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Friday’s Religion Wrap

God Bless the Child

An Arizona State University Professor has examined the spiritual impact on Billie Holiday in a new book that examines the singers work and life.

Holiday could sing blues like no one else sang blues, but she wasn’t primarily a blues singer. In fact, she often resented that label, as though being black had landed her in that category by default. Blues or rhythm-and-blues, R&B, functioned as a catch-all category for black popular musicians until fairly recently, just as “race records” or “race music” was the catch-all designation for black musicians before that.

Church songs tend to locate spiritual power in community, while blues songs find spiritual power in independence. One reason the distinction between the church and the devil’s music stuck is that blues came into being in murderous times, among those for whom church was still a place of relative safety. Every black church was a secular institution as well as a sacred one, insofar as it was a place where congregants could bring problems in search of this-worldly solutions.

Politics with a dash of religion

The Conversation reflects on religion in politics, describing the Christian right as being a forceful presence in American political life since the 1970s.

Conservative Christians in Australia have attempted to mobilise religion in similar ways, but have not been able to gain a permanent foothold in our mainstream political culture.

Religion is never just religion; it can mean at least three different things. First, propositions about the world: Does God exist? Is Jesus his son? Second, an expression of shared identity: “we are Christians/Muslims/Jews”. A third approach understands religion as a “technology of self-governance”. That is, we reflect on our conduct and thoughts and try to live according to a moral code.


Indigenous Australians voice concerns over religious freedom review

According to a Fairfax article, a leading Canberra academic has told the Turnbull government’s review into religious freedom that Aboriginals are not adequately protected to practice their religion.

Ernst Willheim, a visiting fellow at the Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University, said the current legal system failed to accommodate the difference between Aboriginal and “mainstream religions”.

Religion key issue ahead of Indonesian elections

The Economist reports that before campaigning started for regional elections in Indonesia scheduled for June, many observers worried that religion would drown out all other issues. The concern stemmed from local elections in Jakarta last year, in which the front-runner, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese origin known as Ahok, was falsely accused of insulting Islam.

Huge rallies were organised against him by the “212 Movement”, a coalition of various extremist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which supports subjecting Indonesia to Islamic law. In the end Ahok lost to the candidate supported by conservative Muslim groups.




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