GLOBAL AND ECUMENICAL IN SCOPE
CANADIAN IN PERSPECTIVE
Wayne A. Holst, Editor
My E-Mail Address:
Colleagues List Web Site
My special item this week is a set of personal notes and
perspectives from a lecture by Boston University professor
Stephen Prothero which I attended a week ago during the
University of Calgary's "Pluralism and Religious Diversity
Here is a brief Prothero bio:
I hope you find it informative, especially as we seek to
understand what is happening culturally in the USA today.
Colleague Comment, Colleague Communications, Net Notes,
On This Day and Wisdom of the Week sections appear as usual.
Spring is certainly exploding in our part of the world!
PLURALISM AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY WEEK
A LECTURE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
by STEPHEN PROTHERO, BOSTON UNIVERSITY,
MARCH 17th, 2017
"RELIGIOUS PLURALISM, RELIGIOUS NATIONALISM
AND THE CULTURE WARS"
Personal lecture notes and interpretations by Wayne Holst
The value of religious diversity is widely acknowledged in Canada and in most urban areas of the United States. But a new age of strongmen from President Trump to India's Prime Minister Modi seems to be ushering in a new age of religious nationalism. This lecture places this battle in the context of so-called culture wars in the United States, which for more than two centuries have pitted "exclusivists" wary of foreigners and their faiths against "inclusivists" who have seen ethnic diversigty as a strength. What lessons (and what hope) might these cultural battles offer for 2017 and beyond?
Religious ignorance is rife in our North American cultures today and it invades our family lives as well. A recent conversation with my young daughter prompted me to 'look around" to see how pervasive it is.
Religious surveys tell us that few people can name the four gospels, explain who gave the Sermon on the Mount, describe Sodom and Gomorah, etc. This is true for Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants - at least in the USA. Many consider themselves religious but know very little about religion.
While writing a book ten years ago entitled "Religious Literacy" I discovered that only half the American population knew that the sacred book of the Muslims was the Koran. They thought that the Dalai Lama was Jewish. Atheists and agnostics, as well as Mormons, scored highest in the survey I conducted.
Why does religious literacy matter? Because whether we are talking about Canada, the Netherlands or India, religion plays an important part in modern cultures. You cannot make sense of the world without an awareness of the influence of religion on human cultures. Good or ill, inter-religious understanding is essential.
Case in point. More than a generation ago, the US Republican Party chose to take public religion seriously. The Democratic Party determined it was a private matter and wanted a separation of church and state. In subsequent US elections both candidates spoke about "personal values" but the Democrats were considered secular, and disinterested in religion. This did not help their party at the polls.
More recently, both the first Clinton and Obama were much more aware of the religious vote. The second Clinton spoke often of her Methodist social justice values.
But what is the situation today? What does the election of Donald Trlump mean religiously? Hannah Arendt prompts us to "discern what is new in a new era." Indeed, we seem to be in a new era.
KEY THEMES OF THE CULTURE WARS ARE NOT NEW
What is happening today is really not new. I just seems so. America's culture wars, pitting religious liberals against conservatives, actually began with Thomas Jefferson.
People get anxious when they think that "the old values are passing away."
In the past, many with anxiety about seeming losses, fomented anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon and anti-immigrant movements, and that nativist expression has been taken up by Donald Trump
The themes of his rhetoric remain essentially the same:
"Great changes are taking place"
"The nation has fallen badly" (resulting in an angry)
"Attack those perceived to have 'brought us down'"
FOUR NEW THINGS TODAY
While these claims are not new, four new things confront us:
1. White liberals are awakening to their own racism - a sense of justice betrayed has resulted in the views of poor whites who have lost their jobs and better-off whites who believe the electoral system betrayed them.
2. A "strong man" who follows from behind - we have seen this previously in India and Turkey, for example, but now in America.
We always thought America was different but we now see the USA is getting in line with a global shift represented best by Russia's strong man Vladimir Putin.
3. The rise of the Protestant "id" - we believed that "thinking and behaving properly" provided the glue that held society together. There were things you just did not say or do, and everyone tended to believe that. Trump, however, defies propriety. Everything about him attacks these "proper" values. In his Twitter world, saying what you want or doing what you feel like doing gives the human "id" free reign.
4. Seeds of doubt are sown about establishment people and systems. I call this "skepto-poetic." You don't attack head-on, or speak of your adversary directly. You do so only indirectly. Trump never directly claimed he thought Obama was a Muslim as other conservatives believed. He only "suggested" Obama might be a Muslim; calling his loyalties into doubt and question.
WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING?
This is not a time of "less hope" but to "hope more." It is a time when religous literacy with a sense of history and perspective is greatly needed.
