February 10, 2020 at 6:13 pm #5533
Course reflections will be posted here.
March 11, 2020 at 10:09 pm #5609
I read the article, Social Work and Religious Diversity, Problems and Possibilities.
The author did a good job of pointing out some of the complexities of interfaith, inter discipline dialogue. The article is summarized well with the following quote:
” <span style=”font-family: ‘Open Sans’, sans-serif; font-size: 17.6px;”>Working with your clients’ religions is going to require more than what you’ve been trained to do when responding to their values and beliefs. It is going to require more than just </span>respecting<span style=”font-family: ‘Open Sans’, sans-serif; font-size: 17.6px;”> your clients’ religion. You are also going to have to </span>engage<span style=”font-family: ‘Open Sans’, sans-serif; font-size: 17.6px;”> their beliefs, values, convictions. And this will call you to understand their religious beliefs not just as propositional statements but as personal commitments; you’ll have to enter into these commitments and appreciate their power and their coherence.”</span>
It troubled me when I studied Social work in the late 70’s that faith was seen as private. The social worker was trained to not bring in their own faith perspective and to focus on other aspects of their clients situation. I ended up pursuing the ministry rather than social work as I felt I could be more authentic in my desire to help others as well as minister to their whole self. It might be best understood in reverse. If I were a client of a social worker, my faith which was/is core to who I am as a person (forgiven alcoholic called to help others come to faith) would probably not be given much credence.
The article points out that people’s faith or lack of it is very much part of their fabric and needs to be addressed either as a strength of possible hindrance.
On a side note, the author seems to give credence to the harm religious expression has done without the balance of the harm atheism has done (Stalin/Lenin.) He also implies without statistical footnote that Religion has probably caused more harm than good, though a reference to liberation theology later in the article seems to contradict this.
Dialogue is good between faiths and disciplines. The challenge is setting aside one’s own convictions while listening to another who may hold a completely different view.
The law of non-contradiction makes it challenging. I seem to recall a scene from Fiddler on the roof where the men are arguing. They ask Tevye his opinion and he says, “You are right.” Someone challenges him and Tevye again says to him, You are right.” The rabbi says, “they both can’t be right.” Tevye responds with “you are also right.” It certainly make it easier to communicate what one believes if people have the attitude that everybody is right. That has been my experience as an interfaith chaplain. Once I decided that I didn’t have to convert people, acceptance of their beliefs was easier and ministering to them by hearing their story was also easier.
But I had to ask myself especially at funerals where the belief is that everyone goes to heaven what if my acceptance and affirmation was a way of saying peace peace when there is no peace. I like to think that everyone goes to heaven. It is easier than dealing with the hard scriptures that say not all go to heaven. But then I ask almost in the same breath, but what would be the benefit of sharing Christ with a non-Christian. It certainly would bring discipline from my chaplain supervisors. The response from the other would most likely be to build a wall between the other person and myself if not outright hostility. That was certainly the response to Paul and other martyrs. So I have had to land that somehow through kindness, acceptance and unconditional positive regard I am reflecting the light of Christ that will ultimately be of benefit to the other. “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to God.”
March 11, 2020 at 10:13 pm #5610
Sorry. Apparently my copy and peace went into tongues mode. It should have read:
<em style=”margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 12px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #737373; font-family: Lato;”>Working with your clients’ religions is going to require more than what you’ve been trained to do when responding to their values and beliefs. It is going to require more than just your clients’ religion. You are also going to have to engage their beliefs, values, convictions. And this will call you to understand their religious beliefs not just as propositional statements but as personal commitments; you’ll have to enter into these commitments and appreciate their power and their coherence.”
March 13, 2020 at 4:39 pm #5625
Thank you Wally, I like your reference to Fiddler on the Roof. I can connect with Tevye. I agree with you that if everybody is “right”, then there are not accusations of wrong and defenses are kept down so dialogue can flow. Through the dialogue, individuals are free to alter their thoughts and beliefs as they deem appropriate and everybody involved, grows.
I have done a number of funerals where I do not know the people or their relationship with God. I do not talk about heaven or hell. I talk about God’s relationship with the individual and leave him/her in God’s hands. From there I talk about God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
I recently read an article about what is one’s authority when discussing things “theological” or “religious”. Typically the word, i.e. the Bible is the authority. This article showed that in his gospel account, John: “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God … The Word became flesh.” (John 1:1, 14) This is Jesus. So now, the article goes on to say that Jesus is the authority and uses the Sermon on the Mount as our guidance in living in relationship with him.
Jesus did not push himself on anyone, nor did he judge and condemn. I use this in my relationships and dialogues with other people and how I do ministry.
