Archive for the ‘christian’ tag
Christian-, Muslim-, and Jewish-Americans ages 18 through 35 are encouraged to apply to the Ecumenical Institute at the Chateau de Bossey of the World Council of Churches for the “Building an Interfaith Community” seminar course running August 12 – 30 this summer in Switzerland. May 1 is the deadline, and financial assistance is available.
“What can we, as people of faith, do to respond and to overcome the pressing challenges of our time, such as violence and conflict, and build together mutually accountable societies based on respect and cooperation?” This is the question up to 30 young Christians, Muslims and Jews from around the world are to explore during a summer seminar at the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute in Bossey.
Aug 30, 2013 06:00 PM
Participants should be between 18-35 years of age, well grounded in their own faiths and be positioned to influence the thinking of members of their wider faith communities after completion of the summer course
by Jim Wallis
Many people in America are poor, due to no fault of their own—and their numbers are growing.
If you really know any poor people, you know that to be true. If you don’t, the first sentence of this post runs against the grain of many cultural assumptions in America that tend to blame people for being poor.
On the eve of the first Presidential debate, Sojourners premiered The Line — a film about the new faces of poverty in America. In this powerful documentary from award-winning filmmaker Linda Midgett, those popular judgmental assumptions against poor people clearly and convincingly are debunked.
The Line, which I am asking everyone who reads this column to watch, deftly dismantles many stereotypes about poverty and shows why a growing number of Americans find themselves falling into it. The film does so by telling the personal stories of people who have fallen beneath “the line.”
My 14-year-old son Luke, watched the story of John: a banker who once made a six-figure salary, but who now finds himself a substitute teacher making $12,000 a year while trying to raise his three kids. John painfully talked about what it feels like to have to go to a food bank because he has no other viable choice.
His story caused Luke to ask his mom after the film, “John said he got straight A’s in school, so could that happen to me?”
by Josh Levs
When 20-year-old Ashley Carter heard about a mosque burned to the ground in her town this week, she was shocked.
“I was very saddened,” she told CNN on Wednesday. “I thought it was very evil.”
So Carter, a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, texted a friend, suggesting they organize an event “promoting acts of love.”
But quickly, the idea changed: They would organize a “rally of people coming together, from all walks of life, all religions, a really diverse group of people trying to promote this radical love.”
She called Kimberly Kester, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Joplin, whose worship house serving about 50 families in the southwest Missouri city burned down Monday. Investigators have not determined the cause, but the mosque has been attacked in the past.
Kester supported the idea. So Carter and some of her friends created the plan for the rally and announced it on a Facebook page. The next day, Tuesday, word began to spread. By Wednesday morning, more than 400 people had posted that they would attend the event, scheduled for Saturday, August 25.
Carter said she was inspired by “my love for Jesus. And I know that Jesus calls us to love people.”
by Christopher Gordon, M.D. and Ben Herzig
from The Huffington Post
National surveys have consistently found that the vast majority of Americans identify as religious and/or spiritual in one way or another. But is there any room for spirituality or religious practice in psychiatric treatment? Is there a place at all for faith in an era that so privileges the brain over the mind and posits neurochemical explanations — and pharmaceutical treatments — for most ailments?
Nowadays, slick television commercials and glossy magazine ads market antidepressants directly to sufferers and their treatment providers, promising extraordinary relief and happiness. In the real world, life is not so simple. It is actually a rare case when a person’s problems are satisfactorily resolved by a prescription alone. Much more commonly, anxiety or depression or other symptoms are part of a larger picture, requiring a more complex solution. So how do we figure out what is the matter, and what might be helpful, beyond a symptom-targeted medication?
It is useful to think about human problems from four perspectives, and then to bring these perspectives together to get a sense of the whole person. The first useful perspective is a social one, which looks at what is going on in someone’s life, particularly their important relationships, to assess whether something important is occurring there. Examples might include domestic violence, or, less drastically, marital unhappiness, or being bullied in school, or some other important life circumstance. Clearly, we don’t want to offer medication when the problem requires addressing some real problem in living — for which counseling can be very helpful. The second perspective, however, is a biological one. In fact, many times depression and other mood disorders and anxiety disorders do reflect “chemical imbalances,” which have a biological component and are amenable to medical treatment if that is what the person prefers.
