July 26, 2007
July 28-29, 2007, weekend

July 27, 2007

MORE RELIGIOUS REVELATIONS

Mitt Romney says he's going to give a speech focused specifically on his Mormon faith. Good. The more open presidential candidates are about such things the better, but let's remember that the only relevant question for voters in a religiously free country is how a candidate's religious beliefs will affect his positions on public policy.

* * *

NOTICING THE MANY FAITHS AROUND US

I often write about interfaith and ecumenital relations, but was surprised the other day when I attended a memorial service to realize how much all of this has become woven into at least some of the fabric of our culture.

InterfaithI, a Presbyterian, was in a United Methodist church sitting between a Presbyterian and a Methodist. In the pew in front of us was a Buddhist. And the person giving the eulogy that day was a Catholic nun.

All of us were there because of our attachment to a woman who used to be a teacher, and among the people she taught were my two daughters.

But her range of friends was wide, indeed.

My guess is that anyone driving by the church would have assumed a bunch of Methodists were simply there to say goodbye to another Methodist. But that assumption would have been wrong and it would have missed some of the increasing richness of the religious makeup of America.

That makeup has changed rather dramatically since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed immigration reform into law in 1965, opening the doors to millions of people from many places, but especially Asia. Those people have brought with them their own brands of religion, including varieties of Christianity different from what had been here before.

I think the United States has a chance to be a model to the world for how people of many faiths can live together in harmony. That does not require anyone to give up or compromise beliefs. Rather, it requires all of us to be respectful of people who hold religious views different from our own. And it might be a good idea if we began to notice more often when we find ourselves in the company of people who differ from us religiously.

As I discovered at the recent memorial service, it happens more often than we might imagine.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (In my column tomorrow, I write from the high desert country of northern New Mexico and ask: Was humanity meant for misery?)

Comments

Dolores Lear

The Protestant Christian religion held control of our Government from the beginning, and had it's rituals, prayers and icons on government buildings and in the Public School system. As the Children of all the other religions in the USA, still had to celebrate Christian Holidays and Prayers as they grew up, and adults of other religions had to participate in Christian prayer with the Government and school events, and even sports events. Can Romney make a difference to the mind set of the majority.

Anyone in Congress that was not a Christian still had to celebrate Christian Holidays and Prayers. Other religious people least had the day off from work. No other religion has a government holiday day off work for their religion.
Today when a different religious prayer is offered in Congress, it is objected to, except recently, inthe late 1900s, Catholic and Jewish prayers are accepted.
So, we can say we have religious freedom in our private lives, but in public the Christian religion has been the unofficial State Religion.

Only one President, John Kennedy, a Catholic, still he was part of the Christian religion. And the Supreme Court now has five Catholic Judges, a majority, so we will see if the little steps to change the State Religion, to accept that All religions are acknowledged. Why does the Government have to have a dominant religion used, when all religions are accepted in the USA? Why not keep civil and religios freedom separated?
It will take time to remove all the Christian icons, or will the Catholic majority on the Supreme Court keep the Christian rites and prayers from changing, to a separate civil government without a religious majority?

The Ethnic and religious majority is changing, and it remains to be seen, if we are going to be a United or Divided Government for religious freedom in the future. Why do we need 'under God' and 'in God we Trust' practices in a federal government? This has not stopped all the graft, favoritism and cheating by the leaders.

It is Time for Equality and Equal Sharing on Earth between all the Brother/Sister Crew on Spaceship Earth, that has been divided, and killed, because of Body Birth Reproduction, the Original Sin of Pure-bred Humans 'in the beginning' of Human Life on Planet Earth.

How can all humans on the planet Unite in Peace, when we cannot Unite in Peace in 'Christian' USA? Killing does not cause Unity. Neither do Nuclear Bombs planted all over land and sea. So what are we going to do? Kill off all this Fallen Human Life, istead of Uniting in Peace? What will be, will be. Peace or Death for All Humans in these last Days of Life on Earth.

