Religion in Schools

August 14th, 2011 4 comments
Share

Recent media stories have been aflutter over revelations that a Toronto area school is providing approximately 300 Muslim students with space for prayer every Friday afternoon.  Students congregate in the cafeteria for one hour and prayer sessions are led by an Imam who is brought into the school for this special rite.   In what has created more feather ruffling, girls are expected to take a position behind their male counterparts; and any girl menstruating is required to abstain from prayer sessions.  Additionally, non-Muslim students are not permitted to participate in the service.  The latest media reports suggest that perhaps more than one public school in the Toronto area is providing this service to its Muslim students.

There are a few things – at least to me – that are clearly wrong with this situation.  In fact, there are so many things REALLY wrong with this situation that I’m even more exasperated knowing that little is being done to resolve the issue.

Clearly, a publicly funded school board must find an appropriate balance for accommodating all students.  That accommodation should not extend to a student’s religious instruction.  The sheer diversity of religious groups within the public school system would make it near impossible to support every one of them.  There is nothing equitable about allowing one group of students to do it and not another.  Further, public schools are not in the business of religious education.  That kind of training should be extracurricular and at the parents’ discretion.

There is also something gravely wrong when a Canadian public school allows- even supports – a religious practice that clearly violates gender equality.  While I appreciate that certain religious customs deem it necessary and part of scripture to practice gender separation during prayer, I don’t believe those customs should be permitted to extend into our public school system.  All children should be treated equally in our schools and any action that counters this should be stopped immediately.

Finally, there has also been some concern about the background and history of the Imams conducting these prayer sessions.  It’s certainly a frightening notion that some of the parents interviewed had no idea who the religious instructors were or what they were teaching their children.  Where’s the transparency and accountability that is supposed to be a part of our school system?  Who hired these prayer leaders and what exactly are their qualifications?

As far as I am concerned, religious instruction has no place in our public school systems.  Truthfully, I’m surprised that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has allowed this to go on.  In the last couple decades we’ve seen public schools in Ontario steadily become more and more secular.  The Lord’s Prayer, once a mandatory start to each school day, was deemed inappropriate for a public school system comprised of multiple faiths and cultures.   Christmas and Easter events have been re-branded as Holiday and Spring festivities.  It seems to me that the TDSB is taking two steps backward by supporting prayer sessions in their schools.

Let’s be clear – public schools should be about education, not indoctrination.  It’s fine if a scholarly view of religion is offered in school; however, religious instruction should not have a place in our public schools.  Leave that kind of teaching to the parents – or better yet – let the children decide when they come of age.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, this is a very slippery slope indeed.  Once again, it appears that we’ve chosen to stand on the edge of the slope and see how far we can lean over before we slide uncontrollably down.

 

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Pastafarian wins right to wear pasta strainer as religious headgear

July 15th, 2011 1 comment
Share

If you’re not familiar with the term Pastafarian, then you likely haven’t heard of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The “church” was originally conceived  in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as satirical commentary in the form of an open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education regarding decisions to allow intelligent design to be taught as an alternative to evolution in classrooms.  Since then thousands of people have been touched by His Noodly Appendage.

With so many people now claiming Pastafarian as their religious affiliation, it’s little wonder that certain religious rights are being challenged.  The BBC reports that Austrian, Niko Alm recently won the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head as “religious headgear” for his driver’s license photo . Alm’s next crusade in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is to have the religion recognized as an official faith.

So, do you think this is taking religious freedom too far?  Or are you on the side of some who suggest this is meant as a tool to mock the religious by the non-religious?  Perhaps, you agree that the work done by followers of His Noodly Appendage is merely social commentary meant to incite discussion on religion’s place and value in society.

Inevitably, this latest win for the Pastafarians will garner more publicity for the movement and more hate mail.  Rest assured, however, that the movement isn’t going away any time soon.  I’d wager that it’s going to become more widespread and who knows, may even one day be recognized as an official faith.

Carbo Diem!  M. xo

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: ,

Marriage Equality

June 26th, 2011 No comments
Share

New York state recently passed a marriage equality bill giving way for same-sex couples to legally tie the knot.  So, how could this affect the tens of thousands practicing polygamy which is currently illegal?  Plural marriage has been coming out of the proverbial closet with recent news headlines, television shows and reality programming putting it in the mainstream sphere of discussion.  There are compelling arguments on both sides; however, a closer examination suggests that some of those arguments aren’t mutually exclusive to this discussion.

