WBEZ | Religion http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Mormon feminists find grounds for hope, fear in changing church http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/mormon-feminists-find-grounds-hope-fear-changing-church-110646 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mormon feminists 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Jillian Paul sits at the kitchen table, putting together a Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle and pouring Cheerios for her two sons. Before they start to eat, she and her boys bow their heads for a moment in prayer.</p><p>As a woman, Paul is living the Mormon ideal: She&rsquo;s staying at home in Plainfield, raising her kids. But about a year ago, she began questioning her role in the church.</p><p>&ldquo;I wish we could hear less about how your most important job is a mother. I already know that,&rdquo; Paul said. &nbsp;&ldquo;I do wish there would just be more of a focus on developing your own relationship with God, and finding the path you&rsquo;re supposed to be on. Just worrying less about checking all the boxes: getting married in temple, having children. Those things will come when someone feels like God is telling them to do that.&rdquo;</p><p>Paul is part of a small but vocal group of Mormon women who say they feel equal at work and in school, but not in the place that matters most to them &mdash; their church.</p><p>&ldquo;When I open our church magazine and see kind of a centerfold of all the leadership of the church and it is two pages of men, men, men, men, men. I think how am I supposed to feel equal? How am I supposed to feel like women have an equal voice?&rdquo; Paul asked. If you look at a<a href="https://www.lds.org/church/leaders?lang=eng"> general leadership chart</a>, it&rsquo;s not until you get down to the women&rsquo;s auxiliary and children&rsquo;s groups that you find women.</p><p>Paul and other Mormon feminists in the Chicago area say they are so small in number, there may be only one or two women who share their views in their congregations, known as wards.</p><p>But online their movement is gaining momentum. They&rsquo;re finding each other through websites like <a href="http://youngmormonfeminists.org/">YoungMormonFeminists.org</a> and <a href="http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/">FeministMormonHousewives.org</a>.</p><p>They say they had been encouraged by signs of change in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But now they&rsquo;re treading lightly following the recent excommunication of prominent feminist <a href="http://ordainwomen.org/">Kate Kelly</a>, who forcefully advocated for women to gain the priesthood.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.lds.org/?lang=eng">Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints</a> teaches that men and women have equal dignity, and are equally valued by God and the church. <a href="https://www.lds.org/manual/family-guidebook/organization-and-purpose-of-the-family?lang=eng">That equality comes through different roles</a>. Men preside over their families, and only men hold the priesthood, the authority to act in God&rsquo;s name so they can lead congregations, perform baptisms and bless the sick. Parts of that authority comes as early as age 12 for boys.</p><p>Kate Kelly&rsquo;s excommunication was &ldquo;really, really disappointing, just disheartening,&rdquo; said local Mormon Stefanie Franc. &ldquo;I really felt up until that moment actually that things were really changing in the church, and for the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Franc, who&rsquo;s an attorney at the Cook County Public Guardian&rsquo;s Juvenile Division, was initially encouraged by some nuanced changes. The Church allowed women to lead opening and closing prayers at the big general conferences. It changed the leadership structure locally so a few women could hold seats on each Ward Council. It allowed women to take on weighty doctrinal issues in speeches.</p><p>But after hearing about Kelly&rsquo;s excommunication, Franc said, &ldquo;It just kind of made that whole idea just come crashing down around me.&rdquo;</p><p>Now Franc wonders where the Latter-day Saints will draw the line on her own feminist activism. For instance, she joined in the annual <a href="https://www.facebook.com/WearPantsToChurchDay">Wear Pants to Church Day</a> protest, and now wears pants there regularly. (Mormon women typically wear dresses or skirts to church.)</p><p>Franc, who teaches Sunday School, pointed to a Bible lesson that she found problematic. It was about Deborah, a famous judge from Israel who also led men into battle.</p><p>&ldquo;The lesson manual wanted me to ask the question, &lsquo;How was Deborah a good friend?&rsquo; It made me so mad,&rdquo; Franc said. &ldquo;How was Deborah a good friend? I&rsquo;m sure she was a good friend, but she was also a good judge. She was also a good Army leader.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead, Franc asked the class about what leadership qualities Deborah had.</p><p>Franc said she appreciates the way the church cherishes women, but she can find it limiting.</p><p>&ldquo;The LDS church kind of puts women on this pedestal where we are gentle and kind and sweet,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think it gets in the way of seeing women as legitimate forces for change and power.&rdquo;</p><p>But another local Mormon woman finds a different, more traditional power within the church.</p><p>Before she got married, Jesika Harmon traveled the world on mission trips, and co-hosted a teen TV competition on ABC Family. But when she had children, she opted to stay at home with them in their Buffalo Grove house.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t even tell you how I have seen with my husband having the priesthood, how that has empowered me in our family,&rdquo; Harmon said. &ldquo;Just because I can&rsquo;t baptize my child when they&rsquo;re 8 or just because I can&rsquo;t give my child a blessing when they&rsquo;re sick, I feel like just as equal in power and in authority by my husband&#39;s side, praying with him and adding my faith.&rdquo;</p><p>Most Mormon women share Harmon&rsquo;s views. A landmark 2012 <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2012/01/12/mormons-in-america-executive-summary/">Pew survey</a> found that 90 percent of women do not &nbsp;think females should hold the priesthood &mdash; compared to 84 percent of Mormon men.</p><p>More than half the women, 56 percent, said the best marriages were ones in which the husband worked, and the wife stayed home with the kids. Just 38 percent preferred marriages in which both spouses worked and jointly cared for kids and the home. You&rsquo;d have to invert those percentages to reflect the U.S. general public&rsquo;s view.</p><p>Harmon said she felt societal pressure to keep working outside the home, and appreciates the church&rsquo;s backing.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re given so many opportunities to teach and to serve and to stretch yourself that I feel like it has given me more and more confidence to say &lsquo;I am enough, just like this.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not enough for Chicago Mormon Nikki Ricks. She&rsquo;s a freelance urban planner who works from home. She favors putting women at the highest levels of the church and giving them the priesthood.</p><p>Holding these views can be so isolating, Ricks said, she started a group for Mormon feminists here in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard, emotionally and spiritually and intellectually. It&rsquo;s been like hell,&rdquo; she said with a laugh. &ldquo;Just because you feel like you&rsquo;re going back on everything you&rsquo;ve ever known.&rdquo;</p><p>Winnetka psychotherapist Jennifer Finlayson-Fife calls these tensions &ldquo;the crucible of pressure.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Finlayson-Fife works with Mormon couples, and is Mormon herself. She said the church was more patriarchal when she was growing up in the 1970s, and in recent years, it has emphasized a more egalitarian view of marriage. But she&rsquo;s struck by how many Mormon clients still struggle with that issue compared to other clients.</p><p>Finlayson-Fife says many women find a strong sense of purpose and place in the church. But she says there are other women active in the faith who feel like the church is putting them in the back seat. They have a growing sense that women&rsquo;s roles in society are outpacing their religious experiences.