• Yah’s Exemplary Soldiers: African Hebrew Israelites in the Israel Defense Forces

      Andrew Esensten (MDPI AG, 2019-11-01)
      This article considers the process of identity formation among soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who were born into the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (AHIJ), more commonly known as the Black Hebrews. The AHIJ are a sect of African Americans who began settling in Israel in 1969 and who identify as direct descendants of the Biblical Israelites. Due to the group’s insular nature, the IDF is the primary state institution in which they fully participate, and their mandatory service is a source of both pride and consternation for community members and leaders. Considering the personal experiences of 14 African Hebrew soldiers who enlisted between 2009 and 2010, the article argues that while the soldiers by and large maintain their distinctive identity during the course of their service, they also internalize some of the language, attitudes, and cultural touchstones of the majority Israeli Jewish population. As a result, they experience a kind of “double consciousness”, the feeling of dislocation first described by the African American scholar W. E. B. Du Bois at the turn of the twentieth century.
    • “Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits”: Prosperity and Institutional Religion in Europe and the Americas

      Jason Garcia Portilla (MDPI AG, 2019-06-01)
      Low competitiveness is a common denominator of historically Roman Catholic countries. In contrast, historically Protestant countries generally perform better in education, social progress, and competitiveness. Jesus Christ described the true and false prophets coming on his behalf, as follows: “Ye shall know them by their fruits”. Inspired by this parable, this paper explores the relations between religious systems (‘prophets’) and social prosperity (‘fruits’). It asks how Protestantism influences prosperity as compared to Roman Catholicism in Europe and the Americas. Most empirical studies have hitherto disregarded the institutional influence of religion. Taking the work of Max Weber as their starting point, they have instead emphasised the cultural linkage between religious adherents and prosperity. This paper tests various correlational models and draws on a comprehensive conceptual framework to understand the institutional influence of religion on prosperity in Europe and the Americas. It argues that the uneven contributions of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism to prosperity are grounded in their different historical and institutional foundations and in the theologies that are pervasive in their countries of influence.
    • Yoga and White Public Space

      Rumya S. Putcha (MDPI AG, 2020-12-01)
      This article connects recent work in critical race studies, museum studies, and performance studies to larger conversations happening across the humanities and social sciences on the role of performance in white public spaces. Specifically, I examine the recent trend of museums such as the Natural History Museum of London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to name but a few, offering meditation and wellness classes that purport to “mirror the aesthetics or philosophy of their collections.” Through critical ethnography and discursive analysis I examine and unpack this logic, exposing the role of cultural materialism and the residue of European imperialism in the affective economy of the museum. I not only analyze the use of sound and bodily practices packaged as “yoga” but also interrogate how “yoga” cultivates a sense of space and place for museum-goers. I argue that museum yoga programs exhibit a form of somatic orientalism, a sensory mechanism which traces its roots to U.S. American cultural-capitalist formations and other institutionalized forms of racism. By locating yoga in museums within broader and longer processes of racialization I offer a critical race and feminist lens to view these sorts of performances.
    • You Can’t Beat Relating with God for Spiritual Well-Being: Comparing a Generic Version with the Original Spiritual Well-Being Questionnaire Called SHALOM

      John Fisher (MDPI AG, 2013-07-01)
      The Spiritual Health And Life-Orientation Measure (SHALOM) is a 20-item instrument that assesses the quality of relationships of the respondent with self, others, the environment and/or a Transcendent Other. In the Transcendental domain, four of the five items had the words ‘God, ‘Divine’ and ‘Creator’ replaced by the word ‘Transcendent’ to make the survey more generic by removing any implied reference to any god or religion. Invitations to complete a web survey were sent to people who had published papers in spirituality, or belonged to associations for spirituality or religious studies, as well as the Australian Atheist Forum. 409 respondents from 14 geographic regions, completed the survey. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the modified, generic form of SHALOM showed acceptable model fit, comprising four clearly delineated domains of spiritual well-being. The paper analyses the results derived from using the modified, generic version and, in comparison with results of applications of the original survey instrument, concludes with discussion of the comparative utility of each of the versions of SHALOM. Further studies with more people are warranted, but, from evidence presented here, it looks like you can’t beat relating with God for spiritual well-being.
    • “‘You Shall Love the Alien as Yourself’: Hope, Hospitality, and Love of the Stranger in the Teachings of Jesus”

