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Archive for the ‘bible’ tag

Studying Sacred Texts Online to Encounter Another View of God

Martin Luther King, Jr. --ON Scripture

by Matthew L. Skinner

Research consistently shows that people—and I’m thinking primarily of those in my home country of the United States—know alarming little about the basic contours of the world’s religions.

Runaway ignorance about the foundational tenets or central writings of religions, whether of other religions or even one’s own, threatens to undermine the prospects for constructive inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. But a corollary ignorance should generate as much concern. Consider how widespread is misunderstanding of or unfamiliarity with the ways that religious beliefs and texts are interpreted or put into practice.

People of faith can promote religious literacy and better acquaint our neighbors (and ourselves) with our beliefs; but to do so without showing them how our faith is meaningfully lived out, how it helps us makes sense of our lives and our world, accomplishes little. Worse, it risks reducing the notion of “religion” to a list of definable assertions or a set of historical processes.

In my vocation as a scholar who educates students to serve in Christian ministry, I emphasize the need for biblical interpreters to be more forthcoming, more public, about their hermeneutical presuppositions and tendencies. Pastoral leadership, I believe, is less about transmitting “what the Bible says” than it is about attending to the ways faithful imaginations get shaped through attentive, critical, and corporate interaction with the Bible. Other Christians may approach scripture out of a different set of values, but I would expect them to agree that the goal of having and reading a Bible is not to amass more information so much as it is to meaningfully indwell and practice their faith.

Given these convictions, it makes sense that I became part of an editorial team responsible for launching nearly six months ago a Web-based resource called ON Scripture—The Bible. Produced weekly by Odyssey Networks, the multi-faith media coalition, and published on their website, Huffington Post Religion, and the Protestant preaching site Day 1, ON Scripture—The Bible is simply an investigation of a biblical text, offered in a way intended to show readers how the Bible might affect people’s interactions with the trends and events that inform our lives. An accompanying video follows the biblical themes or a current event, making for a richer exploration into lives of faith.

I knew ON Scripture—The Bible would, as it has done, provide Christians a forum for learning more about—and vigorously discussing—how the Bible is faithfully interpreted in light of current news and social realities. My pleasant surprise has been discovering that it brings others, especially those interested in reading the Bible over Christians’ shoulders, into the conversation, as well. Whether out of curiosity, worry, or respect, others want to see what Christians are doing with their scriptures.

By making the study of scripture more public, ON Scripture—The Bible welcomes others into discourse around the nature of the Christian Bible, hermeneutics, and practices of faith, whether they realize that this is what they are doing or not.

Having glimpsed the potential for a resource like this to attract and promote not just intra-faith but also interfaith conversation, Odyssey Networks expects to launch ON Scripture—The Torah in early 2012. This will feature rabbis and Jewish scholars writing weekly on Torah passages. The possibility of a third ON Scripture resource, dedicated to interpretation of the Quran, sits on the horizon.

These resources cannot make up for our culture’s shortcomings in “religious literacy.” But they do much to promote “religious fluency,” which consists of a curiosity and ability to be in informed, constructive conversation with a religious tradition, whether one’s own or someone else’s. It is about becoming familiar with people’s ways of living their faith.

The focus on sacred texts provides a fitting arena for welcoming others to observe a religious worldview in action. At the same time, it affords anyone with a computer the opportunity to examine other religious perspectives. For in doing so, I do not just read another’s sacred text; I watch another person enter into creative and expectant dialogue with this text. The encounter becomes personal, and a clearer window into a lived faith. To peer inside other people’s scriptural interpretation—and inside another religion’s scripture—is to gain a better sense of their understanding of who or what God is, and their understanding of what it means to respond to this God.

Matthew L. Skinner is Associate Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, MN, and a contributing editor to ON Scripture—The Bible.

 

Jimmy Carter: the Role of Faith in Peace Talks, Politics, and Private Devotions

by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post

Jimmy Carter is the 39th president of the United States, founder of the Carter Center and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He has authored many books, the most recent being “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President.” In this wide-ranging interview, HuffPost’s Senior Religion Editor spoke to President Carter by phone about the role faith played in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the time of his greatest alienation from God, faith in the White House and his personal daily devotional practice.

