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Archive for June 3rd, 2017

China’s Astounding Religious Revival

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Very interesting book review by Roderick MacFarquhar in the NY Review of Books:

The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao
by Ian Johnson
Pantheon, 455 pp., $30.00

If there were just one Chinese in the world, he could be the lonely sage contemplating life and nature whom we come across on the misty mountains of Chinese scrolls. If there were two Chinese in the world, a man and a woman, lo, the family system is born. And if there were three Chinese, they would form a tight-knit, hierarchically organized bureaucracy.

But how many Chinese would there have to be to generate a religion? It could be just one—that Daoist sage in the mountains—but in reality it takes a village, according to Ian Johnson in his wonderful new book, The Souls of China. Chinese religion, Johnson writes, had little to do with adherence to a particular faith. Instead, it was primarily “part of belonging to your community. A village had its temples, its gods, and they were honored on certain holy days.” Or, traditionally, it could also take a workplace: “Almost every profession venerated a god…. The list is inexhaustible….” Chinese religion “was spread over every aspect of life like a fine membrane that held society together.”

At the outset of this account of China’s astounding religious revival since the end of the Mao era in the 1970s, Johnson explains the differences between Chinese religious traditions—Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—and the “Abrahamic” faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: “Chinese religion had little theology, almost no clergy, and few fixed places of worship.” Confucianism was largely a moral code of what the upright person should aim to achieve by self-cultivation. In the Analects, Confucius famously advised: “Respect ghosts and spirits, but keep them at a distance.” For the Master, it was enough if he or one of his disciples could gain the ear of a Chinese ruler and sort out the problems of the visible world.

Daoists were freer spirits who refused to be bound by Confucian rules of propriety, and they had their own religious rituals. Only Buddhists used their faith, imported from India around the first century AD under the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), to build up a sizable monastic establishment with considerable political power, but it was reduced in size and influence in the later Tang (618–907). By then Buddhism had long been accepted as a Chinese religion.

Thereafter, for Chinese it was not really a matter of choosing: the three traditional “teachings” were a smorgasbord on offer to all and sundry in the community, and representatives of each would perform on demand, and for a price, their particular rituals on appropriate occasions such as funerals. According to Johnson, “for most of Chinese history, people believed in an amalgam of these faiths that is best described as ‘Chinese Religion.’”

Over the centuries, the Abrahamic faiths began to spread into China. Nestorian Christians arrived from Asia Minor in 635 after disputes over doctrine with both the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches. They flourished under the cosmopolitan Tang dynasty and again under Mongol rule but then effectively disappeared. Muslim traders also arrived under the Tang, but in far larger numbers under the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) when Islam was spreading throughout Central Asia. Jews settled in Kaifeng when it was the capital of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127), and flourished for a while, but gradually the community seems to have faded. Under the Ming (1368–1644), considerable pressure was put on the adherents of non-Chinese religions to assimilate.

Of all those professing foreign faiths, it was the Jesuits who had the greatest impact in premodern China. Arriving in the late sixteenth century, Matteo Ricci emerged as their most prominent leader. He and his colleagues impressed the Confucian elite with their knowledge of science in general and astronomy in particular, for the emperor had to demonstrate to his people a satisfactory relationship with heaven.

The Jesuits flourished particularly after the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) supplanted the Ming. The emperor Kang Xi (r. 1661–1722) put the Jesuits in charge of the royal observatory, and even more significantly issued an edict permitting the practice of Christianity throughout the empire:

The Europeans are very quiet; they do not excite any disturbances in the provinces, they do no harm to anyone, they commit no crimes, and their doctrine has nothing in common with that of the false sects in the empire, nor has it any tendency to excite sedition…. We decide therefore that all temples dedicated to the Lord of heaven, in whatever place they may be found, ought to be preserved, and that it may be permitted to all who wish to worship this God to enter these temples, offer him incense, and perform the ceremonies practised according to ancient custom by the Christians. Therefore let no one henceforth offer them any opposition.

Unfortunately for the Jesuits they became embroiled in a decades-long dispute with the Dominican and Franciscan orders, which accused them of doctrinal sins for their permissiveness about Confucianism. Despite Kang Xi’s support, the pope backed the Jesuits’ critics in what became known as the “Rites controversy,” and in 1742, the church definitively declared Chinese rites incompatible with Christianity. In 1724, Kang Xi’s successor proscribed Christianity as heterodoxy: Christianity thereby lost its best chance of emulating Buddhism and becoming accepted as a Chinese religion.

Christian missionaries returned, however, if not under auspicious circumstances. John Fairbank, the great expert on nineteenth-century Western trade along the China coast, used to regale his Harvard students with tales of merchants selling opium from one side of their boat while missionaries were handing out Bibles on the other side. Missionaries were not welcomed at court any longer; their most prominent nineteenth-century “convert” was Hong Xiuquan, who proclaimed himself the younger brother of Jesus and led the midcentury Taiping rebellion, which lasted fourteen years, cost an estimated 20 million lives, and almost brought down the Qing empire.

Missionaries persisted, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 June 2017 at 4:28 pm

Posted in Books, Religion

Indiana State Police investigators wrote two reports about the shooting of an unarmed black man — a real report, and a sanitized version

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Radley Balko  reports in the Washington Post:

A recent lawsuit filed by the family of a black man killed by an Indiana state trooper has made some pretty serious allegations. Lucius Washington was unarmed when trooper Seth Mann turned on his lights in 2012, apparently after seeing some men arguing. Washington ran. Mann chased him, pulled him down from a fence and put him in a chokehold. The trooper claims he then felt Washington reach for his gun. He fired nine shots at Washington, killing him.

From the Indianapolis Star:

Here, the two reports diverge.

The first one, dated April 4, 2013, ruled that Mann’s actions were “objectively reasonable.” However, the board found that Mann’s actions before and after the shooting “do not conform to the established training and policies of the Indiana State Police.” It recommends that the violations be referred to the Office of Professional Standards.

The report said Mann demonstrated “poor judgment and decision making,” and lists several examples of improper procedure, such as the use of the chokehold.

The report also criticized the thoroughness of the state police investigation into the shooting, highlighting problems, such as allowing Mann to view the dashcam footage of the incident before his initial interview.

None of this is in the second report, dated April 29, 2013.

The second report delivers the same narrative, but does not contain any of the criticism about the investigation, or Mann’s actions and decision making, omitting a full page of bullet points that described how the investigation was lacking.

The report also came to a different finding. Though it too said Mann’s actions were “objectively reasonable,” the findings end there. There is no mention of violations, or referral to the Office of Professional Standards.

A couple of things here: First, only in the world of cops investigating other cops could a report find that an officer improperly initiated force, used tactics that are contrary to policy and training and used poor judgment and decision-making … and yet still find that his decision to kill a man due to a confrontation caused by all of those things was “objectively reasonable.”

Second, this entire case is a good argument against letting cops investigate cops. . .

Continue reading.

It should be obvious to the meanest intellect that a police department has an egrious conflict of interest when investigating itself.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 June 2017 at 10:33 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Plisson HMW 12, Meißner Tremonia Exotic Elemi, RazoRock Old Type, and Speick

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This Plisson has a horn handle and is quite a good little brush with a generously sized knot. It easily created a fine lather from the Exotic Elemi shaving soap, with a driblet of water added during the loading. The fragrance of this soap is extremely nice and is not like other fragrances.

RazoRock’s Old Type is a first-rate razor, and it did a terrific job: three comfortable passes left a BBS result with no problems.

A splash of Speick, and the weekend is now underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 June 2017 at 8:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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