Dolores Lear

Most countries on the planet have some different kinds of religious people as citizens or guests, since we have a Planetary Business World Economy. Why not have One type of Civil Government on the planet without religion preference since we became a global economy? Christians live in all countries, whether it is the dominant religion or not, as it is true for all religious people.
Is it religion that divides Humans? It does not Unite them.

How will Humans become Uniters instead of Dividers? Follow the Lifestyle of Equality in all things as Jesus taught, and to turn the other cheek? Jesus did not favor religion, but his teachings caused another reigion, and many denominations divided from it also.
What Jesus taught and lived is what Jesus will bring when he returns in a Physical Body to Earth. Why not get used to the Equality idea now, as it is the Lifestyle on another Planet/Heaven and in High Tech spaceships?

Patricia

Great piece on diversity, Bill.

I heard a caller on a local conservative talk show rant against the fact that the North Kansas City school system now has students who speak 41 different languages. He seemed to feel it was an issue that it means paying for the resources to see that they learn English. The only thing I could think of was how wonderfully rich an environment it would be for any student to learn and study.

Just Thinking

Patricia, it's a serious problem when you have classrooms full of children who speak little or no English. Everyone is held back and everyone suffers. Diversity is not automatically a good thing.

Seeker

We took a Caribbean cruise this summer. The crew included individuals from 37 different countries. Our dinning room waiter was from India; assistant waiter from Syria; and the head waiter from Israel. As the head waiter said, they got along better than the U.N. This was a wonderful experience for my kids. They got to meet and interact with people from all over the world. Getting to know people from different cultures and backgrounds is probably the most effective way to reduce worldwide conflict.

On another note, a couple of days ago, someone asked about my posting name “Seeker” and I wasn’t able to respond until now. No great secret or profound meaning. “The Seeker” by The Who is one of my favorite songs and it seemed appropriate to this blog. I don’t like to use my real name when discussing religious issues in a public forum. I’m in the phone book and in the past I’ve received some pretty nasty phone calls and visits because of my religious views. These calls and visits certainly bothered me and scared my family, so I try to stay somewhat anonymous when discussing these issues. Though I enjoy it too much to give it up completely.

Just Thinking

That's a good idea, Seeker. Now when you receive nasty phone calls for your religious beliefs, it'll probably be someone who knows you well or else a typepad employee.

Just Thinking

:)

Why Is This So Difficult

Seeker,

Thanks for the background on the name. And I think everyone here understands the anonymity part. I'm sorry to hear that anyone would have made threatening calls or visits. Yikes!

I agree that understanding people from different nations/cultures goes a long way to getting along. It reminds me of a conference I was at several years ago. One of the topics of conversation was racial reconciliation. The point I remember taking was what one of the speakers repeated over and over: asking someone the simple phrase, "Help me understand," goes a long way to getting past our incorrect judgements and prejudices.

Apologetics 101

I don't think diversity is a good thing to have alone. If there is not a shared identity of people under one flag and one culture then crime can become a problem and education suffers.
Or you have to have a ton of worthless civic groups like ACORN in KC to try and get those people together so they stop commiting crime and not having healthy lifestyles.

Just Thinking

There are things someone can learn about diversity for their own life from the story of King Solomon.

1 Kings 11
1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

9 The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD's command. 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."

14 Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.

Just Thinking

That's not the end of the story, of course ...

Dolores Lear

Some of the plus's in a High Tech Pure-bred Human Society, is a One Government on the planet, and One Language.
The population is controlled with High Tech Reproduction.
There is even a lot of difference from 1 billion people 100 years ago, to over six billion today, where language stayed local, and the movement of a people, from horse and buggies and to some people on ships, to all the High Tech transportation we have today.
And in the past everyone had to learn English in the USA as the standard language. English is about to be the standard language, all over the world with Computers.
Once in awhile, on Pogo games, a couple of people chat in German, but that is the only other language I have seen on Pogo which is in many countries. I have chatted to a couple of people from Australia and England.

All these changes on our Planet are building up to a change. I hope One language will help get rid of the nuclear bombs, before we blow up our Home.

