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Creative Inspiration: Sexual Assault and a Bag of Excrement

Creative Inspiration: Sexual Assault and a Bag of Excrement

By Heather Abraham….
Two years ago on New Year’s Eve morning, I boarded a MARTA train at 7AM and began my journey to an office job in downtown Atlanta. Before the train reached the first stop, an inebriated man approached me and grabbed both of my breasts. All the while repeatedly screaming, “Mamasita!” I punched the man in the forehead, knocked him to the ground, stepped over his body, exited the train car, and entered another. For the remainder of the trip, I sat and reflected on the strange way I was ending the year and the detached manner in which I reacted to my attacker. Twenty minutes later, I exited the train at the Five Points Station and found myself in the middle of a freak show; Peachtree Road was in the chaotic process of transforming itself for the New Year’s Eve celebration and Peach drop.

RICK PERRY: THE REPUBLICAN JUDAS?

RICK PERRY: THE REPUBLICAN JUDAS?

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
In an essay I recently published at “Religion Dispatches,” I used Gary Laderman’s fascinating concept of “Republicanicity” as the launch-pad for the suggestion that what separates developments in the Republican Party from anything happening among the Democrats is simply this: the Republican Party is undergoing a battle to define its orthodoxy, a battle that has no direct parallel to arguments and power-struggles taking place on the political left. In short, a plurality of voices, sharing little more than a name in common, is currently in the process of sorting out a platform to which all bearers of the name might reasonably agree.

IS WHO A CHRISTIAN?

IS WHO A CHRISTIAN?

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
I suppose it was inevitable that the evangelical push-back within the Republican Party would eventually make Mormonism an issue, no matter how hard the Republican establishment tries to make it go away. And now it’s come at last–an entire week of Republican presidential hopefuls being asked point-blank if they think a Mormon (read: Mitt Romney) is a Christian. Only the fierce insistence that last night’s debate be limited to economic questions kept this pot from boiling over again (though Jon Huntsman couldn’t resist one quick snipe at Rick Perry, who appeared befuddled all night anyway, and Michelle Bachman couldn’t resist the suggestion that Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, if turned upside down, becomes the number of the Beast).

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.

What Makes The Saintly?

What Makes The Saintly?

Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr…..
What makes a saint a saint? This may seem like an odd question with an obvious answer, but really it is not. It’s no easier to capture the saintliness of the saint than it is to capture the secret magic of the magician, the inspiring musical power of the muse, or the prophetic power of the prophet. But it’s worth the attempt. The question bears extra weight just now, as Pope Benedict XVI has initiated the process whereby his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II, will be recognized one day as a saint. The previous Pope’s beatification on May 1st was celebrated with great pomp and circumstance, reminiscent of the more somber ritual attached to his death in 2004.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1915-2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1915-2011

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
At the ripe age of “eighteen and three quarters” (his words), Paddy Fermor decided to take a long walk, in lieu of attending university. He determined to travel by foot from the Hook of Holland all the way to Istanbul (a city he always imagined Greek-ly, and referred to stubbornly as “Constantinople” or “Byzantium,” its first name as a Greek colony). The trip took some years, and it gave both flavor and form to the rest of his extraordinarily long and extraordinarily creative life. But he did not begin to publish his reflections on the journey until fully forty years later, and that generational lapse between a youthful excursion and a mature reminiscence is a central feature in what makes his writing so singular, and the genre he created so difficult to define.

Prayers or Curses?

Prayers or Curses?

Heather Abraham….
Apparently, this devout Christian woman belongs to a prayer group that meets regularly to pray for, in her words, “our nation, family, friends, and fellow Christians.” I found it intriguing that the nation would be of first importance but continued to listen (and take notes) as she discussed how these prayers had helped so many and her belief that prayer is the “most powerful human force on earth.” According to her, prayer is dangerous when used by those “who are enemies of our Christian Nation” and that Christians everywhere need to pray in groups to “counteract the evil prayers that are offered up daily.”

