Interfaith


I’ve been thinking this week about how religious traditions build on the customs and sites of those who have gone before – even when those who have gone before are of different faiths.  Christmas trees are derived from non-Christian traditions in Germany, I’m told, and Halloween is derived from Celtic druidic practices – though they have been “baptized.”  A Christmas tree is not used by Christians to worship a different deity.  All Saints’ (or all Hallow’s) Eve remembers those who have died in the faith (even with all the spooky stuff about death and spirits) and who are now alive in Christ.  For that matter, Christians take the Jewish holy writings and look at them through a new lens, and Muslins take both Jewish and Christian holy writings and look at them through a lens of their own.

And it’s not like this is something new.

In chapter 12 of Genesis, when Abram first comes into the land of Canaan, he arrives at the sacred place at Shechem and comes to the oak grove of Moreh.  It is very likely that this oak grove was already a site of worship for Canaanite deities. (more…)

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This is so counter cultural that I simply couldn’t resist.  It comes from Joan Chittister’s The Rule of Benedict:  A Spirituality for the 21st Century:

Rabbi Mordecai said, “If a single coin is left over in my house at bedtime, I cannot fall asleep.  But if totally penniless, I sleep soundly, knowing that when the moment comes to awaken, I must immediately look to the Lord for aid.”  And the rabbi of Porissover taught, “If a person is poor and meek, it is easy for that one to be joyful, inasmuch as there is nothing to guard against losing.”

… We live in a culture that sees having things as the measure of our success.  We strive for a life that sees eliminating things as a measure of internal wealth.  Enough-ness is a value long dead in Western society.

One of the blogs I follow is Midlife Bat Mitzvah (by Ilana DeBare).  And she’s just posted a fascinating interview with one of her rabbis — Andrea Berlin.  In it she talks about how her relationship with God (which is both personal and transcendent) changes every day.  She talks about the authority of the Holy Books of various faiths (“Judaism teaches that I am bound to Torah because my people accepted it.   … Only the people who are part of the covenant need to adhere to it.”)  She talks about prayer (and her personal sense of “waking with God” as she climbed Half Dome).  She talks about cyber=Judaism (which she sees as an emerging and helpful supplement to congregational involvement).  And she talks about her anger with God (“My tradition gives me the right to be very angry at God.”).

If I have whetted your appetite, you can find the whole interview here.

In my daily office readings of late, in the Hebrew Scriptures, there has been a lot of talk about worshiping God alone, and keeping apart from the gods of other people.  God gets very angry when Israel worships other gods.  And I find myself thinking about my universalist religious approach (as opposed to exclusivist Christian approach) in this context.

And I’ve got to say at the start, I have real trouble believing that all of this comes from God. (more…)

In my car this morning, I ended up behind a truck with a bumper sticker that read (something like) I’m a Christian (in big print) and I’m at war (in smaller print).  It said more than that, but I didn’t have time to read the rest.  And my bet is that this is a conservative Christian who sees themself fighting the culture wars on behalf of Christ.  I’m a Christian too.  And there are certainly parts of our culture that I might like to convert.  But I hope I’m not at war — not even with the guy driving this truck, with whom I’m pretty sure I’d find much with which to disagree. (more…)

Thanks to Susan’s note, I found this at St. Dunstan’s Priory, about Bede Griffiths, about whom I had not heard before, who they commemorate May 13 (my father’s birthday):

Bede Griffiths (17 December 1906 – 13 May 1993), born Alan Richard Griffiths and also known as Swami Dayananda (Bliss of Compassion), was a British-born Benedictine monk who lived in ashrams in South India. He was born at Walton-on-Thames, England and studied literature at Magdalen College, Oxford under professor and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, who became a lifelong friend. Griffiths recounts the story of his conversion in 1931 to Roman Catholicism while a student at Oxford in his autobiography The Golden String. (more…)