Between Heaven and Earth: Instant Messages from the Culture Conflict

This week there is no grand thesis, just some random stories that caught my attention. . .

Hindus calling for Comparative Religion Classes in High School

Johnny may not be able to read or write but he should be able to tell  Krishna from Christ. At least that is what some Hindus are claiming. US Hindu leader Rajan Zed says that we should start teaching our highschoolers comparative religions in light of a recent poll that indicates that when it comes to religion most Americans don’t know Mohamed from a whole in the ground. Mr. Zed extolls the virtues of giving a purely informative class in all religious traditions including “non-believers”

Zed, who is President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that opening-up American children to major world religions and non-believers’ viewpoint would make them well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow. It also makes good business sense to know the beliefs of “others” in a global community. Moreover, students should have knowledge of the entire society to become full participants in the society.

Since the above statement wasn’t uttered by an evangelical, protestant or Catholic, I’m sure it will be given serious consideration and perhaps even cautious approval by Larry King. Of course if the powers-that-be wanted a purely factual discussion that will allow youngsters to grow into international business leaders without all that absolutist critical thinking,  they would have to curtail any attempts to point out that some of these religious traditions make contradictory claims and therefore cannot all be true. For example Hinduism says the divine is in all of us. Yet Islam says there is one God, Allah, and Mohamed is his prophet. Whereas Jews say there is one God and Christians say God is one God in three persons. I have a feeling such discussions wouldn’t be part of the curriculum for fear of religious wars breaking out at lunch time.  Mr. Zed himself seems to see the plethora of religions not as the result of competing claims about reality but rather: ” the existence of varying faiths was a positive sign of God’s generosity.” My guess is it might be too difficult to teach students to tolerate different opinions and still have a fruitful debate. Civil tolerance is too difficult. Better to rely on lukewarm syncretism.

Over 50% of Americans Polled think Dalai Lama is a Secret Buddhist

Well, not exactly but it got your attention didn’t it?  Keep reading. It seems religious ignorance is rampant in every religious tradition of society except atheism.In a recent poll by the Pew Trust, Atheists are the most religiously literate. In the words of Bill Maher, now that is religulous! Here are some of the statistics.

57 percent of Protestants can name the Bible’s four gospels.

• 55 percent of Catholics know their tradition teaches that sacramental bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood.

• 15 percent of white evangelicals know Jonathan Edwards participated in the First Great Awakening.

And here’s my favorite. 1 out of 5  of Americans may think that President Obama is a secret Muslim but less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist!

Never fear though. Some of that lukewarm syncretism will save the day. Grab your duct tape to keep your brains from exploding when you hear the theological ruminations of this person:

Wilhelmina Jenkins, an Atlanta physicist, says people are hungry for knowledge of history and other religions in the adult Bible study class she leads at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Atlanta. She says facts are helpful, but “academic” questions – such as those asked in the Pew survey – don’t reveal much about a person’s understanding of his/her faith tradition.

“I don’t think this [survey] got to the heart of what most people know about their own religious experience,” Ms. Jenkins said. “It was a very academic view of religion. [But] If you asked people, ‘What’s the fundamental bottom line in Christianity?’ Most people would tell you, ‘Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor.’ I don’t think most people would have any trouble knowing that.”

The bottom line of Christianity is love God and love your neighbor? While that does, as Jesus said,  sum up the law and the prophets,  can you think of any religious tradition that wouldn’t agree with that provided we had a suitable description of God? If that’s the bottom line of Christianity then Mr. Zed’s Comparative Religions class should be no problem. We can all agree on that. Well except for those Atheists who will probably know more of those pesky facts than the rest of the class anyway.

Apologetics without a Permit is “Breaching the Peace”

Finally, if the Atlanta physicist is correct there should be no problem between Muslims and Christians but as this video of some brave folks proselytizing (its not a dirty word, you know) on Youtube shows, Christians being arrested for the crime of “breaching the peace” as they do front line apologetics at the Dearborn Michigan Arab Festival. Who knew “breaching the peace” included a passionate discussion where no one seemed to mind and some actual good discussion was brewing.  If you listen carefully you can actually hear the police officer ask something like “do you have permission to be here?” He doesn’t need permission. It’s a public venue. Shame on the Dearborn police for arresting consenting adults engaging in adult activity.


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