Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Ark Encounter: State-Subsidized Religious Tourism in Kentucky

August 8, 2016

Ark encounter: State-Subsidized Religoius Tourism in Kentucky

Noah’s Ark may have landed on Mount Ararat, but you can see it in Kentucky off Interstate 75, on State Route 36 in Williamstown. Answers In Genesis, the outfit behind the Creation(ism) Museum, has built a 510-foot-long biblical boat as a tourist attraction, Ark Encounter ($40 admission, $10 parking).  The wooden hull is stocked with pairs of animals said to be on the Ark, including dinosaurs (from the Book of Flintstones?). There’s also a zoo, but don’t expect any dinosaurs there.

Ark Encounter opened on July 7th and was built at a cost $102 million. Of that, $62 million was raised from Industrial Development Bonds issued by the City of Williamstown. The Kentucky state government granted Ark Encounter $18 million in tax incentives and is building a new $10 million highway interchange for the new Christian theme park.

The rationale for granting this public largesse for religious evangelism is that the big boat will stimulate the tourist economy and create jobs. Want to apply for those jobs? You’ll have to sign a statement of faith in Genesis and Jesus Christ, disavowing homosexuality, same-sex marriage and premarital sex. Somehow, Federal Judge Greg Van Tatenhove (alumnus of Christian Asbury University) has ruled that this is all constitutional and isn’t state sponsorship of religion. It seems Ark Encounter is a secular outfit when it gets public funding and tax breaks, but a religious organization when it hires employees. Glory be, it’s a miracle!

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Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?

April 23, 2016

Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?

The Haggadah (הַגָּדָה‎) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover ritual meal, the Seder.

“There’s a reason the haggadah feels goyish: Formally speaking, it’s Greek. It’s a Judaicized version of a Greek genre called ‘symposium literature’. Plato loved the form. So did Xenophon. The symposium enshrined the most appealing traits of the Hellenic personality: conviviality, Epicureanism, a love of good conversation.”

–”Platonic Form,” Judith Shulevitz, Tablet Magazine

The ancient Greek symposium (συμπόσιον) was a drinking party; drinking four glasses of wine is a Passover obligation. Diners are supposed to recline while they do so, just like the Greeks.

There’s a cute Passover tradition, breaking a piece of matzoh (unleavened bread) and hiding half of it. The bread can only be eaten at the end of the meal, after the family’s children discover it. That piece of bread has a funny name, afikomen, but its origin isn’t Hebrew. You guessed it, it’s Greek:

“In Greek, the word is epikomen and is made up of two smaller words: epi, which means after (as in an epilogue), and komos, which means a banquet or merrymaking, and is the same word that inspired the English word comedy. For centuries, Jews have taken afikomen to mean ‘that which comes after the meal,’ more commonly known, of course, as dessert.”

– “Breaking Matzah,” David K. Israel, Mental Floss

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The Macaroons of Moses

April 22, 2016

The Macaroons of Moses
Tonight many Jewish families hold the Seder, the ritual meal celebrating the holiday of Passover. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the customs of this dinner, such as recounting the Exodus story as told in the ancient Maxwell House Haggadah and the obligation to drink four glasses of wine (oh, the sacrifices …).

One seasonal custom puzzling to Gentiles is the appearance of canned Kosher cookies in American supermarkets. Many Jews are puzzled as well, since the cookies are macaroons made with coconut, chocolate, and other ingredients not prominent in the Old Testament.

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Pope Trumps Donald

February 19, 2016

Pope Trumps Donald

Winging back to Rome after his visit to Ciudad Juárez on the Mexico-US border, reporters asked Pope Francis what he thought of the idea of building a wall between the United States and Mexico. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” His Holiness replied. “This is not the gospel.”

That “person,” of course, would be reality TV star, fear monger and Bible scholar Donald J. Trump. Naturally The Donald picked a fight with the Pope, claiming Mexican officials got Pope Francis to say that (so they won’t have to pay for Donald’s wall, no doubt). Then he claimed the Pope had no right to impugn his Christian faith, as if his own words hadn’t done so already.

Pope Francis has decried the suffering of migrants in Europe and the Mid East as well as on Mexico’s northern border. Maybe those walls can be Trump-branded, too.

More:

“The Pope Is Way More Popular Than Donald Trump,” Leah Libresco and Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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‘Two Corinthians Walk Into a Bar ….’

January 27, 2016

'2 Corinthians Walk Into a Bar ....'

When Republican presidential hopeful, shady golfer and adulterer Donald Trump spoke at fundamentalist Liberty University recently, he quoted from his “favorite book,” the Bible, which someone else read for him (he “has people…”). Mr. Trump elicited ridicule by citing Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians.” Oops.

Maybe The Donald would have been better off quoting from his “second favorite book,” Art of the Deal. That’s the autobiography he paid Tony Schwartz to write for him.

Really smartWharton grad Donnie Trump may have flunked Bible School, but that didn’t stop gun-totinlawyer and Liberty U. prez Jerry Falwell Jr. from endorsing him. Mr. Falwell, like his televangelist daddy, is a man of faith, facts and democracy be damned.

More:

“Trump Thumps Bible, Bible Thumps Back,” Monica Bauer, Huffington Post

“Trump’s Liberty U Performance Was Insulting to Christians Everywhere,” Tom DeLay, Christian Post

“Bible-thumping playboy: Associated Press explores faith, contradictions of Donald Trump,” Bobby Ross Jr., Get Religion

“Trump’s Bid to Become Born-Again Fails as Jesus Turns Down Friend Request,” Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker

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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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The Blessing of the Buses

January 11, 2016

The Blessing of the Buses
“The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy. This makes it necessary to build more roads and parking areas which spoil the urban landscape. Many specialists agree on the need to give priority to public transportation. Yet some measures needed will not prove easily acceptable to society unless substantial improvements are made in the systems themselves, which in many cities force people to put up with undignified conditions due to crowding, inconvenience, infrequent service and lack of safety.”

—  Laudato si’, Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis on care for our common home

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Oh What a Wonderful Child

December 25, 2015

“Jesus Oh What a Wonderful Child,” performed here by Chicago’s Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir. The song is said to be traditional, but many associate it with the Angelic Gospel Singers, who recorded it in 1950.

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Christmastime For the Jews

December 24, 2015

“Christmastime for the Jews,” a Robert Smigel stop-action animation featuring the voice of Darlene Love in a “Wall of Sound” production, from a  2005 Saturday Night Live episode (lyrics here).

Gut yom tov to all, and to all a good night.

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Colorado Springs: God & Guns

December 1, 2015

Colorado Springs: God & Guns
It was the home of Garrett Swasey, Jennifer Markovsky, and Ke’Arre Stewart. It’s White Evangelical Mecca, where it’s perfectly normal to walk down the street carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. Welcome to Colorado Springs.

“Colorado’s second largest city, with a population of 445,800, has built itself a reputation as a playground for white, pro-gun, pro-life Evangelical Christians. It is also home to one army base, two air force bases, and an air force.”

— “Colorado Springs: a playground for pro-life, pro-gun evangelical Christians,” Josiah Hesse, The Guardian

So when you visit Colorado Springs, bring your Bible, your ski vest and your flak vest.

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The War on Christmas Coffee Cups

November 13, 2015

The War on Christmas Coffee Cups

For many Americans sipping coffee is a sacrament, so that may be why the new Starbucks Christmas cups stirred up such a heated controversy. The cups are red for the holidays, but with a clean design devoid of tree ornaments or snowmen. What, no snowflakes? Another assault in the War Against Christmas!

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