In addition to being a Governor of Georgia and President of the United States, you are known as a Sunday School teacher. Are you comfortable with that identity?

I started teaching Sunday school when I was 18 at the Navel Academy Chapel. I led services when we were out at sea while I was in the navy; taught Sunday school 14 times when I was U.S. President at First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. I just finished my 650th lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church, so you might say I have been a Sunday school teacher all my life.

Who were some of your most influential religious teachers?

Well, my father was the main one. He was a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher, and I started going to Sunday school when I was 3. He shaped my early knowledge of Jesus, and I was baptized as a Christian when I was 11 years old.

Later, Billy Graham was probably the closest one to me. I believed what my father taught me about the separation of church and state, so when I was President I never invited Billy Graham to have services in the White House because I didn’t think that was appropriate. He was injured a little bit, until I explained it to him.

Among the theologians, I think Paul Tillich is probably the one I have read the most because he shaped my thoughts about the relation between religion and politics and the fact that religious faith was not incompatible with political service. I tried to apply my religious beliefs when I was governor and later president without being ostentatious about it.

But I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about theology. Most of my knowledge comes out of my experience and the lessons in the Bible. Every Sunday I’m home I teach 45 minutes and we boiled them down to one page for the new book, “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter.”

Click here to read the full article

An Open Letter to Congress From Leaders of the Faith Community: Don’t Cut Foreign Aid!

By Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Imam Abdullah Antepli and Rev Dr. James A Kowalski
from Huffington Post

The human condition is a precarious one; we cannot separate ourselves from others who are suffering. All of us are vulnerable, and in these particularly vulnerable times, we have to be counted upon to do more to alleviate suffering in the world.

But with all the chatter about religion these days, too often the faith-based imperative–to help those in need–has been missing from the conversation. That includes, unfortunately, some discussions on Capitol Hill around funding for development assistance. As a country founded on religious freedom and equality, we must remember what the faiths actually call on us to do for people in need.

Priests, imams, reverends and rabbis all recognize the significance of the individual and our obligation to him or her.

The ancient rabbinic text, the Mishnah, states: “A single man was created in the world, to teach that if any man has caused a single soul to perish, scripture imputes it to him as if he had caused a whole world to perish, and if any man saves alive a single soul, scripture imputes it to him as if he had saved alive a whole world…” Similarly in the Qu’ran, “the destruction of one innocent life is like the destruction of the whole of humanity and the saving of one life is like the saving of the whole of humanity.” (Al-Ma’idah “the Tablespread” 5:32). Matthew 25 famously states, “As you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

Equality has special meaning in the Abrahamic faiths. Equality does not refer solely to the spiritual equality of every human being, nor primarily to those of equal rank, or those of the same class, or who have equal possessions. And it is more than justice in the sense of rectification of wrong.

Equality is something positive and it refers to those who are weaker than oneself i.e. the poor, the stranger, the widow, orphan and the slave. Equality means raising those who are vulnerable, disadvantaged, to the status of those who are secure. Thus the Biblical legislation mandates that there be one law for the home born and the stranger. (Exodus 12:49)

These laws and teachings spell out the rights of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger, who share a common bond. All of them lack a protector that can stand up for them. They do not have a next of kin to intercede for them and therefore the law intervenes as the next of kin. And the guarantee is God.

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Former Judge Kirby Urges Contextual Reading of Bible on Homosexuality

Former High Court Judge and Parliament major speaker Michael Kirby spoke today about the Bible and sexual orientation, reports The Age.  The remarks, given alongside Abdullah Saeed and the Rev. Dorothy McRay-McMahon was part of the Parliament panel discussion Interpreting the Text: Apostasy and Homosexuality.  During the talk, Kirby argued that Biblical sources are often considered selectively and out-of-context, leading to an erroneous and ahistorical interpretation.  Saeed also commented on Islamic theology and sexuality.

To read the full article, click here.