For some months now I've been part of a small task force connected to the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council trying to create the outlines of a program to increase the religious literacy of Kansas Citians.
There is much work left to be done to see if this idea is even feasible, but on Sunday I spoke to the Community of Reason about it to see what ideas I might stir up from its members, who tend to identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, humanists, free-thinkers and other similar labels.
First, I gave them a few of the ideas that our task force has been kicking around:
* Offer tours of sacred structures all over town — churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc.
* Put on a film festival featuring movies with religious themes. Maybe representatives of each faith could pick out one or two films from that tradition.
* Put on a sacred music festival. Again, let’s have music from every religious tradition be part of this.
* Create a Kansas City Religious Literacy Facebook page where a moderator could raise a new question every day or two and seek responses.* Have the whole metro area read Stephen Prothero’s book, Religious Literacy, and create discussion groups about it. Another choice: The Faith Club, written by three women, a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim. The Christian woman is originally from KC.
* Put on a faith food festival featuring foods from many religious traditions.
* Create a combination service project-learning experience, such as working in interfaith teams at Harvesters or Habitat for Humanity.
* Create a temporary museum of religious icons and objects at, say, Union Station, to include crosses; Stars of David; mihrabs; Communion cups; limited edition Torahs, Bibles and Qur’ans, etc. Have representatives of each religion available to explain what people are seeing.
Some of the ideas that came from COR members:
* Begin any film festival with "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," about St. Francis of Assisi.
* On a website, offer brief explanations of the differences between and among faiths.
* Make sure there is educational material appropriate for all age groups, including young children.
* Create a system for inviting people of other faiths and no faith to experience worship services in different traditions.
All worthwhile ideas.
What's your thought? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass along your thoughts to the task force.
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TIGHTENING SCREWS ON RELIGION
A new study from the Pew Research Center says that restrictions on religions around the world have increased -- not descreased -- since the Arab Spring. Turmoil inevitably makes those in charge more fearful, whether that's reasonable or not.