</p><p>&ldquo;I see a lot of women who feel they have more credibility, that they&rsquo;re taken more seriously in their work than they are taken in the church, and so the incongruity is difficult,&rdquo; Finlayson-Fife said.</p><p>For Nikki Ricks, one of the most challenging moments in the faith was the blessing of her daughter, which is traditionally done by the husband and other men in the church.</p><p>&ldquo;I really wanted to be part of it,&rdquo; Ricks said. &ldquo;This is my baby girl, I&rsquo;ve nursed her every two hours and have gone through this pain and labor, and I wouldn&rsquo;t be part of this really beautiful part in her life.&rdquo;</p><p>After months of discussion, Ricks and her husband ended up doing it at home by themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;It just kind of felt nonsensical that anatomy is what differentiates one person from another,&rdquo; Ricks said. &ldquo;If we, all men and women, can become like God, why wouldn&rsquo;t we all be able to hold the power of God of Earth?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Most Mormon feminists are what I would call moderates in that they are not actively militating for ordination or for other major structural changes,&rdquo; said Professor Patrick Mason, who chairs Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re just saying, &lsquo;We want more of a voice&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>Mason said he thinks the Latter-day Saints is starting to hear them. He said changing economic conditions mean more women are becoming primary breadwinners and more men stay-at-home dads. There are more dual-income families. He said the church isn&rsquo;t sealed off from larger society, and in response, it&rsquo;s becoming less dogmatic about traditional gender roles.</p><p>But Mason thinks the most significant change is the way the church recently lowered the age for young women to become missionaries from 21 to 19. (Young men moved from 19 to 18.)</p><p>Lowering the age makes it easier for young women to go now because they won&rsquo;t be in their final year of college, and are less likely to be in a committed relationship. Mason said, as a result, they&rsquo;re signing up in droves.</p><p>&ldquo;And they&rsquo;re going to have a lot more leadership opportunities. Those women are going to come home, and I think that&rsquo;s going to be the really interesting dynamic moving forward. What are those women going to expect in terms of participation in their local congregations?&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.neylanmcbaine.com/">Neylan McBaine</a>, a blogger and the founder <a href="http://www.mormonwomen.com/">The Mormon Women Project</a>, a library of interviews with LDS women, thinks the cultural importance of this change can&rsquo;t be overstated.</p><p>&ldquo;These girls who have led other missionaries, both male and female missionaries, in the mission field, are going to come home and they&rsquo;re going to have to assimilate back into their local practices,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And they&rsquo;re going to bring with them a lot of best practices from their missions, and they&#39;re not going to put up with a lot of our current local practices.&rdquo;</p><p>McBaine, who&rsquo;s considered a moderate on LDS women&rsquo;s issues, called the LDS doctrinal position on women &ldquo;glorious,&rdquo; pointing out Mormons believe in a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. She said the church gives her a place to fully explore what it means to be a woman.</p><p>But McBaine thinks there are many things the LDS church can do locally to give women a stronger voice, without making major structural or doctrinal changes. She wrote a book highlighting these ideas called <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Women-Church-Magnifying-Womens-Impact/dp/1589586883">Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women&rsquo;s Local Impact</a>, which is due out later this month.</p><p>For example, McBaine recommends making sure the budgets for young men and young women&rsquo;s programs are equitable. She&rsquo;d like to see girls get to go on home teaching visits with their mothers, the way boys 12 and up get to do with older men now.</p><p>Neither McBaine nor the Chicago feminists expect a change in the male priesthood anytime soon. But they do think going to church could look a little different for the next generation of Mormon women.</p></p> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 16:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/mormon-feminists-find-grounds-hope-fear-changing-church-110646 Chicago tech firms give workers 'sacred spaces' for quiet reflection http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-tech-firms-give-workers-sacred-spaces-quiet-reflection-110550 <p><p>At the Orbitz Worldwide headquarters in downtown Chicago, workers constantly monitor the online travel website. A huge wall of TV screens blinking with charts and graphs looks like mission control in a movie.</p><p>But tucked away in a tiny office, is a place that offers a break from all the hustle and bustle.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a prayer and meditation center, in calm shades of brown, that contains only prayer rugs, a stool and a kneeler. Frosted glass offers privacy, and special lighting dims the usual fluorescent glow.</p><p>When you walk inside, the peace and quiet are immediately noticeable.</p><p>Employees come here to pray, meditate or just reflect. There&rsquo;s even a Bible study.</p><p>&ldquo;The prayer room is one of our important pieces of our culture, given our diverse employee base, and we want to make sure our employees are focused, centered and energized at work,&rdquo; said &nbsp;Laura Jones, Orbitz&rsquo;s talent development director.</p><p><a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140517/ISSUE01/305179985/the-next-thing-in-tech-workplace-prayer-rooms">Orbitz is among a growing number of high-tech firms in Chicago</a> that are offering a benefit usually associated with religious institutions. They&rsquo;re creating sacred spaces.</p><p>Airports and hospitals have long had chapels or places to pray. And the<a href="http://www.wired.com/2013/06/meditation-mindfulness-silicon-valley/"> idea is nothing new in Silicon Valley</a>: Google, Facebook and Twitter offer things like meditation classes and mindful lunches.</p><p>Here in Chicago, Google, Centro and Gogo all said they plan to build quiet spaces or prayer rooms in offices that are planned or under construction. Officials from these companies said &nbsp;these sacred spaces are a perk, like yoga or ping pong tables, that give employees a break from the workday so they can return to their desks with new focus.</p><p>&ldquo;Having an environment where employees are comfortable and where they can can carry out not only their work, and have time for quiet and health, are really important to driving Gogo to being a company where people want to work,&rdquo; said Gogo&rsquo;s Vice President of Marketing Linda Ramsey.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it is a good opportunity to reset in the middle of your day, and you can go on and spend more time really doing work,&rdquo; said Zaki Sharabash, Orbitz&rsquo;s senior director of technology.</p><p>He&rsquo;s Muslim and must pray five times a day. A few of those prayers fall during the workday, so he seeks out the prayer room.</p><p>In previous jobs, he said, &ldquo;I have to look for conference rooms, and conference rooms are not always available.&rdquo; Then, he said, he had to just keep looking, which could take some time.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%201_1.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="" /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="" /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo%203.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="" /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo 4.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Architect and sculptor Deirdre Colgan fills her home, which doubles as an office, with meaningful objects to help her reflect and refocus. She believes that creating sacred spaces can help people who work from home find work-life balance. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" /></div></div><p>Federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee&rsquo;s religious beliefs, unless that causes undue hardship.</p><p>There have been several high-profile cases in other parts of the country where Muslims got fired over prayer breaks and sued, with mixed outcomes. But the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations reports it&rsquo;s received no formal complaints here.