Archive for the ‘interfaith’ tag
Originally appeared in the ‘Sightings’ column of The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School/December 2, 2013
“Pope attacks ‘tyranny’ of markets in manifesto” (Chicago Tribune, Nov. 26), “Pope Assails ‘New Tyranny’ of Unchecked Capitalism” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 26), “Pope Francis the Revolutionary” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 28) are just three of the thousands of headlines in newspapers and on blog posts this past week.
The focus of these headlines—Pope Francis’ “apostolic exhortation”—wiped out all competition for attention among opinion-makers and reporters who deal with significant news in the spheres where religion (once a.k.a. a “private affair”) and everything public meet.
First, this is so because the Pope, any Pope, commands notice as head of the Catholic Church and its more than one-billion adherents. Second, it is so because this Pope, with his refreshing statements, has surprised pro- and con- religion world citizens and observers on the left, right, and center. Third, journalists, commentators, and their readerships and audiences can grow, have grown, weary of the obsessive preoccupation with sex-related issues which has dominated the media for years. They are not alone: the Pope is also weary of what he calls such “obsessive” concerns and says he wants to change the topic. And, fourth, because he has lifted up the often-obscured, but certainly the oldest, ethical issue in the Christian treasury, rooted as it is in the Gospels, the whole New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians share with Jews.
A student in one of my courses used a ruler to measure how many inches of type in his New Testament were dedicated to various topics. “Homosexuality” took up about two inches in the Pauline writings, and that was that. “Birth control?” Zero. “Abortion?” Zero. I don’t mean to trivialize these subjects, but this student chronicler found that throughout his Bible, the ethical focus for individuals and “the people of God,” more often than not—in many, many inches or feet of measured type—dealt with “economic inequality,” “unequal wealth,” and the “tyranny” of various economic orders or disorders.
Champions of inequality, in their legions of legions, should not quake because a mere pope speaks critically of the way of life they champion or embody. “We” are accustomed or even wired to turn off visions of the poor. Nicholas D. Kristof, in theNew York Times (Nov. 27), pointed to a typical finding, this time by Susan Fiske of Princeton: “When research subjects hooked up to neuro-imaging machines look at photos of the poor and the homeless, their brains often react as if they are seeing things, not people.” Fiske’s analysis—and you do not have to be a Princeton psychologist to observe this—“suggests that Americans sometimes react to poverty not with sympathy but with revulsion.”
I like the words “often” and “sometimes” in the previous two sentences, for they suggest that positive visions, criticisms, and appeals “often” and “sometimes” bypass our neuro-imaging blockings and do inspire sympathy. Pope Francis believes that, and “exhorts” others—not only Catholics—to react with sympathy, and then to change, and act on the many levels where inequality goes unnoticed or where notice can do some good.
Some of the media images of Thanksgiving/Black Friday week showed that not all citizens are idolaters of wealth, but displayed their generosity of spirit and how, both personally and through organizations and political approaches, they worked to effect change.
References and Further Reading:
O’Leary, Naomi. “Pope attacks ‘tyranny’ of markets in manifesto.” Reuters. Chicago Tribune, November 26, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013.http://www.chicagotribune.com/
Moloney, Liam. “Pope Assails ‘New Tyranny’ Of Unchecked Capitalism.” Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013.http://online.wsj.com/news/
Weigel, George. “Pope Francis the Revolutionary.” Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://online.wsj.com/news/
Burke, Daniel. “No more business as usual.” Belief Blog, November 26, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/
Kristof, Nicholas. “Where Is the Love?” New York Times, November 27, 2013. Accessed November 30, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/
Author, Martin E. Marty, is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His biography, publications, and contact information can be found at www.memarty.com.
Editor, Myriam Renaud, is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She was a 2012-13 MartyCenter Junior Fellow.
As the world mourns the death of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, affectionately known as Madiba, it is important that we don’t get too embroiled in sentiments and, in our grief, make the mistake of consecrating his message with his physical body. Like the thousands whom we revere as great people, Madiba was not great by birth, but became great through commitment and dedication to moral values. All of us are endowed with the same measure of commitment and dedication but we tend to use it more for material aggrandizement rather than to enhance our moral and ethical values.