Many opponents to plural marriage point to the exploitation of women and children as just cause to continue outlawing the practice.  High profile cases such as the Warren Jeffs case have made sensational headlines claiming arranged under-aged marriages and various other abuses perpetrated on young girls.  Clearly, any proven abuses should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, especially in cases where children are involved.  These sensational headlines fail to discuss the fact that abuses against women and children are not mutually exclusive to polygamy.  There are plenty of documented cases of monogamous relationships in which children and women are abused.  There are also many documented cases of polygamous spouses and children who live productive, happy and healthy lives in their plural families.  Why then are prosecutors focusing on the abuses occurring within some plural relationships as inherently part of the lifestyle?  Regardless of the lifestyle, the focus should be on the abuses perpetrated.  Let’s be clear, not all polygamists commit these acts – just like not all teenagers who dress in black trench coats and listen to Marilyn Manson are going to plot to shoot their classmates.

There are also arguments that suggest that polygamy is amoral and that legislation is required to provide a social and moral compass to citizens.  Again, I question that line of thinking.  Sure, it may be immoral from a certain religious standpoint – however, there are plenty of religions that believe plural marriage is mandated by a higher authority.  Since I live in a society that was founded on Christian values I get why so many may find the idea of plural marriage a bit distasteful – but let’s also remember that we live in a secular society in which our religious ideology is supposed to be separated from the law.  And it would serve many Christians well to recall that there are numerous instances in the Bible in which various characters take more than one wife.  So, again I think this argument falls flat.  Let’s leave religion out of it – and that includes the arguments from some Fundamental Mormons that it falls under the realm of religious freedom.  Arguments that are founded on religious ideology invariably lead to a slippery slope.

Let’s look at this from a logical standpoint.  What’s inherently wrong with polygamy?  If two or more consenting adults want to commit a lifetime to one another – why not?  How can more love be a bad thing – especially where children are concerned?  I agree that the children of plural marriages aren’t given a choice in the matter, but the same is true of children who are born into a broken marriage, a single-parent home, a fundamental religious home, an impoverished home, etc.  We can’t start legislating who gets to have a family based on these ideas.  For all the abuses uncovered in these marginalized or unconventional families there are many more success stories.

Personally I think we are doing the spouses and children of plural marriages a huge disservice by not making it legal.  The non-legal spouses and children of these marriages have no recourse in cases of separation, death of one of their spouses or reporting abuse to the authorities.  I suggest the last point because I’m willing to bet that a spouse of an abusive polygamous relationship may be unwilling to go to the authorities for fear of being prosecuted themselves, simply because of their lifestyle.

There’s something clearly wrong when it’s illegal for more than two consenting adults to enter into a relationship committed to family,  love and honour – yet, a spouse of a monogamous relationship can legally step outside their commitment without fear of prosecution.  Sure, some hefty divorce bills might follow, but the cheating monogamous spouse still is afforded rights, such as still having access to their children.  The same isn’t true for plural families who face the prospect of being separated from their spouses and children or being imprisoned simply because their love extended beyond the traditional notion of family.

I think it’s time that polygamy in the Western world was brought out of hiding.  It’s the only way that society will be able to really understand it and provide adequate protections for those who choose to practice it.  By keeping it hidden, society is driving it further underground, where those who prey on the unprotected and marginalized will exploit the lifestyle for their own gain.  Let’s start having an intelligent and informed dialogue about the subject.  One that doesn’t revolve around religious ideology and sensationalized media headlines.

I believe that the foundation for any intimate relationship is based on love, mutual respect and trust.  These should be the measurements of a marriage – regardless of how many spouses you have.

Share
Categories: Society and Culture Tags: , ,

Songs of Faith

June 17th, 2011 1 comment
Share

Some of the most beautiful & entertaining sounds I’ve ever heard are songs of the faithful.  It’s as though the sound truly does emanate from their souls.  There’s no embarrassment, or anxiety about how one sounds – just pure joy of song and music.

