a new perspective on faith for a crazy world

Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

On immigrants, outsiders, and people who are “different”

Holding Hands

Holding Hands

Since the day that religion and spirituality began, the idea of “outsiders” has long been an issue of controversy. In the worst case scenarios, what started out as disagreements often disastrously turned into “heresies,” witch hunts, hangings, and being burned at the stake.

Thankfully, we’re no longer at that barbaric stage any more. Or are we?

In the U.S., because of the nation’s current political unrest, religion is often being bundled into the brouhahas over everything from freedom of speech to protests of racism, from healthcare to immigration, and on and on. And in the generally rancorous spirit of the times, unfortunately, it always seems to devolve from “he said/she said” type arguments into sometimes angry, sometimes violent eruptions in which no one listens, no one believes the other side has anything good to contribute, no one… cares!

In a recently renewed relationship between two sensitive, mature, thinking people, it’s discovered that their viewpoints, values, and belief systems have naturally changed over the course of years. One has found a new spiritual home as a lay member of one of the old religious orders, while the other has gravitated towards one of the most liberal theologies around. What to do? How does one even come together in conversation, without feeling that opinions have to be held back, or heartfelt beliefs denied?

From one faith tradition’s point of view… what would Jesus do? Or, from another, what would Buddha say? Or Mohammad? Or Confucius?

At an ecumenical, interdenominational retreat quite a few years ago, in which mission-minded faithful from both the U.S. and abroad gathered to discuss how best to minister to the many hurting people in the world, it was pointed out that “you know, you people in the States think you know it all, that you have all the answers. Let me tell you, with all due respect, you don’t. And some of the folks in the developing countries of Africa have more to teach you about doing ministry than you will ever learn in your lifetimes!”

That was certainly a moment to shake you by your foundations, and make you stop and think.

Perhaps the one true answer to this recent spate of conflict, controversy, name-calling, and hate is actually a simple one… as that song goes, “we begin again in love.”

In other words, we resolve to sit down with each other and really, really listen. Don’t stop at the initially intimidating or alarming sentiments, but allow yourself to dive further into the mystery. Ask questions. Probe gently. Express appreciation. Find areas of common ground. You’ll no doubt find that as you start “reading (or hearing) between the lines,” you’ll begin to better understand where the other person is coming from.

And you may even discover that underneath it all, there is something that actually ties you together, rather than driving you apart.

Peace. Spread it around.

 

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Beatles wisdom

FussingFightingMEME

No big, long, convoluted sermons.  Just some simple truth.

Re: #Hillary book, #Korea#DACA#Healthcare#Russia#Immigration#Race#Transban#nationaldebt, and on and on. Let’s stop fighting and actually solve things. Every day we delay, we put ourselves, the Earth, and our children at greater risk.

#WeCanWorkItOut #Lennon #McCartney #Beatles

New Who brouhaha belongs in the loo

Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker, the newest regeneration of Doctor Who

Forgive us, Brits, for descending into impolite language. But the current controversy over the latest regeneration of the long-running Doctor Who character is too crass to believe. Most fans seem to have taken the news in stride, but a vocal few have joined the ranks of ugly internet trolls, voicing their protest in not very nice terms.

(For those who don’t follow this historic BBC sci-fi series, a few words of background: this series has been on the air since the 1960s, right around the time that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Part of its charm is that every so often, the lead character, the “Doctor,” changes appearance, and becomes a new person, thanks to the new actor in the role. The latest reincarnation is a woman — actress Jodie Whittaker — the first time the Doctor has ever undergone a gender change!)

In light of what’s been going on in the world these days, particularly the mess that is being caused by a number of traditionally male politicians, having a female Doctor should be the least of our concerns. Actually, in truth, it’s a welcome relief. Perhaps at last she can bring some long-needed compassion, feeling, and sensibility to the role.

For the same reason that droves of women are marching on Washington, running for political office, and making their voices known, this revolution in the BBC’s kingdom is something to be celebrated, rather than criticised or cursed. If Doctor Who can be thought of as a “religion,” (which it is, for many fans), it’s the equivalent of throwing out the carved-in-stone words of the Bible and starting all over again.

On a deeper level — which is what this Noofaith blog is all about — it marks a radical sea-change in the ways of the world. Traditional Western Christian spirituality, for far too long, has been unfairly dominated and monopolised by men. Without going into great detail, one of the earliest church theologians, St. Augustine, did the faith irreparable harm a long, long time ago with his rather prejudiced, sexist interpretations of the original tenets of Christ’s teachings. Unfortunately, all the others who followed in his footsteps not only compounded his original sin, but made it even worse in the centuries afterwards, cementing his perspective in practically every aspect of religious practice, not the least of which was the “males only” requirement for the priesthood.