Those who seek to cause religious conflict are small in number but highly motivated, organized and funded. While there are billions of people who are engaged in their own faith tradition, many have not yet learned how to live or work together well with those of different traditions.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation decided to tackle this challenge through organising a year-long Fellowship that brought together young people of different faiths to work toward better interfaith action. The Foundation selected 33 outstanding future leaders, who between July 2011 and June 2012, worked in interfaith pairs around the world. They built understanding between different religious communities by mobilising them around the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular around malaria prevention.
The Fellows represented a diverse cross section of the faith traditions: 11 were Christian, 10 Muslim, 5 Jewish, 3 Hindu, 2 Buddhist, 1 Baha’i, 1 Sikh and 1 Quaker. Thirty of the Fellows were placed in multi-faith pairs in Canada, India, the United Kingdom and the USA.
by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix, Filmmakers, “The Light in Her Eyes”
In a courtyard off a busy street in Damascus, Syria, boisterous girls run and play before class starts in the women’s side of Al-Zahra mosque. Inside the mosque, preacher Houda al-Habash teaches the Qur’an, educating women and girls about their religion, and their rights, within their faith. Julia Meltzer lived in Damascus in 2005, and from the moment she first entered Al-Zahra mosque, she recognized what a unique place it was. Houda’s school was well-organized and energized—filled with women and girls supporting each other in their studies.
Most people don’t associate Islam with women’s rights, and that’s exactly what we found interesting about the Al-Zahra Mosque Qur’an School. Inside this community, we uncovered a lively debate about women’s roles as mothers, teachers, wives, workers, sisters and daughters. Houda insists that secular education is an integral part of worship, because it gives her students the tools to make decisions about their futures. However, the school also emphasizes the importance of modesty and piety. These women and girls are following “the straight path” of Islam, because they want to live according to its structure, rules and ethics.
Houda’s version of women’s rights doesn’t look like ours. We were raised in the West by feminist mothers, grew up attending marches for reproductive freedom and identify as third-wave feminists. But the deeper we dove into Houda’s community, the more we realized how much our guidelines for judging women’s liberation and autonomy were informed by the parameters of our culture and experiences. As filmmakers, we believe it’s our job to understand our subjects, and to tell truthful stories about their worlds.
by John Bryson Chane
from The Washington Post
As Egyptians come to terms with the near-sweep of the Muslim Brotherhood in their new government, no one is more apprehensive of what this new government means than Egypt’s minority Christian population. The new president, Mohamed Morsi, has promised protection for minorities, but Coptic Christians in Egypt are still nervous about the future. And they are not alone. In countries across the Middle East, life for religious minorities is often uncertain; and as the violence of the Arab Spring continues, these groups remain at risk of persecution and discrimination.
But a gathering of Christian and Muslim faith leaders in Beirut last month gives me hope that religious leaders can play a role in speaking up for minority religions and negotiating conflicts between groups. The symbolism of holding such a meeting in Beirut is resonant and powerful. For Protestants and Catholics to come together with Shi’ites and Sunnis in a city so often shredded by sectarian violence sends a powerful message to faith communities and the world.
by Jessica Abrahams
from The Guardian
Fifteen years ago, a Muslim scholar, a Christian priest and a Jewish philanthropist came together in London to create Three Faiths Forum (3FF), a platform for community leaders to engage with each another and break down barriers. But today, some of the most valuable work the charity undertakes is in schools, ensuring that tensions between faith communities don’t trickle down to the next generation.
Often this will simply be making sure that children of different faiths have an opportunity to meet one another or addressing a lack of knowledge about other religions; occasionally more severe problems occur. “We’re contacted by RE teachers to help when there’s been anti-Jewish, -Muslim or -Christian sentiment,” says Debbie Danon, the charity’s education manager.
Deputy director Rachel Heilbron speaks of one particularly serious case they became involved with last year. A teacher discussing the features of a church with a group of 14-year-old students at a non-denominational school in London mentioned synagogues. Some of the students complained they didn’t want to learn about “Jew stuff”. They said that Jews were dirty and smelly and that they kept money under their hats. As the situation escalated, some of the children began banging on the tables, chanting: “Kill the Jews, kill the Jews.”
This essay is an excerpt from “My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, And Transformation” from Orbis.
by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from the Huffington Post
“Oh Paul, why don’t you just convert to Judaism?”
