • The Tree of Life and New Light synagogues in Pittsburgh, PA, 2018
  • The Al Noor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, NZ, 2019
  • and these religions with affiliated terrorists:

  • Jewish religious terrorism
  • Christian terrorism
  • Islamic terrorism<
  • Saffron terror
  • Morals:

  • You can be hated on account of your religion
  • You can hate on account of your religion
  • Your co-religionists may have reason to feel you are outsiders
  • The proportions of violent to other believers varies between times, religions
  • Religions & groups may differ on where injustice requires redress
  • Listening, which involves humility, is a necessary feature of compassion.
  • There’s plenty of room for nuance here — as fractal theorists would say, the world is self-similar at different scales — or at the poet GM Hopkins puts it, “dappled”.

    **

    Let’s peer a little closer:

    Half the equation? Presumably terrorist would be the other half?

    Uh-oh: piano-playing and nursing…

    That’s not at all what I was expecting..

    Sources:

  • Prog Sec Hum, Christian Terrorist John Earnest Issued Manifesto
  • GetReligion, Yes, John Earnest put ‘Christian’ label into play
  • Daily Beast, Synagogue Shooting Suspect, a Piano-Playing Nursing Student
  • **

    To repeat the point that it’s not just one religion that’s involved either in violence or as a target, let’s switch religions — these things are simultaneous rather than separate:

    Islamic Terrorist?

    Source:

  • Metro, US Army vet Mark Domingo ‘plotted Isis bomb attack
  • A US army vet turned ISIS-supporter attacking neo-Nazis? That’s just one more curious instance of how these hard-to-imagine cookies crumble..

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    To return to our Christian:

    Before he allegedly walked into a synagogue in Poway, Calif., and opened fire, John Earnest appears to have written a seven-page letter spelling out his core beliefs: that Jewish people, guilty in his view of faults ranging from killing Jesus to controlling the media, deserved to die. That his intention to kill Jews would glorify God.

    Days later, the Rev. Mika Edmondson read those words and was stunned. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching,” said Edmondson, a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a small evangelical denomination founded to counter liberalism in mainline Presbyterianism. Earnest, 19, was a member of an OPC congregation. His father was an elder. He attended regularly. And in the manifesto, the writer spewed not only invective against Jews and racial minorities but also cogent Christian theology he heard in the pews.

    That’s WaPo‘s opinion, and we don’t know how strong WaPo‘s theological understanding is.

    This pastor, however seems to me to get it right:

    “When there’s an act of ‘radical Islamic terror’ — somebody claiming they’re motivated by their Islamic faith — if we’re going to call upon moderates in Muslim communities to condemn those things, we should do the same. I wholeheartedly, full stop, condemn white nationalism,” said Chad Woolf, an evangelical pastor in Fort Myers, Fla., who was one of the first to join in heated debate online about how the attack reflects on evangelicalism. “We should recognize that somebody could grow up in an evangelical church, whose father was a leader, and could somehow conflate the teachings of Christianity and white nationalism. We should be very concerned about that.”

    Okay, I have now read the complete manifesto, and if WaPo‘s headline writers think it contains theology, WaPo is paying less than ideal attention. The manifesto quotes scriptures — Matthew 27:24-25, John 8:37-45, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9 and one other verse of which he says “I forget where in the Bible this verse comes from, but it’s definitely in there” — but quoting (cherry-picking) scripture isn’t theology, it’s quoting scripture. And there’s one paragraph that might serve as an intro paragraph in some moderately bright student paper on Protestantism:

    To my brothers in Christ of all races. Be strong. Although the Jew who is inspired by demons and Satan will attempt to corrupt your soul with the sin and perversion he spews—remember that you are secure in Christ. Turn away from your sin. Not because it is required for your salvation—for nobody save Christ can merit heaven based on his own works—but rather out of gratitude for the gift of salvation that your God has given you. Always remember that it is God that is keeping you alive and in faith. All sin stems from the arrogant belief that one does not need God. Satan was so prideful that he actually truly believed (that he, a created being) could overthrow the Ancient of Days—the Creator of all in existence. Satan inspired this rebellion among humanity. Christ alone is the only source of life. Know that you are saved in Christ and nothing—not death, nor torture, nor sin—can steal your soul away from God.

    All else is ugliness, and I won’t quote.

    What’s more lovely? By all accounts, the shooter’s father ..

    Sources:

  • WaPo, The alleged synagogue shooter was a churchgoer who talked Christian theology
  • Reddit, I knew John T. Earnest, the shooter of the Chabad synagogue

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