A CHURCH STRUCTURE BEGINS TO CRACK
The worldwide Anglican Communion is getting close to breaking apart, this report says. A major issue, of course, is how the church is to treat gays and lesbians. In some ways this kind of internal fighting gives religion a bad name among folks who view it from the outside. But in other ways it reveals to outsiders people who stick by their principles. The Anglican Communion may split, but Anglicanism will go on. And I'm guessing that 50 years from now the church will look back and wonder what all the to-do was about when churches finally move closer to treating all people with equity and love.
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TALKING RELIGION WITH MUSLIM VISITORS
As I've said many times, interfaith dialogue is fascinating, crucial and difficult.
But don't pass up opportunities to experience it. I had a chance this week to meet in Kansas City with two Muslim leaders from Italy and am glad I did.
Imam Wagih Saad Hassan Hassan (on the left in the picture here) and El Hassan Sadiq (on the right) were visiting the U.S. as part of the U.S. State Department'sInternational Visitor Leadership Program. The focus on their trip here and elsewhere in the U.S. was described as "religion and community activism in a democratic society."
It was my privilege to tell them a little about media coverage of religion both here and around the U.S. and to describe for them something of the religious landscape of Kansas City. We spoke through Michael Chaaya, an interpreter assigned to them for this trip.
The expressed concerns about the way the media in Europe portray immigrant Muslims there, and how difficult it is to be understood and integrated into the culture when there are so many misunderstandings of Islam perpetrated, as they said, by journalists who are uneducated about the subject.
We also spoke about what I called the struggle for the heart and soul of Islam, by which I meant the effort by traditional Islam to isolate and marginalize the radical elements. Each was insistent that al-Qaida and its followers are outside of traditional Islam and eventually would fade away.
But they also were concerned about the dictatorial regimes that rule in many Arab countries of the Middle East, where freedom of the press is largely a dream.
Through an interpreter such conversation can be a little trying, but we can always look each other in the eye and try to convey a sense that each of us is an important part of the human family. I think we sensed that from each other.
So my point is: Avail yourelves of opportunities to speak with people of other faiths and traditions whenever you have a chance.
As I drove home from meeting with these gentlemen at a Midtown hotel, I got behind a vehicle covered with bumper stickers, including, "Impeach Bush" and "Jail Bush." And although those aren't signs I would put on my car, I gave thanks to live in a country -- unlike Egypt, say, or Saudi Arabia -- where such publicly displayed political sentiments would be cause for arrest.
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P.S.: Earlier this week on the blog I mentioned the newly released Part II of the religious landscape study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Policy. Now Baptist Press has published this story suggesting that the wording of a question may have skewed some of the results. See what you think. When people say "religion," do they really mean "denomination"? Hmmmm.
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ANOTHER P.S.: In yesterday's blog posting I wrote some about my recent experience being in New Orleans to see how the recovery from Hurricane Katrina is going. If you want to read columns and blogs on that subject from other columnists around the country, they're being collected on the Web site of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and organization that, much as it might like to deny it, once had me as its president.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will be about why people confuse commitment to religion with patriotism.)