• Lady Saints

      Rita Ciresi (MDPI AG, 2013-05-01)
      A meditation on the death of the author’s Sicilian grandmother that explores how a child copes with loss by transforming the grandmother’s vast collection of plastic and porcelain female saints into imaginary friends.
    • Lament of a Wounded Priest: The Spiritual Journey of Job

      Jean-Pierre Fortin (MDPI AG, 2018-12-01)
      Acknowledging the complex redaction history which produced the Book of Job contained in the Jewish and Christian canonical scriptures, this article offers a spiritual interpretation of the text taking due account of its overall structure and major parts (prologue, main dialogical body and epilogue). With its focus on the formation of personal identity, spiritual theology grants access to a developmental understanding of the biblical narrative and characters. Undergirding this essay is the basic claim that in and with the book and figure of Job are found paradigmatic examples of how to become and remain human and faithful in and despite relentless undeserved suffering. The exploration of Job’s life in suffering leads to the discovery that the lament formulated by a faithful heart compellingly summons God to appear and speak, consecrating the human recipient as mediator of divine revelation and sacramental intercessor. Job’s wounded body and spirit reflect the spiritual journey he has completed and has been commissioned to invite others to undertake. Undeserved suffering can lead to transformative mystical encounters with God, if and when the human heart dares to believe to the end, giving voice to and challenging God from within relentless unjustifiable pain.
    • Lamòling Bèaka: Immanence, Rituals, and Sacred Objects in an Unwritten Legend in Alor

      Francesco Perono Cacciafoco; Francesco Cavallaro (MDPI AG, 2018-07-01)
      This paper recounts a parallel story of the Lamòling myth. The original analysis of the legend addressed the relationship between two gods, Lamòling and Lahatàla, from the Abui traditional religion. The myth evolved from ancestral times to the arrival of Christianity in Alor, with the resultant association of the ‘bad’ god as a demon and, finally, as the devil. This paper completes the myth as handed down from traditional ‘owners’ of the narrative and storytellers by telling a parallel version centered around an Abui ‘prophet’, Fanny, who was the only person able to travel to Lamòling Bèaka, ‘the land of the Lamòling gods/servants’. We also focus on a number of sacred objects and rituals associated with this religious myth and on their symbolic meaning for the Abui. This account tells a different version of the killing and eating of an Abui child by these gods/supernatural entities and of how Fanny came upon the gruesome feast. The paradoxical absence of Lamòling in this version of the myth depicts him as an immanent being, pervading and sustaining all that is real and created in nature, existing anywhere and nowhere at the same time.
    • Language of Gestures: <i>Mudrā</i>, Mirror, and Meaning in Śākta Philosophy

      Sthaneshwar Timalsina (MDPI AG, 2021-03-01)
      By contextualizing the ways gestures are used and interpreted in tantric practice and philosophy, this paper explores the cultural and cognitive domains of corporeal expression. Initiating the conversation with descriptions of basic dance gestures and widely understood emotional expressions, the paper proceeds to address the generative nature of corporeal language as it contextualizes varied forms of esoteric experience. Confronting simplistic readings of gestural language, the core argument here is that tantric gestures introduce a distinctive form of embodied language that relies on a propositional attitude for deciphering their meanings. This process becomes a ritual in its own right. Even when we accept that gestures represent meaning, tantric gestures are understood to mirror the innate experience, prior to being shaped by language and culture, and in this sense they reflect the absolute. As a consequence, language becomes physical in time and space, and even when language transcends itself, it remains embodied. In sum, tantric gestures can be deciphered to unravel the deeper layers inherent to the sign system, and this is possible only when we are open to critically engaging folk theories.
    • Language, Sex, and Luther: Feminist Observations

      Mary J. Streufert (MDPI AG, 2020-02-01)
      Reading Luther from a feminist perspective reveals paradoxes and ambiguities in Luther’s writings related to language and sex, but we cannot make sense of Luther without important historical information, particularly the history of the meaning of sex; it affords a fresh reading of Luther. Even while Luther reinforces male-identified language and symbolism, he begins to shift it, and his work offers clues relevant to theological dialogue on the androcentrism of the Christian tradition 500 years into the ongoing reformation of Christianity. Because of the power dynamics infused in Western accounts of sex, gender, and sexuality for humans, Christians cannot in good faith cling to a primary gender or sex identity for God. More careful English translations demonstrate Luther is a resource in this work because he begins to shift an androcentric view of God and humanity even while paradoxically repeating it. Previous English translations of Luther have obscured his shifts in language and imagery and thus have led English readers to misunderstand Luther’s subtle but powerful views.
    • Late Bergman: The Lived Experience of the Absence of God in Faithless and Saraband