</p><p>In fact, in Chicago the number of prayer rooms and quiet spaces for reflection seems to be slowly growing.</p><p>Dominic LoGalbo, a partner with Chicago&rsquo;s Harding Partners, which specializes in religious institutions, welcomes the idea.</p><p>&ldquo;As people feel more and more pressures of work life, connected 24/7, they&rsquo;ll want more opportunities to pull out, even for a few minutes a day,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The design depends on the intent of the space, LoGalbo said. For instance, a meditation center would likely want to filter out distracting sounds. Comfortable seating is key, whether it&rsquo;s chairs or the floor. Religious institutions that want a strong connection to the physical environment may incorporate daylight, so that shadows and lines thrown by the sun change the space, too, he said.</p><p>Chicago architect and sculptor Deirdre Colgan said there are easy ways to turn a room into a sacred space. A company that uses bright colors in its decor might turn to more neutral tones in a prayer room. Certain materials help mute sound, while others highlight it. Dim lights can help too.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not just offices. Colgan thinks it goes deeper than that.</p><p>&ldquo;In society, we&rsquo;re encouraged to multitask and try to do a millions things at once, and that&rsquo;s not good for anyone. It&rsquo;s headache-inducing,&rdquo; said Colgan, who&rsquo;s the former executive director of Sacred Space International, a group dedicated to raising awareness of diverse religions and their gathering spaces. (It&rsquo;s since been transformed into <a href="http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/index.cfm?n=29&amp;sn=2">Sharing Sacred Spaces</a>, in partnership with the Council for a Parliament of the World&rsquo;s Religions.)</p><p>Colgan believes we should have places for reflection in all walks of life: &ldquo;Unless you get the opportunity to recharge and to quiet down, have a base for focusing and concentration, I think you&rsquo;ll just end up spinning wheels.&rdquo;</p><p>She thinks the idea of sacred space is just as important in the home, especially the home office. Colgan&rsquo;s a consultant and adjunct faculty, and she works out of her apartment. She&rsquo;s had to figure out how to make space and time for reflection while raising a toddler.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re at home and you&rsquo;re trying to get work done, it&rsquo;s sometimes really, really hard because there&rsquo;s are all of these life-work things to do as well,&rdquo; Colgan said. She&rsquo;ll find herself performing tasks she likes to call &ldquo;noble procrastination,&rdquo; like doing the dishes. &ldquo;So how do you separate between your work-work and life-work?&rdquo;</p><p>For Colgan, that&rsquo;s meant dividing her living room into two distinct spaces: At one end, is a simple desk and table. She&rsquo;s got a clock she can only see from that desk, to remind her she&rsquo;s on work time.</p><p>When she needs a break, she can look at another corner of the apartment, at a sculpture next to a piece of ornate molding, or to some carefully arranged rocks from her Irish homeland.</p><p>To Colgan, they&rsquo;re like tiny altars that carry her to another place and time, if even for a moment. Then she can return, she says, refreshed.</p></p> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 07:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-tech-firms-give-workers-sacred-spaces-quiet-reflection-110550 'Post-atheists' experiencing a big tent revival, minus the preacher http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/post-atheists-experiencing-big-tent-revival-minus-preacher-110508 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/godless church.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>This past week a couple stood in front of a local congregation carefully lighting the Shabbat candles. The Friday night service followed many Jewish traditions: There was a gifted cantor to lead the singing and readings, with excerpts like, &ldquo;Illumination is not enough. To understand, we need enlightenment.&rdquo;</p><p>But there was one thing missing &ndash; any mention of a higher power.</p><p>These members at Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation in Chicago&rsquo;s northern suburbs are part of a growing trend. Polls show the number of people in the U.S. who don&rsquo;t identify with any religion keeps increasing. So does the number searching for a sense of community, and shared values, outside of religious institutions.</p><p>Across Chicago, atheists, agnostics and humanists are finding each other with rituals that look a lot like church or temple&mdash;but without a God.</p><p>&ldquo;The need for community is a human need, it&rsquo;s not a religious need, it&rsquo;s not a secular need, it&rsquo;s a human need,&rdquo; said Rabbi Adam Chalom, who leads <a href="https://kolhadash.com/" target="_blank">Kol Hadash</a>. &ldquo;We need inspiration, we need beauty, we need community, fellowship, support through difficult moments, the chance to celebrate your family culture if that&rsquo;s the direction you&rsquo;re going.&rdquo;<br /><br />For some, this direction is far from new. All the way back in 1882, the <a href="http://ethicalhuman.org/" target="_blank">Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago</a> was founded to create a space for quote &ldquo;deed beyond creed.&rdquo;</p><p>What is new is the way this movement is now making a comeback. A group called Foundation Beyond Belief formed four years ago to increase charitable giving by non-church goers. This weekend, leaders from all over are coming to Chicago for what they&rsquo;re calling the <a href="http://humanismatwork.org/" target="_blank">first-ever conference</a> on the topic.<br /><br />&ldquo;As atheists, we don&rsquo;t believe in an afterlife, we don&rsquo;t believe we&rsquo;re going to heaven or hell for that matter after we die,&rdquo; said Hemant Mehta, who chairs the foundation and is the creator of a blog called the &ldquo;<a href="http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/" target="_blank">Friendly Atheist</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;This is the only life we have, this is the only world we&rsquo;re ever going to live in. We might as well make it a great place to live in,&rdquo; Mehta said.</p><p>Rabbi Chalom likes to call it &lsquo;post-atheist&rsquo;: &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s say you come to a conclusion that there is no God. What&rsquo;s next? That doesn&rsquo;t tell you how to live your life.&rdquo;</p><p>One of his congregants has been struggling with that question since before his bar mitzvah. Mitch Gibbs started attending Kol Hadash three years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;For me, it&rsquo;s being able to have integrity with my beliefs,&rdquo; Gibbs said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m never asked to say anything I don&rsquo;t believe.&rdquo;</p><p>Gibbs said he loved the beauty he found in Jewish services as a kid. But early on, he said he would shut down when activities got religious. After he stopped going, he missed the sense of togetherness.</p><p>&ldquo;I like the diversity of a community where you, because everyone has something in common, the walls between people are not quite so high,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />On a recent Sunday in White Eagle Woods in Lyons, several people in their 20s and 30s played croquet in wet grass. This could have been a church picnic anywhere, just minus the church.</p><p>In fact, they were part of a godless church called <a href="http://sundayassembly.com/about/" target="_blank">Sunday Assembly</a> that&rsquo;s sprouting across the world. Their motto? Live better, help often, wonder more.</p><p>Jennifer Lyle came with her 16-month-old son to check it out.</p><p>&ldquo;I really like having the idea of having a cohesive group or community to belong to so that when he gets to be school age and all of his friends are going to church, and do you go to church? He&rsquo;s like, well, we go to Sunday Assembly.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyle said she tends to stay quiet about her beliefs, especially at work.</p><p>&ldquo;You might think that you&rsquo;re the only in your office, or you&rsquo;re the only one in your parent playgroup that is a non-believer,&rdquo; Lyle said. &ldquo;You feel very isolated, it becomes kind of like a secret, you don&rsquo;t really want to bring it up. When you find a community of like-minded people, you say, &lsquo;Oh, I&rsquo;m not alone.