I thought I’d share some random videos of song, prayer and music from various religious/cultural points of view.  A special note to The Funky fresh Sr Choir (a group of senior citizens) for their interpretations of various hip-hop and pop songs for their congregation.  Also, if you’ve never heard of Matisyahu then you’re missing out on some pretty cool and amazing tunes.  Lucky for you – you’re reading this blog.   Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , ,

Awesome

May 24th, 2011 1 comment
Share

This past weekend, while some were anticipating the arrival of an ancient prophet to whisk them away to the Kingdom of Heaven, I was engaging in a special rite of my own. I travelled to Cherry Valley, Ontario – a quiet village located just outside of Picton, Ontario near the Sandbanks Provincial Park. I returned with some of my favourite people to the cottage resort where I married the love of my life.
With all the chatter on blogs and social networking sites about judgement day, and having the occasion to spend time in a special place with loved ones, it made me realize how lucky I am. If it was the end times, then I wouldn’t rather be any other place.
This weekend, while I left behind my ordinary and mundane to embark on something extraordinary, I was reminded of just how AWESOME moments like these are. It also had me thinking about just how AWESOME the little things are too. Its times like these, when the larger than life moments become just that much more with the addition of the small things that bring us joy too.
It’s those small things that we too often fail to appreciate and hold on too. Things like seeing your very first female cardinal, or throwing your fishing line out and catching your first fish moments later. Or learning a brand new board game, or creating catchy jingles from the spoils of classic games (ahem, 31 for 8). Maybe these moments don’t become etched into our memories, but they do make a lasting impression on our consciousness. All the little moments of joy accumulate and make life even more AWESOME.
Whether you spent this past weekend with loved ones enjoying the Canadian cottage life, or had some singular solace puttering in your garden, I hope you stopped to take in the AWSOMENESS of life’s small moments – the underrated and underappreciated moments. Those are the ones that we’ll all be truly thankful for when the journey ends.

Red Badger for Captain Chainsaw Highliner, Silver Fox & The Chili Train Conductor – over and out!

Share
Categories: Personal Tags: ,

Religion as commodity

May 14th, 2011 2 comments
Share

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, so I’m glad that I’ve started writing it now – even though I’m not sure if it’ll be published sooner rather than later. It was a trip to the grocery store that bore the seeds of this post. In particular, a meander through the organic and health foods aisle that popped up this gem of a cereal:

 

I’ll be honest – I was very amused (hence, why I got out my phone and snapped this pic). And yet, a part of me felt that perhaps it was going a bit too far. Clearly, this cereal was targeting a very specific market. I found it curious, because by displaying this blatantly religious tone on their packaging, they were alienating a large percentage of the market. Surely, atheists, agnostics and other “free-thinkers” were just as likely to want to eat healthy as the “People of the Book”. With so many of these whole-grain, organic cereals on the market, you’d think a business wouldn’t want to alienate consumers. Perhaps, that isn’t the point though. Maybe the company has some corporate policy to provide products to a specific demographic, regardless of the effect on the bottom line (a refreshing change, indeed).

But, I digress from the point of my post…

Question: If the sacred becomes commodified, does it then fall into the realm of the profane? Religion has surely become big business and it appears that the commodification of religion is being widely accepted and even propagated. Take, for example, a line of t-shirts that combines edgy humour with religious themes.

I’ve seen these shirts worn by both extremely religious and anti-religious folks alike. So, what message is that sending? Are these items meant to attack the sacred or are they intended to revere it? Perhaps it has more to do with the idea that pretty well anything can be turned into a product for mass consumption. I’m sure some of you would agree that mass production isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Another thought – is it considered idolatrous to consume these products (strictly speaking to the religious)? Surely there will be those religious adherents that find products such as these blasphemous; however, there is another segment of religious adherents that would likely deem these products as harmless – perhaps even an homage to their faiths.

For now, I’m left thinking that the great prophets of “the Book” probably would have regarded any attempt to commodify the sacred as counter to the values of their faiths. It seems to me that once the sacred enters the realm of the profane, then it becomes regarded as ordinary. Maybe – just maybe – the commodification of religion is a reflection of our society, suggesting that the sacred may be just another average, ordinary part of our humdrum lives.

M. xo

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , , ,

For Mom

May 8th, 2011 1 comment
Share

Pretty well all Moms are guilty of a bit of pack-ratting when it comes to their child’s artwork. My Mom was no different and recently I had the opportunity to scan in some drawings Mom had from us Kids over the years. Below are two drawings, about a year apart, that I did of my Mom. They’re funny for me to see, and it’s quite touching that Mom has these so many years later. I mean, it’s not like they were works screaming of a budding Picasso (okay, maybe that first one might qualify 😉 ), but to my Mom I’m sure they were THE best. That’s just how Moms are. A child can paint their Mom a picture as questionable as a Jackson Pollack and Mom will see a work as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel. Moms are the best because they inspire us to be better people and uplift our spirits with their unshakable belief in us. Cheers to my Mom who was the inspiration for more than just artistic pursuits and cheers to all the Moms out there who inspire you! Happy Mother’s Day! M. xo

It’s amazing the difference one year can make!

