Southern Religion

Mumbai spiritual journeys

Among those killed in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, were several who were openly seeking God in their lives and encouraging others to do so.

The Washington Post reported that Alan Scherr, a former art professor, was on a pilgrimage to India with his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, when they were shot and killed while eating dinner at a hotel in Mumbai.

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, died in the attack on the Nariman House, a Jewish outreach center in Mumbai, according to a report in the New York Times.

Scherr had spent 25 years studying Transcendental Meditation. He and his family were living at the Synchronicity Foundation, a complex in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia founded by a New Age follower of an Indian spiritual guru.

The Holtzbergs were part of the ultra-orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish movement in Brooklyn. They left New York in 2003 to run the center in Mumbai.

Their quests for meaning were along different paths, but the Scherrs and the Holtzbergs are now known for where their journeys ended. The terrorists clearly sought them out as targets. Instead their deaths join countless others whose sacrifices are well chronicled in the history of spiritual exploration.

November 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mumbai spiritual journeys

Buy Nothing Friday/Week

Although Black Friday was never an exercise in spiritual enlightenment, the underfoot death of a Long Island Wal Mart employee should have been enough to give even rank materialists pause. And if that wasn’t enough, perhaps the Toys_R_Us gun battle opened some closed eyes.

Perhaps wide enough to consider celebrating Buy Nothing Day, as the charming video below recommends:

Widespread observance of Buy Nothing Day would have produced no such tragedies, although it would have required merchants to adjust their annual business plans. There might be little hope for businesses that did not make a year in the black more of a year-round reality. Nor is there any place for an excessive prosperity gospel in the approach recommended by proponents of Buy Nothing day, as Frink explains->.

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Buy Nothing Friday/Week

Mumbai help links

Wikipedia up-to-the-moment Mumbia entry and an Annonated Map of the attacks.

There is also India Broadcasting Network live, streaming coverage (avoid this if you suffer from PTSD), or for less superheated up-to-date coverage, visit The Lede at the New York Times.

We will add to and update this list as we discover additional resources.

November 27, 2008 Posted by | Help | , , , , | 1 Comment

Post-marital …

Walk a do-unto-others mile in Tom Ackerman’s shoes.

At religion dispatches he writes in
A Marriage Manifesto… Of Sorts

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Turns out it’s fun.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”

“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it.

Andrew Sullivan responds:

I don’t think any heterosexual in America has really ever questioned his or her right to marry – or the expectation of social status it brings with it. This thought experiment helps jolt the mind into seeing the world through the other’s eyes. Which is rarely a bad thing.

Are you ready for that?

November 27, 2008 Posted by | Cultural | , , | Comments Off on Post-marital …

Pope downplays interfaith dialogue (maybe)

Batholics in Bohemia

“Batholics in Bohemia, or when your pastor enquires of you” is a Czeck cartoon which was inspired by Tony Cartledge’s May 20, 2005, blog “Baptists or Batholics?”

I am informed that the caption translates, “Did you vote for Christian democratic party, Civic democratic party or social democrats? According to the new SBC instruction no. 214/09 we cannot accept liberal voters.”

A few days after a Baptist minister called the Roman Catholic Church a cult comes word that the pope himself is sending mixed signals about the worth of interfaith dialogue.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a letter to an author that “an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible” according to a report in the New York Times. In theological terms, the pope said, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”

The news comes after Jim Smyrl, the executive pastor of education at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, called the Catholic Church a “cult” in one of his church’s official blogs.

But it’s important to note that the pope also said “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” is important and called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”

A Vatican spokesman seemed to walk back the pope’s comments even further, saying the comments were not meant to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing interreligious dialogues.

Perhaps some good would result now if Jim Smyrl had an audience with the pope. He is, after all, a Batholic.

November 26, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope downplays interfaith dialogue (maybe)

Fair Trade Christmas Olive Oil

Anne-Marie Berger of Living St. Louis examined Fair Trade and its increasing in popularity.

