01: The Fall issue of Turning Wheel, the magazine of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, is devoted to Buddhists of Asian descent in the U.S. The meditative kinds of Buddhism taken up by mainly white converts has received the most media attention, while immigrant and other ethnic Buddhists have fallen through the cracks.
The issue features articles on Cambodian, Taiwanese and Vietnamese American communities, as well as the tensions present among the second and third generation members who tend to distance themselves from the faith (many joining evangelical churches). In one article Buddhist scholar Kenneth Tanaka discusses research he conducted on ethnic Buddhist communities in a separate article. He confirms that there is very little contact between ethnic Buddhists and converts; 90 percent of ethnic Buddhists had never visited a non-ethnic Buddhist center.
Many Asian-American Buddhists viewed American converts as being in a “formative” experimental stage of the faith, although 96 percent said they wanted to see more non-Asians join their temples.
The issue costs $5 and is available from: Turning Wheel, BPF, P.O. Box 4650, Berkeley, CA 94704
02: Killing the Buddha is a new web magazine for what can be called “half-believers” — those “made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the `spirituality’ section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God.”
The magazine (which took its name from a famous Zen saying to discourage spiritual illusion) may strike some readers as promoting doubt and irreverence more than any kind of belief. Recent articles include a look at a Catholic school and the liberal sexual attitudes among students, the role of the veil among feminist Muslims, and an in-depth story on the radical orthodoxy theological movement in Britain. The editors claim that they want to counteract the tendency of religious discourse to become “bloodless, parochial and boring.”
The site is at: http://www.killingthebuddha.com
03: Locating extensive news and commentary on the black church community can often be a difficult endeavor. But the recent appearance of BlackandChristian.com is sure to help in remedying that situation.
The web site features late breaking news on black churches, denominations and other figures, as well as providing commentary and such resources as Bible studies, continuing education and career guidance. The site, started and headed by Jacqueline Trusell, a religion journalist, covers the whole spectrum of African American Christianity, including Pentecostals and the evangelical black megachurches, although the accent is on social activism and the mainstream black churches, such as the National Baptist Convention and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The site is located at: http://www.blackandchristian.com.
04: Colin Wison’s new book Rogue Messiahs (Hampton Roads Publishing, 1125 Stoney Point Rd., Charlottesville, VA 22902 $22.95) makes the case that the many self-proclaimed messiahs are very different from other kinds of religious believers, even sharing something of the criminal mind.
Because of their beliefs about themselves, they lack the sense of “personal unimportance” that most religious believers strive for and thus are not able to develop self-control. Wilson, who has written many books on crime and the occult, profiles about 30 figures from history and the contemporary scene — from the 17th century Jewish leader Sabbatai Zevi to Jim Jones and David Koresh — and finds they display several common traits.
By investigating their personal histories, Wilson finds that these individuals have low self-esteem and therefore an unusual thirst for power. He finds that self-proclaimed messiahs of the modern and contemporary periods also display a history of sexual promiscuity. They tend to see their sexual escapades as “transformational” and mystical for both themselves and followers, yet become frustrated and even paranoid when such experiences often do not lead to fulfillment.
Readers may take issue with Wilson’s tendency to explain followers’ motivations in obeying these leaders in terms of “brainwashing,” as well as his emphasis on the role of the unconscious in rogue messiahs’ power over people.