We need to learn more about Muslims today. I am not talking about names and dates, but about fellow-humans by engaging in mutually-informative public engagment and debate. This must be a critical engagement involving knowledge, empathy, comparative thinking, awareness, "walking in the shoes of the other."
Let us not wish away what separates us. We do not all believe the
same things. There are distinct differences - beliefs, practices and experiences. I wrote a book about this entitled "God is Not One" with the thesis that we are indeed different. Our religious prescriptions for solving the human dilemma are not the same.
We should not accept a "pretend pluralism" but acknowledge that there is religious diversity, and accept the world as it is, both good and bad, about our differences.
HOPE FOR AMERICAN AND CANADIAN SOCIETIES
1. Recognize the reality of pluralism and nationalism. Pick a side. What 'side' are you on, religiously and culturally? Don't try to be something you are not.
2. Cultivate 'religious literacy." Find out what Christians and Muslims believe. Read both the Bible and the Koran (and Wayne adds - together when possible). Prothero suggests that Christians begin by reading Genesis and Matthew - two of the key biblical books. This will make us more informed and useful when we engage persons of other faiths.
We are at a new stage of global cultural experience. In some respects, there are precedents to guide us from the past. In other ways, we are in new times.
But there is hope.
During Q&A I asked Prothero what advice he would have for Canadians who are disillusioned about what has been happening politically and religiously in the USA recently. He replied:
1. America has great founding myths. Even if we currently seem to have forgotten them as a result of the contemporary culture wars, make an effort to rediscover those myths and personalities that helped to shape America. This can be inspiring and give us new perspectives.
2. Own your disillusionment with America today. Don't be naive about what has been happening there. It is not the time to gloss over what is not good about America. But if the Republican party continues in the direction it has been taking, it will ultimately go under.
3. Be hopeful about America and the world. Whenever in American history great steps of "inclusion" have occurred (like the emancipation of the black slaves, the Civil Rights Act, the election of the first black president) there has always been a back-lash to change. It takes time for that to sort itself out, but social progress has always ultimately resulted. Believe that about America and have hope.
March 23rd, 2017
Hi Wayne, I thought my preaching days were over but an invitation
to participate in the Reel Theology series at Hillhurst United Church
using the film Arrival, on April 2nd seemed like a call from God.
Coupled with communion the invitation tugged at my heart and has
been vibrating in my soul as a Gospel story. I thought people on
your list might be interested in hearing some of the sermons on the
Academy Award films in the Reel Theology series at:
This is always a well attended series relating contemporary culture to the Gospel.
Personal Web Log
March 22nd, 2017
"Building on What Came Before"
South Bend IN.
Interview With The Wheaton Record
March 20th, 2017
"Noll Wonders if American
Evangelicalism Still Exists"
San Antonio, TX
Personal Web Site
March 20th, 2017
"Our Shadow and Our Self-Understanding"
LOOSE THE WOMEN!!
Many Women Leaders
in Early Pentecostalism
March 22nd, 2017
How Trump Hijacked
the US Religious Right
March 20th, 2017
TRUMP'S WEEKLY LIST OF
Is as Sinister as it Looks When You
Associate Immigrants With Criminality
March 22nd, 2017
IS INDIA MARCHING TOWARD
Recent Elections Indicate as Much
UCA News Asia
March 17th, 2017
NEW MAPS BEING CREATED FOR
CANADA'S 150th ANNIVERSARY
They Will Depict Aboriginal
Travel Routes, Histories, etc.
March 21st, 2017
OPPOSITION TO ROMERO
A Unique Perspective on
the Inner Workings of the Vatican
March 23rd, 2017
IN RURAL MANITOBA, CHURCHES
SUPPORT REFUGEES ECUMENICALLY
Evangelical and Mainline Protestant, RCs Too
Religion News Service
March 23rd, 2017
AFTER ONE YEAR, HOW HAVE
SYRIAN REFUGEES SETTLED?
Canada Proving to be Adept
at Refugee Re-Settlement
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Website
March 21st, 2017
DEREK WALCOTT'S POETRY CAPTURED
BEAUTY OF CARIBBEAN, EVILS OF COLONIALISM
Nobel Laureate Poet Dies at 87
New York Times
March 19th, 2017
WISDOM OF THE WEEK
Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.
- Terry Pratchett
At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful
in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made.
Instead I shall be asked if I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited
the sick and the prisoners.
- Maria Skobtsova
I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through
which God speaks to us every day, every hour, and every moment
of our lives, if we will only tune in and remain so.
- George Washington Carver
I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.
It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it; leave the rest to God.
- Flannery O'Connor
An enormous conflict between words and deeds is prevalent today:
everyone talks about freedom, democracy, justice, human rights,
about peace and saving the world from nuclear apocalypse; and at
the same time, everyone, more or less, consciously or unconsciously,
serves those values and ideals only to the extent necessary to serve
himself and his “worldly” interests, personal interests, group interests,
power interests, property interests, and state or great-power interests.
