Category Archives: Religion

“The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death” is a 2012 Book List Essential

As Posted on the Democrat and Chronicle Young Professionals’Blog

I rarely go a day without wanting to learn some new piece of information. It can be something as complex as the Vietnam War or as mundane as the origins of Pixy Stix (which started in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952, for the record), I have always been a fiend for knowledge. But more often than not, it takes an older book or primary source to satiate my thirst for history. As a religion major at the University of Rochester, I had to read documents that were older than the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves (~400 BCE)! However, I have fallen for the works of a historian and journalist who actually isn’t as old as papyrus. The New Yorker staff writer and David Woods Kemper ’41 professor of American History at Harvard University Jill Lepore has hooked me into the profound, yet intuitive, concept that historical events of the past can constantly be rewritten to offer an amazingly witty narrative. What Lepore writes about surely has been discussed over the years, but the way she links one seemingly unrelated cultural staple to the next uncovers an abstruse motif. In essence, that is what the best historians offer society

The book that won me over you ask? Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death. The title caught my eye while I was browsing through a few book displays around my stomping grounds at Rush Rhees Library. (If there is one thing you should know about marketing anything to a religion major, it is that you can virtually add the word “life” or “death” to any product or service and we will likely want to investigate). With my strange bias against newer books — with the exception of biographies — I sifted through the pages rather dubiously when I saw that it was published in 2012. Personally, I consider someone who publishes a book in 2012 to be my competition as opposed to my teacher.

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Filed under Culture, Democrat and Chronicle, Religion

Where in the World is Park51?

As posted on the Democrat and Chronicle’s Young Professionals


What is it? Does that name even ring a bell?

In case you have forgotten about the hordes of protesters, Quran burning pastors, taxi slashing college students, GOP politicizing and superfluous City hearings, Park51 is the proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan that evoked a long overdue conversation last year.

But that was last year. Surely, after overcoming so many hurdles and staring anti-Americanism in its face to say “we are Americans too, and we love our country,” the project should have transitioned from proposed site to actual construction.

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Honoring MLK Day

How do we commemorate the man who, in President Obama’s words, ‘took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land?’ How do we rightfully honor a civil rights activist who gave his life fighting for justice?

Most schools in the country, including UR, were closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is a federal holiday. It seems to have become a custom to memorialize a person or an event with a day off. But this year, it is important to ask ourselves what better honors a person: a day off or a ‘day on.’

While cancelling classes for MLK Day seems appropriate – and students look forward to the day off (even on the heels of vacation) – is this really the right approach? As we’ strolled through Marketplace Mall, went skating or watched a movie, did we even remember why we were given a day off from classes? Were we conscious of the man whose life and death merited this holiday?

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Filed under Campus Times, Politics, Race, Religion

Buddha v. Economics: David Loy applies Buddhist Principles to IMF and World Bank

They would never expect the Spanish Inquisition–they were merely trying to deliver so-called ‘outdated’ economic cultures from their seemingly depressive states. I assume that very few of us would accuse the World Banks or IMFs of the global economy of intentionally marching through traditional markets with a big stick filled with thorns and pipe dreams. Despite the perfusion of pretentious conspiracy theories that my liberal college peers would blatter on demand, I honestly believe that mega institutions like IMF and World Bank earnestly strive to eradicate poverty.

But I’m not writing to argue for or against the specifics of their methods (privatization, deregulation, etc.)-we have all heard enough ‘gospel’ and ‘tyrant’ stances on the matter. But I would like to share an interesting perspective that I came across while reading a collection of articles in “Subverting Greed: Religious Perspectives on the Global Economy.” The anthology, edited by Paul Knitter and Chandra Muzaffar, comprises of a series of articles from representatives of different faiths and their application of their dogma to economics. As a Christian, I have already read and heard plenty of religious interpretations of economic theories and principles. However, David Loy’s Buddhist understanding of capitalism, IMFs and free-markets has been stuck in my mind ever since reading it earlier this week.

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Filed under Democrat and Chronicle, Economics, Religion, Social Justice

Naomi Tutu discusses humanity during Season for Nonviolence

Peace, healing, unity and a little humor were all manifested at the podium of Strong Auditorium last Sunday, as the Season for Nonviolence culminated with a speech by Naomi Tutu, the daughter of world renowned South African activist Desmond Tutu. President Joel Seligman introduced Tutu to a mixed crowd of Rochester residents, students, staff and faculty, including University Vice President Paul Burgett and Rochester Center for Community Leadership Director Glenn Cerosaletti.

Tutu charged the audience to recognize a shared humanity amongst their friends and enemies alike. Tutu repeatedly stressed that, for the cases in which individuals fail to respect another’s humanity,  both parties are dehumanized. She even went as far as to say that she partially dehumanized herself in her early hatred for the South African government and their imposition of apartheid. But Tutu stood by her principle, saying that oppression does not warrant dehumanization.

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United for intercultural peace

As published in the Campus Times

Last Saturday was a solemn day of reflection and observance for the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
But for some Americans, the anniversary of this infamous day is a time to call for restoration of American ideals.

On Sunday, Sept. 12, hundreds of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Hindus and secular humanists congregated in the backyard of the George Eastman House to make a stand against the rising tension and negative attitudes toward Muslim-Americans.

The event, orchestrated by the Interfaith Alliance of Rochester, charged attendees not to sit back when there are injustices, but to speak up and take initiative.

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A church survives, despite recession

As published in the Brooklyn Downtown Star

Lilly Jackson, a retired Brooklynite and cancer survivor, knows just where to go when she’s feeling hungry or needs spiritual guidance. When her wallet runs dry and her voice echoes in her apartment, she can always catch the B83 and head to St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church (SPCBC) on Hendrix Street.

The Reverend David Brawley is more than willing to take Jackson and others out for a meal and chat about their issues.

Many Brooklyn churches have been forced to cut back services in the past two years. SPCBC, in contrast, has increased services for its 4,000-member congregation, one of the largest in East New York.

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Filed under Brooklyn Downtown Star, Philanthropy, Religion