Patricia

May I just say that whatever scribe wrote the very political scary tale of Solomon (could it have been Joab O'Reilly or Moses Hannity?), neither he NOR God had a handle on what Solomon's REAL problem was. With 700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon was clearly living in the realm of sexual addiction.

I love the fact that the wives and their foreign-ness gets blamed for turning Solomon away from God. It seems that Solomon wouldn't have time for God or much else, except his preoccupation with women and marriage.

You don't really take this literally, do you JT?

Patricia

Ben, I caught you changing your name to Apologetics 101.

Patricia

"Patricia, it's a serious problem when you have classrooms full of children who speak little or no English. Everyone is held back and everyone suffers."

Firstly, you can't leap to the conclusion that classrooms are FULL of children who speak little or no English. I don't believe that's the case. And I'd love to see your studies that conclude that children are held back. My experience is that children learn twice as much when they can function as assistants or teachers and help others with lessons.

Just Thinking

Patricia, I was speaking generally about situations where there are many students who need extra help because they speak little or no English.

Some California elementary schools have more populations with more than 40% students who do not claim English as their native language. The extra help needed to deal with these students can't just come from the other students in the class. This may create a "rich environment," but resources must be diverted to deal with the problems, and it puts financial and academic stress on school districts that are already severely strained. These districts can't just miraculously cough up the money to deal with the worsening problem--in fact the districts most affected are often the most strapped of all the districts. I'll bet that problem is the same in Kansas City, too.

Just Thinking

By the way, Patricia, I offered no interpretation of the story of King Solomon. But I do so enjoy your insistent interpretation. You'd be fun in an ink blot test, too. :)

Why Is This So Difficult

Patricia, I'm sure you weren't making them mutually exclusive, but it is very possible that Solomon was both a sex addict (drawing him away from God) and drawn away from the Hebrew God by foreign influences. Moses probably wasn't familiar with addictions as such (no shrinks back then to define addictions for them). So his problem was both internal and external.

"You don't really take this literally, do you JT?"

What kind of question is that? There are a LOT of people who take it quite literally (historically) and I hope you aren't arrogant enough to look down your nose at them for it.

As for the school argument, as a former school teacher I can tell you that students can help each other out quite well. And they do learn things that they wouldn't learn if they weren't helping. Just like anyone learns best by doing and then having to teach/explain. However, the logistical nightmare of having that many non-English speakers in teh room would definitely prohibit things from moving as fast in such a classroom. In that respect, other kids would be held back.

And how are the other students supposed to help the non-English speakers anyway - assuming they don't speak the other student's language?

Patricia

I don't consider it arrogance, WITSD, to assume that thinking people would examine the story of Solomon and find great gaps in credibility. The fact that there were no shrinks back then would not stop God from knowing all, would it?

The sexual addiction and marrying of foreigners may not be mutually exclusive, but in the story, God targets in on the foreign "issue" and ignores the problem of simply juggling too many women.

What I read, when I read these passages, are the writings of human beings imposing their simple, backward, and limited knowledge on God. I do not see the writings of an all-knowing God being channeled through a mere mortal. I cannot believe that God would be so simple, backward, and limited.

If you take this passage as inerrant, then how do you explain that God, who NOW apparently condemns more than one wife, was just fine with a idea a couple of thousand years ago? Because if (S)He wasn't fine with it, that is Solomon would have been warned against.

Patricia

On the subject of children in classrooms......we're back to my original comment. Which is about 41 languages being spoken in a specific school system. You and JT keep speaking to these classrooms full of non-English speakers, which are assumptions. Do you have some proof that that is situation?

I am aware only of schools that get overwhelmed with Spanish-speakers. They are normally able to address the problem, when there are many, by creating special classes, because you are correct, that teachers can't deal with "lots" in a classroom.

As for the resilience of children, I have only anecdotal evidence. I have often been the lone English speaker in foreign countries, including all-foreign-speaking classrooms. The first time when I was ten. And I watched my own children interact with the Hispanic nanny's. Her children were speaking English within a couple of months just through playing and interacting, and because my children, without being asked to, would daily help with schoolwork and English.

