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jewel of the mahāyāna sutras November 29, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion.
9 comments

Vimalakīrti is the protagonist of the Vimalakīrti-Nirdesa Sutra. He is introduced as a Licchavi, a city-state in northern India, from the city of Vaiśālī. Vaiśālī is known to be the land of Amrapali, a famous Indian courtesan, whose garden is the opening and concluding location for the narrative as the teaching place of the Buddha. Vimalakīrti is said to be of great wealth, of which he uses to sustain the poor and helpless. As a man of wealth, he is obviously not a monk and is explicitly stated as wearing garments of a layperson. Everything about him, however, was a paradox. He was as a laymen, yet as devoted as a monk; he owned and lived in a house, but lived beyond material realm; he had a family and servants, yet remained continent; he had servants and food aplenty, but lived in solitude and was nourished by meditation. The way in which Vimalakīrti reconciled these differences would be only a shadow of the reconciliation of dichotomies he would achieve much later on in the sutra. (more…)

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buy nothing day November 24, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in business.
3 comments

war in your backyard November 24, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in media, politics.
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I am not a fan of Michael Moore. Never really have been. But there is one stunt, albeit far-fetched, unfair, and illogical, that stood out in one of his films: Michael Moore tracking down U.S. politicians, trying to get them to sign their kids up for war. Of course this is silly for a multitude of reasons a big one being the fact that a parent cannot sign their children up for service), yet the point was made: do those who are quick to support war, be it the politicians or the people who put them in power, realize the ramifications of such actions if brought closer to home? I could get into a whole discussion about the philosophical problems of war, but these are not how the decisions are made. Militaristic governments, in any part of the world, do not use logic and rationality to woe their supporters – they target the emotions with rhetorical devices and purposefully fallacious logic. You hear BushCo. talk of “Freedom”, but do you ever hear him define what “freedom” is? We fight for “democracy”, they say, but what is “democracy”? Likewise in far away lands to which we are sending our young, and often poor, men and women, the authorities are convincing their peoples of “justice” and other such notions. (more…)

why i am a christian – part iv November 19, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal, religion.
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continued from part iii

During my time in Alberta I had developed relatively radical political views. Since this is not the topic of this article, I will only state that they were socialist-libertarian in nature. This, however, would have a deep impact on my religious views and the way I perceived mainstream religions (especially Christianity). As I may or may not have mentioned previously, the Sermon on the Mount several years earlier had already convinced me of the inconsistency of conservatism with the Scripture. Yet as I continued to look deeper into all things spiritual and religious, it became apparent that most of my critiques against any religion were reactions to institutionalization of religious or philosophical movements. The larger the institution became, the more corrupt and perverse so did the teachings. Hopeless attempts to correct this, such as the Protestant Reformation in Christianity during the 16th century simply became dead institutions in themselves. Radicals such as the Anabaptists became de-radicalized and joined mainstream Protestantism as they gained acceptance and their views became watered-down. New movements such as Pentecostalism relied on heavily charasmatic teachers and sensationalism with practices that would make most early 20th-century occultist jealous. Each of these attempts, at least initially, were not “wrong” or fallacious – they were examples of anarchist Christianity – tearing down the walls of stonelike institutions that deadened the theology or spirituality. Yet as time went on, they became re-institutionalized: the Protestant Reformation created a million Popes rather than rejecting one. (more…)

women and religion: more buddhism November 17, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
4 comments

(Also see “women and religion: buddhism“)

Buddhism, Eva K. Neumaier (Women in the Buddhist Traditions, “Women and Religious Traditions“) states, is one of the religions that begin with a historical founder and presents itself in the form of dialogue. Since the dialogue is within a cultural context it portrays itself as a contrast to the contemporary socio-religious framework of its day. Much of Siddhārtha Gautama’s responses towards women were counter-intuitive for the people of his day. An oft-used example is the general ascetic lifestyle. Ascetics in the Indic subcontinent were always male for females who wandered around would be considered shameful. As Gautama allowed women to follow him, they naturally took up this ascetic lifestyle, and furthermore was given allowance to do so by the Buddha. Neumaier points out, however, that despite this matter of respect in the new Buddhism that the women enjoyed dissipated in the later centuries. (more…)

women and religion: islam November 16, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
18 comments