March 13, 2020 at 10:51 pm #5626
I appreciate both of your reflections, Wally and Mike. I believe that really valuing people for who they are, and recognizing each person’s ability to think for him/herself, has to lead me to valuation of their religious beliefs. Yes, sometimes people are misled, and our beliefs do evolve and change. But most often people have deeply held and considered core beliefs, and for me to think those beliefs wrong would be to think less of that person. That does create a dilemma for me with evangelism – it’s something I struggle with internally and within my professional setting. I’m interested to hear how others handle that.
March 14, 2020 at 12:06 pm #5627
Jennifer, as a Chaplain I do not see my primary purpose to be evangelism. I believe my purpose is to be a compassionate presence for another person. In Genesis, God said it is not good for the human to be alone. So, God created another. In the hospital, people are disconnected from whoever or whatever brings them purpose, meaning and connectedness. They are alone. I am the “other” in their loneliness. I believe God is in me and works through me so, I bring God’s presence to them, whether they acknowledge God or not. I guess one might say this is stealth evangelism.
I allow people to hold their core beliefs and values. If they are struggling with them, I help them open up and explore what they believe, what the struggle is and help them find their answers within themselves. This may affirm and strengthen what they believe or help them to alter what they believe. Either way brings them growth and makes them stronger.
I hope this is helpful.
March 14, 2020 at 3:22 pm #5630
I appreciate the honest sharing of the challenges we face in interfaith or pluralistic settings. Here are a few of my random thoughts in response to what has been shared. I have always appreciated the fact that most professional spiritual caregivers are required to have a seminary education. I assume, even though I know that is dangerous, that a person who spends three years plus studying the Old and New Testament, Ethics, Philosophy, Theology in its many varieties, church history, and practical studies have spent significant time in uncovering basic beliefs, biases, assumptions about human nature and God that enables them to sit with persons who have different beliefs, biases, assumptions, etc. without feeling threatened. Further, I assume that a good CPE experience enables persons to use all of that learning and add to itself-awareness to continue that process. It has become clear to me through the years as I age that my faith orientation is somewhat fluid. What I believe, assume, and bias with which I still struggle continues to evolve. So, for me, it is an ongoing process. I was reminded recently in reviewing Wayne Oates’s old but still relevant book, “When Religio Gets Sick” of a conversation he had with a Hindu medical student when Wayne was talking about the role of the chaplain. Wayne was asked, “who’s God do you represent when you enter the patient’s room.” Wayne said, “I represent the God of their understanding if they have one. That allows me to explore the meaning of whatever their beliefs are.” The Hindu medical student pushed him further, “then Dr. Oates what do you believe about God?” Wayne unabashedly said, “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and that he is the best revelation of God.” The other thing that I think helps is humility and respect. I have worked hard through the years to gain clarity about what I believe and why but I know I still don’t have all of the answers. And some of the answers I have come to feel comfortable with are still hard to articulate. All of this to say, I agree with the fact that we are to approach others with kindness and the universal love of God and allow that to guide our interaction.
March 15, 2020 at 7:25 am #5647
I am finding it refreshing to be having these interactions. It has taken my mind of the covid situation. To that end, I want to share something i aw posted on Facebook yesterday
Getting out doors, not cancelled.
Music, not cancelled
Family, not cancelled.
reading, not cancelled.
Singing, not cancelled.
laughing, not cancelled.
Hope, not cancelled.
Let’s embrace what we have.
March 15, 2020 at 7:42 am #5648
Sunday morning thoughts on balancing personal faith and the faith of others.
One thing I have found very helpful on my faith journey as a spiritual care giver is to become a student of other people’s beliefs and values. “I don’t know much about your faith or culture, can you tell me more.” It helps establish rapport/relationship. The goal is not that they also ask about my faith/culture. I have learned much. One of the most interesting was an encounter with the son of a hospital patient, a large man with a big beard who presented as a woman. It was a huge shift for this moderately conservative born-again Wesleyan minister. But I tried to start with acceptance, kindness and compassion. I worked at using preferred pronouns. She appreciated my less than successful attempts. We laughed about it. It was easy to converse, once I took the step of putting person before any other labels we carry around. She talked about her struggles of acceptance even among the LGBTQ+ community. It was a whole new world for me.
