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The Role of Prayer and Religion in American Public Life: What “Prayer Shaming” Is All About

I’ve wDaily News front pageritten a short piece on “prayer shaming” and the controversy surrounding public “prayer” made by politicians after the San Bernardino shooting. You can find it on Huffington Post and I’ve also reposted the piece here:

Once again a mass shooting that left 14 dead and 21 wounded on Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif. is sparking public outcry against gun violence in this country. Within hours of the shooting, the perennial debate over guns in American society began to circulate on news outlets and social media. This discourse varied widely, ranging from comparisons of gun control between the United States and other industrialized nations to an accounting of the number of mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. in 2015.

Common to this discourse is the persistent public frustration over increasing gun violence and the lack of political action on gun control. This frustration was encapsulated and embodied on the front page of the New York Daily News rebuking politicians who offered “meaningless platitudes” in the form of prayer after the shooting. For the tabloid, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t enough and political inaction is equated with “God isn’t fixing it.” By day’s end on Wednesday, the Daily News cover became viral and was shared over 22,000 times on Twitter. For many Americans, the front page precisely expressed how they felt about gun control as well as the need for a national dialog on gun violence. Sharing the Daily News cover via social media became the public’s way of venting outrage and exasperation at this intractable issue. [….]

Book Review: Christianity in Contemporary China: Socio-cultural Perspectives edited by Francis Khek Gee

Review of Religion and Chinese SocietyI’ve written a review of Christianity in Contemporary China: Socio-cultural Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2013. xiii + 265 pages. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-415-52846-7) edited by Francis Khek Gee, professor of anthropology at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore for the journal Review of Religion and Chinese Society (宗教與社會, Volume 2, Issue 2). Christianity in Contemporary China represents one of the few currently available volumes examining the growth and development of Christianity in China via socio-cultural methodologies. Given the ascendancy of this religion in China, the study of Christianity in China will continue to draw scholars and researchers interested in the broad issue of religion in the region. This volume also provides new insight via social-cultural approaches to Christianity where existing studies of Christianity in China have been limited to historical methods. You can read the review of this edited volume by clicking on the link below.

Review of Christianity in Contemporary China: Socio-cultural Perspectives

Religion and revolution

OC2Occupy Central, the revolution that’s brewing for almost a week now in Hong Kong, has been front and center in major news outlets. For those unfamiliar with what’s been happening in Hong Kong, this massive protest boils down to the demand for universal suffrage, a right that Beijing has wrested away from voters in this tiny territory that was returned to China in 1997. To get up-to-speed, see this nice summary by the South China Morning Post.

While most media reports have focused on the political aspects of this movement, few have noted the involvement of religion in Occupy Central (originally called Occupy Central with Love and Peace). Many of the movement’s key leaders are Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. In Beijing’s eyes, these Christians are seen as “troublesome gangsters of Hong Kong”. On the streets, churches have opened up their space to accommodate protesters, allowing them to use their facilities. Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun said every Catholic in Hong Kong “has the right and duty to get involved” in politics. Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old Protestant and founder of Scholarism, has been organizing social movements since he was 15. Christians in China are now the thorn in the side of the Chinese government.
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Fowl language: Thanksgiving, Deadly Viper, and how we got the word “turkey”

turkey3New posts have been noticeably absent here on semaphoric, and it has been some six months since I last updated the blog. What better time for a new entry than this Thanksgiving season. At the risk of disappointing my readers, I will not gush about the things I’m thankful for (even though there is an abundance to be thankful for). Rather, this entry is about origins. This is also about the recent Deadly Viper controversy. Although this controversy has been in the making for weeks, the situation still requires continuing reflection and critique.

Origins is about beginnings. Yet this is not about how we arrived at a certain physical reality. This is about how certain physical reality came to define a linguistic reality and how the interplay between the two strengthens the reality we perceive. In particular, this has to do with what and how we perceive what’s foreign and exotic and how we use words to caricaturize what seems different and strange to us. And this has to with the bird we eat on Thanksgiving, the turkey.

Coincidentally, the bird shares the same name as the country Turkey. Was the bird named after the country or the country after the bird? The answer to this chicken-or-egg question is difficult to ascertain. The word “Turkey” itself probably originated from an ancient Chinese word naming the people living in southern Central Asia. The geo-political entity of Turkey was never known as “Turkey” since demarcation of this country’s boundaries did not occur until the end of WWI. From the 13th century until the First World War, Turkey was simply known as Osman or the Ottoman Empire. However, the modern name for Turkey comes from the Medieval Latin turchia, and by the mid-1200’s, the word turki had appeared in the Old English lexicon to describe people who are part of the Turkic family group.
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If I were a world leader and had a Facebook page…

Tweeting the White House Social-networking got a big boost last week when the White House entered the Twitter fray with its first ever tweet about the swine flu. The Obama Administration has been pushing Washington to utilize and master the universe of cyberspace as a way to promote government transparency and accessibility.

I’m neither President Obama’s Facebook friend nor am following him on Twitter. This is mostly because I’m don’t like jumping on bandwagons. However, I’ve made many friend requests with world leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Hugo Chavez on Facebook and they have yet to respond. Maybe it’s because world leaders have too much on their hands to seriously befriend a nobody like me.

But that was until I found a Facebook Group for world leaders…. [….]

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