      David B. Gowler (MDPI AG, 2019-03-01)
      The Trump administration’s controversial immigration policy has provoked significant opposition, including against a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government over Trump’s insistence on a “wall,” but the most outrage was generated by the “zero-tolerance policy” for refugees and asylum seekers that resulted in the forced separation of thousands of children from their parents. This essay evaluates the current U.S. policy in light of the life and teachings of Jesus as portrayed in the New Testament Gospels, beginning with the flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13–15; cf. Deuteronomy 10:19–20) but focusing primarily on Jesus’s teachings on hospitality—including the love of neighbor and the stranger—for those people with their “backs against the wall,” in the words of Howard Thurman. Key passages include the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:26–37), the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31–46), and the Great Dinner (Luke 14:15–24).
    • Youth Ministry after the Synod on Young People— Ten Points of No Return

      Rossano Sala (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
      From October 2016 to March 2019, the Catholic Church engaged in a lengthy journey together with young people. Over these two and a half years, some important documents were produced, including the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation <i>Christus Vivit</i> by Pope Francis. The Synod on Youth has involved the entire Catholic Church, mobilizing all Church communities around the world. After explaining the identity and meaning of a Synod for the Catholic Church, the author offers ten points of no return, which are to be considered the main fruits of this journey. They are leaven for the renewal of youth ministry in the Catholic context and elements for further exploration, comparison and dialogue with other Christian denominations.
    • Zen and the Body: A Postmodern Ascetic? Bodily Awakening in the Zen Memoirs of Shozan Jack Haubner

      Ben Van Overmeire (MDPI AG, 2021-02-01)
      In this article, I examine two memoirs by the American Zen Buddhist author Shozan Jack Haubner. Within the contemporary genre of American Zen autobiographical literature, Haubner’s books are special in that they explore Zen awakening as driven by the body. Penetration, pregnancy and sickness are the main figures Haubner uses to show how his autobiographical protagonist accesses the Buddhist truth of no-self. Though these books can thus be said to map an ascetic quest for the erasure of individuality, this quest proceeds not through the imposition of will onto the body, but the body imposing its will on the self. Because this is somewhat different from how the ascetic self is usually theorized, I propose to call Haubner’s main character a “postmodern ascetic”.
    • Zen in Distress: Theorizing Gender Dysphoria and Traumatic Remembrance within Sōtō Zen Meditation

      Ray Buckner (MDPI AG, 2020-11-01)
      Gender dysphoria is considered a pronounced experience of distress in the bodies and minds of some transgender people. Examining the text <i>Zen Mind, Beginners Mind</i> by Shunryū Suzuki, I analyze some of the difficulties that may arise for transgender practitioners experiencing acutely strong gender dysphoria within the Sōtō Zen meditation experience. I seek to understand how physical and psychological gender distress may make concentration, and thereby realization, challenging and potentially harmful within a context of Sōtō Zen meditation. I consider how meditation can exacerbate the panic and traumatic remembrance of the body and mind, leading both to embodied struggles, as well as undoubtedly philosophical ones too. This paper theorizes gender dysphoria to exist beyond a state of unitary “distress” to include trauma. I put forward an understanding of gender dysphoria that is grounded in traumatic, gendered remembrances—what I call “sustained traumas.” Within the meditation experience, I argue trans, gender dysphoric people may experience heightened disconnect, separation, and deepening into their solid and suffering “self” rather than open to the fundamental nature of emptiness, non-duality, and an empty and move-able core. Ultimately, I argue meditation may lead to a deepening of traumatic remembrance, posing potential corporeal and philosophical problematics for gender dysphoric practitioners within Sōtō Zen meditation.
    • Zero Tolerance of Children’s Sexual Abuse from Interreligious Dialogue

