Good Listening: Speaking of Faith

One of my favorite podcasts is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett from American Public Media. Next month the show's name becomes "Krista Tippett on Being" -- and it sounds like Krista has more good shows planned. This summer, my favorite was her interview with Shane Claiborne, a 30-something social activist you can read about in Esquire magazine accessible in General Reference Center Gold.

Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama!

Today, July 6, Tibetans around the world are celebrating the 75th birthday of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet. Born in 1935, he was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. As the world's foremost Buddhist leader, he is the author of numerous books including The Art of Happiness : A Handbook for Living, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths : How the World's Religions Can Come Together, and An Open Heart : Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life. Those not familiar with this amazing man should check out Freedom In Exile : The Autobiography Of The Dalai Lama or watch Dalai Lama: The Soul Of Tibet. For a look at the culture behind the man, check out Dalai Lama, My Son : A Mother's Story which provides an honest, and often unsettling, look into the life of his late mother, Diki Tsering, and the harsh reality of Tibetan life.

dalai lamadalai lama

Myths and Myths Retold

Legends and myths have always fascinated me. I've been looking into them since I was little, and I am no less interested in them now. So, I figure, why not spread the joy?

Greek and Roman mythology are quite similar. In fact, some might say that the Romans essentially copied their earlier counterparts. Both cultures' stories are extremely telling; they include tales ranging from the long-loved IIiad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, to the more modern tellings of Rick Riordan's demi-god Percy Jackson, or the Odyssey parallels of James Joyce's Ulysses and the Cohen Brother's cinematic O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Egyptian mythology is quite different from the former two, though, oddly enough, Riordan also came out with a book based off of it.

Celtic mythology gives us stories like The Táin (Táin Bó Cúailnge), which has been interpreted in many ways, including in the music of The Decemberists.

Nordic mythology gives us the days of the week. Today, as we all know, is Frigga's Day. One of the Scaldic poets, Snorri Sturluson, might be of particular interest here. Though, if you're looking for something more contemporary, The Sea of Trolls series includes some really cool Vikings.

Perhaps the single book that most closely relates to this blog and its forms of mythology is Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Library Journal describes it as "the vast and bloody landscape of myths and legends where the gods of yore and the neoteric gods of now conflict in modern-day America."

American Daughters: Being Muslim in America

Muslims In AmericaMuslims In America

I've been listening to an interesting series on WUOM about Muslims in Michigan and thought, "How timely!", since we are hosting a similar talk on April 22nd at 7:00 pm in the downtown library's Multi-Purpose Room. This is in partnership with Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice and the U of M Muslim Students Association. I look forward to hearing from panelists with a local perspective & hope you will join us.

AA Lecture: Political author and journalist

Author and journalist Melinda Henneberger will speak about women and the church at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 18, at St. Mary Student Parish, 331 Thompson St. Henneberger edits PoliticsDaily.com, wrote If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear, and writes a column for Commonweal. She lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband, Washington Post reporter Bill Turque, and their 13-year-old twins.

Made in God's Image

Rainbow DoveRainbow Dove For Christians today there are few issues more divisive than that of LGBT people in the church. There are hundreds of books dealing with the intersection of homosexuality and Christianity. They all ask the same question: Is same-sex intimacy a defiance of God's will as given through the scriptures, or has a misreading of the scriptures led to a proscription of an aspect of our God-given sexuality? Many, many Christians have turned to reparative (conversion) therapy programs to change the homosexual impulses which they feel are unnatural into heterosexual impulses. These ex-gay ministries have been widely decried by almost all psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors, even the Christian ones, but for those who believe that they have no choice but to change, they offer a glimmer of hope. Do you know anyone who is struggling to reconcile their faith and their sexuality? Here are some items that will give you food for thought.

Stranger at the Gate - Written by Mel White, this book is a must-read. It was recommended to me by a counselor at my alma-mater, a nearby well-known Christian college.
For the Bible Tells Me So - A thoughtful documentary of several Christian families with gay family members. I liked how they showed parents of gay children at several different levels of acceptance.
Save Me - A beautiful movie about a man forced to attend a conversion therapy home, the woman who runs it, and each of their searches for hope and love.
Desires In Conflict - This book by Joe Dallas, the founder of Genesis Counseling, has been used and cited by conversion therapy proponents since its publication in the early '90s.
Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible - Lesbian pastor Nancy Wilson uses humorous anecdotes and biblical exegesis to deconstruct the "texts of terror" used as the basis of anti-homosexual Christian beliefs.

