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It’s Time We Take Back The Internet.

January 28th, 2014 No comments
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I was reminded again this week that the Internet can be a truly vile and hateful place.  In fact, if there’s some Internet scale of justice, I’m fairly certain it’s tipping in the direction of hate.

Now, I’m no stranger to the barrage of hateful comments on social media sites.  You see it’s easy for people to hide behind a screen and hurl hateful remarks into the Webosphere.  It’s also fairly easy for people to get caught up in a mob mentality.  Even seemingly peaceful people have been known to get caught up in the hysteria.  So, what got my feathers in a ruffle?

I began to search the web for videos of interfaith harmony for an upcoming blog post I intended to write.  I soon discovered that this was not an easy task in a virtual realm seemingly coated in the paranoid delusions and illogical rants of my fellow human beings.

You see, every search parameter I entered returned videos showing me something very different than a harmonious picture of people of different faiths coming together.  Instead, I was subjected to devilishly crafted videos clearly designed to spread hateful propaganda.

Now, it wasn’t just the videos that caused me such concern.  We all know there’s some heinous stuff out there.  No, I was much more concerned that those videos had millions of views.  Oh, and my interfaith harmony videos?  They rarely showed up in first page results and had significantly fewer views than those other videos.

Clearly, we have a problem, folks.  Somehow we’ve let hate dominate the Internet.  I simply refuse to believe that this is acceptable to the vast majority of Internet users.  After all, this is a tool that teaches our children, informs us of the world around us, and connects us to people we may never have met otherwise.  Do we really want to allow it to be shaped by hate?

A professor once told me that it’s pointless to respond to hate and fundamentalism online.  In theory, I agree with said professor.  The real problem isn’t responding directly to haters online, but rather that good, reasonable people tend to not say anything at all.  That’s certainly the impression I get when reading some comment threads.  For every positive statement, you can bet there are at least ten negative statements.

So is silence the best way to combat hate on the Internet?  I don’t think it is, but neither is spending one’s energy on trying to change the rigidity of hate that already has a firm grasp on a person.  Okay, so we don’t have to engage in dialogue with a hateful person, but what else can we do?  We can take the opportunity to share as many good news stories as possible; post videos that are inspiring and show people doing good works; and pictures that exude joy.  We can communicate positive feedback in comment threads, so that we gradually dilute all the hateful words.  With each page view and click of the mouse, we can consciously choose goodness and inspiration – instead of letting the haters choose for us.

Friends, it’s time we take back the Internet.

M. xo

Musical Interlude – Good People (Jack Johnson):

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Miss America Pageant 2013: America, You Still Have Work To Do

September 17th, 2013 No comments
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Normally, I’d pay no more than a passing glance at news of the crowning of Miss America.  Truthfully, I find the whole notion of beauty pageants nauseating.  This year, however, the Miss American pageant became more than just a vapid competition.  It became a national, and indeed international, discussion on ignorance and bigotry.  It also accomplished another feat.  While hateful messages were circulating social media, scores of people emerged to show us that not all hope is lost.

Shortly after being crowned Miss American 2014, Nina Davuluri, became the target of a campaign of hate unleased on the Twitterverse.  Why?  Miss Davuluri is of Indian descent and this didn’t sit well with some Americans, despite the fact that she was born in the good old U.S. of A.  Not only was Twitter filled with hateful and racist remarks, it also highlighted the sheer ignorance of people who clearly have never stepped outside their comfortable, albeit highly misguided, FAUX news bubbles.  Not only was she called some viciously racist names, she was also repeatedly attacked for being Arab, Muslim, and associated with Al Qaeda.

Wait – really?

*Sigh*

Just to be clear, none of those can be said to be true of Davuluri.

