Living Questions | WYPR

Living Questions

Photos courtesy Asma Uddin, Union Theological Seminary

Welcome to another edition of Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere, which we produce in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

Today: a conversation about religious freedom in the United States.  President Donald Trump continues to advocate for restricting access to the US for Muslims from certain countries, and he nominated Sam Brownback, a strict religious conservative, to head the Office of International Religious Freedom in the State Department.  Mr. Brownback, the highly unpopular governor of Kansas, will leave that post with the Kansas economy in tatters, but his appointment to oversee religious freedom world-wide is being hailed by evangelicals - and others - as a good choice.  Perhaps his most well-known involvement with a religious freedom case in the US is his advocacy for a Kansas florist who refused to make an arrangement for a same sex couple’s wedding. What does that portend for America’s posture in other countries where LGBT citizens face discrimination? 

Joining Tom today to discuss "religious freedom" in America today:  The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones. She is the president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York. She is the first woman to head the historic institution.  She also holds the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy at UTS. She is the Immediate Past President of the American Academy of Religion, and she served for 17 years on the faculty of Yale University.  She joins us from Argot Studios in New York.

Asma Uddin joins us as well.  She is the founder and editor-in-chief of altmuslimah.com, and the co-founder of altFem Magazine and altVentures Media, Inc. She is a lawyer and a scholar who speaks frequently about American and international religious liberty.   She speaks to us from NPR Studios in Washington, D.C.

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HBO

 

In another edition of Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere, which we produce in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, we take a look at depictions of religious faiths in movies and on television.

A lot has changed since Charlton Heston  starred as Moses in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments. Show’s like Greenleaf on OWN take us behind the scenes at a Black Mega Church; HBO’s The Young Pope imagines an insurgent named Lenny Belardo rising to the Pontificate. How do these, and a host of other TV shows and movies feed our perceptions and even skepticism around organized religion? How does a movie like Silence, which tells the story of 17th century Jesuit Priests in Japan, help us understand religion in a historical context? How are we to appreciate the complexities of various faith traditions if directors and writers take artistic liberties in their story-telling?  

Photo courtesy of Rev. Maria Swearingen

This is another edition of Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere, which we produce in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.  

This past January, the leadership of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, elected the Reverend Maria Swearingen and Reverend Sally Sarratt as their congregation’s co-pastors.

Calvary Baptist has a long, progressive history since its founding by anti-slavery abolitionists in 1862, but the selection of these two women to lead their congregation was nonetheless a bold move.

Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt are a married, lesbian couple.  They join Tom in the studio to talk about the journey that brought them to Calvary Baptist, what they are doing in their co-ministry, and what their election as co-pastors may say about the Baptist Church and about tolerance in established denominations across the broader religious landscape.

Public Domain

Roughly a fifth of the US population – and a third of the under-30 crowd – say they have become disaffected with traditional religious institutions and they’re telling pollsters that they don’t identify with any particular church or religious faith.

They‘re called "nones" -- as in "none of the above," but most say they still believe in God. So why are growing numbers of Americans turning away from the traditional church, synagogue, and mosque? And what are they looking for? Senior Producer Rob Sivak sits in for Tom Hall as host of today's edition of Living Questions, our monthly series examining the role of religion in the public sphere, produced in collaboration with The Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

Joining Rob in Studio A are the Reverend Joseph Wood, assistant rector at Baltimore's Emmanuel Episcopal Church;  Joshua Sherman, program associate at Repair the World at Jewish Volunteer Connection;  and Terrell Williams, associate organizer for Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD).  Alan Cooperman, Director of Religion Research at the Pew Research Center and the author of its 2012 report, Nones on the Rise, joins us on the line from Pew headquarters in Washington D.C.

CreativeCommons

Today, a conversation about the relationship between religion and environmentalism on another installment of Living Questions, a monthly series exploring faith in the public sphere. 

Some have decried President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord as a “dishonor” to God. To what extent does faith play a role in motivating environmental activists? What do religious scriptures and faith leaders say about the human responsibility to protect the earth?

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin is a Baltimore-based rabbi, writer, and environmental advocate.  She is the director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center. She is also the founder of the Baltimore Orchard Project, a non-profit coalition of Baltimorians dedicated to growing the urban orchard and providing free healthy local fruit to people living in Baltimore’s food deserts.

Jodi Rose is the executive director of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, a 5-year-old network of nearly 200 congregations working on the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake watershed.

Emmalee June Aman is a convert to Islam and the founder and lead advocate of Winds of Change Advocacy, a consulting business which advises environmental groups on effective ways to organize and mobilize. She also helps lead the Dayspring Permaculture Garden, a communal farming experiment underway on a private 200-acre environmental preserve and interfaith retreat in Germantown, MD.

Photo courtesy Patheos.com

Today it's another edition of our monthly series called Living Questions – a series produced in collaboration with the ICJS, the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies here in Baltimore – that explores the role of religion in the public sphere.  