This invitation was extended to me after a book talk in Washington D.C. and I have to admit it took me by surprise. First, I had always heard that Jews aren’t supposed to proselytize. Second, I’m not just a blank slate; I’m a Christian minister by profession, and the book talk I had just given was about a Christian book. And the third reason for my surprise is that two people who posed the question were my cousins.
Let me back up a bit and tell you how I arrived at this moment. I’m from an interfaith family. My side of the family is Christian, and my cousins are Jewish. The reason my family went to church at all was because of my mother, Marylu Raushenbush. Every Sunday she would wake up her four resentful children by snapping up the rolled shades and greeting us with a pointedly bright voice, “Good morning!” This was not a casual “good morning,” this good morning meant that if you were not up in five minutes the next greeting would be much less pleasant. So up we would go from our Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home to our Frank Lloyd Wright inspired church–complete with the wide open sanctuary space, and stain glass that served as a great distraction during the services.
My father, Walter Raushenbush, was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church, which is surprising to people who know his background. Dad’s mother, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Jewish Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis. So, according to Jewish law, my dad was Jewish. However, my dad’s father, Paul, was the son of the social gospel pastor, Walter Rauschenbusch, and my grandfather was raised Christian.
Raimon Panikkar, known to many in this society of Hindu-Christian Studies as a teacher, scholar, mentor, or friend, died at his home in Tavertet, near Barcelona, on August 26, 2010. He was ninety-one and had been in poor health for some time, but he did live to see the day when his Gifford Lectures, originally delivered in Edinburgh in 1989, and over which he had agonized ever since [he produced some nineteen different versions of parts of the texts], finally saw the light of day in June of this year as The Rhythm of Being (Orbis Books).
Panikkar taught and lived in the United States from 1966-1987 and was known to generations of students here and around the world through both his lectures and his many books. What they heard and read were the arresting reflections of a multi-dimensional person, who was simultaneously a philosopher, theologian, mystic, priest and poet.
It was also that combination of personae that made him at times difficult to understand. He was a formidable scholar with doctorates in philosophy, theology, and chemistry and an acquaintance with the worlds of learning and religious reflection in more than a dozen languages. But at heart he was a mystic and a contemplative, who chose at the end of his academic career in 1987 to live in the small mountain village of Tavertet (population 75) in a remote part of the Pyrenees north of Barcelona. Even there he was not easily accessible because he would shut off his phone for half the week. The prayer and meditation room in his house was right next to his study, and he would drift imperceptibly between the two spaces both literally and in consciousness. He once wrote
“Writing, to me, is meditation—that is medicine—and also moderation,
order for this world. Writing, to me, is intellectual life and that in turn
is spiritual existence. The climax of life is, in my opinion, to participate
in the life of the universe, in both the cosmic and divine symphonies to
which even we mortals are invited. It is not only a matter of living but
also of letting life be—this life, offered to us as a gift so that we may
sustain and deepen it.” (A Dwelling Place for Wisdom, 79)
He was born the son of an Indian Hindu father and a Spanish Catholic mother on November 3, 1918. He received a conventional Catholic education at a Jesuit high school in Barcelona before launching on his university studies in the natural sciences, philosophy, and theology, first in Barcelona and then in Madrid. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish Civil War broke out, and Panikkar was able to take advantage of his status as the son of a father who was a British citizen to go to the University of Bonn in Germany to continue his studies. When World War II started in 1939, Panikkar returned to Spain and completed the first of his three doctorates, this one in philosophy, at the University of Madrid in 1946.
In late 1954 when he was already 36 Panikkar visited India, the land of his father, for the first time. It proved to be a watershed, a decisive reorientation of his interests and of his theology. He had entered a dramatically new world, religious and cultural, from the Catholic Europe of his youth. The transformation was aided by his meetings and close friendship with three monks, who like him were attempting to live and to incarnate the Christian life in Indian, predominantly Hindu and Buddhist, forms: Jules Monchanin (1895-1957), Henri Le Saux, also known as Swami Abhishiktananda (1910-1973), and Bede Griffiths, the English Benedictine monk (1906-1993). All four of them, in different ways, discovered and cherished the riches and the deep spiritual wisdom of the Indic traditions, and attempted to live out and express their core Christian convictions in Hindu and Buddhist forms. To some extent this multiple belonging was made possible by their embrace of Advaita, the Indic idea of non-dualism, which sees the deep, often hidden, connections between traditions without in any way minimizing the differences between them.
