The longer I pay attention to what's happening in the world of interfaith understanding and dialogue the more I learn about organizations engaged in this work that I didn't know existed.
The latest such group is called the Pave the Way Foundation. I had heard of its co-founder (with his wife, Meredith) and president, Gary L. Krupp, but I didn't know about Pave the Way. The link on Krupp's name will take you to a New York Times story about him that describes how this retired medical equipment dealer from New York became "Commendatore Gary Krupp, Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great."
At any rate, Krupp has enlisted lots of help to create Pave the Way, with the goal of helping people recognize when religion is being misused for ideological purposes (see al-Qaida, see ISIS, see raging fundamentalists everywhere, etc.).
As the organization's mission statement says, Pave the Way is "a non-sectarian organization dedicated to achieving peace by closing the gap in tolerance, education and the practical relations between religions, through cultural, technological and intellectual exchanges. We strive to eliminate the use of religion as a tool which, historically has been used, by some, to achieve personal agendas and to cause conflicts."
This work is in harmony with something President Obama said last week (and, as usual, took heat for saying) in his remarks to a conference on countering violent extremism:
"Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders -- holy warriors in defense of Islam. That’s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the 'Islamic State.' And they propagate the notion that America -- and the West, generally -- is at war with Islam. That’s how they recruit. That’s how they try to radicalize young people. We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders -- they’re terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."
So, yes, the terrorists do use religion, but it is not the traditional, historic version of the faith they claim to represent. It is a radically fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of that faith. In that way, as Obama (and many others) have said, they pervert religion. To paint an entire faith as teaching and supporting terrorism is historically ignorant and of no help in achieving the sort of reconciliation that Pave the Way says it's working toward.
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THE GOD HE SAW WAS FEMALE
Did you happen to read a recent story about a priest who died, then came back to life and said he saw God, who is female? As this article notes, the whole thing is almost certainly fraudulent, based on a fake story in a satirical publication. What a world. Sometimes it's so wacky out there that we can't tell satire from real news.
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P.S.: Speaking of interreligious conversation, a program called "The World's Religions in Three Acts" is being offered this Friday and Saturday at the Southwood United Church of Christ in Raytown, Mo. For details in a pdf about it, click on this link: Download 2015 Southwood KC_flyer