On Being Blog

Friday, November 30, 2007 - 14:15
Friday, November 30, 2007 - 13:59
Thursday, November 29, 2007 - 21:27
Thursday, November 29, 2007 - 05:06

Yesterday, Krista had an interesting discussion with Greg Epstein, a humanist chaplain at Harvard. With the holiday season coming up and our schedule of programs cemented through the end of December, we won’t be able to evaluate and produce the program until 2008.

The question came up: Should we release the unedited interview to our online audience before we produce them?

The advantages are that our core audience gains greater and more immediate access; the disadvantages are that the guest may not get a fair first hearing and the core listener doesn’t have a produced, tailored program to compare it to. Believe me, I’m still taken aback by the magic of radio production. Shows I thought would be dull came alive with a professional hand.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 13:36
Monday, November 19, 2007 - 21:27

It’s all a blur. I swear, if I hear the words “paradigm shift,” “hermeneutics,” or “exegetical” one more time…

Let’s see, what did I see today? A look at the function of hadith (sayings of Muhammad) in Islam, an eight-dollar chicken burger, a deliberation over which non-canonical sources were most pertinent to understanding the life of Jesus, theological and moral responses to social, economic, military and environmental issues, a look at Chinese religions, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It’s all a blur.

I think the most relevant session I caught was the one exploring the theological and moral responses to massive sociopolitical problems. It seemed to me one of the only sessions I caught in the past three days that didn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Namely, in all this research of religion, what is the point? The point is to help us deepen human knowledge in the arena of religion—for the purpose of helping us respond to the central concerns voiced by religion: suffering, injustice, death, war.

Monday, November 19, 2007 - 00:13

I spent my first full day—and second day overall—here at the American Academy of Religion’s 2007 conference here in misty, hazy San Diego.

I’m not sure exactly what I wanted this morning as I headed down to the conference center. Actually, no, that’s not true. I always want to be blown away. I rarely am.

The morning started with a two-and-a-half hour session entitled “From ‘Muslims in America’ to ‘American Muslims’.” For some reason, I bemoan the identity politics of current Muslim discourse, yet continue to go to things like this hoping for some kind of revelatory experience, something that’s going to speak to me.

But despite the excellence of the scholarship, I found precious few things that really spoke to me at that session. I did like Abbas Rezagar’s outlining of six broad categories of American Muslim identity, which corresponded vaguely and more comprehensively to my own theories that Western Islam is shifting to a model similar to that of Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, etc.).

Saturday, November 17, 2007 - 23:23

After a long day of air travel, I’ve arrived in San Diego for the 2007 edition of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature conference.

I managed to make it down to the expansive San Diego conference center by about 4 pm, in time for what turned out to be a rather abstruse deliberation by a group of scholars about the interpretation of the Qur’an. I wish I could summarize what they were talking about, but, well, I have no real clue. Something about some lost manuscript or other.

Actually, a presentation in that session about the idea of “holy land” in Islam did bring up the Hajj pilgrimage. I get those crazy ideas, after the Rural Studio show, of going on some literal radio pilgrimage to Mecca, with some eloquent Islamic scholar who can reflect on the whole experience. Or maybe go down to the Ganges when the largest pilgrimage in the world descends on that river.

Friday, November 16, 2007 - 07:08


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