Monday, January 29, 2007

Empire and the Theology of Despair

In my interview with Marcus Borg, we talked about the conditions under which the Great Religions might become sources of great evil and justifications for inflicting misery, rather than sources of truth, beauty, and goodness. Dr. Borg argues that one of the key moments in the process toward becoming evil is when religion gets intertwined with "empire" or, in other words, with state power. For instance, when Christianity became the official religion under the Emperor Constantine, then state actions (such as using military force) could be justified with appeal to theology. For Dr. Borg, up until this point, Christianity had a very anti-imperialist message in the teachings of Jesus.

In his work with Dominic Crossen, The Last Week, Dr. Borg examines this view of Jesus as a revolutionary, persecuted for his teaching against Roman authority.

Reporter Chris Hedges adds a new twist. In this article, he argues that evangelical Christianity has become a theology of despair that is being used to underpin the gutting of the social welfare state in the United States and to promote a vision of "end times" for our foreign policy.

Is there a way of appreciating the sacred that does not become corrupt in its relationship with "empire"?

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Marcus Borg Podcast Now Available!

As promised, the podcast with Dr. Borg is now up. You can listen in here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Marcus Borg on Idolatry and the Great Religions

A new podcast will be coming online in just a few days. It will contain my interview with Dr. Marcus Borg, the pre-eminent scholar of the historical Jesus and Distinguished Hundere Professor of Religious Studies and Culture here at Oregon State. Our discussion was based on the lecture he gave that started the Philosophy Department's Ideas Matter lecture series for 2007: "Does Religion Matter?"

In our discussion, Dr. Borg talked about the deep potential for both good and evil in the great religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc, and the conditions that tend to make a religious community become evil, focusing on the problem of religious idolatry. We also discussed changes in the field of religious studies and what Dr. Borg thinks ought to be the role of religious studies scholars in American public life. Stay tuned for the podcast!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Immigration and the Globalization of Food

The New York Times reports today that the new Democratic leadership is considering reviving immigration legislation that floundered because of Republican opposition right before the November elections. The new legistlation would create paths to citizenship for immigrants and their families who can show that they have been working and not breaking criminal law that poses physcial threats.

The article reports that the immigration reform movement is getting support from American farmers who last year had to watch thousands of acres of crops go to waste because there were not enough workers during harvest time. One farmer claims that if some reform doesn't occur, allowing Mexican labor to work the fields, then key agricultural industries will be "outsourced" to foreign countries.

This globalization of the food chain is worrisome not only because of the loss of American agricultural jobs and the erosion of American farmers. It also raises questions about the health and quality of the produce in the chain.

A couple of years ago, The Orange County Registar did an investigation which found high levels of lead in candy imported from Mexico. Much of the contamination came from the packaging of the candy and there were also indications of lead contamination in the soil where the chile was grown that was put on the candy.

This reminded me of accounts by a friend who studied farmworker conditions in Chile and told me that pesticides are continually used on grapes grown there. It turns out that in some seasons almost 90% of the grapes available in the United States are grown in Chile. In fact, some groups argue that significant portions of the fruits and vegetables imported to the United States test positive for high levels of pesiticides, some which are banned in the U.S. Recent studies show that children are much more sensitive to these chemicals and their effects.

In a globalizing world, concerns of immigration reform matter for the health and safety of all.

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