Thursday, September 22, 2016

"You can't argue with me about my love" : Peace between Muslim Americans and Christian Americans

Last night at Wake-Up Wednesday we were joined by Jenn Ulschak who gave us a perspective on Muslims few of us have ever had the chance to see.

With all of the unrest in America related to Islamic terrorism, it’s difficult for the public to see past the fear and hatred of radical Islam to the peaceful religion that the majority of Muslims follow. Jenn, as an ASL interpreter for the convention held for the Islamic Society of North America, was able to give us a personal account of her relationship with Muslims. Even more than her interpreting work, Jenn has been able to connect to the Muslim community through her best friend since she was a freshman in college, who is Muslim. She spoke about how during that time she loved spending time at her friend’s house because she and her family were so loving, kind, and accepting of her.

What may be surprising to most Americans is the similarities between Islam and Christianity. Muslims believe in all of the same prophets Christians do plus one more--Muhammad. Of course one of the main differences lies in how the different groups view Jesus. Christians believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the Savior. Muslims believe that Jesus was a great prophet and revere him greatly. In fact, in the Islamic tradition, every time the name of a prophet is said--including Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad--it is followed with the phrase “Peace be upon him”. This is done as a sign of respect for the prophets.

With the fear of Islamic terrorism and ignorance, comes hate crimes against Muslim Americans particularly Muslim women because they are so easily recognizable with their hijabs. Jenn urged us to remember that when Americans commit hate crimes against Muslims, it only gives terrorist groups more fuel. She said, “Every time I put on a hijab I am afraid.” She told us how much she admires Muslim women who wear hijabs in public every day.

Despite this fear and real danger, Jenn says she wears a hijab at times as an act of embodied solidarity. This concept of embodied solidarity comes from Dr. Larycia Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins was a professor at the Christian institution Wheaton College when in an act of embodied solidarity she wore a hijab to work. She was suspended from her job and although Wheaton College’s official statement says they did not fire Dr. Hawkins, she was ultimately let go. So what is embodied solidarity? Jenn told us that embodied solidarity is using your body, putting your body at risk, to be in solidarity with others. According to Jenn, by wearing a hijab she is becoming an accomplice rather than an ally. She argues that embodied solidarity requires you to risk and therefore strengthens you solidarity.

At the end of the night, Jenn was asked if she feels called to lead her Muslim friends to Christ. She said no. She told us that she and her Muslim friends do not try to convert each other; they simply exist in peace, love, and harmony. Personally, I was pleased to hear Jenn speak so fondly of her Muslim friends and the sisterhood she feels a part of when she is with other Muslim women. I think this is a message of peace that all Americans need to hear right now.

Wake-Up Wednesday will take a break this week. On October 5, Wake-Up Wednesday will join Cardboard City.
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Rabbi, Reverend, Mullah, & Monk are My Traveling Companions

Last week at Wake-Up Wednesday, Reverend Mark Pafford of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cookeville joined us for the second time. Rev. Pafford brought us a talk about the many different religions he carries around with him as teachers.

He grew up in the United Methodist tradition and was a Methodist minister for some time.  Following his time as a minister, Rev. Pafford became a chaplain for the Veterans Association where he worked specifically with those dealing with addiction.  Right after high school, he joined the army and went to South Korea where he was introduced to Zen Buddhism.  This was the first step towards his interfaith journey.

Rev. Pafford described his interfaith lifestyle as looking through many different lenses.  He said that some days he may pick up the lenses from his Christian heritage while other days he may pick up the lenses of his Islamic faith and still other days he may pick up the lenses for the Buddhism he discovered at a young age.

Today, he serves as pastor to the Unitarian Universalist church in Cookeville.  The Unitarian Universalist church is a safe haven for those of many different religions, sexual orientations, and other backgrounds. Rev. Pafford is also expecting to graduate with a Master’s degree in counseling this December.