Lynda Clarke (Women in Islam, “Women and Religious Traditions“) points out that there is no cognizant group within Islam that is able to re-establish or re-investigate aspects of the religion in the perspective of women. She does not claim that Islamic women do not question or blindly follow, but instead they are restricted within the call of “correct practice”. This practice is strictly laid out in the Sunnah, which is authoritative in Islamic tradition. Thus, women are at a seeming impasse because of the stress on orthopraxy. Anything that is added or perceived as contrary to the authoritative text can automatically be viewed as illegimate and opposed to Islam. This is often seen with Islamic women’s issues because of the contrast struck between Islam and the West’s occupation with Christian values. Islamic traditionalists view feminism as a Christian or Western ideology and is consequently perceived as opposition to the Sunnah. However, Clarke is optimistic that Islamic women have the capacity to work within the Islamic faith in order to retain their own tradition without being isolated. Clarke is arguing here that by using the Koran they can legitimize their perspective an overcome the overwhelming patriarchal worldview that Islam has currently found itself. (more…)

women and religion: judaism November 15, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
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Jacoba Kuikman alludes to the idea that Jewish women within the private sphere have balanced the public role of men, which may as well have helped the survival of Jewish tradition. Since women were “delegated” to the private sphere, they were charged with the responsibility of raising the children. Children were raised generation after generation through the Jewish traditions of the mother. At times this even countered periods of times that Jews chose to assimilate rather than stand out, which had led them to serious persecution and death. Jewish tradition cannot rely on the rabbis and teachers alone since there was not always opportunities to openly teach Jewish traditions. The private role of women is then uplifted as the tool for a continuous strand of tradition throughout generations. (more…)

women and religion: hinduism November 14, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
14 comments

Unlike other major world religions, Hinduism has a multitude of feminine deities. This, of course, is a result of the millions of celestial entities that comprise the cosmology within Hindu thought. The feminine deities of Hinduism often represent the traditional characteristics of femininity such as compassion and nurturing, although there are still many that symbolize much more traditionally masculine traits such as aggression and dominance.

Other world religions often use the lack of feminine deities to justify their positions against women. However, in Hinduism there are many feminine deities that men and women may recognize to be worthy of veneration. This should lead to a better status of women within the Hindu culture, yet it does not. (more…)

women and religion: christianity November 13, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
1 comment so far

There is a paradox in how women are treated in major religions. A woman’s body, as child-bearer garners respect and admiration. Yet a woman’s body, especially as a sexual being, is surrounded by fear-driven taboos. This paradox should be incompatible with the core teachings of many of the major religions. Yet doctrine, subsequent writings, and cultural values have continued to treat women’s bodies with a distorted dualism. The Christian religion itself has witnessed conflicting dualism between spirit and flesh, which has in turn only aggravated the paradoxical dualism within females. (more…)

women and religion: buddhism November 12, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in religion, sexism.
2 comments

The founder of Buddhism, as in other world religions, did not explicitly condone the subordination of woman from what we understand. On the contrary, Siddhartha Gautama was quite revolutionary for his time in his acceptance of women among his followers. However, by the 2nd century BCE Buddhism became increasingly institutionalized by the Mauryan king, Ashoka the Great, which women within Buddhism found themselves struggling to have any significant roles. By the time that Buddhism had left the Indian subcontinent and spread over the rest of Asia in the 5th century CE, women were completely left out of any historical records. (more…)

taking a break November 11, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal.
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Needless to say, I’m a little tied up right now. I have decided to take a little break from blogging so that I can take care of my wife and my new little girl. Hopefully this will also allow me to catch up on school work that the last three or four days has put me behind. I will probably update yesterday’s post with some pictures and Sophie’s story.