      Cristina M. Pulido; Ana Vidu; Roseli Rodrigues de Mello; Esther Oliver (MDPI AG, 2021-07-01)
      Child sexual abuse is a social problem that concerns our societies. The sustainable development goals have highlighted the eradication of child sexual abuse as one of the highest-priority goals of this century. Breaking the silence within religious communities is an essential step going forward. Therefore, establishing a dialogue between people of different religions is crucial to achieving this goal. The purpose of this article is to explore whether there are current interreligious dialogue initiatives based on scientific recommendations to prevent child sexual abuse. The method used herein is a qualitative document analysis of the selected initiatives. The results indicate that interreligious dialogue initiatives include scientific recommendations in their prevention programs. Furthermore, these successful initiatives connect religious values and the need to support victims and to break their silence. Based on these results, it can be concluded that interreligious initiatives for child sexual abuse prevention programs based on scientific evidence are crucial in order to eradicate child sexual abuse.
    • Zhuangzi’s Theory on “Fate” and the Humanistic Spirit within

      Rongkun Zhang (MDPI AG, 2021-02-01)
      Conventional accounts of Zhuangzi’s concept of fate are limited to only a certain aspect of it. At the same time, they seem to be mutually contradictory. This essay investigates this concept afresh based on textual analysis and elucidates Zhuangzi’s real concerns about fate. This analysis reveals that Zhuangzi laid stress on the virtue demonstrated in confronting the unavoidable. More specifically, the important meaning of fate encompasses, on the one hand, a whole acceptance of the facts facing us by forgetting oneself, and on the other hand, responding positively to the facts by following the “Heavenly Way” until a spontaneous state is reached. We shall see as well how Zhuangzi’s views on the relation between Heaven and the Human, and on certain moral values, help to validate his theory on fate. Thus, through exploring his underlying thoughts and showing how their various aspects are logically connected, we shall show that Zhuangzi’s concept of fate is imbued with a humanistic spirit in the face of affairs in the real world.
    • Ziran: Authenticity or Authority?

      Misha Tadd (MDPI AG, 2019-03-01)
      This essay explores the core Daoist concept of ziran (commonly translated as spontaneity, naturalness, or self-so) and its relationship to authenticity and authority. Modern scholarship has often followed the interpretation of Guo Xiang (d. 312) in taking ziran as spontaneous individual authenticity completely unreliant on any external authority. This form of Daoism emphasizes natural transformations and egalitarian society. Here, the author draws on Heshanggong’s Commentary on the Daodejing to reveal a drastically dissimilar ziran conception based on the authority of the transcendent Way. The logic of this contrasting view of classical Daoism results not only in a vision of hierarchical society, but one where the ultimate state of human ziran becomes immortality. Expanding our sense of the Daodejing, this cosmology of authority helps unearths greater continuity of the text with Daoism’s later religious forms.
    • Þingeyrar Abbey in Northern Iceland: A Benedictine Powerhouse of Cultural Heritage

      Gottskálk Jensson (MDPI AG, 2021-06-01)
      Þingeyrar Abbey was founded in 1133 and dissolved in the wake of the Lutheran Reformation (1550), to virtually disappear with time from the face of the earth. Although highly promising archeological excavations are under way, our material points of access to this important monastic foundation are still only a handful of medieval artifacts. However, throughout its medieval existence Þingeyrar Abbey was an inordinately large producer of Latin and Icelandic literature. We have the names of monastic authors, poets, translators, compilators, and scribes, who engaged creatively with such diverse subjects as Christian hagiography, contemporary history, and Norse mythology, skillfully amalgamating all of this into a coherent, imaginative whole. Thus, Þingeyrar Abbey has a prominent place in the creation and preservation of the Icelandic Eddas and Sagas that have shaped the Northern European cultural memory. Despite the dissolution of monastic libraries and wholesale destruction of Icelandic-Latin manuscripts through a mixture of Protestant zealotry and parchment reuse, philologists have been able to trace a number of surviving codices and fragments back to Þingeyrar Abbey. Ultimately, however, our primary points of access to the fascinating world of this remote Benedictine community remain immaterial, a vast corpus of medieval texts edited on the basis of manuscript copies at unknown degrees of separation from the lost originals.