Archive for the ‘theology’ tag
by Ezra Millstein
from HabitatWorld Magazine
I like Clarence Jordan.
But if he were around for his 100th birthday this year, it’s unlikely he would feel honored by a virtual befriending or an electronic thumbs-up. Clarence — the Greek scholar, theologian, community-builder, social critic, prophet and farmer — would have wanted those thumbs in the dirt instead, planting seeds of justice and mercy. Or poking the ribs of the slothful to prod them into action or to jolt selfish numbskulls into radical generosity. These things Clarence would enjoy for a birthday celebration.
Clarence and his wife Florence, who would also be 100 this year, founded Koinonia Farm, a Christian community located just south of Americus, Georgia. This fall, Koinonia commemorates the Jordan birthdays as well as the 70th anniversary of their community. Habitat for Humanity’s founder Millard Fuller claimed that Clarence was the spiritual father of Habitat. This anniversary is an opportunity for all of us who are Habitat adherents to listen to Clarence, reflect on our calling and renew our commitment to this work.
Clarence as a spiritual ancestor carries personal meaning for me. I’m marking one other anniversary this year: Forty years ago, in 1972 as a sophomore in college, I read Dallas Lee’s book The Cotton Patch Evidence and first learned about Clarence and the Koinonia Farm “experiment.” I was deeply moved, but to explain why that book was so formative in my experience I have to back up four more years.
By Kerry Egan
As a divinity school student, I had just started working as a student chaplain at a cancer hospital when my professor asked me about my work. I was 26 years old and still learning what a chaplain did.
“I talk to the patients,” I told him.
“You talk to patients? And tell me, what do people who are sick and dying talk to the student chaplain about?” he asked.
I had never considered the question before. “Well,” I responded slowly, “Mostly we talk about their families.”
“Do you talk about God?
“Umm, not usually.”
“Or their religion?”
“Not so much.”
“The meaning of their lives?”
“And prayer? Do you lead them in prayer? Or ritual?”
“Well,” I hesitated. “Sometimes. But not usually, not really.”
I felt derision creeping into the professor’s voice. “So you just visit people and talk about their families?”
“Well, they talk. I mostly listen.”
“Huh.” He leaned back in his chair.
A week later, in the middle of a lecture in this professor’s packed class, he started to tell a story about a student he once met who was a chaplain intern at a hospital.
“And I asked her, ‘What exactly do you do as a chaplain?’ And she replied, ‘Well, I talk to people about their families.’” He paused for effect. “And that was this student’s understanding of faith! That was as deep as this person’s spiritual life went! Talking about other people’s families!”
The students laughed at the shallowness of the silly student. The professor was on a roll.
“And I thought to myself,” he continued, “that if I was ever sick in the hospital, if I was ever dying, that the last person I would ever want to see is some Harvard Divinity School student chaplain wanting to talk to me about my family.”
My body went numb with shame. At the time I thought that maybe, if I was a better chaplain, I would know how to talk to people about big spiritual questions. Maybe if dying people met with a good, experienced chaplain they would talk about God, I thought.
Today, 13 years later, I am a hospice chaplain. I visit people who are dying – in their homes, in hospitals, in nursing homes. And if you were to ask me the same question – What do people who are sick and dying talk about with the chaplain? – I, without hesitation or uncertainty, would give you the same answer. Mostly, they talk about their families: about their mothers and fathers, their sons and daughters.
They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.
by Anantanand Rambachan
Our world has always been characterized by religious diversity, both across and within religious traditions. We have held different beliefs about the absolute, described it differently, and adopted a variety of ways and practices for attaining life’s ultimate goal. What is new about our religious diversity is the fact that it is rapidly becoming a feature of the landscape of many societies where a single tradition was predominant. Our awareness of other religions has never been as great as it is today. We are growing also in the realization, some more slowly than others, that this diversity is here to stay. The world’s religions have emerged from colonialism with a renewed sense of purpose and universal relevance.
We understand better today, our political need for each other in the light of the interdependent character of our lives. All of our religious traditions, in addition to what they proclaim and teach about individual human destiny and fulfillment, also imagine and include a social vision of the ideal human community characterized by justice, peace, and prosperity. Any religious tradition which is today concerned about the social order and its transformation is challenged to reach across historical frontiers, find common values with people of other faiths and strive together to overcome human suffering. Our hopes for just and peaceful communities will only be realized together or not at all.
