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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.”
~from Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NRSV), as mentioned in A History of Doubt with Jennifer Michael Hecht
Photo by Helga Weber

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.”

~from Ecclesiastes 1:18 (NRSV), as mentioned in A History of Doubt with Jennifer Michael Hecht

Photo by Helga Weber

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smithsonianmag:

Photo of the Day: “Joining hands together is the ultimate symbol of unity. Devotees come together and try to form a human pyramid to break a clay pot containing curd on the eve of the Hindu festival of “Janmashtami.”
Photo by: Sudeep Mehta (Mumbai, India).

What an absolutely brilliant composition.

smithsonianmag:

Photo of the Day: “Joining hands together is the ultimate symbol of unity. Devotees come together and try to form a human pyramid to break a clay pot containing curd on the eve of the Hindu festival of “Janmashtami.”

Photo by: Sudeep Mehta (Mumbai, India).

What an absolutely brilliant composition.

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buzzfeed:

This tiger cub is not a big fan of the pope.

Second smile of the day courtesy of the Vatican.

buzzfeed:

This tiger cub is not a big fan of the pope.

Second smile of the day courtesy of the Vatican.

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In my ESL class I study with people from all over the world, not only learning English but simultaneously experiencing the beauty of other cultures. I have made new friends who are Hindus, Sikhs and Christians; and in the area where I live there temples, mosques and churches.

No country is perfect. But overall, I have been pleasantly surprised to see real examples of people living out tolerance, harmony and acceptance in my new home — and I hope that both Americans and Pakistanis can grow to better understand each other’s cultures.

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After listening to an episode of On Being…

After listening to an episode of On Being

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seajee:

This is what I found in the bedside table at the Four Seasons Vancouver, where my parents stayed when they visited. I’ve always either only seen a Bible or no Bible, never anything else. 

The Teaching of Buddha goes toe-to-toe with the Gideon Bible in the Four Seasons. How marvelous.

seajee:

This is what I found in the bedside table at the Four Seasons Vancouver, where my parents stayed when they visited. I’ve always either only seen a Bible or no Bible, never anything else. 

The Teaching of Buddha goes toe-to-toe with the Gideon Bible in the Four Seasons. How marvelous.

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trentgilliss:

Chag Sameach, y’all. This photo of the lulav and etrog from Matthew Septimus’ “Greetings from Zucotti Park” series remains with me to this day. During his preparations for Sukkot, the young, observant Jew stopped down to show his solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street in October 2011 and had such a happy, . 

trentgilliss:

Chag Sameach, y’all. This photo of the lulav and etrog from Matthew Septimus’ “Greetings from Zucotti Park” series remains with me to this day. During his preparations for Sukkot, the young, observant Jew stopped down to show his solidarity for the Occupy Wall Street in October 2011 and had such a happy, . 

Photo by Matthew Septimus

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"How we eat and drink, how we sow our land, how we get food to our plates, how we use other bodies, other human bodies, in getting food and drink to sustain us, these are moral issues."
~Ellen Davis, from The Poetry of Creatures

Photo by Keven Law (distributed with Instagram)

"How we eat and drink, how we sow our land, how we get food to our plates, how we use other bodies, other human bodies, in getting food and drink to sustain us, these are moral issues."

~Ellen Davis, from The Poetry of Creatures


Photo by Keven Law (distributed with Instagram)

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PopTech is always showcasing some of the coolest things going down (or up in this case?) — like a graffiti mural on a minaret in Tunisia:

Tunisian Calligraffiti artist eL Seed (PopTech 2011) is currently suspended 57 meter in the air, creating Tunisia’s largest Graffiti mural to-date. The mural is being painted on the country’s tallest minaret, during the holy month of Ramadan.

The convergence of art and religion, the centre of much heated debate since the Tunisian elections, is being re-examined in a positive light. Approved by the mosque’s Imam, the 57 meter high mural is promising to be an awe-inspiring landmark, conveying a message of mutual respect, tolerance, and dialogue in a country brimming with countless possibilities.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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A future Olympic event?
picturedept:

Photo of the Day: July 30, 2012
July 30, 2012 Jerusalem, Israel A boy looks on as tens of thousands of Ultra Orthodox Jews attend a celebration marking completion of a seven-and a-half year daily study-cycle of the entire Talmud
PHOTO OF THE DAY ARCHIVE

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

A future Olympic event?

picturedept:

Photo of the Day: July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012
Jerusalem, Israel

A boy looks on as tens of thousands of Ultra Orthodox Jews attend a celebration marking completion of a seven-and a-half year daily study-cycle of the entire Talmud

PHOTO OF THE DAY ARCHIVE

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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I’m waiting for the story that transcends the flat ethnicity paradigm and gets the deeper and more persistent question of religion and moral bearings:

How does the most religiously devout candidate in recent memory reconcile a life of religious commitment with a values-neutral approach to work, livelihood, and the marketplace?

Why does religion play an outsized role in the politics of gay marriage and contraception but apparently has no say when it comes to big-ticket items like national spending and economic policy?

That profound disconnect certainly did not originate with Romney, but it may in fact be the key to understanding how he would lead and govern.

-

Joanna Brooks, from her Religion Dispatches's piece, "Romney: “A Life Balanced Between Fear and Greed”?"

Is she describing the disconnect between the spaces in which we live and the way we’ve publicly lived religion since the 60’s?

