A Q&A with Sumbul Ali-Karamali | I grew up Muslim and bicultural (Indian and American) in a time and place where I happened to be the only Muslim most of my acquaintances knew. So I got saddled with answering all their questions! Not only did I become good at answering questions about Islam in a way that those around me could understand and relate to (starting in elementary school!), but I also found I really loved coming up with answers that built bridges between my religious-cultural community and theirs. The questions I got were never addressed in the media and still aren’t.
By S. Brent Plate | “Let’s get in touch.” “I feel like I’m losing touch with you.” “That was a touching tribute.” The English language is littered with metaphors of touch that tend to revolve around connection between people. Such word use creates an almost psychic understanding that communication, even when conducted over Wi-Fi and satellite transmissions, can still allow us, as the old AT&T commercial had it, to “reach out and touch someone.”
Once upon a Gilded Age, Americans once treated Islam and Muslims with both fascination and respect. Hard to believe in our post-9/11 timeline, but it’s true. Swept by romanticized images of Muslims found in most popular entertainment at the time and Arabian Nights, thousands of Americans were enthralled by the Islamic Orient. Some, in fact, saw Islam as a global antiracist movement uniquely suited to people of African descent living in an era of European imperialism, Jim Crow segregation, and officially sanctioned racism. Some, like enigmatic circus performer John Walter Brister.
By Reza Aslan | At least once a month, my cousin Afshin drives a carload of British or German tourists from Iran’s sprawling capital, Tehran, to one of the country’s many tourist destinations—either the glorious, lyrical city of Shiraz, the ancient ruins of Persepolis, or the palatial gardens of Isfahan. Few people ask him, as I have done, for a ride to Qom, the religious capital of Iran. The very name of the city makes Afshin squirm. He suggests a trip to Mashad, instead.
By Peter Jan Honigsberg | When Brandon Neely sat down to interview with us in Houston, Texas, he brought his wife. She knew much of his story, but it seemed that he wanted her to hear him share his story with us. Maybe he would recall something new, something he had not told her before.
By Leah Vernon | The identity battle with my hijab continued well into adulthood. As I started to come to terms with it, that it was in fact my choice to wear it or not, others’ disdain for it mounted. I was hyperaware of my surroundings when I wore it, especially around white folks—they were the ones doing the most when it came to assaults and verbal attacks.
I have come today to issue both a caution and a call. And it is that you must graduate today, but get up, get together and get involved tomorrow.There are some that want to promote the lie that all is OK. But as Chancellor Jonathan Bennett, or Chance the Rapper, says, “Sometimes the truth don’t rhyme. Sometimes the lies get millions of views.”And, in this moment, you have to question the Trumpalistic slogans we hear about bull markets and booming economies. Yes, that’s the message from the White House and from Wall Street. We do live in a time when some people who put their names in gold plating on new buildings like to talk big talk. They collude with lies and obstruct the truth and say everything is fine when it is not.
By Rebecca Todd Peters | On Saturday, a close friend walked out of her local Catholic church with her family in protest of the priest’s blatantly propagandistic pro-life homily. Apparently, he was praising the story of Abby Johnson’s conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life activist and the new film Unplanned, which tells her story. The film, released by a company that focuses on producing “Christian films,” received a nationwide release, was in fourth place after its first weekend in box offices, and has gone on to gross almost $18 million since opening day.
By Adele Barker | I still crush garlic with the back of a wooden spoon. And once a month, I look up at the moon and say to myself, “it’s a poya,” the Sinhalese word for ‘full moon.’ I carry the island inside me, though it has been years since we lived there. I haven’t been back to Sri Lanka since 2012 and am struggling as many are to explain the Easter Sunday horror in churches and hotels where people were celebrating the holidays.
By Michael Coogan | Throughout history, many groups have thought of themselves as divinely chosen, exhibiting what has been called a “holy nationalism.” For the ancient Egyptians, the divine gift of the annual inundation of the Nile was proof they had been specially chosen; the Egyptians’ neighbors, whom they called “the vile Asiatics,” had clearly not been chosen, because their equivalent of the dependable Nile was unpredictable rain. Roman poets such as Virgil and Ovid celebrated the divine plan that had brought Aeneas from the burning ruins of Troy to Italy, from where eventually the emperor Augustus would rule the Mediterranean world. But one ancient people’s claim of divine chosenness has profoundly affected religious and political self-identification for thousands of years, especially in the West: the biblical view that God, the only God, has a favorite people, the Israelites.
