Politics

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. [….]


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.
[….]


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…. [….]


Reconciliation blues

Obama

On Thursday night around 11:55 p.m., just five minutes before the Iranian New Year, Norwuz, the White House release a video wishing Iranians around the world, especially those in Iran, a happy new year. The message is conciliatory and groundbreaking, with Obama asking Iran to pursue a new day of engagement and dialog with the U.S.

Will the Iranian government respond in kind? I really hope so. The White House’s message (see the full text of the message here) is calculated and strategic. The fact that the White House released the video before Nowruz and utilized the theme of the new year signals the administration is sensitive to the context of the Iranian people. This approach postures an attitude of sensitivity and mutuality, acknowledging the richness and valuable contribution of Iranian culture to the world all the while maintaining there exists serious differences between the two governments. This is a smart move, a move that signals the realization that the U.S. can no longer operate on the geopolitical stage without bringing other views to the table of the “community of nations.” The challenge for the U.S. is whether we can demonstrate leadership on the world stage and to move from estrangement to engagement. Global issues demand global engagement, and this message to Iran signals the start of an engaging posture toward the world.


Introducing Semaphoric

flagSo it begins: this blog was set to launch at the start of 2009 when procrastination took over the better of me. Although this first post dates back to January, it took some three months to get this project off the ground. I’m still putting this blog through its paces — there are a number of content and technical issues being worked out. Instead of having semaphoric launch in entire completeness, I’m planning to fill in the space as the blog progresses. For the most part, semaphoric is off and running.

What is semaphoric? From the Greek word sema for signs, semaphoric simply refers to semaphores, a system of visual signs designed to convey a message. Used primarily on ships and railroads, semaphore is the simplest way to signal and transmit messages.

Why semaphoric? From the obvious — billboards, traffic lights, spam ads, trademarks, to the less obvious —  maps, metaphors, hip-hop artists, a peacock’s plumes, signs are all around us. We make and utilize signs to interact with the world, and in turn, signs influence how we see and understand the world.

semaphoric examines signs of culture and faith and considers how both influence the way we understand ourselves, shape our theology, and how we perceive the world. For the most part, semaphoric is like any blog with its contents reflecting the thoughts and musings of its author.

Who is semaphoric? Entirely conceived by me and one else. I hope you enjoy the great-taste-and-no-filling flavor of semaphoric!

I’ve done my part, and now you can do yours:

  • • Read this blog and comment regularly
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  • • Tell your friends about semaphoric.org
  • • Tell your friends to tell their friends about semaphoric.org!

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