Really good article here from David Henson (via Mike Morell) on encounter with other religious faiths. and how this can have a renewing effect on one’s own faith. I thought as I read the following line from a Hindu to a Christian who had begun a conversation with some thoujghts about “Hindu scripture”, that this reply would not be received well by Western Christians, particularly the American conservative “Bible believing” evangelical.
It would be much better, he said, to begin to learn about Hinduism from experience or at least the experiences of a Hindu teacher, rather than an ancient book that canâ€™t talk back.
Those words are tantamount to blasphemy and a sure sign of heresy in American evangelicalism.
â€œHinduism is not an acceptance of a certain set of beliefs. It is a pathâ€
Seems to me that this is the crux of the American Christian heresy. It is, in the American Christian Right, a fundamental orthodoxy that we talk about and stress “right belief”, and all the energy goes into arguments rather than exploring and walking “the path”.
While I seem to have focused on a path that here seeks to emphasize the BAD in the Christian Right, the Hindu friend also posed a challenge to this, a nd instead encouraged the recognition of the Divine. Indeed,. it is in recent weeks that I have been shown first hand how even a religious culture in which many , like me, have many good friends, friends with whom I differ greatly in terms of the way in which we walk the path with regard to political culture and social policy, it is in the strength of “The Way” in which those friends walk , and their everyday loving embrace and encouragement , that obliterates the importance of “a set of beliefs”, either theirs or mine. Frank Schaeffer speaks of his mother’s compassion and modeling for him a walking of the path that contrasted sharply with the culture of the Christian Right which had been highly shaped by his father, Francis. And that it was this tghat ended up being for him the best teacher of Christian theology, more so than “How Shall We Then Live”, the influential book of his father’s. See some video here ( Part 1 — especially around 4:20 in Part 1 — and Part 2 ) from The Wild Goose Festival 2011 where Schaeffer is talking about his Mom and his writing about this in “Sex , Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway” (there is a little bit of moving about and losing good framing as I tried to find a place to shoot, and some fading of audio as Frank moved about on stage, but the one segment I mention is central here…I include the two links to the full videos for reference and context)
And there is another dimension that this “Interfaith Dialogue” suggests to me. That of the influence of “Occupy”. A secular movement that raises some challenging questions to the claim to be “for social justice”. Glenn Beck warns of these “Social Justice Churches”, and yet it is only now, as Occupy has raised questions of economic justice and calling for a reformed patriotism that requires movement; that requires a more pronounced and prolonged STANCE and building of “a movement”. To take seriously the evils (evils which are so often not perpetuated by “evil people”, but by well-meaning people, caught up in a system which distorts and contorts our matching up of means and ends) is to take hold of a vision for the world and recognize the striving for “the path” that is moving people to this hopeful push and mobilization. This seems to strike the tone nicely:
Viewing Christâ€™s teachings through the beliefs of a Hindu presented the familiarity of my own faith in surprising newness, giving our interpersonal relationships a sense of holy urgency and joy with the idea of meeting the Divine, not a mediated metaphor of God, when we meet someone.
This “mediated metaphor of God” is what keeps us from recognizing elements of the striving to a path, and this striving; this longing; is what I believe to be innate in us all. And it is why I feel strongly that the Occupy movement can be and is being an awakening moment for the church.
This is how I try to relate to other religions, and it is how I have attached myself and my own theology and “striving to walk the path” to Occupy, which I believe to represent a momentous moving of the spirit. There are, in Occupy, several distortions and attempts to hijack the movement by desires less altrusitic, and by destructive means. (But , uh….the church has had these far too often as well).
(Thanks toMIke Morrell — @zoecarnate — for the tweet this morning linking to this)