March 15, 2020 at 8:09 am #5649
Jennifer. I appreciate your openness. Responding to your question about evangelism:
mmmmmmm!!! When I was a chaplain to teenagers in detention, I was gentle but more upfront with evangelism expressed in the form of talking about Jesus’ forgiveness. Kids from struggling families who were now caught up in the legal system due to some of their impulsive or wrong choices seemed to need some reassurance that they were ok. Justice is also part of the good news and I believe that the guilt or shame these kids were experiencing was a good thing as it took them out side themselves a bit and maybe helped them feel some of their victim’s pain. But to be able to tell them that Jesus loved them and wanted to forgive them was huge and many prayed for that forgiveness. Most were from some sort of Christian background so it was not an offense. If they were Jewish (rare) or Muslim or another faith, I respected that and tried to build relationships and provide faith material or experiences that were connected to their faith ((e.g., taking a Jehovah Witness student to a local Kingdom Hall.) It was ironic, as occasionally there would be a teen who was a satan worshipper and they would call me. I would try an d build relationships. There was one atheist young man who was not interested in visiting. I briefly greeted him for three months and one day he asked to talk with me.
I think of Jesus hanging out with tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners (including me.) But Jesus often referred to people as lost more than being sinful. Zaccheus too was a son of Abraham, lost in his greed and isolation. Jesus came to seek the lost and hurting. The good news that we are loved by God is for everyone.
Working with teens who have been arrested however is different than working with adults who I meet because they are sick and/or dying. Forgiveness was one of the main presenting issues in the teen population. Not so in the clinical areas we serve.
The good news that we are loved by God is for everyone. In our clinical settings, we have the opportunity to demonstrate that love with gentleness, kindness, compassion much more by our presence than by our words. Where love is, God is.
Maya Angelou helps me here, ” I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I am guessing each of you has experienced the mystery of going into a difficult situation and somehow God is made very real despite our not knowing what to do or say. I leave those moments going wow.
March 15, 2020 at 8:18 am #5650
In response to your thoughts specifically, “…the other thing is humility and respect… I heartily agree. One thing that helps me is Jesus’ question to blind bartimaeus. What do you want me to do for you? It is the same question at the end of the FICA Spiritual assessment tool.” How would you like me your healthcare provider to address these issues in your healthcare? At the nursing home, we were trained to ask,”Is there anything else I can do for you?” before we left the room. Person centered care.
March 15, 2020 at 8:29 am #5651
Mike. Thank you for your reflections. I harmonize with you when you say, “I believe my purpose is to be a compassionate presence for another person …God said it is not good for the human to be alone . So God created another.” It is a gift we receive as chaplains to be invited into another’s personal and spiritual space. The healing that happens when another graces us with the gift of parts of their story. How often do we hear, that it was good to talk to you.” That seems to me to be the easiest place to land with my personal faith and the faith of others. My faith empowers and sometimes emboldens me to go to meet with another person so I might bring them the gift of compassion that is from God. Whatever their faith/spirituality/religion/or not is–if they allow me across the threshold we can meet on common ground.
<span style=”color: #737373; font-family: Lato; font-size: 12px; background-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.03);”>I believe my purpose is to be a compassionate presence for another person. In Genesis, God said it is not good for the human to be alone. So, God created another. </span>
March 15, 2020 at 10:31 am #5652
Mike, Rick, and Wally, thank you for your perspectives. I agree with each of you on my approach to residents – meeting each one where they are in their spirituality and helping to encourage them within their belief system. I have accepted that my call and gifts are in nurturing and encouraging folks in their faith rather than evangelism in the sense of sharing the gospel overtly with non-believers.
I think the tension I feel related to evangelism professionally comes from others’ expectations, particularly Christian residents and even staff members. For example, helping a zealous Christian resident understand why I’m not going to try to convince an agnostic resident of the truth of the gospel. And working with her to tone down her pushiness in inviting her neighbors to attend services and Bible studies. I know that her zeal includes a concern for her neighbors’ souls, according to her understanding of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.
And honestly the tension I feel comes from the Bible itself! In our weekly Bible study right now, we are reading the book of Acts, and that book just doesn’t accept that other religions may be a path to God. It’s interesting to hold that together with our book discussion in which we are listening in on an interfaith dialogue.
So I think my struggle is less in practicing acceptance of others of different faiths, and more in how to handle the messages within evangelical Christianity. Knitter speaks to this in the article on p. 263, recognizing that many churches teach that Christianity is superior to other religions.
March 15, 2020 at 11:02 am #5653
I have posted a couple responses to others, but not my original reflections on the article yet.