      Thomas Hibbs (MDPI AG, 2016-12-01)
      Acclaimed as one of the great filmmakers of the 20th century, Ingmar Bergman is for many an arch-modernist, whose work is characterized by a high degree of self-conscious artistry and by dark, even nihilistic themes. Film critics increasingly identify him as a kind of philosopher of the human condition, especially of the dislocations and misery of the modern human condition. However, Bergman’s films are not embodiments of philosophical theories, nor do they include explicit discussions of theory. Instead, he attends to the concrete lived experience of those who, on the one hand, suffer from doubt, dislocation, and self-hatred and, on the other, long for confession and communion. In the middle of his career, especially in his famous faith trilogy of the early 1960s, Bergman investigated the lived experience of the absence of God. It is commonly thought that after this period, the question of God disappeared. However, in his last two films, Faithless and Saraband, Bergman explores the lived experience of the absence of God. Indeed, he moves beyond a simple negation to explore the complex interplay of absence. He even illustrates the possibility of a kind of communion for which so many of his characters—early, middle and late—long.
    • Latin American Christians Living in the Basque Country (Spain): What Remains and What Changes

      Lidia Rodríguez; Luzio Uriarte; Iziar Basterretxea (MDPI AG, 2020-02-01)
      The research we will present is based on interviews conducted with the Latin American immigrant population and the indigenous population of the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC hereafter). We seek to identify religious features tracing similarities and differences between three populations: First, the native community of the BAC, second, Latin American immigrants living in the BAC, and third, Latin Americans in their home countries. In the latter case, we based on the research carried out by Gustavo Morello’s team. Analysis of the data obtained so far allows us to compare across two different processes in the Christian religion: On the one hand, the religious experience of Latin Americans in their countries of origin and the religious experience of Latin American immigrants in the BAC; on the other hand, between the latter community and the native population. This paper highlights conclusions referring: (1) The similarities in two significant processes, i.e., religious pluralism and religious autonomy; (2) the differences on religious hybridization, public presence and the use of religious artefacts. In short, it is a contribution to a better understanding of the effects produced on religious experiences in a context marked by secularization and religious pluralism.
    • Latter-Day Saint Liturgy: The Administration of the Body and Blood of Jesus

      James E. Faulconer (MDPI AG, 2021-06-01)
      Latter-day Saint (“Mormon”) liturgy opens its participants to a world undefined by a stark border between the transcendent and immanent, with an emphasis on embodiment and relationality. The formal rites of the temple, and in particular that part of the rite called “the endowment”, act as a frame that erases the immanent–transcendent border. Within that frame, the more informal liturgy of the weekly administration of the blood and body of Christ, known as “the sacrament”, transforms otherwise mundane acts of living into acts of worship that sanctify life as a whole. I take a phenomenological approach, hoping that doing so will deepen interpretations that a more textually based approach might miss. Drawing on the works of Robert Orsi, Edward S. Casey, Paul Moyaert, and Nicola King, I argue that the Latter-day Saint sacrament is not merely a ritualized sign of Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, through the sacrament, Christ perdures with its participants in an act of communal memorialization by which church members incarnate the coming of the divine community of love and fellow suffering. Participants inhabit a hermeneutically transformed world as covenant children born again into the family of God.
    • Laughing about Religious Authority—But Not Too Loud

