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Archive for the ‘Scripture’ tag

Sacred Space: Balwant S. Hansra on Sikhism and the Gurdwara (Video)

Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra discusses Sikhism, the Gurus, the gurdwara, langar, and the practice of his religious tradition.

What Is Scripture: Muslims and Mormons

The Qur'an. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Compilation of Latter-Day Saints's Standard Works. Image from Wikimedia Commons

by James Faulconer
from Patheos.com

Because of the alliterative relationship between the words “Mormon” and “Muslim” and because of widespread ignorance among Americans about both groups, it isn’t at all unusual for people to confuse Mormons with Muslims. Given events of the last ten or fifteen years and the current political campaign, that ignorance is abating for both groups.

Most people know that Mormons are not Muslims. And, probably partly because of Mitt Romney’s campaign, they fear Mormons less than Muslims. Sixty percent of those polled are comfortable or somewhat comfortable with a Mormon presidential candidate. Only 38 percent feel that way about a hypothetical Muslim candidate. So Mormons have less work to do explaining themselves than Muslims, but both share the need to do that explaining.

It isn’t unusual to have Muslim visitors come to Brigham Young University, and because of my work at the university, I’m sometimes asked to help host them. When I first started doing this, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t afraid of Muslims, but I was ignorant of them. As a result I was nervous about how to talk with them. Everything I knew about Islam was merely factual, stuff I learned in school and from books, and from reading the Quran about fifteen years ago. To my knowledge, I had visited and talked with a Muslim face-to-face only once in my life before four years ago.

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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.

 

Defining God: the World, the Knowledge, and the Light

By Sai Kolluru
From State of Formation

“Know thyself.” -Aristotle

“Meditating on the lotus of your heart, in the center is the untainted; the exquisitely pure, clear, and sorrowless; the inconceivable; the unmanifest, of infinite form; blissful, tranquil, immortal; the womb of Brahma.” -Kaivalyopanishad

“Who am I? What is this body I am in? Where do my thoughts come from? What is the mind? Why do I feel something in my heart? What attracts me to things and creates emotions of like and dislike? What is the very essence of my existence?” -The Human Mind

A curious start. The search for the Self.

These are all the questions I have asked myself since I took my first plane ride from India to the United States at the age of eight. I was so astonished by the Boeing jet. My face was plastered to the windows as I saw constellation Orion from 30,000 feet. I was amazed by the tranquility of our Earth. Every night I looked through my telescope, my mind was in awe constantly asking, “How can this universe be so vast? So beautiful? So perfect in order? I mean, this Earth itself is unfathomably incredible in creation but the universe?”

Emotions would run through me and I would get goosebumps at the thought of the creation of the Universe. Reminiscing over the past twenty one years of my life: I grew up in a traditional, orthodox Brahmin Hindu family. When my family bought our first home, my mother made sure to refer to the “Vaastu Shastra”-an ancient Hindu doctrine that has an archaic view on how the laws of nature affect human dwellings. She would set down the compass as we entered our future home and say “Ha ha, it’s facing North-Northeast, this is a good front entrance for the house.” This showed me how holistic my mother’s approach to living was.

As for myself, I just looked at how big the house was and made sure that I had my own big room. As I grew up, my mother would teach me many rituals and ceremonies followed in the Hindu tradition. “After all, you are a Brahmin [a person of spiritual knowledge in a community],” she would insist.

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November 16th, 2011 at 10:31 am

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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Recovering Ancient Scripture To Face Modern Challenges

by Rabbi Edward Bernstein
from Huffington Post

Having recently moved from Cleveland, Ohio, to South Florida, I am adjusting to a very different climate. The timing of my move was such that I missed experiencing the infamous “Heat Dome” that plagued a large swath of the country this summer. Ironically, while temperatures in Florida were seasonably muggy and hot — in the 90s — temperatures in the Upper Midwest and Northeast soured over 100 for days.

For years, we have heard about climate change occurring as a result of human-produced pollution. Many scientists and commentators have moved away from the term “global warming,” in favor of “climate change,” to account for all kinds of increasingly odd weather patterns throughout the year, such as flooding, tornadoes, blizzards. I happen to like Thomas L. Friedman’s term “Global Weirding.”

Nevertheless, the intense heat of this summer raised concern. Even in Florida, which has been spared (as of this writing) the extreme conditions from up north, things seem different. Long-time Florida residents tell me that it used to rain every afternoon at a predictable time. This summer, rain has not been as predictable. Rain can come at any time or not at all on a given day. Again, it’s weird.

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August 25th, 2011 at 10:46 am

Interfaith Tips: Telling Our Stories

by Yaira Robinson from State of Formation

Going to the park, to work, to the grocery store or pretty much anywhere today is venturing out into a religiously pluralistic setting. In all of those places, there are bound to be people who profess different religious beliefs than you do, or who profess no beliefs at all. In many of these settings, we keep quiet about our religious views so as not to offend or distance ourselves from others. I wonder, though, if this leaves us saying nothing real at all, and sometimes increases the distance between us rather than bringing us together in actual relationship.

Engaging in interfaith work takes this everyday religious pluralism to a whole new level. For this work, there are no roadmaps, no graduate certification programs, no experts; there are just individual people trying the best they can to forge new paths of partnership and mutual understanding. Because of the interfaith environmental justice work in which I’ve participated for the last three years, I’ve thought a lot about how to be an individual person of particular faith in an intensely and intentionally religiously pluralistic setting. Below are some things I’ve learned; perhaps they are also applicable for your local park or workplace, or for late-night interfaith conversations with your neighborhood grocery clerk (and if you try that, I’d love to hear how the conversation goes).

1. Share your religious story (in a respectful, non-proselytizing kind of way). When you share your story with others, it helps them feel comfortable sharing their stories with you.

2. Know your religious story. In order to share your religious story, you first have to have one. Whatever your religious (or non-religious) tradition is, know it and live it. For me, this means being an active member of my synagogue and engaging in regular study, practice and prayer.

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