Through all of this immigration debate, I keep thinking of my genealogy research. I have come across community after community with large numbers of immigrants from many different countries. Some of them were my relatives. You see a pattern, which is that the first generation often sticks together and maintains their language, but by the second or third generation, that pattern is broken and they are fully integrated into the fabric of society.

Little Italy in NY,(and other ethnic neighborhoods elsewhere) is a great example. This sizey neighborhood has shrunk to about a block, as residents have simply left the enclave and melted into America. Instead, the new immigrants from Asia are taking over. In a few generations, I have no doubt it may be another ethnic minority.

Just Thinking

"You and JT keep speaking to these classrooms full of non-English speakers."

No, Patricia, you keep jumping to conclusions. I was very specific about what I was discussing and so was WITSD. You erroneously infer things and then claim that I imply what you infer.

As for the story of Solomon ... where did you get that God condoned 700 wives and 300 concubines? Sin of all sort is reported in the Bible without condoning or condemning it. The particular sin of Solomon that was being condemned was his infidelity toward God--Solomon was whoring around on God, and He was specifically told not to do that. You see sexual addiction and are repulsed by it; God sees that Solomon etertains notions of other gods and builds idols to them. There is an analogy between the two.

Your innate sense of right and wrong tells you how to love others, but your sense of how to love God is not innate. That you are told to seek. God views you entertaining all gods and chasing after idols in the same way as the sexual addiction that you are so bothered by. So you saw half of the lesson, but failed to grasp the other half.

You know how you shoud treat others of different religions, but this story goes further to reveal that you should not whore after other gods in the process. These are two distinctly different issues: love your neighbor, and love God. You can be tolerant of others who practice a religion, but you should not become intimate with their gods.

Just Thinking

Here's another way to think of it that may help you Patricia.

I know that you would not be keen on being part of a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines--that's obvious. Well, take how you would feel about that, and then consider that God will not tolerate being made part of your harem of 700 gods and 300 religions.

Patricia

Patricia: "You and JT keep speaking to these classrooms full of non-English speakers."

JT: No, Patricia, you keep jumping to conclusions.

JT: Patricia, it's a serious problem when you have classrooms FULL OF CHILDREN who speak little or no English.

WITSD: However, the logistical nightmare of having that many non-English speakers in teh room.....

Patricia: I rest my case. I inferred nothing.

Patricia

Absolutely right that Solomon was whoring around on God! Both you and WITSD admit that he was an addict to sex or loooooove. What does any addict do but whore around on God? Because the object of addiction, whatever it may be, becomes his/her God.

So which is the greater infidelity to God? His addiction to sex or loooooove or the fact that he began choosing his latest objects of addiction from the July 1000BC mailings of Pearls of the Orient and Kremlin Kuties catalogs?

I am simply saying that if God cannot recognize and condemn the source or greater infidelity, then God is something of an idiot. Either that, or this Bible passage is errant.

Incidentally, I'm not sure that the two of you are aware that there was an alternate book written on this story that was rejected by the boys at Nicaea. Some scholars believe the author was a woman.

It has a very simple admonition to Solomon by God. She tells him to zip up his robes and keep them zipped.

Just Thinking

Turning away from god toward other idols has always been described by God in adulterous terms. The relationship of the Church to Christ is as a bride. The use of the word "unfaithful" in describing adulterers is a good reminder of these things.

We are told that God is a jealous God. If you love God, but keep turning to idols and other gods, then I believe that God will do something about it in order to help you. He works things together for the good of those who love Him, and tearing down our idols is working toward our good.

The greatest source of infidelity toward God is God's to decide, Patricia. You may have your idea and even decide God is dumb if He doesn't agree with you. But He makes it clear that the thing He won't tolerate is being turned into just another one of your whores. You might get by with that with people, and others may agree to participate, but God does not agree to participate in such a relationship. God is a jealous God, and this is a deadly thing to do to your relationship with God. Think about it: if you turn from God, then nothing else will matter.

Exodus 34 - His name is Jealous.
10 Then the LORD said: "I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

15 "Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

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