Joe introduced me to Learner.org, a Web site with online resources for professional development for schoolteachers, as well as classroom resources. Joe particularly mentioned the online videos that are designed to help schoolteachers become better teachers. So I watched a video of a fourth grade teacher leading a small group literature discussion. The small group setting was somewhat akin to a Sunday school class: plenty of personalized interaction between the teacher and the students, and teacher-guided interaction between the students. The general subject area, responding to literature, is also akin to Sunday school classes: discussing a work of literature, and talking about what’s going on in the work. The video shows an experienced teacher, Rich Thompson, actually teaching children, and the video also includes Thompson reflecting on how he teaches.
I found I learned a lot from watching this experienced teacher. I learned a lot just from watching his body language with the children, e.g., as the two boys drift away, Thompson puts his hands on the backs of their chairs to keep them included. I also liked the tone of voice he used: he was warm and calm, open and friendly; you can tell he likes the children he’s working with. I noticed the way he expressed his own thoughts and ideas about the book they were discussing, so he could model how an experienced reader engages with a text (“Did you notice that the book was War and Peace? Do you know how big that book is? That’s the book she used to hit the bear with”). And I really liked the way he did formative assessment at the end of the lesson, talking briefly with each child about what they did well, and where they could improve.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have resources like this for volunteer Sunday school teachers? Unfortunately, producing a series of twenty-minutes videos like this would be expensive, and liberal religious institutions don’t have the resources to do something of this caliber (and I feel that producing a poor video would be worse than no video at all). But given how hard it is to deliver training to volunteer teachers, it is something to think about.
Still looking for stories from the Yoruba religions. Since it’s primarily an oral (not a written) tradition, it’s hard to know which sources to trust. At this point, I’m simply collecting sources.
Orishanet.org is a Santeria Web site cited in a number of scholarly works. The site has five itas or patakis — i.e., stories — which are here.
Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu by Ocha’ni Lele [B. Stuart Myers] (Rochester, Vermont: Destiny, 2010) is one recent book with lots of stories about the orishas. These stories strike me as being heavily interpreted for a U.S. audience.
A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore: The Oral Literature, Traditions, Recollections, Legends, Tales, Songs, Religious Beliefs, Customs, Sayings and Humor of Peoples of African Descent in the Americas by Harold Courlander (New York: Marlowe, 1976) is a well-known book that has a section titled “Some Yoruba Legends in Cuba” with stories about the orishas; two stories from Haitian Vodoun; and other possibly relevant entries. Courlander also assembled the book Tales of Yoruba gods and heroes (Crown Publishers, 1973).
Yoruba Legends by M. I. Ogumefu appears to have some relevant material.
A number of scholars consider Yoruba religions, also known as Orisa devotion, to be a world religion. For example, Stephen Prothero counts Yoruba religions as a major world religion in his book God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World, and Why Their Differences Matter. The scholarly essays in Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture, ed. Jacob K. Olupona and Terry Rey (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2008), also make the case that Yoruba religions are a world religion. Yoruba religions include some indigenous African religious traditions as well as religious traditions of the African diaspora including Santeria, Vodoun, Candomble, etc.
Because of their importance, I’ve been searching for ways to present Yoruba religions to children in Sunday school. I have plenty of resources for presenting Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism — and (to a lesser extent) Daoism and Confucianism. But most of the books I’ve found on Yoruba religions are heavily academic, and concerned with matters that would not interest children all that much. What I really want is stories from Yoruba religious traditions; I have stories from Islamic sources, stories from the Christian scriptures, stories from the Hebrew Bible, etc. — but I’ve been having a hard time finding stories from Yoruba religions.
Recently, however, I came across a Web site that provides some of what I want. The Web site is titled Awonifa: Study the Teachings of Orunmila; authorship of the site is credited to Awo Ni Ifabité. Of particular interest for my purposes is the page on this site titled The Orishas, with links to fifty-eight stories that are more or less suitable for use with school-aged children. (Elsewhere on the site are twenty-one stories taken from yoruba folklore.)
My only problem: I have no idea how reliable this Web site is; none of the stories has a citation or source or attribution. Looking at other parts of the site that cover material that I can check against other sources, I’d say the site appears to be fairly reliable; so I’ll probably use some of these stories in Sunday school classes this year, though I will do so very cautiously.
The Association of Grandparents of Indian Immigrants (AGII) is a nonprofit that is “dedicated to the production of audiovisual materials for the families of Indian Immigrants.” Not only is AGII an interesting example of an attempt at identity formation for non-white families; not only does AGII draw on a faith tradition for identity formation; they also offer some excellent online text-based stories on the Indian and Hindu tradition: Kidz Korner: Stories from Indian Mythology.
Mike Cassidy writes the “Silicon Valley Dispatches” column for the San Jose Mercury News. He is feeling a wee bit cynical these days. With unemployment still high, Cassidy is wondering how the recent federal deficit reduction actions by Congress are going to promote job creation by American corporations:
It’s not a lack of money that is holding companies back from hiring. Collectively, corporations for months have been sitting on record levels of cash, reaching about $1.9 trillion today. Remember the recent headlines about Apple (AAPL) having more cash than the U.S. government?
