Jediism–a religion?

16 Mar

Actor Gwendoline Christie at the world premiere of Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Last Jedi at The Shrine Auditorium on December 9th, 2017, in Los Angeles, California.

Most Jedi beliefs are multi-cultural appropriations of older religious traditions. Leading a workshop on “Force Theory” at the Gathering, one Jedi called it equivalent of the Buddhist “Qi.” Another Jedi has translated the Tao Te Ching from Chinese into the language of Sci-Fi. The “Jedi Creed” is an adaptation of the Prayer of St. Francis Assisi where “Jedi” is substituted for every reference to the “divine master.” Other sect-specific beliefs, like those of the Temple of the Jedi Order, are tailored to their contemporary sociological climate: opposition to the death penalty and torture, and support for gay marriage and separation of church and state.

Read the rest of Ben Rowen’s report at Pacific Standard here.


Rare Photo of Harriet Tubman Preserved for Future Generations

6 Mar

A remarkable photo album brought two major institutions together to restore and preserve an important piece of American history. Today, the album is available for the first time online.

The small, leather-bound album shows the signs of its age: broken in places, barely holding together in others, scuffed but somehow still elegant after a century and a half of use.

If time has taken a toll on the album, the photographs inside—placed there by a school teacher so long ago—are timeless and extraordinary.

Tucked into the album’s last page is a previously unknown photo of one of American history’s great figures: abolitionist Harriet Tubman, in what’s believed to be the earliest photo of her in existence.

Turning back a dozen pages reveals another treasure: the only known photo of John Willis Menard, the first African-American elected to Congress.

The album, and the one-of-a-kind photos it holds, were jointly acquired last year by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in a most-unusual collaboration between two public institutions. Together, they worked to conserve the album for future generations and make it accessible to the public.

So begins Mark Hartsell’s post at the Library of Congress. You may read the rest of the post, with its illustrations, here.

How the 1918 Flu Pandemic Helped Advance Women’s Rights

3 Mar

More women than men were left standing after the war and pandemic.

One hundred years ago, a powerful strain of the flu swept the globe, infecting one third of the world’s population. The aftermath of this disaster, too, led to unexpected social changes, opening up new opportunities for women and in the process irreversibly transforming life in the United States.

The virus disproportionately affected young men, which in combination with World War I, created a shortage of labor. This gap enabled women to play a new and indispensible role in the workforce during the crucial period just before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage in the United States two years later.

So begins a fascinating post by three academics at Texas A & M. You may read the rest of their post at here.

“Evangelical” in the Early Twenty-First Century

28 Feb

Historian Mark Noll discusses “evangelical” and “evangelicalism” as descriptors, and about the History of Evangelicalism series he co-edited, here.


27 Feb

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey after being arrested for boycotting public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama, in February of 1956.

She refused to give up her seat on a bus.

He whistled at a white woman.

I have a dream.


By any means necessary.

These tableaux and these rallying cries have become the narrative centerpieces of the history of civil rights in America. They often feature accidental champions (Rosa Parks) or characters seemingly plucked right from a morality play (Martin Luther King Jr. and his embrace of non-violence on the one hand, Malcolm X and his ballot-or-bullet activism on the other). Yet there’s something uniquely dangerous in the various ways we remember these near-mythical stories: a broad preference that this history be palatable. That it be facile. That it remain in the past: We have, at last, overcome.

So begins Brandon Tensley’s interview with Professor Jeanne Theoharis about her new book. You may read the entire interview at Pacific Standard here.

Billy Graham, America’s pre-eminent evangelist, dies at 99

21 Feb

The Religion News Service story on Graham’s death is here.

Stanley Cushing: I Curated Rare Books for a 200-Year-Old Library

21 Feb

Cushing delivering a rare book talk.

The Boston Athenaeum—a 211-year-old independent library in the center of Beacon Hill—is home to about 150,000 rare books. Some are old, and some are brand new. Some are huge, and some are tiny. Some are made of lead, some are made of shredded army uniforms, and one is, famously, made of human skin. Until recently, Stanley Ellis Cushing was in charge of all of them.

So begins Cara Giaimo’s interview with the recently-retired curator at the Boston Athenaeum. You may read her entire interview at Atlas Obscura here.

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