If you happen to be one of those people who doesn’t understand why these are erroneous and highly bigoted sentiments, well, I feel sorry for you.  You clearly have no idea of the wonderful diversity among the people of this world, which is your loss.  I shouldn’t have to explain that an Arab and a Muslim are not mutually exclusive.  Nor should I have to tell you that India is home to Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and yes, Muslims.  I’d even wager you’d find some (gasp) Atheists among its citizens.

So, what if she happens to be a Muslim, or an Arab, or any other religious/cultural identification?  The only thing that matters is that she is an American.  Every American should have stood up and cheered when she was crowned.  Assuredly, after you elected a black President the world thought you’d moved past the racism that has blemished your country’s history.  It seems, though, that a new target of racism has taken a foothold.  History may yet be doomed to repeat itself.

Thankfully, many Americans have taken to social media to condemn their fellow citizens for their unwarranted and misinformed attacks.  The world thanks you for reminding us that not all Americans are bigoted white men (those sweeping generalizations hurt, don’t they?)

It’s unfortunate that a bunch of under-educated, haters have tarnished the incredible strides America has made in forging an identity of diversity and equality.  This means only one thing – America, you still have work to do.

M. xo

 

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Quebec Proposes Religious Symbols Ban… with a Few Exceptions

September 11th, 2013 No comments
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On the left are examples of religious symbols deemed acceptable for public sector employees; On the right examples of religious symbols deemed unacceptable for public sector employees

What gives Quebec?  Seriously, you’re acting very – dare I say it – “un-Canadian” these days.  The recent news reports about a proposed ban on religious symbols in the public sector has me deeply concerned, and rather embarrassed that such blatant discrimination is making headlines around the world, effectively tarnishing the image of my nation.

I’m not going to sugar-coat my opinion.  This policy is blatant discrimination and I have no doubt that it will be challenged and defeated at the highest levels.  What’s more, the list of exceptions is laughable.  For example the ban would not apply to any historical religious symbols in public spaces – which are for the most part Catholic symbols.  It also would not apply to elected officials.  Yes, you read that right.  The politicians trying to push this ban through, wouldn’t actually be effected by the ban.

What this policy WILL do is marginalize large segments of the immigrant population.  It will force people to make a choice between working for their community and honouring their faith.  It also will do very little to actually enshrine secularism into the charter because secularism isn’t about symbols.  It’s about ensuring that public policies aren’t influenced by religious ideology.  Asking someone to forgo wearing a religious headdress isn’t going to change the fact that they are religious.  If the government really wants to ensure secularity, then they need to ensure that policies aren’t being strong-armed by ideologies.

Wait, that sounds familiar too – doesn’t it?  Pot meet kettle.

Many of us would do well to remember that Canada was founded by European settlers seeking religious freedom.  That is our legacy.  That is what makes this nation so great.  Freedom to choose, practice, and express our religious or non-religious proclivities.  What’s more, Canada is known for its multi-cultural mosaic.  Any attempt to homogenize the public should be regarded as an attack on the values of our nation.

Now I know that there are many who won’t agree with my sentiments.  That’s fine.  It’s your right in a free and open society.  I hope though, that those who disagree see the irony in policies such as this that limit personal freedoms.  It’s a slippery slope.

M. xo

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Creationism in Canada: Part 2

July 3rd, 2013 3 comments
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Read part one here.

Creationism in Canada’s Public Schools, 1970s

Creation science instruction was quietly introduced into some British Columbia science classes in the late 1970s.  Unlike the Abbotsford case, which received considerable media and government scrutiny, other districts enacting such policies received little attention.  Indeed, scant evidence exists that creationism was ever taught in public schools.

The Mission School Board introduced creation-instruction to its classrooms in 1976 (Chahal, 2002), but there exists little evidence to support rumours that creation instruction was taking place in other schools throughout British Columbia.  Further, the policy enacted by the Mission School Board garnered much less controversy than the Abbotsford case.  It is unclear as to why one board’s policy went virtually unnoticed, while another’s in the same province created a nationwide stir – particularly given that both boards enacted their policies within a few short years of each other.

