Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

May 30th, 2017

Practice and performance in ritual language

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Practice and performance in ritual languageDoes it make a difference to think of ritual language such as prayer in terms of a relation between practice and performance? I do not mean this in the sense that a musician practices an instrument in preparation for a concert performance, or an athlete practices in preparation for performance in a competition. I mean it in the sense of practice as carrying out a particular activity in a regular or habitual way, in contrast to performance as a marked or highlighted form of action distinct from everyday action and addressed to an actual or imagined audience. Someone may engage in the practice of singing every day, but may also sing every day for an audience, real or imagined. One can identify a continuum of “degree of performance” between informal everyday speech and formal ritual utterance. . . .

Focusing specifically on prayer as a mode of utterance present both in ritual events and in everyday life allows for a rethinking of practice and performance as simultaneous modalities of action. The simultaneity of performance and practice in this theoretical or conceptual sense is not the same as the collapsing of performance into practice in prayer that I observed ethnographically. In this sense, any act of prayer has both a practical and a performative component. Practice is guided by a logic while performance is impelled by a rhetoric. Both are necessary features of prayer as ritual language.

September 30th, 2014

Religious exemption in the National Football League

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During last night’s victory over the New England Patriots, Kansas City safety Husain Abdullah, a practicing Muslim who once missed the entire 2012 season for the pilgrimage to Mecca, intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returned it for a touchdown. After scoring, he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conductspecifically excessive celebration in the form of “going to the groundfor sliding to his knees and praying.

September 30th, 2014

The benefits of (studying) negative and aggressive prayer

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Most people associate prayer with moral good: benevolence, forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. Yet in some cases, people deliberately pray against others in forms of what I call “aggressive prayer” that aim to harm or remove another party. These cases raise interesting questions about the shadow side of prayer. Attention to aggressive prayer and to the unspoken, negative aspects of positive prayer reveals interesting insights into how we might more fully understand prayer as a part of lived religion.

Take a blatant and public example of aggressive prayer. In January of 2012, the speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, Mike O’Neal, forwarded an email message urging his Republican colleagues to “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109.8.” That scripture reads, “May his days be few; may another take his office.” This is hardly a prayer offered for Obama’s flourishing, and the next line is even more malicious: “May his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

February 7th, 2014

Reverberations in the new year

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A new year means new and interesting content for Reverberations, the digital forum on prayer produced in conjunction with the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP) initiative.

December 20th, 2013

Recently at Reverberations

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2013 has been an exciting year for Reverberations, the Social Science Research Council’s digital forum on prayer. Produced in conjunction with the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP) initiative, Reverberations is a place where NDSP grantees and others share their thoughts about the nature, complexity, and interdisciplinary methodologies of the study of prayer.

September 18th, 2013

Reverberations of cognition and culture

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A lively interdisciplinary discussion about cognition and culture has emerged from Reverberations, the new digital forum on prayer produced in conjunction with the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP) initiative. The NDSP grantees share their thoughts about the study of prayer, interdisciplinary methodologies, and the nature and complexities of their research.

July 17th, 2013

Preaching after the Trayvon Martin verdict

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How can religion aid or complicate the ways in which people make sense of the trial of George Zimmerman and understand its social implications? Since the verdict, religious centers across the country have become spaces for healing, prayer, and process for religious members of different faith communities. Elizabeth Drescher and Dan Webster also discuss the verdict’s implications on how they comprehend God, the law, and their responsibility in society.


July 2nd, 2013

Latest Reverberations

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Reverberations, the new digital forum on prayer produced in conjunction with the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP) initiative, has expanded its content as it explores prayer.

May 30th, 2013

Ongoing Reverberations

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Reverberations, the new digital forum on prayer produced in conjunction with the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP) initiative, continues to thrive two months since its launch.

March 8th, 2013

Praying on Twitter

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Over at Religion Dispatches, New Directions in the Study of Prayer Grantee Peter Manseau talks about the use of Twitter as a venue for prayer.

March 6th, 2013

Introducing Reverberations

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We are pleased to announce the launch of Reverberations, a new digital forum on prayer produced in conjunction with the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer initiative. Reverberations will serve as a hub for communication among participants in the New Directions in the Study of Prayer project, a platform for a broader set of academic and public engagements, and a space within which a wide range of resources and materials related to the practice of prayer will be compiled, curated, studied, and explored.