Rev. Pafford filled us in about the “Standing on the Side of Love” movement that is going on in the Unitarian Universalist and LGBT communities right now. The movement was mobilized after the shooting in a Knoxville church where LGBT believers were welcome.  They are working to continue to fight for the rights of the people of the LGBT community.

Join us next week with guest Jenn Ulschak with a talk titled “A Christian Woman Wears a Hijab”.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fear Through the Years: The 2016 Election in Historical Context

Last week at Wake-Up Wednesday Dr. Troy Smith of the history department at TTU joined us to speak about the upcoming election in a historical context.
It seems like all the media can talk about is Hillary vs Trump. We wanted to know how this campaign compares to those in the past. The first election that seems to come to mind is 1884 for the sole reason that no one liked either candidate then either. It makes me wonder why this is the first issue that comes to mind. Perhaps it speaks to what Americans (or at least those who are unversed in politics and only watch the evening news for the latest football scores) value most in their leaders: appearances.

Dr. Smith, however, argues that there are other elections that provide us with a better comparison. The two elections that compare the best to the 2016 election are 1856 and 1920. The first comparison is immigration.  Today’s candidates are constantly arguing about immigration policies.  But even more than policies, the issue of hatred and fear towards immigration is huge in this election.  This was also the case in the 1856 election when the issue wasn’t Latino immigrants but Irish and German Catholic immigrants. In 1920, it was Jewish immigrants. Today, we aren’t as bothered by European immigrants (Trump’s wife is a European immigrant), but Latino immigrants strike a chord in many Americans; our candidates have caught on.

In the 1920 election, people feared immigrants because of their ideas revolving around socialism and anarchy among other things. Today, people fear immigrants, especially Middle Eastern immigrants, because of the terrorism we’ve faced in the last 15 years from a small radical faction of Islam.  Regardless of what people are fearing it is certainly a throwback.

There are some unique qualities about the 2016 election, though. One of the main unique factors is the Democratic candidate herself. Despite her gender (she is the first female candidate to win the nomination of a major party), Hillary Clinton is the first candidate who is a former First Lady, a former Senator, and the Secretary of State. While the Republican candidate seems to be lacking any political experience, he has certainly gained the backing of many Americans. 2016 will certainly be a historical race that could go either way. Remember to stay tuned into the election and VOTE. Here is a link to the Putnam County Election Commission:

Join us tomorrow night with Rev. Mark Pafford from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville for a talk titled “A Rabbi, Reverend, Mullah, & Monk are My Traveling Companions”.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Purple Goes Green

We opened Wake-Up Wednesday for the semester with a visit from DeLayne Miller, Carolyn Huppman, and Allie Ricketts from Tech’s new Office of Sustainability created in January of 2016.

In 2005, Tech began its sustainability efforts with the “Green Fee” which is an $8 fee that students pay every semester. These funds go to projects such as our Bike Share program, the hydration stations that enable students to use reusable bottles, the green fitness room in the Fit that harnesses human energy to help power the building, the recycling program, solar charging tables, and much more.

Additionally, with the creation of the “Green Fee,” came the creation of the Sustainable Campus Committee which is in charge of deciding how the money will be spent. The committee consists of eight students and ten faculty or staff. The Sustainable Campus Committee is the only organization on campus where the students control where their fee money goes. For this reason, only six of the faculty members on the committee are voting members.

The Office of Sustainability is currently working on plans for Earth Week and Sustainability month.  Miller told us that they are also in the process of attaining a LEED Certification for the new science building which will be the first building on campus to have this sustainable certification.

One of the main goals of the Office of Sustainability is student outreach.  To achieve this goal, they are holding “Think Tanks” and maintaining a presence on social media. They are constantly looking for innovative ideas from students and the community. If you have any ideas or questions you can contact DeLayne Miller at or visit the Office of Sustainability on campus.

Join us tonight at Wake-Up Wednesday with Dr. Troy Smith from the History Department to find out what you need to know about the historical context for the upcoming presidential election.