Starving for God: Foodless Dieting For the Soul

Starving for God: Foodless Dieting For the Soul

By Joseph Rosenthal, Georgia State University…..
“Man shall not live by bread alone,” responds Jesus defiantly in the Gospel of Matthew (4:4) to Satan’s entreaty to break his forty-day fast. This phrase has been used variously by Christians throughout history as a tribute to the virtues of moderation and as a justification for some of the most extreme forms of asceticism. Dietary practice is the second most popular domain of religiously motivated self-denial, surpassed only by matters of sex and human intimacy. The diversity of rituals, laws, and red tape surrounding the consumption of food ranges from prohibitions of basic food types (e.g. shellfish, pork, alcohol, etc.) to extended periods of fasting. The religious preoccupation with what goes into the body goes well beyond hatred of gluttony, sometimes verging on total caloric restriction.

Pondering The Face Of Ground Zero

Pondering The Face Of Ground Zero

Louis A Ruprecht, Jr., Georgia State University….
God knows it’s understandable, the tumultuous range of sentiments. I felt it too, uncertain how to feel exactly, and unsure what I’d come expecting to find. The havoc created here was beyond describing, and the grief of shattered human lives multiplied by the tens of thousands brings us very close to the sacred place where language fails to capture the essences. Tears have been more eloquent in the past, and now, perhaps, a raised fist or two. As I picked up to leave, one image on the screen suddenly caught the attention: It was the Statue of Liberty, but this goddess was not holding the flame of liberty aloft; she was holding Osama bin Laden’s severed head.

Art, Sex, and Censorship—Washington Style

Art, Sex, and Censorship—Washington Style

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
Given the complex and sometimes sordid blending of religion and sexuality in this culture, the debate morphed significantly in late November 2010—just after the elections, be sure to note—from sex to religion. That is to say, from a debate about the virtues of exhibiting a show devoted to gay and lesbian sexuality, into a debate about obscenity, blasphemy, as well as varying perceptions of religious offense in a religiously diverse democracy such as our own.

Contemplating Religious Plurality

Contemplating Religious Plurality

By Anthony Fisher
Why? All truth comes from God! How inexhaustible is God that He might reveal a shard of Himself in an idea or in a system set far apart from our own? How small are our minds that we would fathom that any revealing of the divine must take place within our own religious practice? The Western world is terribly guilty of this. Countless practices are guilty of this. We take a shard of God and build a temple around it saying, “this is God holistically and completely.” We take the Gospel of Christ and say this.

Reggae, Rasta and Homophobia

Reggae, Rasta and Homophobia

By Hannah Spadafora….
On November 27th, 2010, protesters in Sacramento, CA gathered outside musical artist Capleton’s reggae-dancehall concert to oppose the violent gay-bashing ideas his lyrics promote. This isn’t the first protest against reggae artists calling for violent homophobic acts in their music. Other reggae artists criticized and boycotted over the last decade for anti-homosexual lyrics include Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Sizzla, Elephant Man, T.O.K., Bounty Killa and Vybz Kartel. A major leader in the campaign against the homophobia found in dancehall music (the reggae spinoff popular in United States and western Europe) is Stop Murder Music, who eventually initiated the “Reggae Compassionate Act”.

The Super Bowl As Epic

The Super Bowl As Epic

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
No, this year the story really was in the game. That seems relevant to anyone interested in the curious and complex trajectories of the sacred in contemporary American culture. As Gary Laderman has argued, in his book Sacred Matters, professional sports, to the degree that they contribute to our contemporary cult of celebrity, are bearers of profound spiritual resonance. But they are also highly complex choreographed events, what the student of religion is trained to see as ritual.

How Hard The Hearing

How Hard The Hearing

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
In an interview with Mother Theresa, not long before she passed away, the topic of her own prayer life came up. The interviewer clearly wanted to know how a real spiritual adept prayed–and with such apparent spiritual efficacy. Her answer showed her to be a true adept: “Mostly, I just listen,” she smiled. I’ve been thinking about that strange confluence–of praying, speaking and listening–as I’ve watched current events continue to unfold in Egypt (and Yemen, and Tunisia) in the past week.