There was even a time in the Middle Ages when an infamous tract called Hammer Against The Witches became an unofficial misogynistic rulebook for male church leaders, equating women with witches and reinforcing their subjugation and domination by poorly-educated, ill-informed clergymen who feared their power being usurped by wiser, more loving, more visionary female representatives of the faith.

So, welcome, Jodie Whittaker! It’s about time that this happened. It’s been a long time in coming, and we’re excited that the BBC has finally seen the light. May you have a long, fruitful, inspiring, and entertaining tenure in the role!

Finding inspiration in boxes

HandsInBoxHeard the old expression “putting people in boxes”? Unfortunately, another thing that gets put into boxes a lot is faith.

Through the centuries, bloody wars have been fought over religious beliefs and differences. To their credit, there have been groups, organizations, and even some political entities (like states or countries) that came together to demonstrate it doesn’t have to be that way. One can gain much more by recognizing and appreciating our differences rather than fearing them or making them the cause of conflicts and bloodshed.

We won’t name names of people who have been doing it wrong — or right — you all know who you are.  Actually, come to think of it, perhaps even drawing lines in the sand like that is all part of the problem. If we’d only try to be more comfortable with living in the “gray area,” that place where there are no black & white wrongs or rights, we might all be much better off.

Recently, the people of Denmark were privileged to view a TV commercial that expressed that very same thought. It dramatically illustrated the problem with putting people in boxes.

DanishTV-Play

More than that, it suggested the beautiful, encouraging, inspiring alternative.

Wouldn’t you rather live in a world like this?

Ever wish religion wasn’t so scary?

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief! There are actually people out there trying to make our faith less fearsome.

matthewfoxOne of them, Matthew Fox, has been at it for over 40 years. His approach? Changing from the all-too-common, patriarchal, guilt-based “original sin” obsession to something that is less punitive, more freeing, user-friendly, and uplifting: “Creation Spirituality,” which focuses on the “original blessing” received when we’re born, not on some inherited curse.

Fox’s own faith journey was an unusual one — he started out in the Dominican Order, but his liberal ideas eventually got him in trouble, especially during the days of Pope Benedict XVI. After developing (and teaching) new academic programs on creation spirituality in Chicago and California, he was silenced by Pope Benedict and later expelled from the order. His “sins”? Being a “feminist” theologian; associating too closely with Native Americans; not condemning homosexuals; and lifting up the idea of “Original Blessing” over “Original Sin” (the notion that Adam and Eve’s actions condemned us all).

Now an Episcopalian, he has devoted his life to facilitating a “New Reformation” of faith that will offer hope, not condemnation; stand for social and ecological justice; be more universal and all-embracing of diverse faiths, both eastern and western; promote interfaith understanding, rather than creating divisiveness, hate, and hostility between different traditions; and create a belief system that does not demand an “either/or,” take-it-or-leave-it opposition between science and faith.

As one way of expressing what Creation Spirituality is all about, Fox came up with his own “95 Theses” (Hundreds of years earlier, Protestant reformer Martin Luther became famous for his original 95 Theses that led to the split with Catholicism.) Here are just a few of Fox’s new theses:

  • God is both Mother and Father.
  • Theism (the idea that God is “out there” or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (this is called panentheism).
  • God loves all of creation, and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.
  • Spirituality and religion are not the same, any more than education and learning, law and justice, or commerce and stewardship are the same.
  • Economic justice requires the work of creativity to birth a system of economics that is global, respectful of the health and wealth of the earth systems, and that works for all.
  • Loyalty and obedience are never greater virtues than conscience and justice.
  • Original Sin is an ultimate expression of a Punitive Father God and is not a biblical teaching. But Original Blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.

Want to know more about Matthew Fox? Check out his website at http://www.matthewfox.org/

Sometimes new insights can be ancient!

A friend just shared a link to a Vimeo production on “being a mensch”, which is an old tradition that is actually so extremely applicable to what we’re going through today.

The Making of a Mensch from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

It’s a New Cloud Film from the Let It Ripple Film Series — a message which is insightful, inspirational, helpful, playful, thought-provoking, and entertaining, and needs to be shared with more people (no matter what faith you profess, wherever you are, and whoever you are becoming in this journey of life).

This new 11 minute film and accompanying discussion kit takes the science that was explored in a previous film, “The Science of Character,” and reframes it through the lens of the ancient Jewish teachings of “Mussar.” The film and discussion materials are an opportunity to revitalize these teachings around character development that date back to the 10th century, and reengage us all in how these Jewish tools are applicable to our 21st century lives.

And, yes, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate this. Honestly, if more of us who weren’t could take steps towards becoming part of this growing movement of “mensch” development, regardless of our denomination (or belief system), the world would be in much better shape to fight the evils facing us today.