In the wake of hurricane Katrina religiosity was pervasive:
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco called for a state-wide day of prayer, suggesting that as residents of the state searched for those in need, comforted those in pain, and began the long task of rebuilding, they would "turn to God for strength, hope, and comfort."
Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, wrote: "Days before Katrina nearly wiped New Orleans off the map, 9,000 Jewish residents of Gaza were driven from their homes with the full support of the United States government. Could this be a playing out of prophecy ('I will bless the nation that blesses you, and curse the nation that curses you')?" [A reference to Genesis 12:3]
Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, thanked God for Hurricane Katrina: "New Orleans is now abortion free... New Orleans is now Mardi Gras free. New Orleans is now free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, witchcraft workers, false religion - it's free of all those things now. God, simply, I believe, in his mercy purged all that stuff out of here - and now we're going to start over again."
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan indicated that Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for the violence America had inflicted against Iraq. "New Orleans is the first of the cities going to tumble down... unless America changes its course. It is the wickedness of the people of America and the government of America that is bringing the wrath of God down."
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, wrote: "When some Christian fundamentalists talk about [the December 2004 tsunami and Katrina] as signs of the impending doom of the planet, they are laughed off as irrational cranks... But... their perception that we are living at "the end of time" can't be dismissed by those of us who know that the life support systems of this planet are increasingly 'in danger' if politics continues the way it has been going, with politicians in BOTH parties capitulating regularly to the ethos of selfishness and materialism that is sustained by our corporate plunderers but is validated by the votes of ordinary citizens. Yet the fundamentalist message is deeply misleading also, because it seems to suggest that all this is out of our hands, part of some divine scheme. But it's not. The biblical version is quite different from what they say: it insists that the choice between life and death is in our hands. After laying out the consequences of abandoning a path of justice and righteousness, the Torah makes it clear that it is up to us. CHOOSE LIFE, it tells us. That choosing of life means transforming our social system in ways that neither Democrats nor Republicans have yet been willing to consider-toward a new bottom line of love and caring, kindness and generosity, ethical and ecological responsibility, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe replacing a narrow utilitarian approach to Nature."
The editors of Sojourners magazine suggested: "The waters of Hurricane Katrina have revealed fault lines of race and class in our nation... In the aftermath of the storms destruction, a new America must be born in which compassion and conscience reshape our society's priorities at all levels." The epigraph they chose for their editorial was: "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute" (Proverbs 31:8).
The above quotes represent a variety of religiously informed worldviews. One of the skills you have gained in your religion major is to recognize how worldviews shape interpretations of events. Drawing on material from all four core courses, write an essay that explores what different religious traditions, ancient and modern, (a) offer to our search for meaning and (b) suggest in terms of healing in the face of events such as Katrina.Question #2
"Contrary to common-sense expectations, rituals are not, in most cases, the product of affluence and leisure. Indeed, they seem to be born out of necessity, like an invention of that stern mother; and the people who best know that life is difficult are the ones most likely to cleave to ritual and make it work for them." Tom Driver, The Magic of Ritual p.5 (re-issued as Liberating Rites).
Drawing upon material from all four core courses, write an essay on the significance of ritual in religion. Consider its role in terms of moral boundaries, contemporary Christianity, the biblical traditions and Hinduism.Question #3
In his 1994 The Construction of Religious Boundaries, Harjot Oberoi wrote,
It may be said of most religions that they have been concerned not only with the spiritual elevation of their adherents but also with the regimen of their bodies. The human body is an immensely rich cultural resource, often pressed into service by religions to represent fundamental doctrines and communicate spiritual precepts and behavioral codes through the imposition of rules governing bodily denial and indulgence.
He went on to quote Bryan S. Turner from the latter's 1984 The Body and Society: "The body is a site of enormous symbolic work and symbolic production. Its deformities are stigmatic and stigmatizing, while at the same time its perfections, culturally defined, are objects of praise and admiration. ... [O]ur body maintenance creates social bonds, expresses social relations and reaffirms or denies them."
Using material from at least three core courses, construct an essay that examines the different (and possibly overlapping) precepts, codes and practices revolving around human embodiment we can find in the various religious traditions covered in those courses. Be sure to pay attention equally to similarities and differences between and within religious traditions, both in terms of geographical and sectarian divisions and historical change.