So the power structures apparently have no other choice than to
sink deeper into this vicious maelstrom, and contemporary people apparently have no other choice than to wait around until the final inhibition drops away. But who should begin? Who should break this vicious circle?
Responsibility cannot be preached but only borne, and the only possible
place to begin is with oneself.
- Vaclav Havel
As he submits to John’s baptism of repentance, Jesus shows the
radical way he will confront the sin that enslaves humanity. Jesus’
“baptism,” begun in the Jordan and completed on Golgotha, is
repentance, self-denial, metanoia to the fullest.…
To be baptized “into Christ” and “in the name of Christ” means to be
incorporated into the way of life which characterized his life, the life
of the empty one, the servant, the humble one, the obedient one,..
obedient even unto death (Phil. 2:6–11).
- William Willimon
Our Lord Christ speaks: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who
believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Thus he says: You
have no idea who I am and what I mean for you, have done and will
do for you, if you do not look beyond this life to eternity.… If you want
to understand me, you must go beyond the temporal to the eternal,
for I am he who brings the kingdom of God to you.… To those who
are satisfied with the world and the things of the world I will have
nothing – nothing at all – to say except this: that they must go to their
own ruin. But to those who have noticed that this earthly life in itself
has no meaning but can receive its meaning only from beyond, to
them I say: I guarantee you this goal; yes, even more: I am this goal.
I am the resurrection and the life.
- Emil Bruner
People with intellectual disabilities are not able to assume important roles of power and of efficacy. They are essentially people of the heart.
When they meet others they do not have a hidden agenda for power or for success. Their cry, their fundamental cry, is for a relationship, a meeting heart to heart.
It is this meeting that awakens them, opens them up to life, and calls them forth to love in great simplicity, freedom and openness. When those ingrained in a culture of winning and of individual success really meet them, and enter into friendship with them, something amazing and wonderful happens. They too are opened up to love and even to God. They are changed at a very deep level.
They are transformed and become more fundamentally human.
- Jean Vanier
ON THIS DAY
From the archives of the New York Times
"MLK and Civil Rights Marchers Leave Selma Alabama"
"12 Killed in Tokyo Terrorist Gas Attack"
"Exxon Valdez Runs Ashore of Alaska Coast"
CLOSING THOUGHT - Madeleine L’Engle
Truth is frightening. Pontius Pilate knew that, and washed his hands
of truth when he washed his hands of Jesus. Truth is demanding. It
won’t let us sit comfortably. It knocks out our cozy smugness and
casual condemnation. It makes us move. It? It? For truth we can read
Jesus. Jesus is truth. If we accept that Jesus is truth, we accept an
enormous demand: Jesus is wholly God, and Jesus is wholly human.
Dare we believe that? If we believe in Jesus we must. And immediately
that takes truth out of the limited realm of literalism.
For Those Interested -
ST. DAVID'S ACTS MONDAY NIGHT WINTER STUDY
A Ten Week Series January 23rd - April 3rd, 2017
Monday Evenings, TM Room 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
"How Jesus Became God -
The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee"
Author: Bart D. Ehrman
Registration/Hospitality and Book: $60.00.
Book only: $20.00
35 copies were secured for sale.
All copies have been sold.
Our Evolving Course Design:
Here is the total course content from our
completed Monday Night Autumn 2016 Study:
"Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious
World" by Bishop John S. Spong
Check our entire archives for all 48 books
studied since 2000:
During the 2016-2017 two session-term -
Total class registrations: 70
Total books sold: 75
Our best year ever, since 1998!
ST. DAVID'S ACTS THURSDAY MORNING STUDY
Ten Sessions February 2nd - April 6th, 2017
"Joshua and Judges" - Formative Hebrew History
Ten sessions 10-11 AM
Gathering at 9:30 AM
In the St. David's TM Room.
Study resource -
"The DK Complete Bible Handbook"
Edited by John Bowker
ST.DAVID'S SPIRITUAL TRAVELERS PROJECT, 2017
South Africa has been chosen as our destination!
We plan a nineteen-day tour that combines a focus
on faith, social justice, culture, and nature, and it
will begin October 21st 2017.
A beautiful brochure with trip cost, itinerary, and
many helpful travel hints has been published.
Our optimal group size for maximum trip meaning
and value is 28-29 persons.
Twenty-five persons have either put down deposits
to claim a special saving (or intend to do so.)
WE ARE CLOSE TO REACHING OUR DEPARTURE GOAL.
YOU CAN STILL REGISTER. When we have 29 deposits
you will be added to a waiting list and still join us
in the event someone has to drop out.
Seven months from now we leave for South Africa!
Contact Rostad Tours: http://tinyurl.com/hucsaf7
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