a new perspective on faith for a crazy world

Posts tagged ‘inspiration’

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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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!

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.