I appreciated Knitter’s exposition of Catherine Cornille’s five “virtues” that allow for religious dialogue. In fact, I may share these with a couple residents who are struggling with how to have political dialogue with one another in a current events discussion program. Knitter makes note of the “real tension between the virtue of humility and the virtue of commitment.” I think the fifth virtue, openness to change, joins this tension as well. If I believe that my way of understanding God/the divine is true – if I have faith, as our religions teach us to strive for – then why would I be open to being changed as I encounter another’s point of view? Perhaps the virtue of humility is the key that unlocks this dilemma. The three Abrahamic traditions, at least, teach us that we are limited as human beings – that we cannot fully grasp the mystery of God. And so we must live in awareness of our own limitation. That means believing that God may still be working on us, as sure as we might be of what we believe at present. I personally hold on to the tag line that the UCC used a few years back: “God is still speaking…”
I see this tension among the virtues Knitter writes about play out with one member of our book discussion group in particular. He’s a retired minister in a non-denominational/apostolic church tradition. As we have learned about Jewish and Muslim beliefs, he will often cite New Testament scriptures that are authoritative for him: “But the Word of God says…” The Bible is so foundational to his beliefs that he can have trouble seeing why others would rely on different authorities. Yet he stays engaged, and at times he will seem to just be taking it all in. “I’m learning,” he says. He is trying to practice humility and openness to change even as he holds strongly to his faith commitments.
Wally’s example above of coming into relationship with a transgender family member illustrates will the virtue of empathy. As chaplains we find that empathy bridges all kinds of differences, allowing us to enter a bit into another’s experience. Knitter’s article offers me a helpful reminder to take the step back and discern what religion or spiritual beliefs are doing for the individual who holds them. I think lately I’ve been doing this more intuitively than overtly. I’ll practice this week letting that question hover in my mind as I have pastoral conversations and do spiritual assessments.
March 16, 2020 at 10:13 am #5662
Wow, there was a lot of activity yesterday, I am sorry I was not able to join in the discussion. I will take time to ponder what you all have shared and hopefully respond soon.
Rick, I did read what you shared and I agree, my faith has also become more fluid with age and experience. In my early years I towed the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod line and in doing so, I had God in a box. CPE was the beginning of my becoming more fluid. With regards to “faith”, I talk more about my relationship with God. My “faith” is not what sustains me. It is the one in whom I put my faith. My “calm in the storm” comes in my relationship with God. I have been reading material by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest. His material resonates with me because he has put into words what as you have said, “I have come to feel comfortable with, but still hard to articulate.” I just started reading Rohr’s newest book, The Universal Christ. In it he talks about faith not as a thing, but calmness, a feeling of God’s presence.
What I know continues to evolve, because God is infinite and limitless, I am finite and limited. There is always more to learn and that usually happens in the storms of my life, and also through the sharing I have with other people. When I visit with people, I have what I have. This supports me in what I do and frees me to be open to let others be where they are at and help them explore as needed.
I appreciate your reference to Wayne’s, When Religion Gets Sick. I first read it in CPE and then again as part of an Oates Seminar. This was good as I began to open up the box I had “religion” in.
March 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm #5663
Wow! You all have shared a great deal that has challenged and encouraged me as I try to remain faithful to my calling. Tomorrow, we will post some more resources for your consideration. Mike, interestingly enough, one is by Richard Rohr on his view of the Cosmic or Universal Christ. His insights have helped me more than any other in my understanding of interfaith dialogue. We will also post a video by Brian McLaren talking about his engagement with persons who might be thought of as evangelical fundamentalists. Finally, we will post and article by a Muslim addressing our topic from his unique perspective. Please keep thinking and feeling and reflection and sharing.
Rick @ Oates
P.S. We hope to have a link today on the Oates website where that professional caregivers can share concerns, feelings, and things that they are doing in their communities to cope with the pandemic we find ourselves in. Please tell others about that resource.
March 17, 2020 at 9:30 am #5682
Wally, I too “become a student of other people’s beliefs and views. Besides establishing rapport/relationship, it also is an opportunity to learn how the individual sees and understands his/her religion. My experience with people of the LGBTQ+ community is they are understanding and gracious with people who are open and want to embrace them, knowing that there will be awkward times.
Jennifer, focusing on God’s relationship with me and my relationship with God rather than “my faith” allows me the freedom to dialogue with other people who believe differently than I do. For me “my faith” is something I have to do – something I have to protect. This does not allow me to be open to hear other people.
Thank you for the UCC tag line: “God is still speaking …” Focusing on God’s relationship with me, rather than “my faith” leaves me humble and open to hear God speaking. Where “my faith” will fail me, God will not. As you say, “humility is the key that unlocks the dilemma” and gives me the freedom to, as you say, “step back and discern what religion or spiritual beliefs are doing for the individual who holds them.” I like this.
March 17, 2020 at 11:33 am #5683
Good morning friends,
Post your discussion for week 2 here.
March 17, 2020 at 10:08 pm #5687
Rick, under the Course Materials, the two YouTube videos do not seem to be clickable links. Could you double check that when you get a chance? Thanks!
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