 

Share
Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

The Origins of Easter

April 17th, 2011 No comments
Share

No doubt this time of year is celebrated by the vast majority of us, Christian or otherwise. While many who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ will be celebrating something sacred during the season, others will be indulging in a more commercial spin to this holy holiday.

I’m referring to the popular Easter egg hunts and giving of chocolate bunnies and spring themed gifts. So, what the heck does a giant bunny have to do with the death of a revered prophet? The below video courtesy of the History Channel does an adequate job of explaining the origins of Easter.

Clearly, whatever you call this week, a common theme is present. This time of year represents new life, rebirth, and fertility. From the resurrection of Jesus to images of bunnies (known for their high fertility) to baby chicks to eggs – it’s clear that we’re all celebrating life. One doesn’t need a book or ancient myths to realize the significance of the season. Merely taking a walk outside and observing the natural world in its splendour is evidence enough of the perfection of this time of year. That is all the reason I need to celebrate the season.

Happy Big-Easter-Bunny-Egg Day to you and yours! M. xo

Share
Categories: Religion Tags: , , ,

So, you’re thinking about going back to school?

April 16th, 2011 No comments
Share

It’s been awhile since I perched here to chirp, but now that school is done and I’m finding myself with some free time, I’m sure I’ll be fluttering by these parts more frequently.

Speaking of school, I’ve heard of a few folks I know talking about returning to the academic world. I thought I’d write a bit about my experiences with returning to school. A bit of background could probably set the stage here.

Immediately after high school I entered college and pursued an Advertising and Public Relations degree. My thoughts, at the time, were that I wanted to make lots of money and I figured that something creative in the business world would allow me to fulfill my desire to make money, while pursuing something that didn’t bore me to death. I’m sure it was amusing for my then classmates to see me enter those business classes all decked out in my goth gear (yes, I was one of those). To make a long (and rather tumultuous) story short – I quickly realized that I wasn’t meant for the business world and left that two year program (after two years) by flunking out in my last semester (aside from the A I pulled off in Video Broadcasting – apparently I had a knack for film… go figure). So, there I was with two years of post-secondary education and absolutely nothing to show for it. It was what I dubbed, my “almost” diploma – sans four credits.

After several months of floating from retail job to retail job, I eventually landed in Toronto where an event registration company hired me. I quickly became immersed in the event marketing world and there I remained for almost 15 years. I spent numerous years working as a freelance event marketer and when the jobs started drying up, I started to think about going back to school. My biggest reason was because I honestly wasn’t happy “working for the man”. I felt stifled, bored and like I wasn’t doing something that was meaningful to me.

I started researching going back to school and I can say without a doubt that it was one of the most daunting experiences. It’s a lot of information to wade through and finding the answer to a simple question can be a frustrating endeavour. I eventually learned that it was much easier to find one or two key contacts in administration and just email them directly, instead of trying to decipher institutional lingo in pages and pages of documentation.

It was a long process, but after filling in all the application documents, contacting every school I had ever attended for transcripts and writing an essay about why I hadn’t successfully completed my Advertising & Public Relations program, I submitted my application and then waited.

The rest is history, as they say. I’ve been studying part-time, primarily through distance education (DE) for about seven years now. I completed my three year general psychology BA in 2010. I studied year round, one to four courses a semester, and managed to finish in a respectable amount of time.

So, how does DE work? First, most of your courses are available online, where you watch lectures, submit assignments, interact with other students, and take tests. Midterms and final exams are usually done at a school in your hometown on a given date or through a proctor you hire to supervise your examination.

It’s not a mode of learning for everyone. You have to have a lot of discipline to make yourself stick to a routine of studying and completing assignments. It’s pretty easy to get sidetracked. There’s also a huge social component that is missing. You don’t get the face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. Instead this is supplanted with online communication that can sometimes be hard to interpret. Group work is also a bit awkward because you essentially are working with other students who are on their own study schedules as well. So you are often waiting for days for a reply to a question that could be answered in 30 seconds in face-to-face meetings. Finally, the breadth of courses just isn’t the same for DE. You just don’t have the same variety. So, while registering you may see this really cool course that you want to take – but you won’t be able too because it isn’t offered via DE.