An Indian Government official reportedly said in his condolence message that if the apartheid government had not incarcerated President Mandela for 27 years he would have changed the face of Africa long ago. Implying that those 27 years were wasted. Perhaps some of those years were excessive, but there is no escaping the fact that it was the incarceration that gave Madiba the opportunity to do some soul-searching and turned him from a revolutionary to a revered leader.
Through his life Madiba showed the world that adversity can be good if we use it with understanding. Many a leader who have gone through the same kind of adversity as President Mandela has come out more bitter and violent than ever because they wallow in self-pity. Madiba and others like him used adversity to make a positive change in themselves and their thinking. In a very true sense Madiba became the change he wished to see in the world, to use Gandhi’s famous quotation.
Madiba loved his country more than he loved himself. He was determined to do what was right and good for the country and not be filled with hate and vengeance against those who oppressed him. He had a vision for South Africa where all human beings could live in peace and harmony. It was a vision that has been shared by many leaders of the world, including Gandhi, but it is a vision that has not been realized quite simply because we have chosen the path of materialism rather than moral values. Gandhi warned us that materialism and morality have an inverse relationship. When one increases the other tends to decrease. In a highly materialistic world there is ample evidence today of declining morality. In fact the decay is so overwhelming that it denigrates the very concept of civilization. Is a civilization measured by its material achievements or by its moral integrity? If Madiba could change from being a revolutionary to becoming a revered world leader can we not change from being selfish to being selfless in the service of the world?
Born 1934 in Durban South Africa, Arun was sent by his parents to India when he was 12 years old so that he could live with and learn from his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. It was then that young Gandhi learned the principles of non-violence that he continues to espouse until today. Dr. Gandhi spent much of his adult life in India working as a journalist and promoting social and economic changes for the poor and the oppressed classes. Along with his wife Sunanda he rescued about 128 orphaned and abandoned children from the streets and placed them in loving homes around the world. They also began a Center for Social Change which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. In 1987 Arun came to the United States and in 1991 he started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2007, the Institute was moved to the University of Rochester, New York. In 2008 Arun resigned from the Institute to begin the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, with its mission to build basic education schools for the very poor children of the world. The first school will open shortly in a depressed village in western India (www.gandhiforchildren.org). Arun Gandhi has taken the message of nonviolence and peace-making to hundreds of thousands of high school and university youth around the United States and much of the Western world. His publications include The Legacy of Love; The Forgotten Woman: The Life of Kastur, wife of Gandhi, and several others.
A few years ago I was standing in Nelson Mandela Square in the center of a large shopping mall in Sandton, South Africa admiring the famous 20 ft. statue of Mandela.
As I stood there, one after another Afrikaner families walked up to the statue and took photographs of their blond haired blue-eyed children. One could not help but think that the parents of these children were not raised to admire Mandela, but to fear him and what they had been taught he stood for.
Nevertheless, on this warm evening, they patiently coaxed their children to stand straight and tall at the feet of the great man.
What powers of spirit and vision could bring such transformation? Perhaps it was the unimpeachable integrity of moral stamina undiminished by 27 years of imprisonment.
Or the indomitable will inspired by the vision of social justice that he bent to the task of exorcising the spirit of apartheid—employing the tools Truth and Reconciliation instead of bloodshed to shepherd a nation, conceived in social injustice, to a united future.
Nelson Mandela birthed a new South Africa and in so doing revitalized the spirits of moral excellence and social justice among people in every land. Like South Africa, we all have much yet to do in the quest for truth, reconciliation, and unity. But thanks to Mandela, we have a model to follow. A model of true faith steeped in patience, an unbending vision of social justice without shortcuts or compromise.
Mandela was committed to religion as a powerful agent of change. “Without the religious institutions, he explained at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Cape Town, “I would not be here today.”
“You have to have been in a South African jail under apartheid where you could see the cruelty of human beings to each other in its naked form. “…Religious institutions and their leaders gave us hope that one day we could return.”
He explained that Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish religious groups were instrumental in providing him and other young blacks with an education – and later in giving comfort to political prisoners and their families.
As grateful recipients of Mandela’s precious gifts to humankind, perhaps each one of us might arise and struggle to return the favor in the name of our many faiths. We must work together to carry on the mission that Nelson Mandela gave his life to: to build a world inspired by love and guided by the principle of true justice, that we are all one family—bound together by bonds and ties that are stronger than blood. Nelson Mandela his gone from us now, but his spirit must live on in our hearts and guide our service to God, to our nations, and to one another.
