Although the separation of church and state is enshrined in the United States Constitution, Judeo-Christian influence is overwhelmingly clear throughout American culture and institutions. Judeo-Christian ideas of morality have influenced America’s laws, its architecture has shaped America’s towns, and Christian holidays determine American calendars. Even if you do not practice Christianity in the United States, its influence will still shape your life. The religious right plays a big role in American politics and many religious institutions have their own lobbying arms. People often associate religion in America with politics and conflicts between freedom of religion and personal liberty. Throughout Chinese history, though, religion has never been as important as “思想,” which means a way of thought or a philosophy. Before coming to China, I had of course studied Confucius’ influence and knew the powerful role he played in shaping society. But I did not have much knowledge of Chinese religion, nor its relationship with the government. So when it came time to pick my Hangzhou Studies class topic, where the requirements were to visit a different place in Hangzhou every week to better understand the city we were living in, I chose to study Hangzhou’s religions.
After a few months in Brazil, I have come to understand the large role that religion still plays in society. Brazil’s population predominantly identifies as Christian, specifically Catholic, but there are individuals that follow the traditions of their ancestors. Many of these individuals practice Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition that started in the northern regions of Brazil. These different traditions have permeated into the current politics and everyday lives of individuals. Overall, there is a growing acceptance of those who do not share the same faith tradition, but owing to the country’s size, these views tend to change depending on the specific region.
The first thing I ever bought in Jordan was in a Starbucks. I realize how basic that sounds. In my defense, the Starbucks was in the airport. I did not go out of my way to get a cappuccino from my go-to American coffee shop—rather, it came to me.
Studying history requires a great deal of imagination. You must combine the information you read, the pictures you see, and the stories you hear to visualize a world that you can understand.
Before I knew anything about Japan, I knew about Hello Kitty. Only after my Japanese reading and writing class watched a mini-documentary about the iconic figure’s global appeal did I begin to consider the ways in which Japan has built a culture around characters. These characters are meant to transmit values and culture through their design and features. One of my classmates remarked that despite being familiar with the Hello Kitty, he had never associated the character with Japan until after our class reading. Hello Kitty as a character is powerful because of all that it can represent to people from different backgrounds and interests. Beyond this iconic pop culture figure, I was surprised to learn about the extent to which various groups, including cities and companies, compete with each other to develop the most memorable and lovable characters. These characters represent their hometowns and their brands.
The Doyle Undergraduate Fellows are researching interreligious dialogue and social justice work to understand the role of religion in mobilizing for community change. This week, they reflect on readings and their experiences in the community to consider questions such as: What is the function and purpose of interreligious dialogue? What social justice benefits can interreligious dialogue enable that other forms of dialogue cannot? In what ways is interreligious dialogue important on college campuses and for youth leaders?
Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship lasted 17 years in Chile from 1973 to 1990. Most Chileans remember this time as one of repression, abuse, and fear. During his rule, Pinochet and the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, otherwise known as the Chilean secret police, were responsible for countless disappearances, murders, and torture of any supposed government opposer. When one thinks of the broken families, scarred survivors, and lost lives, one imagines a community filled with grief and pain. While these sentiments, rightly so, exist and are present in Chile, there also exist sentiments of new faith in healing wounds and reconciling with the past.
One of the first concepts that we learned about in our Islam in North Africa theology class was the concept of taqiya— literally meaning “prudence” or “fear.” The practical meaning of taqiya, however, is a form of dishonesty that is condoned within the Shi'a sect of Islam when it is used to protect against religiously-based persecution. Because Shi'a Muslims have been the minority group throughout most Middle Eastern and North African populations for centuries, taqiya was historically used to conceal the religious identity of Shi'a Muslims when they were being threatened as a direct result of religious persecution. In these types of situations, sharia law allows Shi'a Muslims to pretend to be Sunni.
The first time I walked down Nørrobrogade, one of the longest and most popular streets in Copenhagen, I figured that the park I had passed was just that—a park. I came to this conclusion while watching local couples, young children, and tourists smile as they made their way towards the entrance of the lush, green space. It was not until a week or two later that I learned that I had walked by Assistens Cemetery, the burial place of some of the most famous Danes in modern history, including Hans Christian Andersen and Niels Bohr.
As many scholars stress that religion continues to anchor the lives of individuals around the world, they urge religious participation beyond houses of worship and universities through community engagement in what Rev. Miguel de la Torre calls "feet-on-the-ground theology."