Minutes from the Abbotsford School Board show that trustees brought the issue to the table in the late 1970s, perhaps at the behest of unofficial lobbyists, including parents and pastors in the region.  There is no further documentation that corroborates what, if any, action was implemented as a result of the issue being addressed by the board; however, additional board reports on creationism in elementary and secondary schools, and evidence of the purchase of several creationist materials around this time, suggest that the board may have acted upon these unofficial requests (Chahal, 2002).  Journalist, Lois Sweet (1997), who interviewed stakeholders embroiled in the controversy, posited that the school board had merely been addressing the wishes of constituents which consisted of many members of the Mennonite and Dutch Reform Church communities. The nature as to how the Abbotsford School District’s Origin of Life Policy came to fruition remains uncertain.  It is clear, however, that strong fundamentalist Christian advocates played a role in ensuring that creation-instruction would be entrenched in the school board’s science program for more than ten years.

Creationist ‘Truth Fish’

Creationism in Canada’s Public Schools, 1980s

In late 1980, an Abbotsford resident, Mr. H. Hiebert, began to a campaign to have more creationist materials available to teaching staff in the district.  Feeling that his requests to the board were not satisfactorily addressed, he approached local news outlets and urged residents to make the lack of creation-instruction a concern during the upcoming election of school board trustees (Chahal, 2002).  In early 1981, the Creation Science Association of Canada (CSAC) sent provincial Education Minister, Brian Smith, a petition with over 7000 signatures from concerned citizens regarding the lack of equal time for creationist theory and evolution theory in science classrooms.  Mr. Smith responded by suggesting that both theories could be of value for students to learn (Barker, 2004; British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, 1995; Chahal, 2002).  The Education Minister’s comments created little more than a ripple of controversy at the time and were forgotten as quickly as they had been mentioned.

Around this same time, the Abbotsford School Board began the first draft of its Origin of Life policy.  The policy read in part:

“In view of the fact that neither the Divine creation nor evolutionary concepts of the origin of life are capable of verification by means of scientific experimentation, and because the teaching of one view of origins to the exclusion of the other view will almost certainly antagonize those parents and/or pupils who hold to the alternative view, all teachers, when discussing and/or teaching the origin of life in the classrooms, are requested to expose students, in as objective a manner as possible, to both Divine creation and the evolutionary concepts of life’s origins, with the evidence that is presented in support of each view, and to refrain from any assertions that would set forth either view as absolute.” (as cited in Chahal, 2002, p. 50).

In 1983, a majority vote made it a requirement that teachers refrain from teaching only the theory of evolution (Barker, 2004).  Further, teachers were instructed to teach both creationist and evolution theories in a few key classes, specifically Biology 11, 12 and Social Studies 7 (British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, 1995).  The application of this policy appears to be far less dramatic than the policy itself.  Textbook resources were made available to students who showed interest in creationist theories.  Many of these resources were from fundamentalist Christian organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research.  In other instances, guest speakers from CSAC were invited to present in classes.  For the most part, however, teachers either avoided the topic of origin of life altogether, or briefly mentioned that some groups contested Darwin’s theory (Barker, 2004).   Fleeting media attention was directed at the policy and its application.  Almost a decade later, Abbotsford was thrust back in the media spotlight.

Stayed tuned for part 3 of 4 in my series on Creationism in Canada.  In Part 3, I’ll explore creationism throughout the 1990’s, once again focusing on Abbotsford, B.C. The final chapter of this series will explore creationism in Canada today, including an examination of some provincial science curricula and policies pertaining to creationist instruction.  