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The post-atheist movement hopes to make it OK for people like Lyle to openly identify as a non-believer.</p><p>&ldquo;People are afraid of telling their family members or their colleagues at work,&rdquo; said Hemant Mehta. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s a problem because when you tell people you don&rsquo;t believe in God, they think you&rsquo;re immoral, they don&rsquo;t trust you anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Some members of the growing movement liken it to a big tent revival, just without the tent or the preacher.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes covers religion for WBEZ. Follow her<a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes"> @LynetteKalsnes.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/post-atheists-experiencing-big-tent-revival-minus-preacher-110508 Passing through: Chicago's Union Station as Amish transit hub http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157991456&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: In producing this story, producer Katie Klocksin quotes several people of Amish background. In a deviation from most journalistic practice, Klocksin and editor Shawn Allee chose not to publish the sources&rsquo; names out of respect for the Amish culture&#39;s longstanding premium on humility, as well as possible social consequences for participants. The decision was made in consideration of comments on the issue made by Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish.</em></p><p>Paul Vaccarello of LaGrange, Illinois, sees Amish people when he passes through downtown Chicago&rsquo;s Union Station &mdash; the nexus of several Amtrak and Metra commuter rail lines.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve just always been curious about where they&rsquo;re going, why they&rsquo;re here, if they&rsquo;re actually coming to Chicago or if this is a stop on their way to somewhere else,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This led him to ask Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Is Chicago a large transportation hub for Amish travelers?</em></p><p>Reporting an answer provided Paul an opportunity to hear from people that Chicagoans and suburbanites don&rsquo;t ordinarily cross paths with. Members of the religious group seek to maintain a close-knit rural lifestyle and, though there are Amish settlements sprinkled throughout the Midwest, the nearest one lies 90 miles from downtown Chicago. As we approached an answer &mdash; by checking in with experts and Amish travelers themselves &mdash; we couldn&rsquo;t help but feel we were meeting our regional neighbors for the first time.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">A separate pattern of life</span></p><p>Dr. Steven Nolt, Professor of History at Goshen College and author of numerous books on the Amish, reminded us that adherents belong to a Protestant religious community that is &ldquo;sometimes referred to as &lsquo;the old order Amish,&rsquo; which means they have tried to maintain what they consider the old patterns of life.&rdquo; Typically, they limit their use of modern technology and their communities tend to be in rural areas. These &ldquo;old patterns of life,&rdquo; Nolt said, &ldquo;would be things that encourage community and cooperation and collaboration.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt noted, though, that there are few technologies that the Amish consider wholly bad. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s their attempt to try to control technology or engage technology on their own terms,&rdquo; he said. &nbsp;</p><p>Relevant to Paul&rsquo;s question, Amish people generally don&rsquo;t own or drive cars, although some will hire a vehicle and driver for transportation. It&rsquo;s common for the Amish to travel on trains or buses. &ldquo;The problem isn&rsquo;t the <em>thing</em>,&rdquo; Nolt said. &ldquo;The problem is when we own and control something, then, that heightens our sense of individual autonomy.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt described an aspect of Amish life that posed a problem for reporting this story: &ldquo;Amish people, when speaking to members of the media, almost always decline to be identified by name or photographed in ways that would highlight them as an individual. Their concern there is one of humility, of not appearing to present oneself as a spokesperson for the whole group, not wanting to call attention to themselves.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Traveling by train<a name="map"></a></span></p><p>Paul and I made several trips to Union Station and found Amish people each time. Most were happy to talk with us, provided my large microphone was turned off. Most people, as predicted, declined to give their names. Everyone we talked to confirmed our theory: Chicago <em>is</em> a hub for transportation among the Amish. The people we interviewed at Union Station were all waiting to switch trains. One woman put it succinctly: &ldquo;A lot of Amish travel from one state to the other on Amtrak. &hellip;Every train comes into Chicago and leaves Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Our map can clarify this: There, you can see how Amtrak lines cross near or through midwestern Amish communities. Nolt added, too, that more than 60 percent of the Amish live in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: states with Amtrak lines. So Paul was onto something: Amish people, by avoiding cars, travel by train throughout the Midwest and the country. Many Amtrak trains converge in Chicago, thus Amish regularly wait for trains and transfers at Union Station.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/amish/index.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em><strong>Map: U.S. counties with extant Amish settlements as of 2010, overlaid with unofficial map of Amtrak rail system lines.</strong> Amish population data: <a href="http://www.rcms2010.org/index.php" target="_blank">Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies</a>.&nbsp;Rough Amtrak line map: <a href="https://www.blogger.com/profile/17241478144408980328" target="_blank">Rakshith Krishnappa</a>.</em></span></p><p>Nolt points out that Amish people aren&rsquo;t likely to use the word &ldquo;vacation.&rdquo; Instead, he says, they talk about trips. &ldquo;I think on one level it&rsquo;s because &lsquo;vacation&rsquo; suggests leisure type activity that doesn&rsquo;t fit with their rural way of life,&rdquo; he said, adding, &ldquo;Their worlds are not as neatly divided as many of the rest of ours are between work and leisure, home and work. There&rsquo;s much more fluidity and overlap between the domains of their life.&rdquo;</p><p>Nolt says it is common for a long-distance trip to be centered around business travel. There are all-Amish trade shows, for example, which are similar to standard trade shows except they are hosted by a local community and attendees stay with local families. &quot;Most people bring their whole family and it kind of turns into a reunion of visiting,&quot; he said.</p><p>For the most part, though, Paul and I met people traveling to visit family members in other states. We met a large family returning home to Kansas from a wedding in Indiana. An Amish woman from Ohio was traveling with several of her grandchildren to visit her cousin and see the Grand Canyon.</p><p>A few Amish people we met were seeking medical care, including a man from Kentucky. &ldquo;We were in Mexico for medical purposes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like to see it, but medical expenses in the States anymore are so phenomenal that an ordinary person cannot afford it.&rdquo; He was returning from Tijuana after a successful operation.</p><p>Another medical traveler, an Amish man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a constant grin, cracked jokes with us for a while. After we parted ways with him, though, we ran into him throughout our stay at Union Station. It&rsquo;s not an exaggeration to say he seemed to know every Amish person there that day, which perhaps reveals a benefit of Union Station&rsquo;s being a hub: For the Amish, it provides a space to serendipitously meet far-flung neighbors.