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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.

The Dogs of God

The Dogs of God

By Gregory L. Reece….An intriguing excerpt from his upcoming book: “Creatures of the Night: In Search of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves and Demons.” The sound began down deep in his chest, rose to a growl in his throat, and then forced its way between his lips as a snarl. The coarse silver hair on his neck bristled. His ears, covered with the same silver fur, twitched. There was a burst of air from his nostrils, a snort of warning and territorial claim. The muscles in his arm began to twitch. His head snapped quickly to the left, then to the right. Thrown back against my seat by a sudden change in direction and speed, I instinctively clutched at the door handle of the mini-van, my eyes darting between the oncoming traffic and the hairy form in the driver’s seat. His reactions to the traffic were quick and aggressive – canine reactions, lupine reactions. For just a moment I was terrorized, speeding down the highway with a werewolf at the wheel.

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: Occupying the Tea Party Rhetoric?

The Sacred and the Strange: Occupying the Tea Party Rhetoric?

By Kate Daley-Bailey….
“American Nazis support the Occupy Wall Street Movement?” This headline ripped through the conservative news outlets like wildfire. Christmas came early for Fox News. My curiosity was peaked… I am a fence sitter regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement… primarily because I refuse to join a movement which will not outline its agenda and even then I am leery. I have to know specifically what and who I am protesting. My fence-sitting is engendered by my recent research into how the Nazis gained power in Germany and were backed surprisingly by many high standing church leaders, scholars, and much of the German population. You can imagine my surprise when I read the above headlines. Was this yet another example of propaganda generated by the Fox News-types of the American media to damn the liberals of the Occupy movement? Yes… but it was also something more for me.

Eating as Spiritual Practice: Locavangelism in America Today

Eating as Spiritual Practice: Locavangelism in America Today

By Rachel Wheeler, Religion In American History….
About a dozen years ago, I found myself on a college campus in Portland, Oregon, listening to a talk by a man who billed himself as the “mad, vegetarian cowboy.” Howard Lyman was the founder of an organization called “Voices for a Viable Future,” and that day, as I’m sure he did at hundreds of other public appearances, he told the story of how he had grown up on a cattle ranch in Montana in the 1950s. It was a small operation, but one that had sustained the family for several generations. Then he went off to ag-school at a time when “better living through chemistry” was embraced by agricultural scientists. He came back to the farm with the zeal of the convert. He told his father he wanted to make the ranch bigger and better. They bought up more acres, and started on the path to modern, chemically intensive, factory farming and feed-lot ranching.

Mutants and Mystics

Mutants and Mystics

Carl Gregg, Patheos Book Club……
Have you ever been a comic book lover? Have you ever had a paranormal experience? If so, the author reports that his ideal reader is “Someone who (a) has undergone a profound paranormal event and (b) is obsessed with science fiction or superhero comics and does not know why.” As a lover of comic books in my teenage years and as a certified religion nerd fascinated by all things paranormal, I am perhaps dead center of Kripal’s target audience.

Occupy Wall Street: Between “Church” and “Sect”

Occupy Wall Street: Between “Church” and “Sect”

By Ben Brazil, Religion Bulletin….
A month ago, when the Occupy movement was beginning to gain traction, Matt Stoller penned an influential response to criticism about the movement’s lack of a clear, concise message. The critics, he wrote, had failed to notice the religious nature of what was going on in Zuccotti Park. He explained: “What these people are doing is building, for lack of a better word, a church of dissent. It’s not a march, though marches are spinning off of the campground. It’s not even a protest, really. It is a group of people, gathered together, to create a public space seeking meaning in their culture. They are asserting, together, to each other and to themselves, ‘we matter’.” The idea of a “church of dissent” did not only interest me – it positively attracted me.

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.