Fair trade is a means of providing adequate wages to the individuals that make many of the products that we all use everyday.

This video tells the story of Dr. Wilman Ortega, who is a third generation coffee farmer from Guatemala who founded Beans for Hope where a portion of coffee sales go to schools in his home country.

Coffee isn’t the only seasonal, fair-trade foodstuff.

Nor is refusal to countenance slavery inevitably a part of choosing fair-trade products over others.

Import Peace is non-profit organization that sells high-quality, fair-trade, USDA organic olive oil produced in Palestine.

It was founded by a group of 100 Presbyterians in response to the frustration, pain and poverty of the people of the Palestinian Occupied Territories during a 2006 trip with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

Read the entire article

November 26, 2008 Posted by | WWW | Comments Off on Fair Trade Christmas Olive Oil

Call Roman Catholicism a cult?

Southern Baptists are seldom shy about calling other religious groups cults. The Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board even has an apologetics and interfaith web site with a section devoted to “New Religions and Cults.”

A minister at a prominent Southern Baptist church in Florida has taken the label to a new high, or perhaps we should say a new low, in declaring the Catholic Church to be a cult. Jim Smyrl, the executive pastor of education at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, made the accusation on one the church’s official blogs.

Smyrl says he expects to be questioned about his stance, but that the Bible and history are on his side. He compares his position to strong stands made by John Wycliffe, Martin Luther and others.

Smyrl goes on to say he wants to “ultimately see a reformation of the Catholic Church that is not just a schism but a harvest of Catholics coming to Christ alone for salvation.”

In a way, Smyrl’s position might be seen as the next logical step for Southern Baptists.

For years, some Southern Baptists have given out tracts stressing the need for Catholics to be saved. And in a Baptist Press article about the similarities and differences between the two groups, a Southern Baptist “interfaith coordinator” tells how Baptists can “share the Gospel – as they know it” with Catholics.

Smyrl’s blog can also be seen as a departure from a Baptist willingness to dialogue with Catholics.

The Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church had 30 years of official doctrinal talks until the SBC broke them off in 2001. The Baptist World Alliance has continued discussions with the latest talks being in December of last year when a group of Baptists met the Pope.

It’s our view that such civil discussions are more productive than name calling.

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | 5 Comments

Focus on the Family stumbles

Hard times have even come to right-wing evangelical organizations and Focus on the Family is carrying out layoffs with all the cold-blooded business logic of a major secular corporation.

Veteran religion journalist Louis Moore writes:

The supposed family-oriented Focus on the Family ministry is going to lay off 149 workers (and rid itself of 53 vacant positions) to balance its books quickly while creating financial hardships for the 149 or so families impacted by the decision.

Was there a more Christian way?

Moore thinks there was.

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

Romney helped & hurt by LDS Prop. 8 activism

Church of Latter Day Saints’ political ‘Death Star’ image may help Mormon politican Mitt Romney, says The Salt Lake Tribune.

And also hurt him in any future presidential bid.

Thomas Burr of the Tribune staff writes:

The LDS effort could give Romney a crucial boost among evangelicals who wield great power in choosing the Republican presidential nominee. But it might leave the former Massachusetts governor an even tougher slog among a broader electorate.

Read the rest of the story here.

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Romney helped & hurt by LDS Prop. 8 activism

Prop. 8 crowd breaking on Supreme Court rock? is now fighting its friends as well as its foes as the Proposition 8 battle in the California Supreme Court proceeds, says the San Francisco Chronicle, excluding some allies as too extreme and off-putting.

According to John Wildermuth of the Chronicle, general counsel for the “Yes on Prop. 8” campaign Andrew Pugno said:

We represent the people who got things done, who got Prop. 8 passed. An important part of defending Prop. 8 is eliminating arguments not helpful to our concerns.

Read the rest of the story here

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Comments Off on Prop. 8 crowd breaking on Supreme Court rock?