Less clear, however, is our understanding of the theological need for each other. Our traditions generally understand themselves as theologically self-sufficient and independent and with little or no need for a religious ‘other.’ Our relationships with people of other traditions have not always been informed by theological humility and gratitude. If meaningful human relationships, however, are nurtured in the gratitude of humility and in recognition of the need for an ‘other,’ then our articulation of the theological value of persons of other traditions becomes important. Where do we discern our need for the religious ‘other’ that urges us to seek relationships? Where do I locate my religious need for you? What is my value to you theologically? Are we convinced, at the core of our traditions, of our need for each other? It seems to me that our focus today is on articulating the political dimension of interreligious relationships with much less focus on the theological in this sense. Although there may be urgent contemporary challenges that explain this choice, I want to make a plea for deeper reflection on our theological need for people of other faiths.
The political significance of people of other faiths is not an argument made only by religions and those who observe them. Many have articulated powerfully the pragmatic value of building relationships and of cooperating with people of other faiths. There is also a transient character to such arguments, dependent as these are on the exigencies of the moment. The political arguments needs to be enriched by and grounded in our more profound and enduring self-understanding of our theological needs.
In my own case, as a Hindu, my most profound theological need for my neighbor of another faith arises from my tradition’s teaching that Truth (brahman/sat) is always more than we could define, describe or comprehend with finite words and minds. As the Taittiriya Upanisad (2.9.1) reminds us, brahman is “that from which words turn back with the mind.” The constitutive nature of brahman eludes all direct definition. The consequence of such a radical sense of our human limits ought to be deep attentiveness and openness to considering and learning from multiple ways of speaking about the ultimate that occur in different traditions. It is the wise, after all, as Rg Veda (I.164.46) reminds us who speak differently (“The One Being the Wise speak of in many ways”). By attributing differences of speech to the wise, this text invites a respectful and inquiring response to theological differences. We must not associate wisdom only with our way of speaking, as precious as this must be to us. The possibility for mutual theological enrichment, learning, and sharing is a significant justification for entering into interreligious relationships.
If our theologies cannot limit the limitless, we need each other, and we can all learn and be enriched by the ways in which others have apprehended the absolute and by the values they have derived from such encounters and experiences. This is, for me, the most compelling ground to seek out my neighbor of a different faith. My own religious life as a Hindu has been and continues to be immensely enriched and stirred by my encounters with practitioners of other traditions. I benefit immeasurably from the opportunity to converse and interact with fellow pilgrims. We need each other to help us see and understand ourselves better and to deepen out religious lives. Without the voice of the other, the human proclivity toward self-centeredness and self-righteousness may go unchallenged and arrogance and selfishness, rather than humility and compassion, may become the dominant values of our existence. We should not be hesitant to acknowledge this.
by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza
From State of Formation
They (the Christians) call today “Holy Saturday.” In fact, I’m on my way to be with them on this (Holy) Saturday. I’ve not been in a Saturday Church Service in years, and I’m perfectly happy being a sorted and doubting insider on the outside of a dominant religious sector called Christianity. I have many Christian friends and many friends who have no religious affiliation, then there is me who navigates the “already/not yet” of faith–that agnostic space and place. I call this the intersection or borderland in/between the death and doubt of faith. And so, here I sit in my office really trying to live into today–the death and doubt of Saturday, before faith, before the Alleluia, before the bodily or spiritual resurrection. That’s where I sit today in my light-skinned Mexican body–in the space and place of the borderlands of doubt, of Agnosticism.
Its been several years since I claimed for myself the label “Agnosticism.” It feels so right on so many days, especially today. Its almost as if I live for the Holy Saturday. I can neither say “yes” nor “no,” but I can always say “maybe.” Yet today, I can say an adamant and astounding “maybe” as I move closer to the time the Holy Saturday service begins. I wanted solemnity tonight, and I wanted darkness. I wanted the space for doubt to live. I wanted to be in a space and place that accentuated my doubt, my “maybe.” And so, I’m going to stroll down into an Episcopal Church here in Denver, CO and profess my doubt, profess my “maybe.”
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.
As you may have noticed, the main page of the Parliament of Religions has been recently energized by a series of images and questions. That’s why we’re so happy to see that our partners at Patheos.com are taking on compelling questions on their own website.
The Public Square is the center of vigorous interfaith conversation at Patheos.com. With a different subject assigned each week, members are able to wade deep into issues of serious social, political, cultural and theological import.
This week’s discussion revolves around the role of religion in democracy and vice versa. The page offers an overview of the subject (“Does Democracy Need Religion?”), a forum to discuss and blog about the question and survey snapshots and visuals to graphically distill a religious perspective into a tangible format. Finally, a drop down menu on the Public Square page offers viewers the opportunity to access arguments written from within specific faith traditions.
At the Council, we’re betting you have both informed and articulate opinions on the current question of politics and religion. Why not click over to Patheos.com and join the conversation?