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Paul%20Vaccarello%20-%20courtesy%20of%20Paul%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 254px; width: 190px;" title="Paul Vaccarello asked Curious City about the Amish at Union Station. (Photo courtesy Paul Vaccarello)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our question comes from: Paul Vaccarello</span></p><p>Paul Vaccarello told Curious City he visits Union Station about twice a month, adding that &ldquo;pretty much every time, I see groups of Amish people.&rdquo; While he was curious about whether the Amish travel by train, he also wondered if Chicago was ever the destination for Amish people on the road. &ldquo;It was interesting to hear they sometimes stop in Chicago to sightsee, go to the Sears Tower and John Hancock building,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Paul said he&rsquo;s not someone who would normally talk to strangers in the train station, and striking up a conversation with someone from a clearly different background can feel like crossing a barrier.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s cool to see they&rsquo;re so willing to talk, and that they don&rsquo;t even really see the barrier,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is a freelance radio producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/passing-through-chicagos-union-station-amish-transit-hub-110453 Quinn supporter links Republicans to KKK http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/quinn-supporter-links-republicans-kkk-110337 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP080515057216.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/154102584&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Updated 9:17 a.m. Friday</em></p><p>An outspoken Chicago pastor connected Republicans to the Ku Klux Klan and suggested that GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner stands for &ldquo;evil,&rdquo; as he appeared next to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday to give the Democrat his endorsement.</p><p>The governor remained silent as the Rev. Walter &ldquo;Slim&rdquo; Coleman, a long-time left-wing activist, spoke at his side during a press event where Quinn accepted the endorsement of several mostly African-American clergy members.</p><p>When Coleman took the lectern, he talked about the importance of registering voters to support Quinn, especially &ldquo;unlikely voters&rdquo; who may feel isolated from the political process.</p><p>But as his voice rose in a crescendo and the audience began to cheer, Coleman also warned against another type of unlikely voter.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s an unlikely voter that began way back in 1961 and &rsquo;62 with the Ku Klux Klan, that grew up through the militias, that came outta the militias and, and, and &ndash; came in to call themselves conservatives, and then came in to call themselves Republican,&rdquo; Coleman said.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a movement that brings an evil that we have got to stop,&rdquo; Coleman said, as the crowd began to clap. &ldquo;Our fight &ndash; our fight is not &ndash; our fight is not with flesh and blood. Our fight is with powers and principalities. And there&rsquo;s an evil &ndash; there&rsquo;s an evil that a candidate may seem that he&rsquo;s harmless is gonna raise up in this state and we&rsquo;re not gonna let it happen!&rdquo;</p><p>Shortly after speeches concluded, Quinn disappeared out the back door of the Chicago Lakeshore Hotel, where the endorsement event was held, without taking questions from reporters. Following inquiries from WBEZ, the governor&rsquo;s re-election campaign sought to distance itself from Coleman&rsquo;s comments on Thursday.</p><p>Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told WBEZ that Coleman was invited to speak at the event by another minister, not by the campaign. In a statement Anderson said &nbsp;the governor does not support Coleman&rsquo;s statements.</p><p>&ldquo;We couldn&#39;t disagree more strongly, and the Governor believes this rhetoric has no place in politics,&rdquo; Anderson wrote in an email.</p><p>A spokesman for Bruce Rauner&rsquo;s campaign declined to comment.</p><p>Reached by phone after Thursday&rsquo;s event, Coleman told WBEZ he does not believe Rauner is evil. He said he was referring instead to the &ldquo;hatred and prejudice and white supremacy&rdquo; he believes are represented by the conservative Tea Party movement, which he said gets political cover from the GOP.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not suggesting that Rauner is a member of the Klan or that there were any Klansmen involved in his campaign or anything like that,&rdquo; Coleman said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. &ldquo;We were just saying that the forces that are unleashed by the - the current day Republican Party are very dangerous forces and very racist forces, and that we don&rsquo;t want them to take over in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>Coleman <a href="about:blank">made headlines</a> in 2006 when he offered sanctuary in his Adalberto United Methodist Church to Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant who was trying to avoid being deported by U.S. immigration authorities.</p><p>In an emailed statement Friday morning, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider blasted the Quinn camp&#39;s response to the incident.</p><p>&quot;It is unacceptable and outrageous for a sitting governor to stand by silently and condone comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan,&quot; Schneider said. &quot;Governor Quinn owes the people of Illinois an explanation for why he stood by and said nothing.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" id="docs-internal-guid-62d48251-91c9-5a37-3ee3-6cf38766dbb3">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/quinn-supporter-links-republicans-kkk-110337 Chicago's Polish Catholics express renewed pride after canonizations http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-polish-catholics-express-renewed-pride-after-canonizations-110087 <p><p>Red and white flags are waving from cars across Chicago as Polish Roman Catholics continue to celebrate the canonization of the first Polish pontiff.</p><p>Pope Francis declared Popes John Paul II and John XXIII saints Sunday in Rome in a solemn ceremony attended by millions. Many more watched on TVs and Internet streams around the world. It was the first time two popes became saints on the same day.</p><p>It was an especially big deal for Polish Catholics in Chicago: Pope John Paul II was both the first Polish pontiff, and the first to visit Chicago.</p><p>Poles came out by the thousands Saturday and Sunday for special masses, vigils, concerts, museum exhibits and marches across greater Chicago.</p><p>At Five Holy Martyrs Church on the South Side, people started gathering more than four hours before the canonization ceremony, which began at 3 a.m. Chicago time. They prayed the rosary and listened to performances by several Polish Highlander groups, including excerpts from an opera about Pope John Paul II.</p><p>Karolina Nowobilska, 14, sang a solo in front of the packed church. She said she was calm until she finished.</p><p>&ldquo;When I got back into the pew, I went by my parents and I just started crying because I got so emotional that I got to sing,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a huge event that won&rsquo;t happen in my lifetime or maybe ... generations to come.&rdquo;</p><p>Nowobilska said she&rsquo;s already been praying to Pope John Paul II for help with things, including homework</p><p>Maggie Strzelec, 22, said she felt Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to reach out to young people around the world, and it changed how people viewed Poles -- and how Poles viewed themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;There was no more embarrassment, or no more comments or stereotypical comments,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I think it made everybody so proud to be Polish.&rdquo;<br /><br />Hundreds of Polish Catholics marched up Milwaukee Avenue Sunday, from Holy Trinity Polish Church to St. Hyacinth Basilica, praying and singing. They arrived at their destination, waving Polish and Vatican flags, as church bells rang. Several people carried images of Pope John Paul II as they filed inside for mass.</p><p>Natalie Gebala of Mount Prospect attended an overnight vigil in Des Plaines, then marched in the pilgrimage. She got about three hours of sleep between events.</p><p>&ldquo;It was very tiring, and I have blisters on my feet. My muscles ache,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But it was so worth it because it was such a beautiful unifying experience, and I feel like it was unforgettable. I feel like he brought religion and goodness together. I feel like that&rsquo;s going to maybe deepen people&rsquo;s faith.