New Video Interview with Saving Mes Aynak Director Brent E. Huffman at American Buddhist Perspectives

I was honoured to interview director Brent E. Huffman recently about his important new film Saving Mes Aynak, which documents the struggle to protect a Buddhist archaeological site in Afghanistan from destruction by a Fortune 500 mining company.

The film is co-produced by Kartemquin Films, the powerhouse social justice documentary company behind such classic films like Hoop DreamsThe Interrupters, and last year’s critically-acclaimed Roger Ebert profile Life Itself. You can watch the trailer here.

Brent and I spoke via Skype, and I recorded our interview and edited it with clips and images from the film (which Brent allowed me to use). My dear friend Justin Whitaker graciously agreed to host the video at his amazing and much-beloved Patheos blog American Buddhist Perspectives. You can watch the interview in full there. I hope you will take a look and consider donating to Brent’s Indiegogo campaign for the film. The film and the cause very much need our support.

Watch my video interview with Saving Mes Aynak director Brent E. Huffman at American Buddhist Perspectives.

[UPDATE: My interview with Brent was mentioned at Lion’s Roar, the blog of the Shambhala Sun Foundation, in a post about 3D light projections that briefly revived the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.]

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CNN Quotes Me and One of My Essays in a New Article About the Amtrak 188 Crash

Daniel Burke is one of our greatest religion journalists, and an absolutely wonderful guy as well. I got to know him when I was working as an academic and minister, and spoke to him for articles like this one and this one. We’ve stayed in touch via social media, and I’ve remained an enormous admirer of his work.

Daniel was among those who got off at Amtrak 188’s last stop before the recent crash that killed eight people. As he struggled with the question of why he lived while others died, he spoke to several different people…and I was honored to be included among them. In addition to helping Daniel personally, this “seeking” has also yielded a beautiful new piece — entitled “Why Was I Spared from Amtrak 188’s Crash?” — for CNN.

You can read the article he wrote, with quotes from yours truly, at CNN’s website here. (I was delighted to see that Daniel quoted an essay I wrote for Inquiring Mind in 2011 as well.)

Posted in Appearances

New Article at Religion Dispatches: “Who Would the Buddha Bomb?”

My latest article for Religion Dispatches looks at a few disparate conversations about war and peace that are currently taking place in American Buddhist circles — including one that has come out of last week’s historic gathering of Buddhist leaders at the White House.

Here’s a snippet:

[Scholar] Peter Harvey chalks…seeming inconsistencies between Buddhist peacefulness in theory and practice up to “unresolved human fears and attachments aggravated by politically unstable times.” But whatever the reasons, this much is clear: the role of Buddhists and Buddhism in violence and warfare has been more complicated than popular understanding would have us believe.

As Buddhist religions continue to make inroads in the United States, old debates about the Dharma, pacifism, and militarism continue to evolve. This is to be expected in a nation that, as Jonathan Turley notes, has been at “perpetual war” for more than fifty years. Despite the profound human cost unending war “represents perpetual profits for a new and larger complex of business and government interests.” (In fact, only a day after the Buddhists’ White House gathering, the House of Representatives passed a military spending bill that requests a whopping $612 billion for the year.)

Read the rest of the article at Religion Dispatches.

[UPDATE: This article was mentioned in a piece for Get Religion about what little press coverage there was of the Buddhist gathering at the White House.]

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New Article at Religion Dispatches: “A Religion Scholar Gets It Wrong on Indiana’s RFRA”

I like Stephen Prothero. We’ve met a couple of times, and I keep up with him on social media. I’ve also interviewed him, and genuinely think the Boston University religion prof has done an enormous lot through his bestselling books (including Religious Literacy and God Is Not One), blogging and opinion-writing for popular publications, and appearances on programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report to advance our understanding of religion in America.

That said, I take him to task for his misguided USA Today op-ed on Indiana’s “religious freedom” law in a new article for Religion Dispatches:

As Slate’s Micah Schwartzman, Nelson Tebbe, and Robert Tuttle put it, of course “Indiana’s new law allows discrimination. That was the point.” The conspicuous wrongness of the suggestion that there were or are no ulterior motives behind SB 101, and fallacious insistence that it “simply [offers] religious minorities their day in court,” do no favors for the cause of religious liberty.

Prothero has often been an eloquent and passionate supporter of that freedom, but in this instance he’s blowing his formidable credibility on those who would hijack his and others’ cherished ideals. He would do well to heed the wisdom of E.J. Dionne, who presages that allowing religious liberty to be turned into “a sweeping slogan that can be invoked to resist any social change that some group of Americans doesn’t like will create a backlash against all efforts at accommodating religion,” and that defending indefensible RFRAs like Indiana’s is “bad for the brand of religious liberty.”

Read the rest of the article at Religion Dispatches.

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