As Mayor and on behalf of the City of Chicago, I am pleased to welcome all of those gathered for both the 120th & 20th anniversary celebrations for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
It is truly exciting to know what an important role Chicago has played in the 120 years since the inaugural Parliament of the World’s Religions was held here, and then 20 years ago in the second – the 1993 Parliament. The 1893 Chicago Parliament opened the door for the interreligious movement and that event brought together thousands of people from all over the world. It marked a pivotal moment for many different religions and spiritual communities from the east and west coming together around a common commitment to justice and peace.
In 1993, the second Parliament introduced a Global Ethics Initiative that maintains a vision of people living peacefully together and sharing responsibility for the care of the earth while identifying the common commitments that come out of different belief traditions. In Chicago, we know there’s a need for this important work. When religious and spiritual communities combine their strengths and commitments, a more just, peaceful and sustainable world is the result.
These special anniversary celebrations and benefits represent an ongoing commitment to thoughtful, enduring work. The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions not only unites people of spirit and faith to engage with the issues of our time, but also mobilizes efforts to combat bias and hate. I offer heartfelt congratulations on this auspicious occasion and recognize all of those
I am confident that Chicago will continue to be a central meeting place for the Council for a
Parliament of the World’s Religions. Best wishes for much continued success.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the election of a new trustee. Dr. Paul Eppinger brings a wealth of experience promoting interfaith dialogue by new and exciting means to the Parliament Board as the current Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and until recently, serving as a member of the Parliament’s Ambassador Advisory Council.
Eppinger is “a very smart businessman in the work of Interfaith, exactly the kind of idea person who will help guide the Parliament forward as we encounter new opportunities and challenges,” says Executive Director of the Parliament, Dr. Mary Nelson.
His passion for cultivating shared humanity, and creative business approach has helped market interfaith understanding to an entire state. “Arizona Interfaith is very uniquely organized under Paul’s leadership. Where else are people buying license plates promoting the Golden Rule, while the promotion of the Golden Rule goes back to support the organization itself! This is a model to be followed by other cities,” says Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Dr. Paul Eppinger is a graduate of William Jewell College, Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree, and San Francisco Theological Seminary where he received a Doctor of Ministry degree. He has served as a missionary, a pastor, and a professor. He has served on numerous boards and committees for his denomination and in the communities in which he pastored.
From 1993 to 2002, he served as the Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council. He then became the Executive Director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement in 2002. The Arizona Interfaith Movement is composed of 24 different major religious groups and seeks to bring understanding of each other to all the major religions of the state.
Ancient faith was influenced by the natural world. Originating in ancient Europe as a Celtic Fire festival, the Pagan holiday of Samhain, marks the end of the harvest season, heralds the beginning of winter; the dark half of the year, and honors death. Samhain, (pronounced SAH-win, or SOW-in) is also the Gaelic name for the month of November, the literal translation being, ‘summer’s end’.
Being largely a pastoral people, the Celts observed the season of Samhain as the time when the earth was dying. The crops had already been harvested and stored; the fields lay barren, and now cattle and sheep had to be moved from remote areas to closer pastures and secured for the winter months. Those who kept livestock would assess the stored bounty of the two prior harvests; of field and orchard in order to determine how many animals could be adequately fed through the winter. Those not able to be cared for were butchered, and would help to feed the family during the dark days ahead. It is partially due to this that Samhain is sometimes referred to as the ‘blood harvest’
Cultures across the world embrace holidays with themes of death; Los Dias de los Muertos, of Mexico, the Buddhist festival of the dead in Japan, which is called Obon, or just Bon, the Hindu festival of Gaijatra, and the Christian celebration of All Souls are a few. Like them, Samhain’s celebrations also embrace a theme of death.
Unlike the vibrant and enthusiastic rites of spring, and summer, this is a time specifically carved out of the Wheel of the Year, to acknowledge death and loss, to experience grief, and for venerating the Ancestors, and honoring departed spirits. Many Pagans will dedicate a home altar to this, with photographs, food offerings and other tokens of remembrance.