One of Panikkar’s many striking sentences looking back on his life’s journey asserts: “I left Europe (for India) as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” A wealth of meaning lies in that assertion. Christianity in its historical evolution began as a Jewish tradition and then spread to the Greco-Roman world, acquiring along the way Greek and Roman cultural expressions which have given it a certain form and character. Panikkar, having grown up and having been trained in a traditional Catholic and neo-Thomist environment, had a profound knowledge of, and respect for, that tradition. This knowledge prepared him for discussions with some of the great minds of twentieth-century Catholicism: Jean Danielou, Yves Congar, Hans Urs von Balthazar, and others. He was also invited to take part in the Synod of Rome and the Second Vatican Council. But Panikkar did not confuse or conflate historical contingency with spiritual truth. In Hinduism and Buddhism Panikkar found other languages, in addition to Biblical Hebrew, Greek philosophy, and Latin Christianity, to express the core convictions (the kerygma) of the Christian tradition.
That was the main thesis of The Unknown Christ of Hinduism, which Panikkar originally presented as a doctoral thesis to the Lateran University in Rome in 1961, based as it was on a close textual comparison between Thomas Aquinas and Sankara’s interpretation of a canonical Hindu scripture, the Brahma-Sutras. Christ and his teaching are not, so Panikkar argues, the monopoly or exclusive property of Christianity seen as a historical religion. Rather, Christ is the universal symbol of divine-human unity, the human face of God. Christianity approaches Christ in a particular and unique way, informed by its own history and spiritual evolution. But Christ vastly transcends Christianity. Panikkar calls the name “Christ” the “Supername,” in line with St. Paul’s “name above every name” (Phil 2:9), because it is a name that can and must assume other names, like Rama or Krishna or Ishvara.
This theological insight was crucial for Panikkar because it provided the basis of the inter-religious dialogue that he and Abhishiktananda and Bede Griffiths were both advocating and practicing themselves. Far from diluting or in any way watering down core Christian beliefs and practices, such dialogue, in addition to fostering inter-religious understanding and harmony, provided an indispensable medium for deepening the Christian faith. Such dialogue provides an insight and entry point into other, non-Christian names and manifestations of Christ. This was particularly important for Panikkar because together with other Asian theologians he saw how historical Christianity had attempted, especially during its colonial periods, to convert Christ into an imperial God, with a license to conquer and triumph over other Gods. This for Panikkar is the challenge of the post-colonial period inaugurated in the mid-to-late twentieth century and continuing into our present and the future. In his words, “To the third Christian millennium is reserved the task of overcoming a tribal Christology by a Christophany which allows Christians to see the work of Christ everywhere, without assuming that they have a better grasp or a monopoly of that Mystery, which has been revealed to them in a unique way.”
Needless-to-say, such striking ideas carefully and rigorously argued and dramatically expressed got the attention of religious thinkers and secular institutions around the world. Panikkar was invited to teach in Rome and then at Harvard (1966-1971) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (1971-1987). He was now, as Leonard Swidler, occupant of the Chair of Catholic Thought at Temple University, called him, “the apostle of inter-faith dialogue and inter-cultural understanding.”
In true apostolic fashion, he traveled tirelessly around the world, lecturing, writing, preaching, and conducting retreats. His famous Easter service in his Santa Barbara days would attract visitors from all corners of the globe. Well before dawn they would climb up the mountain near his home in Montecito, meditate quietly in the darkness once they reached the top, and then salute the sun as it arose over the horizon. Panikkar would bless the elements—air, earth, water, and fire—and all the surrounding forms of life—plant, animal, and human—and then celebrate Mass and the Eucharist. It was a profound “cosmotheandric” celebration with the human, cosmic, and divine dimensions of life being affirmed, reverenced, and brought into a deep harmony. The celebration after the formal service at Panikkar’s home resembled in some respects the feast of Pentecost as described in the New Testament, where peoples of many tongues engaged in animated conversation.