M. xo

Images from Wikipedia

Suggested Readings:

References

Barker, J. (2004). Creationism in Canada. In S. Coleman & L. Carlin (Eds.), The cultures of creationism (pp. 85-108). Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (1995). Comments on the “creation science” movement in British Columbia. Retrieved from http://bccla.org/our_work/comments-on-the-creation-science-movement-in-british-columbia/

Chahal, S. S. (2002). Nation building and public education in the crossfire: An examination of the Abbotsford School Board’s 1981-1995 Origin of Life policy (Master’s Thesis). Retrieved from https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16315

Sweet, L. (1997). God in the classroom: The controversial issue of religion in Canada’s schools. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Inc.

 

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Creationism in Canada: Part 1

July 2nd, 2013 2 comments
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If you enjoy studying how religion intersects public life, then you’ve no doubt encountered the sensational headlines from the United States concerning ongoing legal battles over the teaching of creationist theories versus evolutionary theories in public school science classrooms.  Now, many Canadians may think that we’re immune to this kind of controversy, but Canadian controversies tend to be more localized.  This means that when controversy brews, it doesn’t always make national headlines.  While creationist activity may not be as sensational as that which is seen south of the border, make no mistake – we’ve had our share of “Teach the Controversy” battles.  As part of my Honours work in Religion, I decided to investigate what, if any, creationist controversies have occurred in Canada. Over the following days, I intend to take you on a historical journey of creationism in Canada.  Much of what you will read is adapted from a paper I submitted towards my degree, and since that paper is rather long, I’ve decided to break it into smaller parts.  Before I begin, let me be clear that I support religious freedom.  I have no issue with teaching creationist theories; however, I do firmly believe that creationist theories should not be taught in science classrooms.  That said, I welcome your feedback (no matter which side of the controversy you support), but please keep it respectful.  Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The Creation of Adam

Creationism in the United States: A Brief Overview

During the 1920s a small Tennessee town, Dayton, was on the cusp of financial ruin.  Local leaders and businessmen concocted a clever plan to inject some much need cash flow into the town coffers.  A recently passed state law had made it illegal for educators to teach the theory of evolution.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had advertised their intent to challenge the law by seeking out a teacher willing to be arrested for violating this new statute.  Enlisting local high school teacher, John Scopes, a group of Dayton businessmen contacted the ACLU to express interest in assisting in their legal challenge.  It was hoped that the presumed media spectacle might bring some fortune to their small town (Larson, 1997).  Beginning as an earnest attempt by civil servants to save their struggling town, the Scopes Trial became one of the most sensational and discussed trials in American history.

Scopes was found guilty and fined one hundred dollars for illegally teaching the theory of evolution – violating Tennessee’s anti-evolution statute (“America’s Difficulty”, 2009; Armenta & Lane, 2010).    It would be another four decades before these laws were repealed; however, the trial set in motion an ongoing debate about teaching evolutionary theories alongside Biblically-inspired creation accounts in science classrooms.  Since the Scopes Trial, there have been ongoing challenges in the United States regarding the validity of Darwin’s theory, but also the constitutionality of children being required to learn a theory that counters their religious beliefs.

The early years of legal challenges focused on the constitutionality of imposing religious views in public schools versus the autonomy of parents to provide an education to their children that was compatible with their own worldviews.  The inclusion of creationism in the curriculum was seen by some as a violation of the separation of church and state.  Others argued that by not providing equal time to creationist theories, religious students were being taught in an environment that was seemingly hostile to their religious beliefs. Time and time again, higher courts ruled that creationism could not be taught alongside evolution because creationism was dogmatic in nature and essentially brought religion into the public school system (Armenta & Lane, 2010).