“Who Was Muhammad, Was He Violent?”: Teaching Islam Ten Years after 9/11

“Who Was Muhammad, Was He Violent?”: Teaching Islam Ten Years after 9/11

By Abbas Barzegar, Religion Dispatches…..
As millions of college students around the country begin the start of another school year most will encounter events, programming, and curriculum built around the tenth year anniversary of 9/11. Content will include paying honored respects to the victims and their families as well as interpreting the impact of the attacks on our nation’s history and identity. The events ten years ago will remain the defining moment of my generation and understanding how those events continue to shape the social and political landscape of our nation will be the responsibility of educators, politicians, and citizens alike. As a professor of Islamic studies I will entertain a related (even if unwarranted) set of issues in the classroom because, whether we like it or not, Islam has become an indelible part of the culture and consciousness of 9/11. Ironically, the questions I regularly encounter have not actually changed much over the last ten years: Who was Muhammad, was he violent? What is Jihad? Why the scarves?

Hollywood Images as Religious Resources

Hollywood Images as Religious Resources

By Kenny Smith, Religion Bulletin….
Towards the end of her fine essay in Mark C. Taylor’s Critical Terms for Religious Studies, Margaret R. Miles distinguishes between icons used in some Christian traditions (e.g., Eastern Orthodox) and the images of contemporary film. The latter, she argues, “function iconically” only when “viewers augment the image[s]… imagin[ing] how it would feel to be in the protagonist’s situation… the smells, the tastes, the touch the film character experiences… Moreover, Christians who use icons gaze at the same image again and again; most people see a film only once, though some people see a few films again and again.”

Religion Lately: The Church of the Cylon God and St. Gaius Baltar, Extinction of Religion, No “Go Topless Day” for Toronto

Religion Lately: The Church of the Cylon God and St. Gaius Baltar, Extinction of Religion, No “Go Topless Day” for Toronto

By Kenny Smith….
While they presently remain at the level of fandom and “just for fun,” elements from the Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica series have been re-crafted and re-presented in religious terms. See, for instance, the Church of the Cylon God Facebook page, or the Church St. Gaius Baltar. “Pray at the Pump” founder warns President Obama, create jobs or face more earthquakes, a claim which God then quickly refuted. Others have suggested that the divine reprimand said to be implied in recent earthquakes and historic hurricanes was in fact aimed at Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, in whose district a major quake’s epicenter was located, perhaps in response to the steep cuts Cantor proposed to the U.S. Geological Service. So, is God an angry geologist?

Real Witches Cry Foul at Portrayal on "True Blood"

Real Witches Cry Foul at Portrayal on “True Blood”

By Coeli Carr, Reuters….
(Reuters) – Critics of bloody violence and excessive sex on TV have long had HBO’s vampire drama “True Blood” in their cross hairs, but now the popular series has another group of wary citizens — witches, real ones. The series’ fourth season has focused on Marnie Stonebrook (Fiona Shaw), a seemingly harmless medium and leader of a Wiccan group who becomes the physical conduit for Antonia, a long dead witch who is hellbent on vengeance against vampires who persecuted and burned her at the stake.

Religion Lately: Islamic Jediism, “Fuck It” Spirituality, Michelle Bachmann’s 2006 End Time Vision, & A Pagan Policeman

Religion Lately: Islamic Jediism, “Fuck It” Spirituality, Michelle Bachmann’s 2006 End Time Vision, & A Pagan Policeman

By Kenny Smith…..
Australians debate the validity of religions based upon popular culture, such as Jediism and Matrixism (based upon the film, The Matrix), and the blending of new and old traditions, such as “Islamic Jediism,” as the 2011 census approaches this August. Also in Australia, The Dali Lama appeared as a surprise judge on the TV cooking show “Masterchef.” Sadly, while quite friendly, the Tibetan spiritual leader proved somewhat of a judicial disappointment, stating: “As a Buddhist monk, it is not right to prefer this or that food.”

Religion Lately: Occult Symbols in Pop Culture, Pre-2012 End Time Refugees & Technopagan Heresy

Religion Lately: Occult Symbols in Pop Culture, Pre-2012 End Time Refugees & Technopagan Heresy

By Kenny Smith…..
Is the “mark of the beast” lurking in the Walt Disney logo, Illuminati symbols in Adidas’ footwear, occult signs in McDonald’s Chicken Selects? Check out the most popular corporate logos and their ties to the occult. To remove such occult influences, one news caster recommended an exorcism on the Republican party.