At the center of these celebrations, retreats, and lectures stood Panikkar himself and his arresting personality. People who heard or encountered him could not help but be struck by this physically small man who in his earlier days was like a cluster of fireworks exploding in an array of shapes and colors. Here is what the great Mexico poet Octavio Paz, who was his country’s ambassador to India from 1962-1968, had to say about him:
It is impossible not to recall a Catalan Hindu, both a theologian and
a migratory bird in all climates from Benares to Santa Barbara,
California: Raimundo Panikkar. A man of electric intelligence,
with whom I would spend hours discussing some controversial point
in the Gita or Buddhist sutra—I have never heard anyone attack
the heresy of Buddhism with such furious dialectics as Panikkar
(In Light of India 209).
In later life, his persona managed to combine the dignity of a sage, the profundity of a scholar, the depth of a contemplative, and the warmth and charm of a friend in his effervescent personality. An Australian friend of his, Dr. Meath Conlan, mentions having dinner with him at his home when the phone rang. It was the Pope calling from the Vatican, seeking Panikkar’s advice on how best to handle the aftermath caused by his ill-advised remarks about the Prophet Mohammed in his Regensburg Address of 2006.
He is well known to readers of this journal as a great scholar of both the Hindu and Christian traditions and the dialogue between them. The 940 page translation and commentary of the Vedas and the Upanishads, published as The Vedic Experience: Mantramanjari, is a sensitive hermeneutical study that attempts to bring the ancient Vedic world alive as a resource for contemporary celebration. Likewise, his account of Hindu myths in Myth, Faith, and Hermeneutics tries to bring out their deeper cross-cultural philosophical resonance.
Critics, of course, charged him with proffering a Christian interpretation of Hinduism to which his wry response often was that he had a Hindu interpretation of Christianity. The point for Panikkar as a thinker was to move beyond labels and the conventional ideas they carry to deeper spiritual truth. Indeed, one of the main purposes of inter-religious dialogue for Panikkar is the intra-religious dialogue it should spark and the discovery of often hidden treasures in one’s own tradition.
Perhaps the most daring of Panikkar’s attempts at charting a Hindu-Buddhist-Christian spirituality within a still Christian self-understanding came in his early and path-breaking little book first published in 1970 as The Trinity and World Religions. Here he imposed a Trinitarian structure on Hinduism and an advaitic structure on Christianity, both “trinity and “advaita” being alternative symbols for the cosmotheandric Mystery. Drawing on traditional and unacknowledged, submerged dimensions of the Christian trinity, Panikkar attempted to connect Buddhism with the silent, self-emptying dimension of the Father; Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as religions of the word, with the Son, the incarnate Word; and advaitic Hinduism with the immanent, radically inner dimension of the Spirit. In doing so it was not his purpose imperialistically to provide a Christian grid onto which other traditions could be forced. Rather, taking Christianity as his point of departure, he wanted to show that Christianity has no monopoly on Trinitarian understanding and that such understanding enriched by the contributions of different traditions can in fact deepen and transform all of them.
It is important, however, to balance this account of Panikkar as thinker with the stress he placed on living an authentic life. “My aspiration,” he would often say, “does not consist so much in defending my truth, but rather in living it out.” As one of his students speaking for many put it, “He integrated intellect, commitment, and practice in a very important and inspirational way for so many of us. Many of our lives and paths have benefitted from his touch.”
To cite just one example of that commitment, in September 1994 at the age of 76 Panikkar made a pilgrimage of almost a month to Mount Kailash. He had a weak heart, and the doctors were against it, but Panikkar was determined. Anyone who has been on such a pilgrimage can vouch for its hazards—there are no resources for rescue and hardly any medical amenities. It was in part a fulfillment of a promise to his Hindu, Saivite father. As Panikkar wrote after the expedition
I have always been more inclined to the spiritual pilgrimage. And
yet that memory of a hindu father telling his teen-age son
about Kailasa reverberated in him when the occasion arose to join the
last batch of sadhus the Chinese would allow in 1959. He had then
to renounce by virtue of ‘holy’ (christian) obedience, and later on
due to other reasons, not the least his heart not supporting high altitudes.
By an inexplicable synchronicity of events he found himself this time
almost led to undertake the pilgrimage which for him was likely to
be not only ultimate but final (Setu ed. Bettina Baeumer, January 1996, 8)
Sixteen years later, Panikkar did indeed embark on a pilgrimage both ultimate and final. May God and the gods grant him rest in the Great Source which he sought with such intensity and single-mindedness during his earthly sojourn.
California State University, Los Angeles
September 20, 2010