Preparing to visit Israel: 1-24-12
The need for faith runs deep: 1-26-12

A religiously literate city: 1-25-12

What if Kansas City were to become the most religiously literate city in the country?


Well, ways to accomplish that great and big idea already are in the works -- and you can help by adding your recommendations for how to accomplish it.

Some folks from the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council have in mind a year or year and a half effort to have the whole region focus on religious literacy.

So earlier this week I sat down with Bob Bacic, Covener of -- and a Roman Catholic representive on -- the Council, to talk about this project and why it's important. Here's part of what he told me:

"The goal here is to raise religious literacy of Kansas City. By that we simply mean becoming more familiar with one's own faith tradition -- and the faith tradition of our neighbors.

"The reason we want to do that is because we are neighbors and because religion plays an increasingly important role in civic events as well as the internal spiritual lives of people. We think that by becoming more religiously literate you get to meet your neighbors in a new way and a deeper way, which strengthens the civic bonds of folks who are living in the same community."

Much of the impetus for this idea has come from Steve Israelite, former head of the Jewish Heritage Foundation. Steve has long advocated finding ways for people in our area not just to have interfaith experiences but to learn in a deep, consistent way the core of their own faith traditions and those of many others.

Steve has recognized that religious literacy begins with understanding the tradition to which we have pledged allegiance. But in my experience, many people are ignorant of many of their own faith's history and theology.

Even people who can articulate their own faith in deep but understandable ways rarely know much about the faiths of others.

This wouldn't be a problem if ignorance didn't lead to prejudice and even to hatred and violence. But we all know that ignorance leads directly to such terrible consequences.

So how would you help Kansas Citians become more religiously literate? I'm kicking around ideas about tours of sacred structures, about film and music festivals, about the whole city reading and discussing one or two books together, about people of different faiths gathering together to do a combination service project-learning experience.

As the Interfaith Council says, no idea is too big or two small.

So send your ideas to [email protected] with "Religious Literacy" in the subject line of the e-mail.

Before too long a representative committee will shape those ideas into a program and then arrange to implement it with community help.

In some ways, this religious literacy idea is the logical next step to build on the good work that the annual Festival of Faiths has done for the last several years.

Let's help it succeed.

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Good for Pope Benedict XVI: He's advocating that all of us make silence a bigger part of our life. The noise of the culture around us is distracting and causes our thoughts to be fragmented. So how about a day without being plugged into your iPod? Of course, there's a time for silence and a time to speak. And had that correct distinction had been maintained within the church it might well have avoided much of the priest abuse scandal. But that's not the kind of silence B-16 meant in his recent remarks.

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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.


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