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Showing posts from January, 2016

Book review: Islam in Retrospect

I was browsing our local library--one of the best in the nation, by the way--when I stumbled onto a 793 page monster of a book on Islam that grabbed my attention. That's with the footnotes, FYI. The main text itself runs about 600 pages. Maher S. Mahmassani taught at Lebanese University Law School and the Arab University Law School. The full title is Islam in Retrospect: Recovering the Message. And it's filed under the duel headings of Current Affairs and Religion. Published in 2014, it's still every bit relevant.

The book is a fairly deep, somewhat Qur'an-based exploration of Muslim history and culture. And theology Ultimately, the book is about separating out Islamic culture and politics from the religious message. The closest example I can think of for someone coming into the book without much knowledge about Islam is that it would be like trying to explain modern Western society based on an examination of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. Mahmassani uses that ve…

Creating generous kids

The article in the New York Times the other day really struck a chord with me. It was called "A Daughter Too Kind for Her Own Good" and featured Jerisha Parker Gordon talking about the flip-side of teaching her daughter to always be only gets you so far. How do we cope with people who just aren't affected by niceness?

You don't have to look too far to see a world where people are selfish and lack the socialization to show concern for others. From national politics where just last night Congress tried to strengthen rules against refugees to our own local outcry against building a new pool for our high school, people often put themselves before community interests. It's disappointing, to say the least.

But we spend whole chunks of childhood trying to give our kids the opposite values. Preschool and early elementary are--as Gordon notes--obsessed with sharing, taking turns, and learning cooperation. Yes, it's a skill set in very short supply among adul…

Hillary: Next In Line

It's been about 2 months since I wrote anything substantive about the upcoming 2016 election. So I felt like it's a good time to return to the topic with primaries upcoming (finally) and media hype blowing up about Bernie narrowing the gap in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Back in September, I wrote about the "dumb reasons" people think Hillary is in trouble. It was the height of the e-mail controversy, but my number one reason you may discount Hillary Clinton was this about Bernie Sanders...

You're a Bernie Sanders fan. I love Bernie, too. His policy positions are probably better than Hillary's though the two are very close. He's to the left of her in substantial ways, but given that she's running more as an Obama heir than the old Clinton moderate, there's not a lot to rumble about unless you're a "true" progressive...Bernie's problem is demographic. He does great among white progressives in New Hampshire and Iowa. But good luck with t…


It's not my best photographic work for a variety of reasons. (I'm still waiting on my shipment of extension tubes, for one.) But, hopefully, it's a reminder in the cold and snow that Spring isn't so far away. 
There's actually a story about this little flower. He was $2.99 at the grocery over the weekend and his purchase involves my daughter, crying, deeply saddened in the checkout line about a piece of greenery from the floral department that was on the floor. She'd picked it up and claimed it for her own. While it wasn't exactly brown and dead, it had definitely been stepped on once or twice and was wilting. Her concern and care for it was adorable and heartwarming to the point where the only thing I felt was appropriate to calm her was something alive. 
So I introduce to you "Planty Planticus." That's first name, last name...I think. It's really the fair solution to a sibling argument about which should be the first name. It started cl…

Rural stereotypes

The Oregon standoff has sparked quite a debate on social media as liberals delight in mocking the armed anti-government group who has taken up residence at a wildlife preserve. The incident itself has raised issues of grazing rights, race, what counts as terrorism, and more. But the really interesting stuff is happening at the edges where more moderate rural dwellers have pushed back slightly against some of the stereotyping against rural people. If it's not ok to stereotype Muslims as terrorists or complain about immigrants, surely it can't be ok to make fun of rural culture.

I raised a couple of points in response. The first of which is that good humor always has a fine line between hurting and being funny. It's both sad and humorous depending on your point of view. Even more, it brings up the age-old conversation about how much to hold people responsible for their ignorance. At what point does it stop being "your fault" you're poor, white, and uneducated? …

How religious Nones are parenting

I don't often get the chance to say this, but the new book I picked up at the library yesterday would have absolutely been required reading in one of my religion classes. It's completely relevant, contemporary, studies a real research need, and is well-written and academically talented. I'm talking, of course, about Losing Our Religion: How Unaffiliated Parents Are Raising Their Children from Sacred Heart University's Professor Christel Manning.

It occupies a sweet spot, in my opinion, where the sociology meets the road. It's approachable as both a manual for exploring the topic generally (you could easily use it as an intro) but also the specifics of theoretical approaches to religion that are driving culture shifts and denominational changes. I can imagine the classroom conversations in my head!

The parenting aspect is the center of attention but really only a lens to see the topic of Nones as a whole. First we have to define Religious Nones and decide how to fin…