      Lena Richter (MDPI AG, 2021-01-01)
      In Facebook groups of young Moroccan non-believers, cartoons, memes, and jokes that mock religion are widely shared. By phrasing the messages in a humorous way, it is possible to express experiences and viewpoints that are more difficult to communicate in direct speech. Studying these forms of humor can reveal several themes, frames, and tropes that are important to many former Muslims, such as criticizing the legal restrictions of non-belief and countering stereotypes about non-believers. This leads to the following question: To what extent is humor being employed as an (online) tool for young Moroccan non-believers to challenge the religious status quo? To answer this question, the article analyzes numerous examples of religious-related humor during the COVID-19 pandemic and Ramadan. Hereby, it becomes clear that many jokes remain a limited and covert dissent strategy, as they are only shared among fellow non-believers. Yet, this article argues that jokes are an important method of differentiation, self-expression, and in-group identification that can build a fruitful ground for future activism.
    • Lear, Luke 17, and Looking for the Kingdom Within

      Emily E. Stelzer (MDPI AG, 2019-07-01)
      The ending to Shakespeare’s Tragedy of King Lear has generated much debate. Performance history and critical interpretations of the conclusion of the Folio version of Lear have been pronouncedly divided into readings intimating the tragic hero’s redemption and readings averring his ultimately bleak condition, whether of delusion or despair. Recent attempts to describe Shakespeare’s use of scripture in this play have offered more nuance, acknowledging the play’s blending of pagan and Christian elements. While King Lear has extensively been compared to the book of Job and to apocalyptic passages in Revelation and Daniel, allusions to the gospel narratives and to Luke in particular raise the thorny question of Cordelia’s role as a Christ-figure. This essay argues that the ambiguous and suggestive nature of Lear’s final words (“Look there, look there!”) is both preserved and illuminated when read as an allusion to Jesus’ words in Luke 17:21. This previously unexplored allusion not only offers guidance for responding to Lear’s exhortation to “Look there” but also resonates within Shakespeare’s play through shared themes of apocalypse, kingdom, sight/insight, and the importance of the heart.
    • Learning about Religions: An Indonesian Religious Literacy Program as a Multifaith Site for Mutual Learning

      Dicky Sofjan (MDPI AG, 2020-08-01)
      The term “literacy” has been mostly applied in the context of language, mathematical and cultural abilities as a basic competency in life and social interaction. Thus, competence in reading, writing and math subjects as well as cultural training are perceived to be the definition of literacy found in many societies around the world. This article examines the concept and application of Indonesia’s “religious literacy” program as a multifaith site for mutual learning among religious communities. It is also expected to offer a mechanism to moderate the religious fervour that is currently engulfing the nation and become a buffer against radicalism. Based on collaboration between university-based academics and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the program strives to promote social justice, religious harmony and multiculturalism. The religious literacy program mainly targets the Ministry’s religious extension officers, religion teachers and representatives of various so-called “strategic groups” in six provinces in Indonesia. Findings suggest that the religious literacy program has helped the frontliners to get to know each other, share their tacit knowledge, insights and experiences, making the program into a multifaith site for mutual learning.
    • Learning and Unlearning: Some Reflections on Feminist Praxis and Pedagogic Practice in Religious Studies and Religious Education

      Catherine Robinson; Denise Cush (MDPI AG, 2018-03-01)
      This article evaluates the actual impact and potential implications of feminist pedagogy for Religious Studies in universities and Religious Education in schools. It is based on the authors’ experience in the UK, including some international comparisons, with a focus on teaching and learning from a feminist perspective. Applying Grimmitt’s threefold model of pedagogy as encompassing aims and content as well as method, this article examines the evidence and extent of change in curricula both in universities and in schools in order to identify where change is required and what that change might be. It demonstrates how feminist pedagogy challenges Religious Studies and Religious Education to rethink their content, methods and aims in a variety of ways, pointing to significant advances and areas yet to be addressed. In so doing, it takes account of diverse feminist voices, other pedagogical priorities and other issues surrounding sex, gender and sexuality that challenge the category of the feminine and the appropriateness of a gendered analysis.
    • Learning to Be Muslim—Transnationally