For Pagans, death is not a thing to be feared but is part of the Wheel of Life. Death is the ultimate Rite of Passage, the final act that we complete as human beings. Old age is valued for its wisdom, and dying is accepted as natural; as a form of transformation. Death is the great equalizer that puts everything else into perspective.
The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the spirits of the dead were able to mingle with the living. The echoes of this ancient tradition can be seen in popular Halloween celebrations today. Contemporary Pagans still accept that as the life force of our hemisphere wanes, the veils between this world and the other worlds are at their thinnest and our memories, connections and abilities to communicate with our Beloved Dead are heightened. Death also symbolizes other endings, and Samhain is therefore not only a time for reflecting on mortality, but also on the passing of relationships, jobs, and other significant life transitions.
Samhain is generally celebrated by Pagans personally from sunset on October 31st, to sunset on November 1st, a date which is approximately halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It is most often celebrated in community, as a festival or as a community event the closest weekend to that date. Many Pagans consider Samhain to be their New Year, as it used to mark the old Celtic New Year. It is perhaps the most important and significant of annual celebrations.
This year, the Earth Traditions Pagan community will gather to honor our Beloved Dead with a “Dumb Supper;” a meal served and consumed in total silence; each bite taken in the name of our loved ones. We will place an empty chair at the head of our tables, and bring offerings of food for those Ancestors who might wish to join us. We will sing and dance; call the litany of names of our deceased, and share our stories with one another drawing comfort from the telling.
We will draw strength and healing from our deeply held spiritual belief that life continues beyond death, that birth and death and re-birth all occur within the same threshold, that we as humans are not an anomaly residing outside of the Great Mystery rather we follow the natural cycles of life; the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the turning of the seasons, and our very breath.
Good Samhain to you and yours. May the blood of your ancestors flow through your veins, like a river over the landscape of memory; may you hear your Beloved Dead as they whisper their wisdom in your ear and leave you with the gift of hope.
We will call their names at Samhain. What is remembered lives.
Angie Buchanan is a Pagan Minister with Earth Traditions, a Pagan church in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, and an emeritus of the Board of Trustees for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Defining sacred beliefs in language we can all understand is no easy feat, even for faith leaders. So imagine when a professional must be hired to design worship space. This someone guides the tenets of a spiritual tradition into a built space, designing structures that symbolize and embody the sacred. Somewhere embedded in the blueprint, architecture becomes a vehicle for interreligious understanding.
An exhibit of five architectural models of sacred spaces commissioned by Suzanne Morgan, architect and CPWR Senior Ambassador, opened the Institute for Human Science and Culture at the University of Akron Center of History and Psychology June 15. This was the premiere appearance of the exhibit outside of Chicago.
On its opening and closing day, Morgan presented a 30-minute PowerPoint and shared the story of how the events of 9/11 convinced her that interfaith understanding was desperately needed. By sharing what religious architecture taught her about other traditions, Morgan realized these models could contribute to healing.
These models showcase the exterior design, as well as the interior shape and liturgical arrangement of space. Architectural design can assist in describing the faith and practices of various religious beliefs. Of the five featured models, one is designed and built by a Chicagoan who originally built dollhouses for his children. Lending a captivating quality, his synagogue model features bright colors. This attracts younger children, and stimulates the imagination of adults, too.
“We can learn about other faiths in a neutral, universal, and beautiful way through architecture,” Morgan states. At the exhibit, learning from the architecture about a congregation’s values and beliefs is enhanced by interpretive texts framed and hung beside each model. When congregations intentionally build their structures illustrative of their faith and their religious practices, they are providing a tangible form of their beliefs.
“I initially introduced an idea for a Center for Religious Architecture in Chicago to the Parliament of World’s Religions,” Morgan recalls. “There, I was given the names of a dozen religious leaders in Chicago, names who opened doors to me for tours of their spaces.”
While working with congregations in the design of sacred spaces, Morgan discovered how useful it is for people to envision their designs in a 3-dimensional way.Morgan wanted to use architectural models of sacred spaces so that people would better understand the history and traditions.
Morgan states that this collection is only the beginning of a more comprehensive collection of architectural models, photos, and artifacts that represents a wide range of religious traditions. The current collection comprises two Roman Catholic churches, a Unitarian church, a synanogue, and a Protestant church.