And profits are up widely. The Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel was on the radio recently citing an analyst’s report that found that the first 100 of the S&P 500 to report quarterly earnings saw profit increases averaging 12 percent. Meantime, Wessel’s own paper was reporting on a new wave of layoffs at American companies.
So if you think further fattening corporate coffers with tax breaks will spur hiring, think again. — “Politicians and corporations are playing us for fools”
As someone who’s working in Silicon Valley, and as someone who knows a lot of people who are out of work or in danger of losing their jobs, I’m with Cassidy on this one. We have some of the richest companies in the world here in the Valley, and we saw 10.5% unemployment in June in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan statistical area, which means some 94,300 people classified as unemployed (that doesn’t count the underemployed, or the people who have given up looking for work).
Speaking as a minister, I wish Congress and the president and CEOs would realize this isn’t about getting political points or pleasing shareholders.
I stumbled on the Web site BlogBooker, which will create a PDF file from your WordPress, Blogger, or LiveJournal blog. From there, of course, you can publish that PDF file as a book using one of the online print on demand publishers like LuLu.com, or you can just treat it as an e-book. BlogBooker could be a useful tool if you had, say, a blog for a class (online or face-to-face class) that you wanted to save as a final project — and right now I’m thinking about ways of doing online religious education, so this may be one of the tools I make use of.
…but not in U.S. Unitarian Universalist congregations. It turns out there are a fair number of atheist clergy in the Netherlands — like Rev. Klaas Hendrikse:
Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.
His book Believing in a Non-Existent God led to calls from more traditionalist Christians for him to be removed. However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out.
A study by the Free University of Amsterdam found that one-in-six clergy in the PKN [Protestant Church in the Netherlands] and six other smaller denominations was either agnostic or atheist.
Full story on the BBC Web site: “Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world.”
Unitarian Universalists tend to hold the irrational belief that human beings are predominantly rational. Unitarian Universalists also tend to have faith in scientific insight, yet scientific investigations in psychology, neuroscience, sociology, cognitive science, etc., reveal that human beings are not predominantly rational beings.
This being the case, the belief that a determined individual can conduct his or her life on a rational basis is an example of magical thinking. And such belief is not in essence different from a belief in a supernatural deity, transubstantiation, reincarnation, etc. What do you think?
Diane, a Lutheran pastor and blogger, writes about going to church in the summer. Common wisdom is that it’s not worth going to church in the summer because there’s “no Sunday school, and no choir, and plenty of other things to do.” But, says Diane:
I saw a smile on the face of a woman who told me that she wanted to give thanks for three years being cancer free. I saw tears on the face of a woman who wanted me to pray for the family of a friend of hers who died last week. I saw a teenager walk into the sanctuary by herself, sit down by herself, and then move to sit down next to her mother’s best friend, and her friend’s mother….
It’s a reminder that there are people who go to church, not for Sunday school or choir or out of habit, but because it really does something for them.
If we’re going to talk about the impact of the sexual revolution on Unitarian Universalism in the 1960s and 1970s, we’re going to have to have some understanding of what it was. David Allyn, in his book Make Love Not War: An Unfettered History of the Sexual Revolution (Boston: Little, Brown, 2000) tells us that the phrase was coined in the 1920s by Austrian psychoanalyst William Reich. As applied to the events of the 1960s and 1970s, Allyn points out that the phrase “sexual revolution” had different meanings at different historical moments for different people:
In the early sixties, the “sexual revolution” was used to describe the suspected impact of the newly invented birth control pill on the behavior of white, middle-class, female college students. A few years later, the term was employed to describe the sweeping repudiation of literary censorship by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was borrowed to characterize developments in the scientific study of sexual behavior, most notably by Masters and Johnson. In the late sixties, the “sexual revolution” was invoked to refer to the new candor in American culture, especially the sudden acceptance of nudity in film and on stage.
By the early seventies, the “sexual revolution” was taking on new meanings with each passing year. It was adopted to describe the showing of hard-core sex films in first-run theaters, not to mention to opening of private clubs for group sex. It was used to capture the new spirit of the swinging singles life, as well as the popularization of open marriage. For those in the counterculture, the “sexual revolution” meant the freedom to have sex where and when one wished.
In the highly politicized climate of the late sixties and early seventies, the “sexual revolution” was given a range of meanings. Some student radicals used the term specifically to refer to the end of the “tyranny of the genital” and the arrival of an eagerly awaited age of polymorphous pansexuality. Young feminists equated the “sexual revolution” with the oppression and “objectification” of women and saw it, therefore, as something to stop at all costs. Gay men considered the “sexual revolution” to mean a whole new era of freedom to identify oneself publicly as gay, to go to gay bars and discotheques, to have sex in clubs and bathhouses.
Events and developments shaped popular perception of the “sexual revolution.” Sex-education courses in schools and colleges were radically redesigned to replace euphemism and scare tactics with explicit visual aids and practical information. New books suggested that women were as eager for one-night stands and other sexual thrills as were men. Many states repealed their sodomy laws and introduced “no-fault” divorce. And in 1973, Roe v. Wade ended a century of criminalized abortion. Once again the “sexual revolution was reinterpreted and redefined. [pp. 4-5]