There are a number of benefits to DE. You get to study on your own schedule. So that means you can fit studying around work, family, and your social life – you just have to fit it in some time. For me, I’m a morning person so I spent every morning studying and then I had the afternoons to catch up on other things. I’ve known other students who are night owls and they study after putting their kids to bed. You also have the advantage of being able to pause, rewind, and re-watch lectures. When I first started I had no idea how to take notes during a lecture, and I often found myself pausing the lectures to frantically write down every word the lecturer spoke. Finally, you can study from just about anywhere. I can remember taking my school on the road numerous times. As long as I had an Internet connection I could get my studies done.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, a degree/diploma through DE is no different than one obtained from on-campus studies. In some ways, it’s more difficult to complete a program via DE because you are responsible for structuring your class time and study time. It’s an added component that many students don’t have to deal with when studying on campus, but it certainly allows you more control over your academic career.

I am a big advocate of continuing education. I also believe that it’s never too late. Here I am, a thirty-something chick who is still in school and I’m not sure when I’ll be done. I returned last fall to pursue a combined honours in psychology and religion and the plan is that I’ll make my way into a Masters program in religion. I still study online, but I also have to go on campus now because most schools have residency requirements for upper-level degrees. So, I’m combining the two, until they won’t let me any longer.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, I say go for it! It’s an amazing experience! It opens new worlds and changes the way your perceive the world around you. Happy Studying! Cheers! M. xo

Share

IFCO – Celluloid Junkies 2011 – Revisited

March 26th, 2011 1 comment
Share

One of my main reasons for starting to blog – other than it gives me a forum to hen-peck and squawk about things that ruffle my feathers  – was to open some dialogue and learn from the masses that might just perch here for a bit.  I really enjoy engaging in conversation with others.  I’ve been honoured in my short time blogging with some great feedback from reader Doug Smith (check out some of Mr. Smith’s comments).  Most recently a friend of mine, Patrice, sent me an email regarding some of my comments concerning independent film.  With her permission, I’d like to share her comments because they are insightful, educational and provide some counter-commentary to my musings.

I’d like to make the following observations of my own for clarification as well, which if you approve; I’d like to post on your blog.

  • Super 8/16mm/35mm are ORIGINAL filmmaking technologies, they’re not just “traditional film-making technologies”, because a significant amount, actually most movies nowadays that make it to mainstream cinema screens, most dramatic content, commercials, music videos on television, are still predominantly shot on FILM; Super 16 and 35mm to be exact.  Most reality television, daytime soaps, talk shows and news serials continue to be digitally shot.  Also, there are ONLY but a few dramas on television that are shot on digital, case and point; the new season of HOUSE;
  • Also digital filmmaking does not really exist.  digital is a technology, just as film is its own technology; they’re both completely separate mediums as such.  So I’d venture to say that there’s digital cinema/digital production, but there is no film that is made from digital and vice versa.  digital is either tape or memory cards; film is celluloid based; a very intricately constructed material with endless stock options and possibilities;
  • Digital media is consuming the mainstream consumer markets, which means that the technology is more readily available to the average consumer, and there are a lot of festivals and online options for digital producers to exhibit their works; although I would warn against this, if artists are focused on developing a more professional portfolio, and also if they’re hoping to be compensated for their work.  Digital media has made significant headway in certain commercial industries as well; but I’d caution for viewers to pay close attention to the fact that again the overwhelming technology used in the Oscar and Genie Award nominated and winning films, is still film Super 16mm or predominantly 35mm;
  • Digital projection is steadily being phased into mainstream cinema chains, but still today ONLY about 5%-6% of the world’s screens actually have digital projectors installed; so that also means that most of the screens on the planet, are still using 35mm projectors.

In closing, I would say that IFCO’s filmmakers are actually cognizant of just how extremely viable FILM as medium is in contemporary society.  IFCO’s filmmakers are using FILM because they’re excited by the medium and its possibilities, and not so much because they’re “protecting a threatened art form from slipping into obscurity”.  Audiences need to be more active viewers and not such passive viewers; they need to be better informed as to the creative processes involved in bringing a piece of art to the screen, be it digitally produced/film based imagery.  Yes, digital technologies have attempted to sell the possibility to the average consumer that digital camera in hand, immediately gives them credibility as a filmmaker.   We really as a society however, have to be cautious about prescribing social pressures on art and artists to jump on bandwagons so to speak.  Just because the technology is cheaper, and more accessible, doesn’t make it any more or less relevant than existing technologies.  Filmmakers should also be happy to know that through a centre like IFCO; they can produce mostly short films at really affordable rates, in an extremely supportive environment.

“The medium is the message.” – Marshall McLuhan”

Thanks to Patrice and all my readers who comment via email, Facebook and in the comments section of this site.  I truly appreciate the dialogue and hope we can have many more virtual conversations in the future!

Cheers, M. xo

Share
Categories: Society and Culture Tags: ,