Study of brother raises new interest in Jesus’ politics

A burial box said to have contained the remains of Jesus’ brother James has been the subject of much debate over its authenticity, with the current trial of its owner on forgery charges attracting the interest of biblical scholars everywhere, reported the Toronto Star July 1. Barrie Wilson, religious studies professor in York’s Atkinson School of Arts & Letters, says James was continuing with the teaching of his brother, emphasizing a more political form of religion that stressed the coming of a messiah to overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom if Israel.

“He was continuing with Judaism, but a messianic Judaism,” says Wilson, who is writing a book about James and Jesus, to be called “How Jesus became a Christian”. In Rome around the same time, Wilson says, Paul was beginning his new Christian church based on visions, claiming that Jesus had come to him after the crucifixion. His church emphasized the possibility of salvation in heaven by believing in Jesus, while James and his followers stressed the importance of Jesus’ words over his divinity and the possibility of salvation on Earth, Wilson says.

“When you look at Jesus through the eyes of his brother, you get a very different picture,” Wilson observes, saying he is sympathetic to the teaching of James over Paul. “He lived with Jesus. He saw him die.” It’s a division in Christianity that continues to this day and remains the basic difference between fundamentalist and liberal denominations, he says. The theology of James, with its emphasis on political change as a way to address poverty and injustice, is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago, Wilson says. “There is a growing interest in the political side of Jesus.”

Bollywood comes to the classroom

The first time Sajmun Sachdev (BA ‘06) heard a bhangra-inspired hip-hop Jay-Z song on the radio, she called her mom in Regina, wrote the Toronto Star July 4. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. Do you believe they’re just playing this on the radio?’.” For 22-year-old Sachdev, who grew up the daughter of Regina’s only bhangra dancer, hearing a piece of her culture on a “normal” radio station was clearly exciting. Bhangra, a celebratory Punjabi folk dance done during the harvest season, is aggressive and upbeat, Sachdev says. “It’s happening more and more at parties. I don’t think people do it in the field anymore,” she says.

The Toronto-based Sachdev watched the recent explosion of Indian and bhangra-inspired dance here and spied an opportunity. “Indian dance is growing every year in Toronto,” she says. “Now, all the time, I hear people talking about Bollywood. That never used to happen before. But nobody knows how to dance to it when they hear it at the club.”

Sachdev heard about a government program that gives money to students who want to create their own summer businesses, said the Star. She applied and received $1,500 from Ontario’s Young Entrepreneur’s program which she used to set up Bombay Bounce – her own dance studio. The dance instructor, who has been swaying to the sounds of South Asia since she was six years old, began teaching classes three years ago for the athletic department at York University. This year, Sachdev graduated from York’s professional writing and communications course.

Do food bank donations contribute to obesity?

Although Statistics Canada did not provide a profile of those most likely to be obese, studies here in Canada and the US are suggesting that there is a strong connection between household income and obesity, wrote a columnist for the Hamilton Spectator July 3. She noted that author Dennis Raphael, undergradaute director and professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, has long argued that diabetes, obesity and heart disease have much less to do with “lifestyle choices” than with socio-economic status. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the campaign to address obesity cannot be separated from the campaign to end poverty.

Alumna’s textile art will create an unexpected encounter for passersby

Thrive By, from Toronto-based artist Janet Morton (BFA ‘90), will be exhibited in the public area outside the Richmond Art Gallery window until Sept. 1 during renovations to the gallery, reported the Richmond Review in suburban Vancouver June 29. Morton expands on the notion of adornment and extends the concept of apparel onto trees and architectural elements outside the gallery. The artist will be collaborating with city landscapers to integrate the gardens in front of the gallery’s Minoru Boulevard window to echo colour and floral elements in her work. She will use hand knit and crocheted textiles to accentuate the natural and structural aspects of the area, creating an unexpected encounter for passers-by. Morton, a graduate of York’s Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, has exhibited her work throughout Canada, the US and Europe. This is her first solo exhibition in BC.

On air

  • Susan Mullin, vice-president development, York University Foundation, spoke about the types of organizations Canadian philanthropists fund on CBC Newsworld’s “Business Weekly” program July 1.
  • Members of Ontario’s new Citizens Committee spoke about the month-long training course in political science they will take this month at York University on CBC Radio in Thunder Bay June 30.