A Q&A with Susan Katz Miller | Since the publication of “Being Both,” I have been traveling the country, speaking about interfaith families in churches and synagogues, universities and national conferences. And a steady stream of interfaith couples and families, from all over the world, started to contact me to ask for support. Often, they come to me because they do not have supportive clergy, or they cannot find counselors who have experience in interfaith issues. And they appreciate my perspective as both an adult interfaith child, and the parent of adult interfaith children. At some point I realized that I cannot coach everyone individually, but with the Journal, I can support families everywhere. And at exactly that moment, Skinner House actually came to me, looking for an author to write a book like this, because there is no other workbook for interfaith families out there.
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis | The New Testament documents a moral movement of the poor and rejected. It portrays the survival struggles of the marginalized, the solidarity and mutuality among different communities, and the critique of a social, political, and economic system that oppresses the vast majority of people. Given his leadership in that movement, it is not surprising that the main theme of many of Jesus’s teachings and his ministry in general is bringing good news to the poor and marginalized, standing up for righteousness, and ending all forms of discrimination and oppression. Nor is it surprising that Jesus was recognized by Rome as a threat to the status quo and crucified, the punishment reserved for revolutionaries and those deemed insurrectionists.
Students across the country are returning to the classroom, and our concerns for them run deep. The Trump administration’s rampant anti-immigrant sentiment has fueled policies that separate migrant families. And it is affecting the lives of immigrant children who are going to school. What can educators do to fight against it, to become co-conspirators of resistance during our troubling times? This back-to-school season, we reached out to some of our authors to find out and share their responses with you here.
By Philip Warburg | Amidst all the reportage on swing states and swing districts crucial to the 2018 Congressional elections, I recently decided to buck the trend. I ventured instead to a remote community in north-central Kansas where Democrats seldom run for political office and rarely win if they do. In visiting Cloud County, I was hoping to find a few strands of hope that might span the chasm between red and blue America.
By Linda K. Wertheimer | How can we agree to disagree? How can we get Americans of different views, religions, races, and backgrounds in the same room and debate the issues of our times? Right now, accomplishing such a lofty goal seems elusive. Still, at a recent conference, there were glimmers of hope.
By Karl Giberson | The emergence of “Trump Evangelicals” is baffling and confusing. The latest puzzle in what has become a political sideshow is Jeff Sessions’ ill-considered appeal to St. Paul—the primary source for Christian theology—in a futile attempt to mute the national outcry about the Trump administration’s decision to abuse immigrant children as a strategy to discourage immigrants from seeking to enter the United States illegally.
By Rebecca Todd Peters: On Saturday, like many people across the country, I heard the news that James Cone had passed. Serving on the Union Theological Seminary faculty for almost fifty years means that Dr. Cone literally taught generations of seminarians, and I was fortunate to be one of those folks. I still remember the first day of his systematic theology class, in the first semester of my first year of seminary. Sitting in that lecture hall in 1992, with nearly 100 students and watching him take the podium and explain to us that he was a the-o-lo-gian (in his classic, high-pitched, Southern drawl), and what that meant for him as a scholar and a black man from Arkansas, was highlight of my seminary career.
By Rita Nakashima Brock: I first met James Cone in the back seat of a car. I was teaching at a Black college in rural east Texas in 1981, and he had been invited to lecture on campus. I was invited along when Jim had to be driven to the airport, and we were introduced as he got into car. While in college and seminary in California, I had been introduced to the struggles for justice of the Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers, and the feminist women’s self-help health movement. The early works of Cone, Mary Daly, Marianne Katopo, Nelle Morton, Paolo Friere, and Rubem Alves had shaped my orientation to theology, and I had been teaching Cone, Friere-style, in a class at the college.
A Q&A with Jay Parini: I felt that I had not quite gone far enough into the details of my own Christian practice in Jesus: The Human Face of God. I wanted to dig deeper into the actual world of Christian worship and Christian thinking. I also wanted to organize my own thoughts on Christianity in ways that could prove helpful to others who are struggling with issues of faith. It’s also a teaching book. My own students know so little about Christian practice. I thought this book could introduce many to key ideas.
A Q&A with Deborah Jian Lee: My readers inspired me. So many people engaged with Rescuing Jesus not just on the page, but in real life. They told me about ways the book compelled action and change, and it blew me away. A divinity school student told me that his mom read the book and it played a part in her coming to accept his sexuality and his partner; she ended up helping plan their wedding. Pastors incorporated the book’s findings into their sermons and some said my writing inspired them to launch national initiatives to address the issues of inequality and injustice raised in the book. And I’ve lost track of how many conservative straight, cis-white men have told me that the book changed their perspective on race, gender, and LGBTQ equality.