Of Pandas and People is widely considered the first textbook on intelligent design (ID)

More recent legal challenges have shifted to focus on alternative ‘scientific’ theories rather than divinely-inspired ones.  Intelligent design (ID) has emerged from the ashes of earlier creationism challenges.  Proponents claim that ID is a valid alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution and have lobbied to have it included in science curricula.  To date, several higher courts have ruled that ID is nothing more than creationism in the guise of science (Armenta & Lane, 2010; Moore, Jensen, & Hatch, 2003).  A 2005 verdict stemming from a case that saw a group of parents challenge Pennsylvania’s Dover Area School District’s recently amended curriculum requiring ID be taught alongside evolution, suggested that ID was essentially a secularized version of creationism (Cameron, 2006).  The judge in the case sided with the parent’s group in an effort to uphold the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

Clearly, the American judicial system has repeatedly turned to the Constitution in this matter.  Due to the strict separation of church and state within the United States’ civic doctrine, it seems reasonable and feasible for this to be accomplished.  Canada, however, does not have such finite divisions between church and state entrenched in its laws (Noll, 1992).  While the Charter of Rights does provide protections to citizens, it does not explicitly outline divisions between faith and politics.  Despite this, Canadian politics do not seem to be overtly intertwined with religion.  On the surface, Canadians seem less preoccupied or concerned about religious influences on government or public institutions.  This has meant that any religious controversies, similar to those in the United States, have remained largely unnoticed.  This lack of public scrutiny has enabled religiously motivated policies to penetrate various public institutions without the similar fanfare that has greeted such policies in the United States.

Creationism in Canada’s Public Schools

Profile: Abbotsford, BC

Abbotsford, British Columbia is a city located about 60 kilometers outside of Vancouver, and is the site for Canada’s most controversial creationism case.  A profile of this community depicts it as a deeply religious one in the heart of British Columbia’s Bible belt.  It is neighbour to Trinity Western University (a private conservative Christian institution), as well as a number of evangelical churches, Bible colleges, and private religious schools (Barker, 2004; Wood, 1995).  During the time of this controversy, Abbotsford’s population consisted of a large Mennonite community, many Western European immigrants, and the highest number of Christian conservatives in the province (Barker, 2004).

Historically, Abbotsford has been involved in numerous religious controversies.  In 1977, 300 students walked out of a local high school to protest the principal’s instatement of compulsory daily prayer and scripture readings.  A few years later in 1980, the Abbotsford School Board defied a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down mandatory daily prayer in public schools. In 1995, the library board was accused of attempting to ban a newspaper whose target demographic was the homosexual community (Barker, 2004).  More recently, the school board has been embroiled in controversies surrounding the refusal to allow a Social Justice course to be taught at high schools due to concerns from the religious community over its content which included issues such as homophobia (“Gay-friendly course halted,” 2008).  Late last year, the school district was one of three under review for policies that allowed Gideons International to hand out Bibles to students (Steffenhagen & Baker, 2012).  The aforementioned are just some examples of the religious controversies that have taken place in the community.  It is little wonder that the community has been recognized as highly religious, or that the inclusion of creation science in public school science curricula remained largely uncontested for over a decade.

In part 2, I’ll explore creationism in Canada throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s (with a special focus on the Abbotsford creationism controversy, itself).Oh, and in case you’re wondering where I retrieved my information, you’ll find a complete reference list below.

M. xo

Suggested Readings:

 

References

America’s difficulty with Darwin. (2009, February). History Today, 59(2), 22-28.

Armenta, T. & Lane, K. E. (2010). Tennessee to Texas: Tracing the evolution controversy in public education. The Clearing House, 83, 76-79. doi:10.1080/00098651003655811

Barker, J. (2004). Creationism in Canada. In S. Coleman & L. Carlin (Eds.), The cultures of creationism (pp. 85-108). Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.

Cameron, A. (2006). An utterly hopeless muddle. The Presbyterian Record, 130(5), 18-21.

Gay-friendly course halted by Abbotsford school board. (2008, September 21). The Vancouver Sun.  Retrieved from http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=b02d8037-a563-417a-9cd5-31146a42fb6e

Larson, E. J. (1997). Summer for the gods: The Scopes trial and America’s continuing debate over science and religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Moore, R., Jensen, M., & Hatch. J. (2003). Twenty questions: What have the courts said about the teaching of evolution and creationism in public schools? BioScience, 53(8), 766-771.

