This Week in Interfaith America: A News Roundup
This week our favorite religion pieces took us around the globe: from Glasgow, where world leaders are meeting for climate talks; to Asia, where Associated Press photographers captured luminous images of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists celebrating the festival of Diwali; to small towns in western Arkansas, where pediatrician Anu Gorukanti, co-founder of a new program for Asian American and Pacific Islander women leaders, first grappled with her own Indian and Hindu identity.
Stories about humanism, spirituality and meaning also made the list, including thoughtful pieces on mental health, loss and faith by Silma Suba and the Rev. Alexis Vaughan of IFYC.
We’d love to hear from you! Email us to share your feedback or suggestions for next week's top 10.
We Die. That May Be the Meaning of Life: An Interview with Jen Bailey. The Rev. Alexis Vaughan of IFYC interviews the Rev. Jen Bailey, an A.M.E. pastor, founder and executive director of the Faith Matters Network, and author of a new book, “To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss and Radical Hope.” Vaughan’s poignant, personal essay leads the piece. Registration is now open for this Nov. 11 online roundtable , where Bailey and four interfaith innovators will discuss the future of spiritual life.
How an Arkansas Childhood Inspired Welcoming Spaces for AAPI Women. Pediatrician Dr. Anu Gorukanti, an IFYC Sacred Journeys Fellow, writes about how her deep yearning to explore her own experiences growing up Hindu and Indian in the South inspired her to co-create "Coffee and Community: Reflective Spaces for AAPI Women Leaders."
Why Mental Health Professionals Need Religious Literacy. Interfaith America staff writer Silma Suba reports on a growing movement within healthcare pushing for more training around understanding the importance of religion. “There is a huge gap between the religiosity of clinicians and the religiosity of the clients,” mental health counselor Shivam Gosai says. “This gap has always been there. Mental health professionals are not always reflective of the people we are serving.”
Baylor, Harvard Team Up to Study Faith’s Role in Human Flourishing. Jeff Brumley of Baptist News Global reports that scientists at Baylor and Harvard universities will collaborate on a new “Global Flourishing Study,” which will include an examination of how religion contributes to human thriving. Study directors Byron Johnson, professor of social sciences and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor, and Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology and director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, said the project will evaluate 240,000 individuals from 22 nations.
Inside the Unraveling of American Zionism. Marc Tracy of The New York Times takes a deep dive into the thorniest of subjects – attitudes about Israel and Israeli politics among a young generation of American Jews. “The assumptions young Jews grew up with about Israel have been shattered at the same time that assumptions about antisemitism being in the past and Jews becoming white folks were shattered,” says Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. “Where does that put us?”
Reframing the Story of Harvard’s Humanist Chaplaincy. For Religion & Politics, Leigh Eric Schmidt, humanities professor at Washington University in St. Louis, revisits a story that made headlines. Is the story of Harvard chaplain Greg Epstein a tale of a godless secular university, the rise of the religious “nones,” or something else? “Locating the Harvard-chaplaincy controversy within its most relevant lineage—religious humanism rather than oppositional atheism—is one way to rethink the significance of Epstein’s post and his election as an interfaith administrator,” Schmidt writes. “The second way to rescript the story is to disjoin it from a narrative of secularist ascendancy and to consider Epstein’s chaplaincy instead as a matter of a small sect gaining belated recognition at very big and diverse table.” For more thoughtful reflection on Epstein's story, check out this essay by Mary Ellen Giess, vice president of strategic initiatives at IFYC.
Meet the Hindu God Rama, an Immigrant. For Religion News Service, scholar Khyati Y. Joshi of Fairleigh Dickinson University writes that for Indian American and South Asian Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and others, celebrating Diwali isn't just celebrating with community — it is celebrating community.
Queering Deepavali: Traditions in the Time of COVID. Raja Gopal Bhattar wrote this thoughtful essay for Diwali in 2020, and we appreciated it so much we're posting it again. They hail from a long lineage of Hindu spiritual leaders from the Srivaishnava tradition. A higher education leader, advocate, and consultant, Bhattar was a 2020 Interfaith America Racial Equity Fellow.
As COP26 Conference Gathers, Faith-based Environmentalists Fight “Eco-grief”. Elizabeth E. Evans of Religion News Service reports on religious climate activism and includes comments from Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and an outspoken Christian. Writing from a global climate conference in Glasgow this week, Hayhoe said, “I adamantly refuse to surrender to hopelessness,” she says.
Interfaith Bonus: “GOD-Talk: A Black Millennial Faith and Conversation Series,” sponsored by the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, will be held Saturday, Nov. 6, 7 to 9 pm Eastern time. The conversation will focus on the intersections of Black religion and spirituality, race, gender, sexuality and more.
If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.