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/pope%20saints%201.JPG" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Roman Catholics march about five miles between two Polish churches to celebrate the canonization of two pontiffs, especially Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pope. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" />Pope John Paul II visited Chicago in 1979 and held a huge mass that filled Grant Park. He also held a service at Five Holy Martyrs. An estimated 10,000 came, spilling out of the church parking lot and onto nearby rooftops. The church still has both the wooden chair he sat in and the altar, which they&rsquo;re restoring as a shrine.</p><p>Mark Wojciechowski from the Back of the Yards neighborhood was just a kid at the time, but he remembers that day well.</p><p>&ldquo;Waking up, your whole family being so proud, and no matter what, whether it was going to rain or shine, you were going to be there. It&rsquo;s just one of those things that&rsquo;s beautiful, you can always say you lived to be a saint.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many Polish Catholics gathered this weekend, Wojciechowski said he already knew in his heart that Pope John Paul II was a saint, and the ceremony just made it official.</p><p>Jozef Bafia, a Polish radio host who helped organized the vigil at Five Holy Martyrs, had a third row seat at that Holy Martyrs mass. He met the pope several times.</p><p>&ldquo;When he was here first time in 1979, Poland was behind the Iron Curtain, communism rules: You can&rsquo;t do this, you can&rsquo;t go there,&rdquo; Bafia said. &ldquo;Poland got free without bloodshed, without shots. I know Pope John Paul II, holy father, he was that big fire for that. Now he&rsquo;s a saint. Saint John Paul II. He&rsquo;s going to be with me for the rest of my life.</p><p>Not everyone was satisfied with the focus on John Paul II. Barb Smith, who attended mass Sunday night at Holy Name Cathedral, thought the occasion was exciting and historic. But she&nbsp; wanted Pope John XXIII, known as a progressive who worked to modernize the church, to get equal billing.</p><p>&ldquo;I just thought he was the best,&rdquo; Smith said, adding Pope John XXIII had an &ldquo;unblemished record.&rdquo; She said she felt Pope John Paul II&rsquo;s record was tarnished by his conservatism and the priest sex abuse scandal.</p><p>But Smith said she also thought Pope John Paul II had cleared those &ldquo;blemishes&rdquo; with the way he reached out to people, especially the young, and the way he so publicly suffered Parkinson&rsquo;s disease late in life.</p><p>Smith had visited Rome to see Pope John Paul II. She brought his photos with her Sunday, hoping to show her priest.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion and culture. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes.</a></em></p></p> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 12:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-polish-catholics-express-renewed-pride-after-canonizations-110087 Fish fry dinners bring food, community to Catholics during Lent http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fish-fry-dinners-bring-food-community-catholics-during-lent-110029 <p><p>Roman Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. They view it as a small act of penance to honor Christ&rsquo;s death.</p><p>So churches across Chicago and the nation are carrying on a time-honored way to skip the meat, and gather as a community. It&rsquo;s the Friday fish fry, and it is growing in popularity here again.</p><p>One of the biggest and longest-running fish fries in Chicago -- and, volunteers claim, the only one here with a drive-through -- is at St. Ferdinand Church on the far Northwest Side.</p><p>Father Jason Torba stood in the church basement last Friday evening among a circle of volunteers. Many wore bunny ears and orange name tags shaped like fish.</p><p>&ldquo;We ask God for his blessing tonight and especially for the people, they will come and will serve,&rdquo; Torba said, adding it is even more important to serve during Lent. Then he led the group in an &ldquo;Our Father.&rdquo;</p><p>The volunteers were about to serve nearly 600 fish dinners ... in three hours. And the crowd started lining up 45 minutes early.</p><p>St. Ferdinand&rsquo;s fish fry has been going on for something like 25 years now. Organizers said other churches are coming to them now, asking how to start fish fries of their own.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20fry%201.JPG" title="Signs point the way to St. Ferdinand’s fish fry. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" />Professor Michael Murphy, director of Catholic Studies at Loyola University Chicago, said church dinners like this were popular in the middle of the last century. Then, the tight parish structure made the local church a central part of life, resulting in women&rsquo;s and men&rsquo;s clubs, and many other events.</p><p>&ldquo;The parish was for so many years the place to be,&rdquo; he said, adding parishes served as a social outlet.</p><p>Murphy said fish fries merged theological teachings and practicality. If Catholics could not eat meat on Fridays, they might as well have fish and get together. He said that need to gather is central to the philosophy of the faith.</p><p>Murphy said these church dinners waned in popularity in greater Chicago after &ldquo;older parish things broke down&rdquo; following Vatican II, combined with the loosening of social structures in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s.</p><p>But he sees them coming back in style over the past few decades. Murphy said some of his students want to start at fish fry at Loyola. He credited this partly to the &ldquo;Pope Francis effect,&rdquo; which has Catholics longing for community again.</p><p>&ldquo;This is not just to come to eat fish, but it is to build community,&rdquo;&nbsp; said Rich Wenzl, who has helped run the St. Ferdinand event with his wife Pat for 19 years. Their main goal is not to raise money. They hope to attract people from the parish and the larger neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Our world is very hungry for getting out of our houses and having a place to go that&rsquo;s correct, and that&rsquo;s safe, that feels good to be with each other and that we can share ourselves with one another,&rdquo; Rich Wenzl said.</p><p>Pat Wenzl, who is the lead organizer of the fish fry, said it is especially important to recruit young people to volunteer to keep them in the parish and in the faith.</p><p>&ldquo;If we groom them well and make them feel comfortable and make them feel like it&rsquo;s an important part of them, it only serves to help the church in years to come,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The couple created the process for running the event, and it is pretty much an assembly line. Friday, four men stood over designated fryers. Four women lined up next to each other to dish out fish, coleslaw, dinner rolls and condiments.</p><p>Teens stood right outside the kitchen, ready to run out orders to two packed dining halls. The operation is so big now, it takes more than 100 volunteers a night.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fish%20fry%202.jpg.JPG" style="float: left; height: 358px; width: 275px;" title="Volunteers run the fish fry like a factory line to make and serve about 600 meals in three hours. (WBEZ/Lynette Kalsnes)" />Mary Clemente, who headed the line of women, did not slow down for even a minute ... not until her 4-year-old grandson popped by.</div><p>&ldquo;Give me a kiss, hey, love you,&rdquo; Clemente told her grandson.</p><p>&ldquo;Grandma, why is people wearing Easter bunny ears?&rdquo; he asked.</p><p>&ldquo;For Easter,&rdquo; she said with a laugh.</p><p>Then she went right back to work. Clemente has been volunteering so long, &ldquo;My son was 3, he&rsquo;s now 21, so that&rsquo;s how long, 18 years.&rdquo;</p><p>Another woman chimed in: &ldquo;Last year was her birthday, we made her kitchen queen.&rdquo;</p><p>Many of the volunteers have stories like this. Volunteering eight, 10, even 20 years is common. Even though it is hard work, Clemente said it is fun, and volunteers become like family.</p><p>That sense of community was visible among diners, too. Anne Marie Castiglioni came with her children and her mom. She does not attend St. Ferdinand&rsquo;s, but lives nearby. She said her son could not wait to see the Easter Bunny, who appears here the last fish fry of the season.