      Louise Cainkar (MDPI AG, 2014-07-01)
      This essay discusses the religious upbringing experiences and reflections upon them articulated by 53 Muslim American youth who were interviewed as part of a larger sociological study of Arab American teenagers living transnationally. On extended sojourns in their parents’ homelands, these youth—most were born in the US although some migrated to the US at a young age—were taken “back home” to Palestine and Jordan by their parents so they could learn “their language, culture, and religion”. They were asked about learning to be Muslim in the US and overseas in the context of a much larger set of questions about their transnational life experiences. The data provide insights into the various types of early religious learning experiences Muslims have access to in a US Christian-majority context. The essay then examines how these youth later experienced and interpreted being Muslim in a place where Muslims are a majority. The study found that while a majority of youth said they learned more about their faith, almost half (42%) said that it was the same as in the US, that they did not learn more, or that the experience contributed both positively and negatively to their religious understanding. Key to these differences was the character of their experiences with being Muslim in the US. A majority of girls and of youth who attended full-time Islamic schools and/or were part of a vibrant Muslim community in the US gave one of the latter responses. On the other hand, most of the boys who grew up isolated from other Muslims in the US reported learning more about Islam. They were especially pleased with the convenience of praying in mosques and with being able to pray in public without stares. The data show that living where one is part of the dominant religious culture does not necessarily make for a deeper experience of religion. What seems to matter more is the type of experience with being Muslim each youth brings into the situation, as it was these that informed their subjective interpretations of what it means to be Muslim.
    • Learning to Read Big Books: Dante, Spenser, Milton

      Christopher A. Hill (MDPI AG, 2019-04-01)
      The interpretive challenges posed by dense and lengthy poems such as Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and Milton’s Paradise Lost can prove daunting for the average undergraduate reader whose experience of texts has been circumscribed by pedagogical mandates focused on reading for information. While information-retrieval based reading certainly has its place, the experience of reading these longer, more allegorical and symbolic poems can create in the attentive reader a far more valuable kind of learning, understood by Dante and his heirs, all working from Homeric and Virgilian models, as understanding. Each of these long poems pay very close attention to acts of interpretation, foregrounding the experiences of their characters to illustrate the proper way to move from sense, past speculation, to true understanding. Those who heed these lessons, and embrace the experience offered by the poet, find that the daunting task has been outlined as the necessary step to true knowledge rather than mere information.
    • Legal Protection for China’s Traditional Religious Knowledge

      Wenqi Liu (MDPI AG, 2016-09-01)
      Traditional religious knowledge widely incorporates traditional religious expressions and other forms of traditional knowledge, such as ecological knowledge, medicinal knowledge, elements of languages, and so on. Traditional religious knowledge is a subset of cultural heritage, of which the inheritance and spread have attracted considerable attention from the global society. A series of international conventions have been reached to provide an international forum to negotiate the issues concerning the safeguard of traditional cultural knowledge. China has joined several important international conventions. Nowadays, the domestic laws that can be applied in safeguarding traditional religious knowledge include the intellectual property laws, the Law on Intangible Cultural Heritage, and other sui generis rules. Despite considerable achievements, the shortcomings of the existing rules make them insufficient to protect the interests and rights of traditional religious knowledge and prevent its misappropriation. Therefore, China should make further efforts to solve these challenges to optimize the environment for preserving and spreading traditional religious knowledge.
    • Leo Tolstoy’s Anticlericalism in Its Context and Beyond: A Case against Churches and Clerics, Religious and Secular

      Alexandre Christoyannopoulos (MDPI AG, 2016-05-01)
      In the last thirty years of his life, Leo Tolstoy wrote numerous books, essays and pamphlets expounding his newly-articulated views on violence, the state, the church, and on how to improve the human condition. Since then, these “Christian anarchist” views have often been dismissed as utopian or naive, and, despite inspiring many activists and intellectuals, often forgotten or ignored. Some of those views and arguments, however, arguably remain apposite today—and can in some cases be applied to broader phenomena than those he identified. This article focuses on one of the aspects of his Christian anarchist thought: his anticlericalism. The first Section recounts the evolution of Tolstoy’s views on religion and the church, and briefly describes Tolstoy’s peculiar metaphysics. The second outlines his main charges against the church, discusses some common objections to it, and considers the continuing relevance of his anticlericalism. The third seeks to secularise his anticlerical arguments by applying them beyond the church, against secular preachers and institutions, and does so by reflecting on the quality of debate in the contemporary public sphere, on the hypocritical distance between the morality preached by secular “clerics” and their practice, and on the steady process of ossification and betrayal which befalls secular political ideals. The article thus contributes to the literature firstly by summarising, discussing and reflecting upon the anticlericalism of a famous writer who also espoused controversial religious and political views; secondly by succinctly outlining his idiosyncratic metaphysics, including his peculiar reinterpretation of traditional Christian referents; and thirdly by applying the arguments that informed his criticisms of the church to a broader variety of religious and secular secular institutions.
    • Let Him Who Is without Sin Cast the First Stone: Religious Struggle among Persons Convicted of Sexually Offending

