A bit over a month ago, I wrote this entry about "The Faces of Jesus" exhibit on display at the Broadway Church at 39th Terrace and Broadway in Kansas City. (The painting above of Jesus brooding over Jerusalem is among those on display there.)
The other evening, I went back to the exhibit with a study group to which my wife and I belong. The church's co-pastors, Paul Smith and Marcia Fleischman, met us and gave us some guidance about the project before our group walked through.
Later we all came back to our house and talked about the art we had seen and what it had meant to us.
What a fascinating experience. It told me again that no two people see sacred art in the same way, perhaps just as no two people see anything in the same way.
The art that one person found engaging or moving another didn't like at all. And when more than one person mentioned a particular work, the reason for the mention was almost inevitably different. Some people saw things in the art that others missed altogether.
I've been thinking about what these varied reactions to the approximately 200 works of art in the display mean, and my tentative conclusion is that we need to be able to give each other space and permission to have religious experiences that mean nothing to us or that even repel us. I'm not talking about tolerating destructive behavior such as terrorism because it may have religious motivations. Rather, I'm talking about the wide range of authentic religious experiences that may be quite different from what we ourselves have had.
It's foolish to expect that each us need will react exactly the same way to religious rituals or the reading of sacred scriptures. Indeed, such uniformity would impoverish us. At the same time, I think we need to get over any sense of fear we might have when others have reactions different from our own.
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FAITH IN CUBA
As the United States begins searching for a new relationship with Cuba, this report offers some thoughts about what role religion there is playing. Although American diplomats must not promote one religion or another, they should stand for religious liberty everywhere and, thus, they must know what is happening on the ground in each country. For the latest annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on countries around the world click here. Then, for Cuba, scroll down to page 215, where you will read that "religious belief and practice continue to be tightly controlled in Cuba."
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P.S.: Less than a week left before the walk. If you want to sponsor me in the AIDSWalk KC 2009 edition to raise funds for the AIDS Service Foundation, click here. I do this as part of the AIDS Ministry at my church. And thanks.