Noll, M. A. (1992). A history of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Steffenhagen, J., & Baker, R. (2012, November 8). Humanist wants Abbotsford School District scrutinized for Bible distribution. Abbotsford Times. Retrieved from http://www.abbotsfordtimes.com/news/Humanists+want+Abbotsford+School+District+scrutinized+Bible+distribution/7520217/story.html

Wood, C. (1995). Big bang versus a big being. Maclean’s, 108(24), 14.

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Morgentaler and Abortion in Canada

May 30th, 2013 No comments
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Yesterday, Canadians across the country were either mourning the loss of a highly influential man or praying for his soul.  That’s the kind of divisiveness Dr. Henry Morgentaler had on Canadians.  He was either revered or reviled for his contributions to Canadian society.  In case you’re wondering what the big deal is, Morgentaler is widely considered the man who initiated changes to Canada’s abortion laws.  He began his crusade in the sixties by opening up Canada’s first abortion clinic.  He also lobbied government to strike down the then existing laws that prohibited women from having control over their reproduction.  For decades, Morgentaler fought the system, during which time he was incarcerated, harassed, threatened, and attacked.

Canada’s history on abortion law is long and contentious.  The law was first enacted in 1892 when parliament passed legislation that prohibited “abortion as well as the sale, distribution, and advertising of contraceptives.” It was almost a century later, in 1988, that the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion laws.   To date, there have been several failed attempts to legislate abortion in Canada.  Politicians typically keep a distance from such polarizing topics, meaning Canada has seen little in the way of debate in the House of Commons.  In fact, Canada is one of just a few countries around the world that does not have abortion laws.  This means that if you can find a doctor willing to perform the procedure, a woman can legally have an abortion in Canada at any stage of her pregnancy.

Indeed, proof of just how contentious this issue is can be gauged by the silence from various members of government on the passing of Morgentaler.  Given that Morgentaler is credited by vast numbers of women for advancing their rights, one would think that the Minister for the Status of Women might have released some official statement – yet, nary a peep from the Hill.  While no official statements were released, comments from politicians were quickly captured via Twitter.  Not surprisingly, very few Conservative politicians had much to say or anything positive to say about the man.  This is the same political party that appears heavily aligned with the evangelical Christian movement in Canada.

U of T Students for Life rally 2009

 Evangelical Christian groups are the biggest supporters of the pro-life movement.  There are several pro-life organizations operating in Canada, all of which appear to be aligned with various fundamental Christian groups.  When news of Morgentaler’s death broke, representatives from pro-life associations indicated that they had been and will continue to pray for his soul.  In contrast, the national group for pro-choice supporters released a statement praising Morgentaler for his “courage and compassion.”  Yes, in death, as in life, Morgentaler continues to divide Canadians.

Pro-choice counter-protest to the National March for Life in Ottawa, Ontario, in 2010

Yet, it isn’t the man himself that is polarizing as much as it is the symbol of a movement that he represents.  The debate often involves matters of religion and science intersecting ethics.  Indeed, many of the arguments put forth by pro-life advocates are laced in religious tones and scriptural connotations.  Public policies that are overtly influenced by theological considerations are not the norm in Canada.  Mixing religion and politics is frowned upon by the vast majority of Canadians – despite the fact that Canada does not have any legislation that officially separates church and state (like our neighbours to the South do).   Therefore, efforts to change the status quo through the voice of scripture just aren’t going to fly in the Great White North – at least not any time soon.  This is particularly true for a country whose demographics are shifting away from religious institutions toward a more secular spirituality.  Movements lose relevancy when changes to public policy are sought based on religious concerns (what the Bible, or other holy scriptures, say about abortion is another blog topic for another day).  The point is that debates concerning public policy cannot be framed within a particular theological worldview – especially in a country as religiously diverse as Canada.  Doing so, means your cause will no longer be about human rights – but rather a particular brand of divine ordinance that may not even be relevant to a large section of the population.  Religious groups have given us many fine social institutions in Canada (schools, hospitals, etc.), but that was during a time when religion dictated almost every aspect of life.  This isn’t the case in today’s Canada.  It likely won’t be the case in the very near future.