Youth Nonfiction Finds -- Story and Prayer

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Over thousands of years of human history, the different cultures of the world have produced some diverse and beautiful expressions of spirituality. Fortunately, the Youth Department has plenty of books to help you explore the wide world of spiritual traditions.

For stories of the sacred, try Burleigh Muten's books, Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic and The Lady of Ten Thousand Names. These books provide an impressive collection of goddess myths from around the world. Kris Waldherr's book Sacred Animals, presents stories of spiritually significant animals and what they represent in different cultures.

For a comprehensive collection of prayers, try the beautiful little book In the House of Happiness, or the The Barefoot Book of Blessings, which contain prayers, old and new, for every occasion and circumstance. Here's the Navajo prayer which inspired the title of "In the House of Happiness":

In the house of happiness, there I wander.
Beauty before me, there I wander.
Beauty behind me, there I wander.
Beauty below me, there I wander.
Beauty above me, there I wander.
Beauty all around me, with it I wander.
In old age traveling, with it I wander.
On the beautiful trail I am, with it I wander.

Haiti: Learning Beyond the Tragedy

On January 12 Haiti was struck by a powerful and devastating earthquake. It is the latest blow to a country that has long struggled, and its aftershocks will continue reach far across space and time. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television news have been vigilant in keeping us updated on this tragedy. By now most of us know that basic story, but how much do you know about Haitian culture and society?

Did you know that Haiti's ancestors were the first slave society to emancipate themselves? As a result of their revolution, Haiti was established: the first republic in the New World ruled by people of African descent. If you're interested in brushing up on Haiti's harrowing but inspiring history, I would recommend checking out Avengers of the New World: the Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois and The Black Jacobins : Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C.L.R. James. In these excellent books, you will find the historical roots of Haitian society and politics of today.

Haitian Vodou, often misrepresented, is a well-known thread in our cultural fabric. Popular culture has teased out an arguably perverse caricature from the Afro-Caribbean tradition, convenient for children's cartoons and hundreds of zombie movies. (That's not to say Zombie movies aren't totally entertaining; check out the classic I Walked With a Zombie. If nothing else, it is a revealing peek at American culture, circa 1943.) But what is the true nature of Vodou, or Voodoo, as it is more commonly called? Zora Neale Hurston's good research in this field is enhanced by her beautiful writing; see "Tell My Horse," which is in Folklore, Memoirs and Other Writings by Hurston. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown is not owned by AADL, but it is warm, enlightening and one of my favorites. You can get it through MEL. If you're feeling a little less ambitious, you can take a look at a cool DVD that we do have, Divine Horsemen, a ground-breaking (at the time) documentary about Vodou ritual.

On the lighter side, I would recommend Putomayo Presents: French Caribbean, which features music from the French-speaking islands of Guadeloupe, Haiti and Martinique. Putomayo can be counted on to put out a good mix, and this album holds true.

I am amazed by the extent to which people are getting involved in the Crisis in Haiti. Americans have broken records by contributing over $500 million to the relief effort in Haiti. Incredible, right? This is a practical, tangible way to get involved. Another important way to honor Haiti is by learning more about its rich culture and history. You can find the tools to do so here at the AADL.

Something to think about...

Stories of Your Life is a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang. The eight stories cover a wide range of topics that make you think. The first is "Tower of Babylon". In it, people have again attempted to build a tower to reach Heaven. Only this time, they have succeeded. "Hell Is the Absence of God" tells the story where Christian theology is a very present part of every day existence. Angels appear on the streets and miracles are performed for all to see. Enjoy.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #175

In Zoë Klein's debut novel Drawing in the Dust*, 39 year-old American archeologist Page Brookstone is asked to risk her professional reputation and personal safety when a young Arab couple begs her to excavate beneath their home in Anatot, Israel, claiming that it is haunted by the spirits of two lovers.

When Page discovers the bones of the deeply troubled prophet Jeremiah entwined with that of a mysterious women name Anatiya, she must race against the clock to translate Antalya’s diary found nearby, before enraged religious and secular forces come into play.

Parallel the ancient love story is the contemporary one of Page and Mortichai - an engaged, half-Irish Orthodox Jew, that "raises a Jewish Da Vinci Code to an emotionally rich story of personal and historical discovery".

Zoe Klein, a rabbi, lives and works in Los Angeles. She has written for Harper's Bazaar and Glamour magazines, and appeared as a commentator on the History Channel program Digging for the Turth .

* = starred reviews

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