On today’s program, we’re going to be looking at the impact of the 112-day-old Trump Administration on religious freedom and tolerance in the United States.  Much has been said and written about the polarization in American political dialogue since the November presidential election, but we’re going to focus on how Donald Trump’s election victory has affected the way diverse religious groups interact with the larger society, and how presidential actions may have improved or worsened the climate of religious freedom -- one of America’s bedrock values.

Joining Rob to examine these questions are three leaders in their respective faith communities: 

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, which describes itself as a non-profit “strategy center…advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”  He is also a contributing editor to Commonweal Magazine, and the author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church, published in 2015. His analysis has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter.   John Gehring joins us from NPR studios in Washington.

Joining Rob in Studio A is Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg.  He has been the Rabbi at the Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill here in Baltimore since 2010. He is a fellow in the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and is a contributing author to Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation about Rabbinical Education.  He is a trustee of the ICJS.

Also in the studio is Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat.  A native of Syria who has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, Imam Arafat serves as the President of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland, and is the president and founder of the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation, a non-profit group that provides religious and cultural training, consultation and orientation services for foreign exchange students and for the staff of the State Department’s Youth Exchange Study Program.

Photos by Sigrid Estrada

In this week when Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter, it’s another installment of Living Questions, our monthly series in which we explore the role of religion in the public sphere.

Today: the thorny issue of anti-Judaism in some of the great works of Christian art, with two writers for whom the famed 18th-century German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, is a central focus.   

Lauren Belfer is a novelist.  Her latest book, And After the Fire, follows the journey of a Bach cantata as it changes hands over the course of two hundred years.

The music scholar Michael Marissen has written extensively about the religious and often anti-Jewish sentiments in the texts that Bach chooses to set to his glorious music.

His latest book is called Bach and God.   Marissen also explored this topic in a monograph he co-wrote in 2005 with Tom Hall and former ICJS executive director Christopher Leighton, called The Bach Passions in Our Time: Contending with the Legacy of Antisemitism.  

Confronting the legacy of anti-Semitism in the arts, on this edition of Living Questions, a collaborative production of WYPR and the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS).

photo courtesy washingtonwire.com

This is another installment of Living Questions, a program produced in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies that explores the role of religion in the public sphere.  On today’s edition, guest host Rob Sivak leads a discussion about "school choice" in Maryland.

Creative Common

Today, another installment in our monthly series, Living Questions, in which we examine the role of religion in the public sphere.  We’re producing this series in partnership with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

There’s been a sharp rise in anti-Muslim violence in the United States over the past two years, which coincides with the divisive presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump.  Negative perceptions of Muslims are nothing new.  Nearly half of all Americans believe Islam is a faith more likely than others to encourage terrorism.  

These notions have been fueled by several high-profile terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States by self-proclaimed “jihadists,” but they’ve also been advanced by a well-organized chorus of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US that started long before President Donald Trump started campaigning on a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States.  One week after he assumed office last month, he issued a controversial executive order that attempted to halt immigration from 7 Muslim-majority countries, including an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.  That order has been stayed by a federal court.  

Last November, Mr. Trump’s former national security advisor. Michael Flynn, described “Islamism” as “a vicious cancer” in the bodies of every Muslim that he warned “must be excised.”

For many American Muslims, that kind of rhetoric has posed challenges to their basic safety. 

Next month, the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies will begin a series of lectures called Confronting Islamophobia

Today we’ve invited three Islamic scholars to Studio A to discuss their own experiences "confronting Islamophobia" and how evolving American perceptions of Islam have been influenced by the new political landscape in Washington:

Imam Tariq Najee-ullah is the Interim Resident Imam of Masjid Muhammad, a mosque in Washington, DC, and he’s the founder of DC Musliman, which uses interfaith activities to address social issues…

Kristin Garrity-Şekerci (sheh-CARE-jee) is a Research Fellow and program coordinator at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, a multiyear research project that connects the academic study of Islamophobia with the public square. 

And Nazir Harb Michel is a senior research fellow with the Bridge Initiative.  He has worked with the Woodrow Wilson School training future policy makers and analysts to detect and counteract Islamophobia in legislation.

Image courtesy Victory Fellowship

It’s time for another installment in our monthly series, Living Questions, in which we examine the role of religion in the public sphere.  We’re producing this series in partnership with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

Today, we’re actually going to be talking about the role of religion in a not-quite-so-public sphere.  Tom's guests are two Lutheran pastors who bring their ministries to Maryland prisons, and a religious scholar who’s taught classes on the Hebrew Bible for Maryland inmates.

The Rev. Gerry Rickel is the Pastor at St. Dysmas, a Lutheran community in the Maryland prison system.  The Rev. Susan Beck is the pastor at The Shepherd of the Glen Lutheran Church in Glenwood.  She works with Gerry Rickel in his prison ministry. And joining Tom on the line from public radio station WAMU in Washington is Dr. Jerome Copulsky. He is a Scholar-in-Residence teaching religion at American University’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, and has taught classes on the Hebrew Bible at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup.

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