By Lauren Cooper, Georgia State University…..The world of high fashion is simultaneously interesting and frightening to me. Designers often send outlandish creations down the runway that elicit oohs and aahs from those select few that “get it.” I have to confess, I usually don’t get it. I have difficulty seeing clothing as art. I tend to see clothing as functional, above all, and I think many people tend to agree with me. However, when I came across images from Alexander McQueen’s pre-fall line, I had to stop and think about it.
By Lauren Cooper…..Across the world, the image of the Virgin Mary is an iconic one, easily recognizable regardless of one’s religious affiliation. It goes without saying that many Christians view the likeness of Virgin Mary as sacred, and yet it is not unreasonable to suggest that this reverence for the virgin mother’s image extends beyond Christianity. It is an image universally held in high esteem because of its association with the sacred, regardless of whether or not there are beliefs attached to this association.
Philip L. Tite and Kelly Baker, Religion Bulletin……Much of the reaction about the Klan and zombies comes from assumptions about what is properly religion, and I’ve already had my say about this in my piece on evidence for the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. Why are some scholars so avidly policing “religion”? What does this tell us about how “religion” is defined and deployed? Resurrected corpses, in this instance, become a problem. When I use zombies as data, it causes discomfort because it suggests that maybe religion is not as familiar or as easily identifiable as we think it is. Maybe, we would have to admit that J.Z. Smith is right about religion being constructed by scholars in every use. Maybe, we would have to note that our interlocutors also construct religion in every utterance of the word.
By Larry Tye, The Jewish Daily Forward….. The alien superbaby was not just a Jew, but also a very special one. Like Moses. Much as the baby prophet was floated in a reed basket by a mother desperate to spare him from an Egyptian Pharaoh’s death warrant, so moments before Kal-El’s planet blew up, his doomed parents tucked him into a spaceship that rocketed him to the safety of Earth. Both babies were rescued by non-Jews and raised in foreign cultures — Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter, Kal-El by Kansas farmers named Kent — and all the adoptive parents quickly learned how exceptional their foundlings were.
By Gary Laderman, Huff Post Religion…..Imaging Anne Frank as a “Belieber,” taking her out of her horrific and incomprehensible historical circumstances and placing her in the pop world of contemporary entertainment, especially in the fandom surrounding a mediocre teenybopper-cum-serious young adult performer, is a profanation of the worst kind to many critics. She is an icon, a heroic figure who figures so prominently and nobly in the histories and popular imagination associated with the rise of Nazis and the extermination of Jews. For Bieber to “belieb” this about Frank, to even think the thought, is both outrageous and offensive.
By Joseph Laycock….
On August 30, eBay officially discontinued the sale of “metaphysical” goods and services on its online market. Spells and divination services have been available on eBay since the site’s inception in 1995. Before Thursday, eBay shoppers could select from more than 40,000 spell listings and 15,000 offers of tarot card readings. The new policy has put an entire class of online magicians, fortune-tellers and potion-brewers out of business. Some claim to be sincere practitioners while others have admitted to being frauds. Many have sought to relocate their shop to Craigslist and other parts of the online marketplace.
By Jessica Valenti, Religion Dispatches….
As I watched Virgin Tales, a Swiss documentary about purity balls—dances where young girls pledge their virginities to their dads—I thought of my father often. Because the most compelling focus of the film wasn’t the events themselves, but the way in which one family’s dynamic can reveal so much about American culture and politics.
Filmmaker Mirjam von Arx follows the Colorado Springs-based Wilson family whose patriarch, Randy, invented purity balls. Von Arx focuses on one daughter in particular, Jordyn. (The Wilsons have five daughter and two sons.) Jordyn is college-aged but not in college. “I want to be a wife and a mother,” she says, “I would hate to go off and spend thousands of dollars on an education that I wouldn’t use.”
By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
The last week of classes at many Italian schools is now past, and the stressful season of final exams—a one-week battery of written exams, followed by intensive oral follow-ups—began this next. But the last week of classes was also a time of culmination, the week for the presentation of the extracurricular theatrical productions some of these same students have been preparing all spring. I had the singular pleasure of seeing one such production in the Roman seaside township of Fiumicino a week ago on a late Monday afternoon, and was amazed by the sophistication of the entire production.
Entitled “2012: An Odyssey in Space and Time,” the show was conceived, written, choreographed and produced by a remarkably creative group of more than thirty students ranging in age from eleven to fourteen, and supported by some remarkably generous and far-sighted teachers who do this all voluntarily, in addition to their already extensive professional duties.
By James Dennis LoRusso, Religion Bulletin….
Were you to travel one segment of the Eisenhower Expressway in Illinois this morning, you might discover a curious billboard. The display features a mugshot of Ted Kaczynski, the self-confessed “Unabomber,” coupled with the question, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?” The new billboard campaign lining various commuter routes is the latest initiative of the Chicago-based conservative think tank, the Heartland Foundation, to call into question prevailing scientific consensus around climate change.
By Mark Chalifoux, Man Cave Daily…
This Friday (May 4) is the official day for Star Wars fans to celebrate the franchise in all of its glory. The reasoning, much like everything associated with Star Wars in the past 15 years, is fairly contrived. It’s likely because of a translation error of a George Lucas interview on a German TV station (“May the Force be with you” was translated into “May 4 be with you”). Regardless, it gives nerds a chance to geek-out and walk around the office saying “May the Fourth be with you!” all day. Star Wars Day has a different meaning to me, though, because I saw the dark side of fandom and obsession during a brief period in the last decade in which I was accidentally voted to the International Council of the Church of the Jedi.
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.
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.
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.
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.