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The oldest known artwork of Jesus is schoolhouse graffiti making fun of him

The oldest image of Jesus Christ is a crude, mocking caricature
It might be of interest to note that the earliest known pictorial depiction of Jesus on the cross was a cartoon. Often referred to as “The Alexamenos Graffito,” it’s a crude drawing of a human figure raising a reverent hand toward a crucified individual with the head of a mule. Discovered on the plaster wall of an ancient Roman school, this second-century parody of a certain Jewish Messianic movment includes, scrawled beneath the caricature, a taunt perhaps best translated as “Alexamenos worships his god.” I wish this particular cartoon could find wider distribution because it dismantles the image of the Christian, historically speaking, as a member of a special interest group, a sleeper cell for a political party, or a power constellation of offended people looking for something to boycott. … It probably would have been out of keeping with the presumed ethos of the Jesus whom Alexamenos dared to admire to angrily condemn the ridicule as unacceptable (with a hint of violent reprisal). If the Sermon on the Mount is any indication, Jesus taught his followers that suffering public denunciation is part of the deal. Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing. … The feeling of offendedness is invigorating. It might even be an effective way to bend a population toward a tyrant’s will. But we must never settle for it. We must not confuse an accelerated pulse rate for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We must interrogate our offendedness, hold it open for question. … Feeling offended is a reassuring sensation. It’s easier than asking ourselves if the redeeming love of God is evident in the way we communicate with people. It’s easier than considering our relationships with the huddled masses throughout the world who find themselves on the wrong end of our economic policies and other forms of warfare. Perhaps our cutthroat ways bear some relationship to our confused notions of God. Maybe we think God, as an intergalactic economist, is a survival-of-the-fittest type. … We might even think that being offended and angry and on the defensive is to be more firmly aligned with the Almighty. …

September 27, 2012

Judge rules that supporting equality is de facto an endorsement of hatred towards religion

This is in Russia, regarding the Pussy Riot verdict. Fascinating logic here. Basically, since Christianity is anti-feminist in that preaches female subservience, any statement of feminism or equality is a statement implicitly attacking Christianity. Even though the Russian constitution considers men and women equal. Against the Stream: Pussy Riot and "Orthodox Christianity"
For Pussy Riot, the "punk prayer" aimed to undo the identification between "normal Russian personhood," Putin's regime, and the Orthodox Church. The mutual constitution of a unified "Russian people" and a unified "Orthodox Christianity" reinforce the legitimacy of Putin's sovereignty along with that of his former KGB colleague Patriarch Kirill Gundyayev. On trial, then, was also the possibility of religious contestation—i.e. that one might be critical of a religious tradition and nonetheless speak for it rather than hatefully against it. As one blogger for Women in Theology notes, the language of Judge Marina Syrova's ruling pits Pussy Riot's feminist commitments against the "antifeminism" of Christianity. Judge Syrova explains that "The court does find a religious hatred motive in the actions of the defendants by way of them being feminists who consider men and women to be equal. Now gender equally [sic] is asserted, maintained by the Russian constitution [...] At the same time, Orthodox Christianity, and Catholic Christianity and other denominations do not agree with feminism and their own values are not in line with feminists." Playing a theologian or a historian, the Judge publicly establishes a uniform "Orthodox Christianity," whose constitutive feature is an opposition to equality between men and women, so much so that any challenge to this inequality constitutes an act of hatred. (emphasis added)

September 21, 2012

Mormon journalist threatened with excommunication for writing articles critical of Romney

Mormons Want to Excommunicate Romney Critic - The Daily Beast
David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, and fifth-generation Mormon, is managing editor of MormonThink.com, an online magazine produced largely by members of the Mormon Church that welcomes scholarly debate about the religion’s history from both critics and true believers. A Mormon in good standing, Twede has never been disciplined by Latter Day Saints leadership. But it now appears his days as a Mormon may be numbered because of a series of articles he wrote this past week that were critical of Mitt Romney. On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, "Cease and desist, Brother Twede." Mormon leaders have scheduled an excommunication "for apostasy" on Sept. 30. A spokesman for the church told The Daily Beast that the church would not be commenting for this story. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Twede says that during the interrogation he felt “attacked, cornered, and very anxious."