So, if we’re going to have a debate about rights, responsibilities, and life – let’s avoid the usual religious rabble-rousing.  This doesn’t mean that I think we should open the debate about abortion.  If you read between the lines of my post, it’s pretty easy to see where I stand on the issue.  That said, part of me is disconcerted that Canada theoretically allows fetuses to be aborted up to the moment before birth (if you can find a doctor willing to do it).  Even the staunchest pro-choice advocate must flinch – at least for a moment – at that thought.  But, where do we draw the line?  That my faithful flock, is another question to be answered another day.

M. xo

P.S.  An interesting – and perhaps highly sensational – book on the subject of the evangelical movement in Canada’s political system is Marci McDonald’s The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada.  Check it out, and then let me know what you think!

 

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Reality TV gets Religion

May 22nd, 2013 2 comments
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Earlier this month, I read an article that credited the Archbishop of Canterbury with suggesting that reality television should start including religion into its programming.  Part of his reasoning was so that people could learn more about other religions.  Now I don’t know if the Archbishop and I have a different definition of what constitutes reality television, but I’m pretty sure that reality television has already got religion, and it hasn’t always been the most flattering portrayal.

Some of the more well-known reality shows that have a religious angle include: Sister Wives, Breaking Amish, and 19 Kids and Counting, all of which are featured on TLC.  Religiosity may not necessarily be front and centre; however, it’s hard not to watch any of these shows and think about the religious paths that have influenced these people.  Yes, to some degree viewers are ‘educated’ about the different faiths followed by the show’s participants, but this ‘education’ comes with a huge dose of sensationalism.  On Sister Wives, viewers follow a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon family, while on 19 Kids and Counting the lives of a devout, fundamentalist Baptist Christian family who have (you guessed it) 19 children are showcased for viewers.  Breaking Amish diverts from showcasing a family, and instead follows a group of Amish and Mennonite young adults who leave their isolated communities and experience life in the big city.  Along the way, various mishaps and questionable adventures ensue.  Is this what the Archbishop had in mind?

Perhaps the new crop of religiously inspired reality television might prove less sensational.  Judging from the titles and reviews, I’m guessing that reality television has a cozy place in Hell waiting for it.  The Sisterhood which premiered early this year, follows the lives of several preachers’ wives as they interact with their communities.  I have yet to watch this series, but if reviews are any indication, it’s not as wholesome as it outwardly appears.  Sure to trump the aforementioned in the sensational department is the upcoming Divas for Jesus.  Described as a show that “follows a group of fabulous Christian women whose faith consists of guns, God, gossip and great wine,” you can bet this show is going to raise some eyebrows.  The recently premiered Preacher’s Daughters follows the lives of three preachers’ families and their teenage daughters.  It’s already been given a parental advisory rating.

Perhaps the most interesting reality show I came across in my research, is one originating from Turkey.  It’s called Penitents Competeand its premise is shocking (at least to this blogger).  Each week a rabbi, monk, priest, and imam (I think I’ve heard this joke before) attempt to convert ten atheists.  Any atheist that converts wins a free trip to one of four holy sites.  I can’t help but wonder how this show would be viewed if the roles were reversed.  You know, each week four atheists attempt to ‘convert’ ten religious people.  How’s that for sensational (or, I suppose, rational – depending on who you’re asking)?

I appreciate the Archbishop’s comments about people learning more about other religions, but there are much better ways to educate oneself than reality television.  One thought comes to mind – reality itself.  You know, go out and talk to real people about their religious perspectives.  Visit a mosque, church, synagogue and talk to the community.  You can’t get any more real than that.

