March 12, 2020 at 5:06 pm #5615
Knitter’s opening presentation about Religions Are Political Players Both Locally and Globally resonated with me. I believe religion has both positive and negative influences on society. I see the conflict in the Middle East as a “family feud” or as Knitter puts it, “we are today facing a ‘clash of civilizations,’ which is really a clash of religions.” There are the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael versus the descendants of Abraham through Isaac. Islam versus Jewish and Christian. Each claiming their inheritance in the name of their God – the God of Abraham – religion. I know there is more to this, but I sum up the situation in this nutshell.
In our country, I see part of the “Christian” faction working in our governments and communities that push the “Christian agenda” when not everyone is Christian. The are people in our government who come out against abortion, yet they support separating children from parents and putting them in cages. Does sanctity of life end at birth? Jesus says for us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, color or whatever does not fit ones worldview and yet government passes laws that oppress/suppress people in the name of “Christianity”. Well, enough, this is a sensitive issue for me and I apologize for my ranting. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Knitter says, “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 respecting our 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 statement but as personal commitments … you have to engage in his or her religious values and beliefs.”
My approach in engaging people in religious dialogue is from the spiritual side. The spiritual is what brings a person purpose, meaning and connectedness in life. Religion may or may not be a part of that. If people have a religion, I learn from them what their religion means to them. I help them explore how their religion works in their situation. Does it help or hinder them? What is their relationship with God? I listen and help them through their journey. I believe a person’s religion is plays into a person’s life in a similar way as culture, ethnicity etc. It is part of who a person is and how s/he deals with life.
I agree, some knowledge of different religions is important, but I believe more important is to learn what an individual knows about her/his religion, because the individual may or may not look at it as it is defined. Religion, as with spiritual, has that connectedness beyond self. I see an atheist as one who is spiritual, but who does not, maybe better, cannot see a power outside or beyond her/himself. In this case I will also listen and help her/him explore what this means in the situation. I do not necessarily talk about my religion – not even my faith – but I share my relationship with God. Sometimes that fits the religion that I practice and sometimes it does not. I believe that same goes with other people as well.
Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality, explains “religion” as “re-ligion”. “Ligion” has the same Latin root for ligament. Ligaments are connective tissues in the body – tying bones etc. together. So, “religion” is to connect – people to God and people to people. What is referred to as “religion” in our society seems to be more exclusive – something that drives people a part and, in some cases, drives people from God – what McLaren says to be “de-ligion”.
These are some of the thoughts that have helped me become more open minded in my views about religion, my relationship with God and my dialogues with other people. I agree with Knitter’s statement about “dialogue”: An interaction between two or more parties in which all participants recognize their own beliefs and values, describe those beliefs and values to one another, try to learn from one another, and ready to change their minds in view of what they have learned, to the mutual benefit of all involved.” I believe when we do this we share our piece of the infinite God and other share theirs. We celebrate our commonness and learn from our differences, and God becomes bigger for all of us.
March 13, 2020 at 2:10 pm #5620
Thanks, Mike. You have given us a good start by reflecting on the article. I really like your practice of approaching all persons from a spiritual perspective, i.e. meaning and purpose, which I think all persons struggle with at some level. If we start from a religious perspective, we run the risk of getting bogged down in scared dogma debates rather than exploring the meaning dimensions. Further, bringing in McClaren’s definition is helpful in clarifying our calling to be connected not to find ways to disconnect.
I look forward to hearing others share their thoughts in response to your reflection and in response to the article.
Rick @ Oates
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