</p><p>&ldquo;(He) had the biggest smile on his face to see this guy because he&rsquo;s known him since he&rsquo;s been like 3 years old, he&rsquo;s kind of grown up knowing this Easter Bunny here,&rdquo; Castiglioni said.</p><p>Her mom, Pat Zwick, said coming here has become a family tradition.</p><p>&ldquo;And the Easter Bunny brings you more into the Easter spirit,&rdquo; she said, as her granddaughter, who was sitting in her lap, excitedly pointed out that the Easter Bunny was right across the room.</p><p>On the other side of the crowded hall, Vincent Clemente -- Mary&rsquo;s husband - ate fish dinners with their grandson. Clemente&rsquo;s been a parishioner since he was 1.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people now, they don&rsquo;t go to church as often,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Some people that live in the neighborhood don&rsquo;t attend church, but this enhances the parish community because then they see how much of a community it is, and it may bring them to the church.&rdquo;</p><p>St. Ferdinand&rsquo;s last fish fry of the season was Friday night. They cannot hold one this weekend, since Catholics are required to fast on Good Friday, depending on their age.<br />But parishioners at St. Ferdinand plan to keep building community through food. They&rsquo;ll be back with the fish fry next year.</p><p>And up next? A pancake breakfast.</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion and culture. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fish-fry-dinners-bring-food-community-catholics-during-lent-110029 New exhibit takes unique look at death, food and remembrance http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/new-exhibit-takes-unique-look-death-food-and-remembrance-109974 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/death exhibit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When someone passes away today, it&rsquo;s pretty common for friends and family to reminisce about them over food and drink. Just think about all those casseroles and cookies that pile up or about hoisting a glass at an Irish wake.</p><p>It turns out, in some ancient cultures, that use of food went, well, further.</p><p>A new show at the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Oriental Institute opens Tuesday, and it takes an unusual look at death. The show&rsquo;s called <a href="http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/special/remembrance/" target="_blank">&ldquo;In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>It examines how we&rsquo;ve remembered our loved ones across cultures and time, and the ways people have tried to control how they&rsquo;ll be thought of too. It highlights some ancient Middle Eastern cultures that believed souls lived on in monuments and needed to be fed so later generations could just come and hang out with them.</p><p>&ldquo;Cultures all over world, in all different periods in all areas of the world have done this, have had some way of maintaining contact their deceased ancestors,&rdquo; said Emily Teeter, a research associate and special exhibits coordinator at the Oriental Institute.</p><p>&ldquo;In Egyptian theology, they thought they would live forever, as long as they were remembered by the living,&rdquo; she said, adding that this ancient culture believed part of the soul lived on in monuments, and keeping those souls alive required lots and lots of food.</p><p>She pointed to a stone slab with an engraving of a couple who were unmistakably Egyptian, with angular black wigs, jeweled collars.</p><p>All over the monument, there are tiny carvings of birds, oxen, bread, even beer. Teeter said those are instructions on what to bring the couple to keep them alive: They wanted a thousand each of oxen, birds, bread and beer.</p><p>&ldquo;The Egyptian dead were apparently constantly hungry,&rdquo; Teeter said. &ldquo;...To stay alive you need to eat, and their whole goal with mummification, with creating these monuments, is to live eternally.&rdquo;</p><p>Teeter said the couple - who died more than 4,000 years ago -- even planned ahead on what to do once all their descendants had passed away, and there was no one to bring them food anymore. The engraving says that if visitors don&rsquo;t happen to have 1,000 oxen on them, it&rsquo;s enough to just pray for the food.</p><p>And it&rsquo;s not just the ancient Middle East where rites like this happened. At an excavation site in Vatican City, University of Chicago Divinity School Dean Margaret Mitchell saw tubes sticking out of burial sites. She said that was so people could pour in beverages to share with their dead loved ones.</p><p>Mitchell said some Roman catacombs had tables for people to eat between rows of burial urns.</p><p>&ldquo;Whether the dead can still eat a Twinkie or can still drink a good glass of merlot, it&rsquo;s a way of tenderly caring for the dead,&rdquo; Mitchell said.</p><p>The monuments go beyond providing the living with that connection to the dead, or assuring the dead will keep getting fed. In some cases, these statues and stones let people control how they&rsquo;ll be remembered.</p><p>The exhibit&rsquo;s showpiece is a replica of an ornately carved memorial stone of a man named Katumuwa. He&rsquo;s in fancy dress, sitting at a banquet table full of food, looking relaxed and happy in the afterlife. Before he died, commissioned it himself.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just &lsquo;Pete was here,&rsquo; but it&rsquo;s even bigger,&rdquo; Mitchell said. She likened this memorial stone to the huge monument Illinois politician Roland Burris has had built, even though he&rsquo;s still very much alive.</p><p>It&rsquo;s like saying, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to leave it to the winds or your children to decide how you&rsquo;re going to be remembered, but I want to steer that process myself,&rdquo; Mitchell said. &ldquo;In some ways, the monuments are like a fist to the sky that says, I refuse to be forgotten.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a WBEZ producer/reporter covering religion, culture and science. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/new-exhibit-takes-unique-look-death-food-and-remembrance-109974 Secrets from the Tomb: The hunt for Chicago's mummies http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/secrets-tomb-hunt-chicagos-mummies-109934 <p><p>Who would have thought the ancient dead could actually break news? But that&rsquo;s exactly what happened when I embarked on my hunt for Chicago&rsquo;s mummies.</p><p>The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) invited me to tag along in February as they took their two mummies, Paankhenamun and Wenuhotep, to be scanned at the University of Chicago.</p><p>The video below will give you a good idea of what that trip involved, and why everyone - from radiologists to Egyptologists to ambulance drivers, were fascinated by the process.<a name="video"></a></p><p><strong><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gopKCYXkdOg" width="620"></iframe></strong></p><p>The results of the scans are already coming in, and though the mummies are not currently on display, if they do go back to the galleries some relabeling will be in order - listen to the radio story above to find out why.</p><p>It was news to me that the AIC even had mummies. Like The Field Museum and the Oriental Institute (OI) of the University of Chicago, the AIC got theirs toward the end of the 19th century, when people on science expeditions and tourist junkets alike became captivated with ancient Egypt.</p><p>Mummies continue to&mdash;bad pun alert&mdash;walk the line between cultural object and scientific specimen. What sometimes gets lost beneath the bandages and elaborately decorated coffins is the fact that mummies were humans too.</p><p>Until a few decades ago, if someone wanted to verify that fact, they would simply unwrap it - as in this somewhat ghoulish photograph of a researcher undoing the linen wrapping on one of the Oriental Institute&rsquo;s mummies.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Unwrap%20mummy.jpg" style="height: 422px; width: 620px;" title="Date/individual unknown. Bad mummy tech: An unidentified employee unwraps one of the Oriental Institute’s mummies in approximately 1910 (archival photo courtesy of The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago) " /></p><p>I&rsquo;m struck by how casual it all seems, this act that we now view as a desecration. The two people conversing in the background, the fact that the researcher&rsquo;s not even wearing gloves!