Sanctifying the Senses: Thoughts on Beyoncé as Liberative Praxis

By Alexis S. Wells If accepting imperfections and eschewing insecurities are a female rite of passage, then in her self-titled visual album, Beyoncé establishes herself as one of pop culture’s preeminent guides. Since its surprise release through iTunes, the collection of fourteen songs and seventeen videos has inspired a firestorm of conversation on topics ranging from the revolutionary potential of her audiovisual format, to the ethics of a sound bite sampled from the space shuttle Challenger. From academics, to bloggers, to NASA, everyone seems to be talking about Beyoncé. A compilation of fans’ most provocative responses, aptly titled “The Best […]

Why Do Americans Seem So Religious?

By E. Brooks Holifield Many Western Europeans think of Americans as hopelessly, bafflingly, and dangerously religious. Many Americans think of Western Europeans as distressingly, inexplicably, and unrelentingly secular. In 2009, the German sociologist Hans Joas observed that “it is widely accepted that the United States is far more religious than practically any comparable European state.” And he noted Western European puzzlement: “The more secularized large parts of Europe became, the more exotic the religiosity of the United States seemed to European observers.” So why are Americans, compared with Western Europeans, seemingly so religious? And are we as religious as we […]

Holy Smoke

By Shalom Goldman Since the 1960s many in America’s alternative religious communities have embraced the use of marijuana and other mind-altering substances in their religious rituals. By hearkening back to Native American rites, these religious practitioners can point to a long tradition of American spirituality that had its religious experiences enhanced by intoxicants. With very few exceptions, federal law is reluctant to let these groups possess what are considered under American law “controlled substances.” Thus their religious practices are criminalized like all other uses of cannabis. Among the more flamboyant groups trying to change this situation are the various “cannabis churches,” […]

Sacred Matters.

  By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.  I was delighted when I first heard of the possibility that this important new online journal was to be created. I was even more delighted when asked to participate in its creation, formation, and custodial care. I anticipate grand things for Sacred Matters. I am grateful to Gary Laderman for once again having the vision to create such a shared space, devoted to scholarly and not-so-scholarly reflection on the future of religion, spirituality, and the sacred in what is, by all accounts, our rather complex and conflicted cultural and political modern present. I refer to […]