Every day during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan observers spend their daylight hours fasting. During Ramadan, a sense of belonging, social cohesion, and togetherness is reinforced among community members. There is no eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. Observers also abstain from sexual activity. At the end of the fast, delicious meals are shared with family and friends. Eid al-Fitr, a three-day festival, awaits observers at the end of Ramadan.
Many, perhaps most people listen to music with the hope that it permits them to step outside of the world as it usually is, the demands it places on us and the ugliness that so obviously mars it. People gravitate to music’s bright melodies, infectious rhythms, and perhaps especially to lyrics that, whether Beethoven’s or Beyoncé’s, give us some kind of life-raft or a phrase that clarifies our condition.
In the mid-twentieth century Dalit migration from the villages of southern princely State of Travancore to the villages in the Western Ghats hills in the north was reminiscent of Exodus, although we are yet to have substantial narratives of the difficult journeys they undertook.
Despite Bin Laden’s death in 2011, the extremist group Al Qaeda has since survived and, some argue, continued to thrive. The effort and resources Bin Laden invested into Al Qaeda fortified its foundation, making it difficult, if not impossible, to disband or weaken the group after his death. But how did the terrorist group come to be what it is today?
On the Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate Independence Day at picnics, concerts, fireworks displays, and gatherings of many kinds, and they almost always sing. “America the Beautiful” will be popular, and so will “Our County, ’Tis of Thee” and of course the national anthem, “Star-Spangled Banner” (despite its notoriously unsingable tune). The words are so familiar that, really, no one pays attention to their meaning. But read them closely and be surprised how the lyrics describe the meaning of America in three very different ways.
What truly awaits us on the ‘other side?’ From heaven to hell (and everything in between), our conceptions of the afterlife are more likely to be shaped by shows like The Walking Dead than biblical scripture. Speculation about death, it seems, has permeated every aspect of our everyday experience, manifesting itself in lyrics, paintings, and works of literature.
On 17 June, the new moon signaled the start of Ramadan (or Ramzan as it’s called throughout South Asia), the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex during daylight hours. Increased religious devotion sets the tone for the month as Muslims gather for special prayers, acts of charity, and Qur’anic recitations in gratitude and devotion to God.
Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Laudato Si, will be surrounded for some time by intense debate among and between journalists, columnists, Catholic journals, political leaders, and environmentally-focused scientists and NGOs. In other words, the fight over how it’s received is well underway. In the 125 years or so that papal social encyclicals have been written, their reception has been hotly debated, with the most infamous such episode occurring in the pages of the National Review.
Ramadan is an important time for Muslims, whether they live in New York City, Tehran, Cairo, or Jakarta. While there is great diversity in Islam, for most Muslims this month reflects an intensification of the religious devotion and contemplation that characterizes many Islamic traditions from prayer (salat) to pilgrimage (hajj/ziyarat). Ramadan is structured around food, a lack of food, and prayer—the early meal before dawn, the fasting during daylight, the meal at the end of the day, and the daily prayers.
Religion has played an increasingly significant part in Season 5 of the HBO series Game of Thrones, with the ‘Faith Militant’ taking over the reins of power at King’s Landing, mostly unopposed. Yet internet discussions indicate that some viewers have found this storyline unsatisfying, as the Sparrows are depicted as crazed religious fanatics, piously obsessed with driving out vice and immorality from the city.
On 10 June 1692, the condemned Bridget Bishop was carted from Salem jail to the place that would later be known as Gallows Hill, where Sheriff George Corwin reported he “caused the said Bridget to be hanged by the neck until she was dead.” She would be the first of 19 victims executed during the Salem witch trials.
If the degree of misunderstanding determines the greatness of a theologian, then Origen (c. 185-254 C.E.) ranks among the greatest. He was misunderstood in his own time and he continued to be misunderstood in subsequent centuries, resulting in his condemnation—or the condemnation of distortions of his ideas—at the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 553 C.E. Why has Origen been misunderstood? How do we understand him better?
You may have heard about the recent Pew Research Center study that shows millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1995) fleeing Christian churches to occupy the ranks of the “nones,” those professing no religious affiliation. But how much do you know about the decade that gave birth to the millennial generation?
Argentina, 1976. On the afternoon of 3 August, Fr. James Weeks went to his room to take a nap while the five seminarians of the La Salette congregation living with him went to attend classes. Joan McCarthy, an American nun who was visiting them, stayed by the fireplace, knitting a scarf. They would have dinner together and discuss the next mission in Jujuy, a Northwestern province of Argentina, where McCarthy worked. Suddenly, a loud noise came from the door. Before McCarthy could reach it, a mob burst into the house. Around ten men spread all over the house, claiming to be the police, looking for weapons, guerrilla hideouts, and ‘subversive fighters.’
During her second ‘revelation’, Julian of Norwich has a bewilderingly dark vision of Christ’s face, which she compares with the most celebrated relic in medieval Rome. This was the ‘Vernicle’: the image of Christ’s face miraculously imprinted on a cloth that St Veronica lent Christ to wipe his face on his way to Calvary.
Surely no President epitomized the Progressive Era like Theodore Roosevelt, from trustbusting to conservation. Oddly, we rarely remember him as his contemporaries often did: “the greatest preacher of righteousness in modern times” (Gifford Pinchot); “essentially a preacher of righteousness” (William Loeb); “a veritable preacher of social righteousness with the irresistible eloquence of faith sanctified by work” (Jane Addams); “always ready to appeal for justice and righteousness” (Henry Cabot Lodge).