March 5th, 2013

Prayer, imagination, and the voice of God—in global perspective

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Tanya Marie Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and a Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. Her work explores how people come to experience nonmaterial objects such as God as present and real, and how different understandings of the mind affect mental experience. She is the author, most recently, of When God Talks Back (Knopf, 2012), which The New York Times Book Review called “the most insightful study of evangelical religion in many years,” and of other books including Of Two Minds (Knopf, 2000), The Good Parsi (Harvard, 1996), and Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft (Harvard, 1989). Her latest project, supported by the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer initiative, builds on and extends her research for When God Talks Back, taking her to India and Africa. On a recent rainy afternoon in Palo Alto, I spoke with Luhrmann about her work and its new directions.

October 2nd, 2012

NDSP grantees announced

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New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP), project and grants program of the SSRC, has selected twenty-eight grantees to pursue innovative research on practices of prayer.

June 28th, 2012

Technology and Jewish prayers

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Recently, in The Atlantic, Alan Jacobs interviewed Ahron Varady and discussed how technology can aid traditional religious practices.

June 20th, 2012

The Psychology of Prayer

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The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach, co-authored by Bernard Spilka and Kevin Ladd, a member of the SSRC’s New Directions in the Study of Prayer advisory committee, will be released in September.

April 9th, 2012

Harmful prayer?

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On April 2nd, Dallas District  Court Judge Martin Hoffman ruled that it is legal to pray for God to harm someone as long as no one is actually threatened or harmed.

January 18th, 2012

Frequencies 91/100 – 100/100

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Today marks the hundredth entry in Frequencies.

November 16th, 2011

NDSP: December 1 deadline for Letters of Intent

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The deadline for submitting Letters of Intent to New Directions in the Study of Prayer (NDSP), a new project and grants program of the SSRC, is almost here! Applicants must submit Letters of Intent and supporting materials to no later than 5:00PM EST on December 1, 2011.

October 11th, 2011

RFP: New Directions in the Study of Prayer

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The Social Science Research Council recently announced the launch of a new project and grants program entitled “New Directions in the Study of Prayer.”

September 20th, 2011

New directions in the study of prayer

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The Social Science Research Council has just announced the launch of a major new project and grants program entitled “New Directions in the Study of Prayer.”

July 11th, 2011

Prayer is technology. I think.

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My dissertation is a comparison of the use of prayer, scripture, science education, and “high technology” in four religious high schools, and I’m rather provocatively labeling these four categories  “moral technologies”: that is, tools created by (or provided to) humans that are used to accomplish certain moral goals. This definition builds upon Mitcham’s more expansive understanding of technology, and it is obviously deeply indebted to Foucault.

July 22nd, 2010

Separating public space

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Concluding a class trip to the Supreme Court, Maureen Rigo and her class from Wickenburg Christian Academy, Wickenburg, AZ, stopped to pray on the Oval Plaza in front of the Court steps. The Supreme Court police ushered the teacher and her class from the steps, having deemed their behavior unlawful—actions that bring to the fore questions of the religious neutrality of public space and the application of the First Amendment.

July 21st, 2010

Should one pray for an atheist?

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The health of Christopher Hitchens, an outspoken atheist and critic of religion, has become a major news story.  Hitchens is in treatment for esophageal cancer and his debilitating health has caused many to ask: should one pray for an atheist? Courtney Bender, professor of religion at Columbia University, discusses the question and whether “atheists have joined a religiously plural grid as another ‘religious’ minority, taking up a place alongside the Muslims and Sikhs and Zoroastrians.”

May 6th, 2010

Happy National Day of Prayer

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Today marks the 59th annual National Day of Prayer.  The day was enacted by Congress in 1952 (36 U.S.C. § 119) after being initiated by Conrad Hilton of Hilton Hotels (Paris Hilton’s great grandfather, if you appreciate irony) and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas. A flashpoint for debates over the separation of church and state, the National Day of Prayer was recently ruled unconstitutional by a United States District Court in Madison, Wisconsin.

March 23rd, 2010

Should prayer be covered by health insurance?

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According to Christian Scientists, the answer is yes. A New York Times report states that  “[t]he church has been lobbying in recent years to convince lawmakers that its approach is an alternative way of tending to the sick, and that its costs should be covered by insurance companies and included in health care legislation.” Still, they are moving beyond their traditional view that members should only use prayer to combat illness. Instead, their position is increasingly to see prayer as one form of health care among many, encouraging members to see a physician when they deem it necessary.