Decolonizing the Sacred

Lily Oster Drawn to the power and earth-connectedness of Lakota spirituality, white people at Standing Rock too frequently expressed our claims to total access to native religion, and even to leadership.

Teaching True Believers

Jolyon Baraka Thomas The religious studies classroom is a strange place. Whether one teaches in a public university or a private one, the subject matter demands that students set aside personal commitments in order to engage with religion both critically and respectfully.

Religion Around Michael Bolton: A Modest Proposal

Mark Hulsether To the Editors of the Religion Around Series: It has come to my attention that your press has initiated a series of short books about how religious or quasi-religious themes relate “around” creative artists. But it seems that, in practice, most such “prominence” could be translated into an idiom of highbrow tastemakers valorizing artists who enjoy universal acclaim—or even a language of reproducing elite hegemonic cultural capital. Herewith, I submit a modest proposal for a book more attuned to making the series pluralistic and representative of the everyday lived tastes of subaltern listeners: the manifold religious dimensions of Michael Bolton.

Under-the-Radar Religion for Nones: Björk’s ‘Vulnicura’

Mark Hulsether If there is any part of our culture where the (typically noxious) idea of trickle-down influence actually makes sense, Björk is a good place to look. She ranks amid an extremely select handful of musician’s musicians whose creative innovations especially matter. This year her superb record, Vulnicura, flew less under the popular radar than some of her earlier work, since it was coordinated with an exhibit showcasing her fashion innovations at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and features in the New Yorker and New York Times Magazine

Reflections on the Sacred at Year’s End

Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr. The consequences of this decision thus may not be as benign as the majority opinion suggests in the end. “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths” (27), Kennedy reassures us. But unless I misunderstand him, he has simply authorized religious persons and groups opposed to this decision to continue to speak out against it, in emphatic terms. This culture war is just getting started.

Training The Religious Memory

Jolyon Baraka Thomas There is nothing quite so touching (or quite so irritating) as having a total stranger slump against you in a deep sleep on a Tokyo train. Like the Internet, Tokyo trains are equally intimate and anonymous. They are spaces where one encounters fellow Tokyoites in all their wacky fashion, their frenetic mobile phone gaming, their inane conversations, their drunken abandon. Tokyo trains are raucous in the evenings and eerily silent during the day. They are often uncomfortably crowded, but they are nevertheless a place to temporarily let down one’s guard. I’ve actually boarded the Yamanote circle line and ridden it all the way around the city just so I could sneak in an hour-long nap.

American Religion: Less is More

Gary Laderman What do you think? Is religious life fully captured by survey questions, graphs and bar charts? Or do these methods of collecting and displaying data fall short as indicators of the spiritual lives of Americans? Is it time to panic about the supposed decline of religion, or should we look to other metrics and methods to delve into what is really happening on the American religious landscape?

Giving up the Ghost?: Being Human in the Age of Intelligent Machines (Part I)

Sylvester Johnson For several centuries now, at least, a thriving humanities tradition has been established on the notion that being human is in large measure predicated on the ability to think and reason. In contemplating the nature of human ontology, Rene Descartes (1596–1650) famously quipped that the human subject can be known to exist precisely because of thinking, which requires a thinker as subject—Cogito ergo sum

When God Won’t Let You Do the Assignment

Briallen Hopper It’s back-to-school season. Pumpkin lattes are here, school supplies are on sale, and thousands of students are showing up at college and trying to figure out what religion means in their lives. For some students, figuring out faith in college will be a relatively straightforward process that might involve taking a cool-looking religion class, joining a religious student group, or blithely deciding to prioritize sleep over worship services.