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Individualism and individuality have to be separated. Individualism can take a turn where it’s a kind of egoistic, selfish thing: Me, me, me, me, and what I want and what I care, what I think and what I like. Oh sure, we need to have the liberty to express all that, but a real individual is a different thing. And to be truly one’s self is to be truly in contact with this great self within, this divinity within. And the paradox of true individuality is that the more you are in touch with what all human beings have in common under God, the more you are uniquely what you, yourself, are. And that’s why I say we need to bring back the obligations that go along with the rights in order to understand the depths of what the human rights really mean.
- Jacob NeedlemanJacob Needleman, from the On Being show "The Inward Word of Democracy"
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The Wrong Side of White: Black Mormons in a Presidential Year

by W. Paul Reeve, guest contributor

Meet an African-American Mormon

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) has consistently found itself on the wrong side of white. In a recent New York Times article, “Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity,” an embedded video begins with a Times reporter commenting “it may come as a surprise to people that there are black Mormons in America.” It is a telling statement that captures the nexus of the LDS Church’s racial past and its efforts to realize a more diverse racial future.

Although few in number, blacks have been a part of the LDS movement from its founding to the present. The first documented African American to join the LDS Church was a former slave known only in the historical record as “Black Pete.” He became a member at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1830, the year of the Church’s founding. More significantly, at least two black men, Elijah Abel and Q. Walker Lewis, were ordained to the Mormon priesthood in the Church’s early years. Abel participated in Mormon temple rituals at Kirtland and was baptized as proxy for a deceased friend and two relatives at Nauvoo, Illinois.

In this regard, it is most accurate to speak of integrated priesthood and temples in Mormonism’s early years, a progressive stance in a charged national racial context. At the same time that the nation moved toward legal segregation in the wake of Reconstruction’s demise, the open space for full black participation in Mormonism gave way in fits and starts. By the first decade of the twentieth century race-based priesthood and temple bans were firmly in place.

It is impossible to understand that trajectory without first understanding the ways in which white Mormons themselves were racialized. The prevailing American fear of interracial mixing played a significant role in that process, especially as outsiders projected their own alarm over race mixing onto Mormons. At Kirtland, outsiders suggested that Black Pete received revelations to marry white women. In Missouri settlers argued that Mormons were inviting free black converts to that state, not only to incite a slave rebellion but to steal white women.

After the Mormons openly announced the practice of polygamy in 1852, the charge of interracial mixing took on a life of its own. One Army doctor filed a report with the United States Senate in which he claimed polygamy was giving rise to a degenerate “race.” Political cartoons depicted interracial polygamous families, sometimes with black, Asian, and Native American wives mixed in among the white. In a variety of ways outsiders constructed Mormons as racially suspect, facilitators of interracial mixing and therefore of racial contamination. As one news account put it, “the days of the white race are numbered in this country.” At the crux of this fearful deterioration was the “American of the future,” “a black Mormon.”

Against such a charged national racial backdrop, Mormons responded with an effort to claim whiteness for themselves. In 1852, Brigham Young drew upon the curses of Cain, Ham, and Canaan, derived from long standing Judeo-Christian Biblical exegeses, to bar black men from the priesthood. Leaders later expanded the policy to include temple worship for black men and women, except for proxy baptisms for their deceased ancestors. In 1908, leaders cemented those policies in place when historical forgetfulness trumped verifiable evidence to misremember that the bans had always been there, divine mandates that only God could rescind.

With that reconstructed memory as the new guiding principle, it took Spencer W. Kimball, the faith’s mild and unassuming prophet, to overturn the ban. In 1978, Kimball announced a revelation which returned Mormonism to its universalistic roots and reintegrated its priesthood and temples.

Since that time, Mormon growth in Africa has been rapid, while the pace among blacks at home has been much slower. The bans and the doctrines that supported them sometimes plague missionary efforts among blacks and make it difficult to retain converts once they join. LDS leaders have yet to repudiate past teachings which shored up the bans, a lingering problem that makes it possible for various iterations of those teachings to live on in the hearts and minds of some members.

In the meantime, black Mormons, like their coreligionists of all stripes, must decide how they will vote in this historic election year. It is a contest that is poised to pit the nation’s first president of African ancestry against the first Mormon of any color to capture a major party nomination. Mitt Romney’s ascendency to the top of the GOP ticket might signal to some Mormons that their historically pariah faith has finally arrived. In that regard, Romney may very well mark Mormonism’s full racial passage to whiteness. It is an awkwardly-timed if not tepid acceptance that coincides with Mormon attempts to claim a more diverse racial identity for themselves — witness the “I Am a Mormon” national media campaign featuring a heterogeneous group of Latter-day Saints as the faces of modern Mormonism.

Unlike his Mormon ancestors, no one today questions Mitt Romney’s whiteness. One culture critic went so far as to call him “the whitest white man to run for president in recent memory.” It is a designation that Mormons craved a century ago, but one that comes as a liability today. The historical arc of Mormonism’s racial dance is richly ironic. In the nineteenth century they were denigrated as not white enough, by the twenty-first century, as too white.


W. Paul ReeveW. Paul Reeve is Associate Professor of History at the University of Utah. He is writing a book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, under contract at Oxford University Press.

This essay is reprinted with permission of Sightings from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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