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Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons by Dr. Gregory L. Reece

Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, and Demons by Dr. Gregory L. Reece

Kate Daley-Bailey
Before sparkly vampires like Edward Cullen, before Count Orlok of Nosferatu, even before Bram Stoker’s classic tale of Dracula, there were the vampire tales of European folklore. As Reece suggests, these early prototypes of the vampire are far-less glamorous that the stylized, Gothic vampires of Polidori, Le Fanu, and Stoker. They attack cattle as well as humans, resemble bloated ticks when exhumed, and they more physically favor our conception of a zombie than the modern day vampire. Not only does Reece present a thorough but enjoyable romp through the history of the vampire, he also explores research about various real-life vampire communities, such as work done by Joseph Laycock in Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampires. Perhaps the most fascinating chapter in Reece’s book, according to this reviewer, is his chapter on werewolves, a chapter which plays upon the concepts presented in folktales made familiar by The Brothers Grimm, Perrault, and Paul DeLarue.

There is Something About Mary Magdalene, Part III

There is Something About Mary Magdalene, Part III

By Catherine Schmidt, Georgia State University….
This is part III of a IV part series exploring popular culture depictions of Mary Magdalene. In part I, we looked at a brief history of pre-Vatican II portrayals of Mary. Part II discussed the history of Vatican II in relation to Mary and how the change in Church thinking did little to how Mary was portrayed in popular culture as seen in Lady Gaga’s music video “Judas.” Part III will build on the post-Vatican II portrayals with the musical film Jesus Christ Superstar.

There is Something About Mary Magdalene, Part II

There is Something About Mary Magdalene, Part II

By Catherine Schmidt, Georgia State University…..
In part one of this series, we looked at how Mary Magdalene was depicted in popular culture prior to Vatican II. This second installment will discuss both the history of Vatican II in relation to Mary and Lady Gaga’s interpretation of Mary in her music video for her son “Judas”. In the 1960s the Catholic Church held a council to essentially modernize the Catholic Church. This was the Second Vatican Council, also known as Vatican II. One of the many things done was the changing of the suggested readings for Mary’s saint day. No longer did the readings include the Biblical verses that Pope Gregory I attributed to Mary, making her a prostitute in the eyes of the church.

There is Something About Mary Magdalene, Part I

There is Something About Mary Magdalene, Part I

By Catherine Schmidt, Georgia State University….
There is something about Mary…Magdalene that is. She is one of the few New Testament women (or even characters for that matter) that continues to fascinate the public; and yet, we know so very little about her. Because we know so little, it leads some people to create stories of what they think she was like. Depending on the time and place, she is different things for different people. Sometimes she is a repentant whore while other times she is the lover—or even wife—of Jesus Christ. Many of these depictions of Mary Magdalene actually diminish her memory.

On Trayvon Martin, Perceived Identities, and Zombie Imaginaries

On Trayvon Martin, Perceived Identities, and Zombie Imaginaries

By Kenny Smith, Religion Bulletin….
In his recent comments on the Fox News Channel’s FOX & Friends morning show, Geraldo Rivera claimed that the shooting of Florida teenager Treyvon Martin wasequally the result of (i) an “overzealous and irrational” neighborhood watchman (George Zimmerman) as well as (ii) Treyvon Martin’s ethnicity, gender, and attire. By appearing in public as a dark-skinned and hoodie-cloaked male, Rivera suggests, Treyvon unwittingly (and unwisely) presented the neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, with a highly ambiguous object. On one hand, Treyvon was merely a boy (age 17, though in fact he appeared considerably younger) eating Skittles while walking home; on the other hand, he was a black male donning garb associated “with robberies, muggings, and confrontations,” which sensible others (read middle-class whites) seek to avoid.

Pop Culture & the Universalization of Religion through Disney: An Emic Perspective

Pop Culture & the Universalization of Religion through Disney: An Emic Perspective

By Lizabeth Lyon-Brown, Georgia State University…..
Disney has so permeated every part of American life that it seems natural for it to be included in a national news article about a college sports team. Disney becomes an expected response to the question: what comes after an achievement? Americans go and pay homage. They go to Mecca. They go to their religion’s holy ground. They go to Disney World.

LINSANITY IN NEW YORK

LINSANITY IN NEW YORK

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
Enter David Brooks who, in a column drafted after the Knicks’ VaLINtine victory, curiously referred to “the Jeremy Lin Problem”. Brooks refers to “a religious person in professional sports” as an “anomaly,” which seems rather odd to anyone who has witnessed the prayer circles before and after most professional football games, or the finger-to-the-sky salute after most home runs in baseball, but let that lie. It is the reasons Brooks finds the marriage of religion and sport “anomalous” that are worthy of consideration. For Brooks, there is an inescapable moral tension between what he calls “the ethos of sport” and “the ethos of faith.”

