Kony 2012 Tells Us What We Care About

By Gerardo Marti

An email showed up last week in my inbox with a brief subject heading, “Kony 2012.” It contained a simple message: a link to a 30 minute video with a note underneath, “Please share with all friends & family.” Clicking the link took me to a keenly edited film about an African military leader who had coerced hundreds of Ugandan boys into war.  This was my introduction to what has become a national sensation.

Kony 2012 is a film gone viral, attracting millions of viewers and galvanizing them in a few short days to the cause of stopping Kony. With an easy click, people promoted the link through email, Facebook, and Twitter, and money poured into Invisible Children, the organization that produced the film, as mere viewers became generous contributors to a newly discovered cause.  [Read more…]

Blue Sex: How it’s Different from Red Sex

(Another clip from Premarital Sex in America…)

Jeff is a freshman at a state university in Minnesota, a blue state. He’s an overachiever, very future focused, and gifted. He has had little trouble steering clear of temptation. But he doesn’t intend to always steer clear: “I’m not perfect, you know. I like to enjoy myself. I am at . . . the number-one party school, so I’m gonna have some fun.” Jeff has not had sex yet, which is in consonance with his persona and academic orientation, and is typical of younger blues. He has no real qualms about losing his virginity, either–another blue trait. Unlike Martin, Jeff feels no need to make deferential remarks about marriage or morality. While he hopes to marry someday, he also considers the idea “kind of corny.” He passively notes, “Hopefully I’ll find someone that I’m in love with and happy with and all that  garbage. I don’t know.”

Like many blues in college, Jeff is utilitarian about life and insists that relationships right now must take a back seat to grades, enjoying college, having some fun, and preparing for a career. Love and marriage can wait. The delay in pursuing sex so far is about his future focus; nothing is worth getting sidetracked in school. [Read more…]

Why Do We Go to Church?

Our own Richard Flory recently appeared on the illustrious Research on Religion podcast discussing why people go to church.  Here’s the summary of his interview… check it out!

A recent Barna Group survey found that roughly 60% of regular churchgoers could not remember any new religious insight from the last time they attended churc, and 50% could not remember any insight from the previous week’s service.  So why bother gettin’ out of bed, gettin’ on your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and trudging down to the local congregation?  We take up this issue with Dr. Richard Flory, associate research professor of sociology at the University of Southern California and director of research at the USC Center for Religion & Civic Culture.  Based upon a blog post he wrote on this topic, Richard speculates that it might not be the spiritual message that lures us to church service, but rather the communal aspect of worshiping together that draws us together every Sunday.  We discuss some of the demographic possibilities for these research findings as well, contemplating whether age, gender or the clergy’s lack of dynamism may have something to do with why people report tuning out during the sermon.  The second half of our discussion then looks at the role that churches play in the community and we talk about Richard’s research on church activism in Los Angeles following the 1992 riots, a topic near to the heart of your host since he was living in L.A. at the time.  Prof. Flory details the various means that churches have tried to heal the city vis-a-vis charity, advocacy for social justice, community development, and interfaith dialogue.  He provides several examples including work done by Rev. Mark Whitlock, Cecil Murray of the First AME, La Voice PICO, and other groups.  He concludes by noting how churches must first be interested in developing the spiritual life of its congregants but then develop those interests in such a way that they entail community outreach.

Small Enough to Hate: Anti-Muslim American Behavior

I teach at a faith-based university, one that identifies itself as particularly Baptist and broadly Judeo-Christian. What this means exactly is often the subject of much debate, but it’s been clear to me after 8 years of teaching that this identity is not a requirement of the students. Based on student self-report this past Fall there were 74 Buddhist, 98 Hindu, and 117 Muslim students out of 12,575 undergrads. It’s not much but these numbers are large enough for student groups to function and provide support for one another in an environment that may seem somewhat alienating depending on how often they are exposed to the rhetoric of being in a Christian university. As someone who studies race and ethnic relations, the experience of being a minority whether racial or religious often carries with it certain patterns of experience. One doesn’t quite feel fully a part of one’s social surroundings, one is aware that he or she stands out in some ways. (I can say this in particular as a non-white faculty person where all of us account for 11% of 935 fulltimers).

But one of the serious challenges that one faces as a minority is the threat of violence from those who harbor ill feelings toward one’s core identity. This was the case back in 2006, when one of our Muslim students was assaulted on campus. The incident reached major news outlets and became the topic of a televised pseudo-experiment called What Would You Do. (Back then there were 66 Buddhists, 76 Hindus, and 114 Muslims out of 11,831 undergrads in case you were wondering). Perhaps it seems obvious but when one is part of a minority, one is more susceptible to discrimination. But the way this works at least with respect to the 0.6% of Americans who identify themselves as Muslims is a little more complicated.

One of the “most requested” research studies [Read more…]

Dear China: Why Censor? Why Suppress Religion?

by Becky Hsu

A new book written by a former CNN journalist in Beijing, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom, documents how the Chinese government has been surprisingly successful at managing the flow of information online during the past ten years.

Why the Chinese government spends so much effort on controlling information (i.e., censorship) is certainly perplexing, and we may be tempted to give a deceptively straightforward answer: they want to stay in power, and dissenting voices are a threat. Perhaps more baffling, then, are these questions: Why are they so determined to keep a tight hold on religious activity? What is so threatening about religion?

An explanation to both questions may lie in a particular series of ideas deriving from classical philosophy. In classical Chinese thought, one of the responsibilities of the government is to protect the population from damaging ideas. It’s very possible that this notion carries over into today’s society.

The government has had a tradition of controlling beliefs because [Read more…]