Have you seen any of these shows?  Do you know of others that I haven’t included here?  Let me know.

M. xo

 

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God Hates…. Shrimp?!?

March 5th, 2013 No comments
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churchsignIn one of my classes we’ve been examining what the Bible says about various hot button topics including homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, and the environment.  Despite what many people on both sides of these debates say, the Bible doesn’t necessarily speak to many of these issues.  Various interpretations and translations over the years have skewed or taken these topics completely out of context.  Personally, I take issue with a literal or fundamental view of the Bible – particularly when those adhering to such worldviews attempt to take away freedoms or oppress people based on these ancient writings.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t find value in Scripture, but it does mean that I don’t believe that laws should be based solely on Biblical interpretations.  We must be careful in how we give relevancy to the Bible.

In response to some of these groups (WBC comes to mind), parody sites have turned the table, so to speak.  One such site points out that you can’t pick and choose what is an abomination in order to satisfy some social agenda.  It’s either all, or nothing.  The God Hates Shrimp parody site provides a tongue-in-cheek look at two Biblical passages that suggest that God forbids the consumption of all shellfish, thus we are Divinely mandated to boycott any restaurant that is serving up these abominations.  Remove the bib, put down the claw cracker, and repent your sins.  And while you’re at it, wipe that butter off your chin…

pinchsuckburn

M. xo

Images provided by: God Hates Shrimp

 

 

 

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Saying Good-bye to 2012

December 30th, 2012 No comments
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I’m finally emerging from my self-induced holiday coma.  The holidays were splendidly relaxing.  Good thing too, because I always feel like I need to recharge as the end of the year approaches and a new one beckons on the horizon.

Since I’m still feeling the effects of the holidaze, I haven’t been up to the task of writing something provocative, informative, or even all that interesting, but I didn’t want 2012 to slip by without imprinting the InterWeb with one last message for the year.

So, what to write about?  I could write reflective lists highlighting memorable people and events from the past year.  Or I could publicly profess my resolutions for the upcoming year (which incidentally would have little impact on whether I actually stick to them).  Perhaps I could regale you with my thoughts on the apocalypse phenomenon that pervaded much of 2012, or maybe even the much ballyhooed discontinuation of Twinkies in the United States.  I could contrast the darkest incidents of 2012 with the brightest and most heart-warming.  Yet none of these messages would convey what I’d want to pass on.

Simply, best wishes to you and yours.  Happy New Year!

M. xo

P.S. Cool video alert!  2012: What Brought Us Together.

 

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Bye, bye, Penny…

March 30th, 2012 1 comment
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Yesterday it was announced that the Canadian government will stop producing the one-cent coin. Personally, I think this make economic cents sense.  It’s long overdue.  Let’s face it, when it costs more to produce a currency than its actual value then it’s clearly not a financially sound practice.

Some have decried the move as one that will hurt only the neediest of our society because businesses will start rounding up the price, ultimately increasing the cost of goods and services.  Further, there’s speculation that charity boxes will suffer as people have less change (pennies) to drop into the box.   On these points, only time will tell.

Personally, I prefer to take a more optimistic view.  The government is going to save roughly eleven million dollars a year by phasing out production of the penny.  That’s eleven million dollars that could be spent on propping up some of our social and health programs.  That’s eleven million dollars a year less of taxpayer money that is being needlessly wasted.

Further, as the government starts collecting the billions of pennies assuredly sitting in old piggy banks across the nation – there may be an opportunity to make some extra money from the precious copper constituents of older pennies.  Seems like a win-win situation to me.

The penny is a currency of a bygone era.  There’s practically nothing left that can be purchased with the one-cent coin  (I think fondly of the penny candies that we so often purchased at the corner store in my youth).  So, let’s embrace this change.  I know change is hard, but ultimately this change is long overdue.

Photos: Canadian Penny 1858-2012 Source: The Montreal Gazette

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