“I would like to expand the collection by identifying- through people of faith- sacred spaces that they can sponsor and add to the collection,” Morgan says. As the collection expands, travels, and gains support, she dreams that it will become a museum with an interreligious center, where people can connect with one another through various events and celebrations and can explore new rituals and liturgies together.
By the Akron exhibit’s close, Morgan’s collection became front page news in a major Ohio newspaper. As female leadership is critical to conversations interweaving faith, art, and science, peaceseekers everywhere can be upifted that the exhibit further introduced the power of interfaith understanding to the mainstream of middle America.
Morgan extends an invitation to organizations affiliated with the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, and can consult with interested venues on hosting an exhibit of sacred space models of up to three months. Please contact the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions for more information.
- The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is thrilled to welcome Chicago-area Vivekananda Vedanta Society’s Swami Varadananda, one of three co-founding trustees of CPWR, to our Living Out The Vision anniversary program and benefit dinner on November 16 in Chicago. Varadananda will honor Vivekananda, the Hindu saint and historical luminary whose conviction about harmony among the world’s religions was first heard by the west at 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions. Initially inspired by Vivekananda, the formation of the modern CPWR is credited to the dream of three monks of Vivekananda’s order, the Vedanta society. Their decision to expand the 100-year commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s 1893 speech Hindu celebration to an interfaith Parliament mobilized several Chicago religious communities which would become the CPWR’s Chicago champions. Theirs is a story we celebrate and the vision we pledge to live out. Tickets for the program and reception only are on sale now! Learn more…
A four-day celebration hosted by the Vedanta Society is planned for November 8 – 11 bringing thousands of Vivekananda-devoted monks together to mark this historic anniversary in modern spiritual. Celebrate the birth of interfaith with International Devotees of Vedanta at the conference day, November 9, or November 10 program which features CPWR Trustees including Chair of the Board Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid and Treasurer Rabbi Michael Balinsky addressing the Chicago Calling: Interfaith Dialogue between East And West at Chicago Hilton. Learn more…
As Syria sits center in the world’s attention over the last weeks, watching the reaction of religious leaders to the prospect of military intervention has revived global anti-war sentiment. Peaceful resolution creating consensus across government and religious lines demonstrates a growing cohesion of interfaith harmony building sturdy coalitions. Some of the latest motions of religious leaders call for:
- “We urge governments and the media to listen to the voices of all Syrians, particularly those who are working for a peaceful solution and who reject violence,” Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist leaders plus secular leaders have signed the statement by Australians for Reconciliation in Syria saying a US strike would be “an extreme escalation” of the conflict. The 34 signatories include Melbourne’s Catholic and Anglican archbishops, Denis Hart and Philip Freier, Sheikh Riad Galli, the president of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia, Coptic Bishop Suriel, Greek Orthodox Bishop Ezekiel, barrister Julian Burnside, the National and Victorian Councils of Churches, the Victorian Buddhist Council, State Labor MP Bronwyn Halfpenny and Joseph Wakim, founder of the Australian Arabic Council.
- “There is major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention would have a detrimental effect … on Christians in Syria,” - Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general/CEO of World Evangelical Alliance, in a letter to the State Department, the White House and the United Nation’s Security Council.
- Pope Francis took the unusual step of penning a letter to world leaders ahead of a global day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria that Catholics will observe on Saturday (Sept. 7). Francis will also preside a marathon five-hour vigil in St. Peter’s Square, and the Vatican has invited believers of all faiths and even nonbelievers to join in whichever way they see fit.
- Pope Francis has set Saturday September 7, 2013 as a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria. The Vatican has declared that it is against “armed intervention,” pointing to the havoc caused by the United States led war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003.
- The crisis in Syria needs to be resolved through “human intervention, not military intervention”- Desmond Tutu.
- Hundreds of people in Seattle were on hand Saturday night (September 7th) to join a vigil and procession to call for peace in Syria.
Military interventions are unlikely be supported by many religious leaders as they have reached out and connected with various religious groups to promote interfaith, non-violence and also advocating non-military actions to promote peace in Syria. By supporting peaceful resolutions and interfaith harmony building coalitions, religions around the world can establish a ground for a non-violent campaign towards peace in Syria.