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“The Zombies Are Coming!” An Interview with Kelly J. Baker on the Zombie Apocalypse

“The Zombies Are Coming!” An Interview with Kelly J. Baker on the Zombie Apocalypse

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.

Divided by Faith?

Divided by Faith?

Craig Martin, Religion Bulletin…..I am growing increasingly suspicious of this idea that people come to blows or “clash” over differences in belief or faith. I am of course in full agreement with the many anti-essentialist criticisms of the “clash of civilizations” thesis: there are no monolithic civilizations, and as such there can be no monumental “clash” between them (the last chapter of Chiara Bottici’s A Philosophy of Political Myth contains a particularly good version of this criticism). But this is not what I’m angling at here. What bothers me is the very idea that people fight over “beliefs” at all, monolithic or not.

“You Can’t Reason with a Crazy Person”: The Un-politics of American political discourse

“You Can’t Reason with a Crazy Person”: The Un-politics of American political discourse

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.

NASA, the Mayan Apocalypse, and the Study of Non-Events

NASA, the Mayan Apocalypse, and the Study of Non-Events

By Matt Sheedy, Religion Bulletin….
A recent article posted on the Scientific American website entitled, “NASA Crushes 2012 Mayan Apocalypse Claims,” provides a good example of what is wrong with common secular approaches to religion in the public sphere. The article features a three-minute video put out by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where spokesperson Don Yeoman discusses “false claims about the Mayan apocalypse,” including fears that we will fall prey to solar flares, tidal effects or, even more fantastically, that the “imaginary planet Nibiru, will collide with earth,” a premise that, he notes with a chuckle, is impossible, for if it were true “we would have seen it long ago.”

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.

Nazi Christianities

Nazi Christianities

By Kate Dailey-Baley, Religion Bulletin….
In my two previous Bulletin posts, I discussed the efforts of prominent Nazi intellectuals(such as Gerhard Kittel and Alfred Rosenberg)who, during the 1930s, worked to buttress the German Reich through the appropriation of Christian symbols, images, and narratives. It is worth noting that Rosenberg and Kittel offered competing presentations of a Nazi Jesus and a Nazi Christianity, each of which was intended to unify the German churches and people. For Kittel, this meant the wholesale separation of Judaism and Christianity in hopes of persuading fellow Nazis that the Christian narrative was ideologically compatible with larger Nazi social projects. For Rosenberg, it meant reclaiming the image of Jesus as an Aryan warrior-chief in the age-old battle against Judaism. This present post looks at yet another attempted Nazi Christianity, so-called “Positive Christianity” in the discourse of the NSDAP (The National Socialist German Worker’s Party).

The Curious Case of Gerhard Kittel

The Curious Case of Gerhard Kittel

By Kate Daley-Bailey, Religion Bulletin….
On June 1st, 1933, New Testament Professor and Christian theologian, Dr. Gerhard Kittel (picture to the left) delivered a speech entitled Die Judenfrage, “The Jewish Question,” which was later published in a 78 page booklet. In Die Judenfrage, Kittel advocated that German Jews be demoted to “guest status” in Germany, a position which was attacked by more right-leaning Nazi groups insisting upon forced exile or worse. In reaching his conclusion, Kittel considered three other potential answers to the Jewish question commonly debated at the time: extermination (which he dismissed as impractical and, in later editions, “un-Christian”), a separate Jewish state in the Middle East (which he declined for various logistical reasons, such as hostilities from displaced Arabs), and assimilation (which he argued was actually part of the problem, since mixed marriages between Jews and Christians in Germany resulted in the spread of secular liberalism in Germany).

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.

Hitler’s Mythographer

Hitler’s Mythographer

By Kate Daley-Bailey, Religion Bulletin….
Goring, Goebbels, Hitler, Himmler, Hess, and… Rosenberg? The first five men listed here might easily be recognized as the architects of the infamous Third Reich, whose atrocities still haunt European history. Rosenberg, however, is less well known. Alfred Rosenberg was an early supporter of the National Socialist German Workers Party, became the editor of Volkischer Beobachter, the official party newspaper, and was appointed by Hitler as the temporary head of the Nazi Party while Hitler was in prison. Once the party came to power, Rosenberg, despite his lack of charisma, was appointed to the foreign policy office and later became the minister for conquered eastern territories. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Rosenberg’s work on behalf of the regime was his extensive ideological production. Often referred to as Hitler’s theoretician or Hitler’s philosopher, Rosenberg codified much of the anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and anti-Communist rhetoric which Hitler used to legitimize his political agenda. Rosenberg’s most significant text, The Myth of the 20th Century: An Evaluation of the Spiritual-Intellectual, was revered, at least superficially, by the Reich as second only toMein Kampf as embodying the mythical and ideological frame for Hitler’s Germany.

What's in Your Bible?

What’s in Your Bible?

By Kenny Smith, Religion Bulletin….
In a recent piece for CNN’s religion blog, “Actually, that’s not in the Bible,” John Blake examines the ubiquity of “phantom scripture” in American Christian communities. By “phantom scripture” he means ideas, teachings, and passages that sound like they belong in the Bible–e.g., “This too shall pass,” “God helps those who help themselves,” “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” or the notion that it was Satan (rather than a serpent) who tempted Eve in the Garden–but which, upon “close” (i.e., scholarly) examination, are in fact not there at all. A mild deconstruction of Blake’s discussion, I hope to suggest, opens up important pedagogical insights. By way of getting at such insights, consider a somewhat parallel example. In my undergraduate “introduction to religion” course, students watched a documentary about the “Purity Balls” movement popular among some contemporary American evangelicals….

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.”

The Good News of Star Visitors, Part II

The Good News of Star Visitors, Part II

By Kenny Smith…..
The similarities linking Camping and Boylan are likewise intriguing. Both offer dramatic, magical worldviews envisioning a new and improved human condition, whether in heaven (far from the screams of the damned) or upon a renewed earth and a galactic civilization. As such, both instantiate a stream of millennial thinking with a long history in American culture and by no means limited to institutional religion. Americans have been eager to export their styles of government, economics, science, technology, language, philosophy, medicine, entertainment, and social customs of all kinds, as well as religion, in an effort to lead the world into a new and better age. More personally, both Camping and Boylan are highly educated and experienced professionals, and their skill sets have helped to constitute their worldviews. Camping, a Berkeley-trained civil engineer, has spent decades studying the Bible and crunching the biblical numbers to arrive at his various predictions.

Religious Essentialism

Religious Essentialism

By Craig Martin, Religion Bulletin
I spend a good bit of time in my courses trying to disrupt religious essentialism: the idea that all practitioners in a religious tradition share some essence, that such an essence determines their behavior, or that their beliefs are the essence that directly informs their behavior. Since I teach at school with a predominantly Catholic, homogeneous student body, I can use the following pedagogical exercise to interrupt religious essentialism.