</p><p>But many mummies were unwrapped, some by institutions and others by upper crust tourists, who thought they&rsquo;d have a little fun with the souvenir they picked up on their tour of Europe.</p><p>The mummy in this photograph is still at the Oriental, though it hasn&rsquo;t been displayed since the 1960s or &lsquo;70s. Oriental Institute Egyptologist Emily Teeter took me back to see her and despite being prepared, I was still startled.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mummy%20unwrapped.PNG" style="height: 282px; width: 620px;" title="Unwrapped mummified remains. (WBEZ/Alison Cuddy)" /></div><p>But now we can see inside mummies, thanks to images generated by CT scans. Scanning is the cutting edge of mummy research and exhibition, and it&rsquo;s driving a new interest in the ancient dead, among the public and at institutions.</p><p>Here you see the incredibly detailed views these machines allow, from a recent scan of the Field&rsquo;s mummy known only as the Gilded Lady (a woman who died in her early 40s and was entombed in the early Ptolemaic period).</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mummy_sidebyside.jpg" title="(images courtesy of the Field Museum)" /></div><p>Given Chicago&rsquo;s rather large mummy population, local hospital scanners are sure to be kept busy over the coming years.</p><p>The chart and map below gives you a sense of how many we have, and what the main collections include, from Peruvian mummy &ldquo;bundles&rdquo; at the Field, to mummy parts, including a monkey&rsquo;s paw and other bits of animals at the Oriental.</p><p>I haven&rsquo;t verified this, but Chicago might just be the mummy capital of America.</p><p><strong>What sort of mummies are in the Field Museum&#39;s collection?</strong></p><p><iframe height="360" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/WBEZ-Graphics/mummy_graphs/field.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><strong>What sort of mummies are in the Oriental Institute collection?</strong></p><p><iframe height="460" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/WBEZ-Graphics/mummy_graphs/oriential.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Bob Martin, emeritus curator at the Field, said they are planning to re-do their permanent Egyptian collection, and include more digital elements (like a touch-screen table top display that allows you to virtually unwrap one of their mummies).</p><p>The Art Institute&rsquo;s mummies aren&rsquo;t currently on display, though curator Mary Greuel hopes any information gleaned from the University of Chicago scans will eventually be part of an exhibition..</p><p>I also found some stray mummies. There is one in the Social Studies department at Naperville Central High School.</p><p>And if you pay a visit to the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary library you can view the mummy of a young girl, known as Hawara Portrait Mummy #4.</p><p><strong>Map: Where are Chicago&#39;s mummies?<a name="map"></a></strong></p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col1+from+1O8JcaqBRIzHJbqYxbjLyLBBTiZXqw7z4Pg9T6oV6&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.88994363687098&amp;lng=-87.93986547851563&amp;t=1&amp;z=9&amp;l=col1&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=ONE_COL_LAT_LNG" width="620"></iframe></strong><br /><br />Do you know of any local mummies we may have missed? Let us know - we&rsquo;d love to add them to our inventory!</p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 11:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2014-03/secrets-tomb-hunt-chicagos-mummies-109934 Chicago-area nuns weigh in on Pope's first anniversary http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/chicago-area-nuns-weigh-popes-first-anniversary-109852 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pope nuns.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s been a tough couple of years for nuns in the U.S.<br /><br />In 2012 the Vatican essentially ordered three male bishops to oversee the group representing 80 percent of American nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, saying the LCWR promoted &ldquo;radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.&rdquo;</p><p>So when a new pope came in exactly a year ago, many in this group wondered what it might mean for them and a range of women&rsquo;s issues from the Vatican investigation of nuns, to birth control, to women&rsquo;s ordination.</p><p>&ldquo;All I had was some hope, not a great deal for anything new or different,&rdquo; said Sister Suzanne Zuercher, a Benedictine at St. Scholastica Monastery on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side.</p><p>&ldquo;Now that a year has passed, I can&rsquo;t believe who it is that that conclave elected,&rdquo; Sister Suzanne said, adding that she was surprised and even amazed by how much Pope Francis has accomplished in a year. She pointed to how he had begun reforming the Curia (essentially the Vatican&rsquo;s top dogs) and cleaning house at the scandal-ridden Vatican bank.</p><p>Sister Suzanne said she appreciated how the Pope had changed the focus of the church from doctrinal to pastoral.<br /><br />&ldquo;The church has so often appeared, and been, grim. That is so different with this man,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not grim at all, he is relaxed, he&rsquo;s joyous, and he says without being joyful, what do we have to offer people?&rdquo;<br /><br />Sister Suzanne and her Prioress, Sister Patricia Crowley, both said the Pope&rsquo;s popularity and symbolic acts like openly refusing to judge gay priests are creating a new image of the papacy and the church.</p><p>And while they acknowledge he&rsquo;s had a busy first year, they are waiting for him to take on women&rsquo;s issues in the church.</p><p>The Pope previously said he has a &ldquo;vivid hope&rdquo; women will play a &ldquo;more capillary and incisive&rdquo; role in the church. In an interview with Latin American nuns, he told them if they got a letter announcing an investigation similar to U.S. nuns, not to worry.</p><p>Sister Patricia is cautiously optimistic this could translate to action. Someday, she&nbsp; said, she even hopes to see women&rsquo;s ordination. But she admits the church moves slowly.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s gradual,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But basically, I&rsquo;d like to see that women are equal to men within the church because the first witness to the resurrection was a woman, and I think that&rsquo;s a pretty clear gospel message that indeed women are equal to men.&rdquo;</p><p>In the meantime, Pope Frances still hasn&rsquo;t lifted oversight from many U.S. nuns. That doesn&rsquo;t surprise Charles Reid, a Catholic blogger and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.<br /><br />&ldquo;When he renewed that investigation, he was brand new on the job. He wasn&rsquo;t going to upset apple carts that quickly,&rdquo; Reid said. &ldquo;I do not think he will do what (Pope) Benedict was doing, and that is relentlessly pursue nuns.&rdquo;<br /><br />Reid explained that Pope Francis &ndash; who&rsquo;s a Jesuit &ndash; comes from a tradition that values spirited academic debate.<br /><br />&ldquo;Will he open doors to the ordination of women? No,&rdquo; Reid said. &ldquo;Will he open the doors to scholarship that could lead there in 20 years? Maybe, maybe.&rdquo;<br /><br />That day can&rsquo;t come soon enough for Sister Donna Quinn, a local activist nun. She wants women to have an equal voice and vote in the church.<br /><br />&ldquo;I really don&rsquo;t see any action,&rdquo; Sister Donna said. &ldquo;I see this nice wonderfulness of words and the media. Why doesn&rsquo;t the media pick up on the fact that the church is all men? All men are in power.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Sister Donna sees one hopeful sign in the Pope&rsquo;s more humble lifestyle, including his decision to ditch those fancy red shoes.<br /><br />&ldquo;If he has taken off those expensive shoes and the garb and walked with the people, he is taking that first wonderful step,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot more to follow, hopefully.&rdquo;<br /><br /><em>Lynette Kalsnes is a producer/reporter covering religion, culture and science for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/LynetteKalsnes" target="_blank">@LynetteKalsnes</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 17:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/chicago-area-nuns-weigh-popes-first-anniversary-109852