Summer Simmer

From Easter tweets to Jesus apps, we've posted several updates on religion and social media. But a lot of stories are more glitz than grit. Happily, that's not always the case.

A Dallas rabbi, who is transcribing the Torah, is sharing his adventures online. Rabbi Avraham Bloomenstiel is using a turkey quill to copy the first five books of the Hebrew Bible onto calf skin—while a webcam records his progress. According to the Dallas Morning News, “the project will take about 18 months to finish, is guided by more than 4,000 Jewish laws and requires absolute precision. One mistake—or even a badly misshapen letter—and the offending page may have to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.”

Bloomenstiel and Rabbi Yaakov Rich, a graphic artist and Web designer, decided to open up the ancient practice through an online “workshop.” They hope to find financial support for the transcription while also educating their community. Similarly seeking to educate and enlighten is Jim DeLa, an Episcopal communicator, who created a six minute wrap-up of the denomination's General Convention in Anaheim.

DeLa's sing-song, bedtimey tones help rectify the excesses of mainstream media coverage: Apparently the recent meeting was not a gay love-in. Participants tackled internal equity issues such as providing pensions and health insurance for lay workers as well as longstanding societal problems of poverty and racism. DeLa's wrap-up is short, professional and eminently watchable. It also gives church members an opportunity to tell their own story, reclaiming their convention from the sensationalized media spin.

I just discovered the Sex and Religion Info-graphic that's been up on Buzzfeed. No need to critique it as many before me have commented on its shortcomings. But the idea of making comparative data easily available is a good one and Patheos, a new website on religion and spirituality, does it well. (Disclosure: I am on the Patheos advisory board). Patheos' lenses allow users to compare history, beliefs and rituals of different religions; its portals provide an in-depth look at major world religions, and its public square features different religious perspectives on topical issues. This week, Penn professor Anthea Butler asks “Is Greed Good?” and checks out answers from Jesus, Max Weber and Gordon Gekko.

Diane Winston

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