Starting tomorrow I will also have a little series on women and religion. I did not plan on this being right after my baby girl was born as I was always going to post it on these dates. They were written for a women and religion course I took over the summer. I cover a few of the world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism), but remember I am by no means an authority on the subject. I found the course very interesting and the articles are based on a combination of my western perspective growing up on the West coast and the books and article I have read on the subject. Most of the articles deal with how women have been treated by religions in the past with few additional comments about contemporary religion (which may or may not ruffle some feathers – the only real controversial ideas are quotes from women within their own religion – especially in Judaism). I appreciate any comments, as always, towards these posts – especially from those people who are within a religious tradition that I do not know much about – as I do think the subject is very important.

baby sophie November 10, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal.
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Everyone knows that by far the happiest and universally enjoyable age of man is the first. What is there about babies which makes us hug and kiss and fondle them, so that even an enemy would give them help at that age? – Desiderius Erasmus

It has been a crazy 24 hours. Kristy (my wife) and I drove to the hospital around 10:00am. She was induced around 11:30am, she started contractions immediately. For the next nine hours she grimaced almost every 3 minutes until they got her upstairs with the epideral (spelling?) going. At 02:47 this morning we had our first, a healthy baby girl, Sophia Faith. Kristy is still at the hospital and I am waiting for Sophia’s Great-grandma to fly in.

I will update this post with some pictures and other words once we get settled back home.

If men had to have babies, they would only ever have one each. – Princess Diana

gop loss good thing for evangelicals? November 9, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in politics, religion.
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Normally, I would not dispute this, but when the headline from Agape Press reads, “A Good Election Loss for the GOP“, I start to question myself. See, Agape Press is the CNN for evangelical Christians. While FOX News may be the secular front for the right-wing community, Agape Press makes no excuses for being the voice of the religious right. When I started reading this article I was expecting the typical “GOP-has-become-too-immoral” rhetoric I have been hearing lately from many evangelical Christians (ie. stop having homosexual sex and in general just being corrupt). I was wrong. Mr. Matt Friedeman, a professor at Wesley Biblical Seminary, argues that the Republican Party has strayed from its “small-government” roots. Honestly, I could understand that if everything that the Democrats are going to do is intrinsically evil. (more…)

nothing really changes in america November 8, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in politics.
5 comments

It is currently just past 1:30am MST as I attempt to finish a paper that is due tomorrow (no, I was not procrastinating – it has just been one of those weeks). I watched tonight as the Democrats took the House in the United States and await threat of a recall in Virginia if the Republicans lose control of the nail-biting Senate vote. None of this really matters to me because we are talking about two-sides of the same coin. Nothing in the United States really changes. Former President Clinton was blowing Iraq to pieces before the Republicans obliterated the rest of the country and started dismantling the Constitution. (more…)

anniversaire November 6, 2006

Posted by Brad Richert in personal.
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Today is the one year celebration of marriage with my beautiful wife. It has been a hectic but ultimately awesome year, which in all honesty, I was not expecting. I only say this because I have always been told that the first years of marriage can be extremely challenging. Well, since Kristina is thirty-nine weeks pregnant, the true challenges are surely yet to come. In the past year, however, the trials of being university students with very little income has been miniscule compared to the blessings of marriage.

For those of you who do not personally know me, last year Kristina and I got married in the comfort of our own living room with a pastor, Kristy’s parents, two witnesses, and twelve dozen roses after a two-day engagement. No, she was not pregnant (that would happen three months later). There just comes a point when you know you want to be with the person you love for the rest of your life – with no regrets. Neither of us are a fan of big weddings, and so we had actually decided to elope – at the last minute we were convinced to have some traditional aspect and so we did get a pastor. And so here we are – are only debts are academic rather than because of a wedding – married one year later. It may not be the twenty-year later “you’re still married!” achievement, but we both feel we’re still going strong and will last until – excuse the cliche – death do us part.

Kristina – I love you.