Sacred and the Strange: The Good Samaritan in Context

Sacred and the Strange: The Good Samaritan in Context

By Kate Daley-Bailey….
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37) is probably one of the best- known parables from the Christian New Testament. In the U.S. the phrase ‘good Samaritan’ is commonly understood to describe someone who has gone out of their way to help another. This phrase has been thoroughly secularized and one need not be a Christian to know its meaning. You voluntarily carry your elderly neighbor’s groceries… you are a ‘good Samaritan.’ You clean up someone else’s litter on the side walk… you are a ‘good Samaritan.’

Interesting Religious Videos of 2011

Interesting Religious Videos of 2011

By Heather Abraham……
Fighting Monks? Roman Catholic, Armenian, and Greek Orthodox Monks battle each other with brooms. Why are they fighting? For the ultimate prize: Sacred Space! The 1500 year old Church of the Nativity, built over the spot believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, is a hot bed of contestation with the three Christian denominations vying for control of space within the church. The “Fuck it Way,” a break off NRM which finds its roots in the cult classic “The Big Lebowski,” released a Christmas video. Pole Fitness for Jesus! Christian women embrace the stripper pole to get fit while listening to upbeat Christian pop music. Apparently pole dancing empowers women and 4 inch+ hooker shoes are good for the legs! Who knew! Now don’t judge, “It’s all about being spiritual.”

The Sacred and the Strange: An Aryan Jesus?

The Sacred and the Strange: An Aryan Jesus?

By Kate Daley-Bailey….
Alfred Rosenberg, sometimes referred to as ‘the philosopher of the Nazi party,’ was instrumental in the ideological construction of what might be called a Germanic Aryan ethic. Rosenberg, an ardent anti-Semite, anti-Bolshevik, and anti-Catholic, presented the Nazi establishment with a disparate and staccato ‘history of the Aryan’ in his book, The Myth of the 20th Century: An Evaluation of the Spiritual-Intellectual, which was used to philosophically support Nazi doctrines on race and religion. While Nazi German elite often held a great disdain for Christianity, condemning it as a flawed ideology not compatible with the regime’s political and social aims, they were not, initially, opposed to using Christian theories about Jesus to promote their own cause. Rosenberg is no exception. In his most prominent book, second only to Mein Kampf in Nazi circles, Rosenberg presents a rather unusual, and ahistorical, view of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Final Harvest

The Final Harvest

By Lady Arsinoe
Samhain is fast approaching. Many of us look forward to this time of year. Candy, carved jack-o-lanterns, itty-bitty children dressed up as adorable bumblebees, princesses, or pirates. This is a joyous time of year! The leaves begin to crunch beneath our feet. And the crisp breeze begins to pinch our faces and burnish our cheeks. There is nothing so beautiful as frost on crimson leaves gleaming in the morning sun.

At this time, my thoughts turn to death and dying. Whoa! What? O, not in a fatalistic manner, or in the Goth-cool fashion either. Samhain is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest, when we celebrate those who have crossed over during the past year, and when we make reckonings of our lives. I’ve always seen parting the final veil as an adventure to be anticipated.

Mexican Guava Fairies and Crack-Head Leprechauns:  Are We Living in an Enchanted World?

Mexican Guava Fairies and Crack-Head Leprechauns: Are We Living in an Enchanted World?

By Joseph Laycock…..
Last month, Jose Maldonado of Guadalajara Mexico claimed he found and captured a fairy. The 22 year-old unemployed bricklayer was picking guavas when he spied a twinkling object that he at first thought was a firefly. The object allegedly turned out to be a tiny humanoid creature (apparently female) with gossamer insect like wings. Maldonado explained, “I knew that it was a fairy godmother.” The creature died not long after its discovery (disturbingly, it is not clear how the fairy died after it was captured) and its discoverer put it in a jar of formaldehyde. Word of Maldonado’s fairy in a jar spread throughout his neighborhood of Lornas Verdes, one of the poorest and most dangerous regions of Guadalajara. Soon, thousands of people were arriving, standing in line for up to an hour to see the fairy. Being unemployed, Maldonado asks for a donation to see his discovery. His neighbors have also capitalized on the situation by selling photographs and key rings with the image of the fairy for 20 pesos ($1.60) as well as food and beverages to those waiting in line.

More Americans Tailoring Religion to Fit Their Needs

More Americans Tailoring Religion to Fit Their Needs

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY…..
If World War II-era warbler Kate Smith sang today, her anthem could be GodsBless America. That’s one of the key findings in newly released research that reveals America’s drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences. The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for “310 million people with 310 million religions.”

The Lion of Saint Mark and This Most Serene Republic

The Lion of Saint Mark and This Most Serene Republic

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
You don’t have to be a Marxist to notice the often astonishing overlap between big money and big religion. Nor to be somewhat shocked by the bigness of the whole affair. Consider the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, one of the most popular and most-densely populated tourist destinations in Italy, nearly rivaling its much larger cousin in Rome. It is a striking monument in every way, not least for the bizarre mish-mash of architectural elements and artistic styles that define this most funky profile.