      Theresa M. Robertson; Gina M. Magyar-Russell; Ralph L. Piedmont (MDPI AG, 2020-10-01)
      Religiousness and spirituality have been identified as important factors in promoting desistance from sexual offending and as helpful coping resources with negative psychological consequences related to public registration. However, the potential mental health benefits, and detriments, of religiousness and spirituality for persons convicted of sexually offending have not been widely examined. Given the moral implications of their behavior and stigmatization by society, including from religious and spiritual communities, this study aimed to examine levels of religious struggle and their associations with symptoms of mental health among 30 men on the Maryland Sex Offense Registry. Relative to the normative sample, the mean level of spiritual transcendence, constructive perceptions of spirituality that develop within social, cultural, and educational contexts, was significantly lower within this sample. Conversely, religious struggle mean scores indicated that the men in this sample experienced significantly greater difficulties relative to God and their faith community. Greater levels of religious struggle were significantly related to higher neuroticism, greater self-reported shame, depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, as well as lower levels of self-compassion. Based on these preliminary findings, religious struggles may adversely influence the mental health of persons convicted of sexually offending. More research is needed to gain a better understanding of the associations between religiousness, spirituality, and mental health in this population. Future directions for research and clinical implications for mental health providers, including spiritually informed treatment approaches with persons convicted of sexually offending, are discussed.
    • “Let’s Imagine Something Different”: Spiritual Principles in Contemporary African American Justice Movements and Their Implications for the Built Environment

      Elise M. Edwards (MDPI AG, 2017-11-01)
      The Black Lives Matter movement has become one of the most visible, controversial, and impactful campaigns to address racialized violence and discrimination in the 21st century. Activists within the movement join traditional forms of social protest and policy development with rituals and spiritual practices, drawing upon spiritual resources as a source of transformation and empowerment. The transformative aims of Black Lives Matter and other contemporary African American justice movements address critical areas for reform, like criminal justice, education, and public health, but their vision for reform is broad and extensive, envisioning the creation of a more just world. As such, the physical context for African American life—the buildings and public spaces known as the built environment—is a crucial aspect of social transformation. This essay examines the spirituality of Black Lives Matter and other contemporary African American justice movements and considers how it inspires the ongoing transformation of buildings and public spaces. By analyzing the spiritual practices and themes in the Black Lives Matter movement as described by its founders, this paper identifies three principles and relates them to similar concepts in African American religious thought, womanist ethics, and ecowomanism. Applying these three spiritual principles—liberation, inspiration, and healing—to the design of architecture and public spaces can enrich and affirm African American life. Appealing to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture as an example, this paper articulates the possibilities of architectural projects to symbolically and practically support liberative goals in African American religious systems and political movements.
    • Levinas and the “Matter” of Poverty

      Timothy W. Rothhaar (MDPI AG, 2018-11-01)
      “Poverty” is a term Levinas uses to describe the face-to-face encounter and the Other all through his corpus. Scholars regularly use this term, but no research has shown its origin nor that Levinas has a concept of poverty. This paper addresses both of those questions through an analysis of an early reflection on Judaism and the relevant sections of his Totality and Infinity. In the process, I argue for an alternative interpretation of Levinas’s ethical phenomenology on the basis of poverty concluding with some suggestions on how a Levinasian spiritual poverty can aid the pursuit of justice.
    • Levinas, Simmel, and the Ethical Significance of Money

      Christopher Buckman (MDPI AG, 2018-12-01)
      An examination of Emmanuel Levinas’ writings on money reveals his distance from—and indebtedness to—a philosophical predecessor, Georg Simmel. Levinas and Simmel share a phenomenological approach to analyses of the proximity of the stranger, the importance of the face, and the interruption of the dyadic relationship by the third. Money is closely linked to the conception of totality because money is the medium that compares heterogeneous values. Levinas goes beyond Simmel in positing an ethical relation to money permitting transcendence.