Midweek Inspiration: Sam

If there’s one thing that this blog is about, it’s perspective. Not only is interfaith cooperation all about learning what people have to say about other perspectives, but life is really about learning about what it means to walk that mile in another person’s shoes. As the Easter season comes upon us and many of us, regardless of religion, have a couple days off to spend with family and friends, I think it’s important for us to remember some of the people who might not have the homes and families we have. People with a different perspective, like Sam.

Although this is a brief clip, it really made me think. When we think about homeless people, we don’t think of a young gymnast and martial artist like Sam, who is really just trying to get by. If I had seen Sam on the street, I would not have pegged him as being someone who’s homeless. But that’s what made his story all the more real for me.

It can be easy to forget that there are people out there who really just got the short end of the straw. “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” How true that is when it comes to people who’s lives are so different from our own. Rather than passing judgement, we should give a helping hand.

For me, Sam’s interview shed a new light on homelessness which I had never seen before. I encourage everyone to keep an open mind and perspective when meeting new people like Sam, you never know what you are opening yourself up to learning and experiencing. It could be something great.

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Gay Marriage & Religion: Let’s Not Make Another Scapegoat

With the Supreme Court rulings that are happening today, a lot of attention is being given by the media to the one group who is assumed to be against it: religious people. There is always a picture being painted of the religious using their faith as a weapon to bully the LGBT community with. An editorial in the New York Sun entitled “Prejudice or Religion?” gives an interesting perspective, coming to the defense of the religious in some cases.

Photo Credit: upi.com

Read “Prejudice or Religion?” here.

It is clear that this issue is surrounded with a lack of exploring new or opposite perspectives, like most political issues people are passionate about. I think that is why I enjoyed reading the editorial so much; even though it had made points that I don’t agree with, it made me look at the whole situation through a different perspective. Even though I’m Christian, I didn’t think about how this cause could be seen as alienating the religious groups who are following their religious doctrine.

“It will be no triumph if due process and equal protection are extended to same-sex couples at the expense of those who regard as sacred the laws brought down from Sinai and the religious rulings that have been made by the sages.”

How easy is it for us to be so focused on one oppressed group that we don’t even think about how what we say might affect another? When comments are made about how the Bible is wrong and insinuate that those who follow it are prejudiced, isn’t that doing what the LGBT movement is protesting? I myself am part of a population of people of faith who believe in equality for people regardless of sexual orientation. We are out there, we exist! In short, we need to respect each others beliefs and experiences, be open to conversations instead of debates. If we want equality and tolerance we need to show that towards all people, even those who we might not agree with, and not isolate entire groups of people who we feel embody these opinions.

While watching the events of today unfold, I am going to encourage myself and others to be sure to continue to work towards equality and respect for all people, including the religious. Demonizing entire religions for their teachings, like demonizing groups of people for their sexual orientation, is not what equality is all about.

Let’s not pass the torch of oppression from one group to another.

Interested in watching the events of today unfold? Listen or read the arguments on the Supreme Court website.

Midweek Inspiration: Awareness

Today’s “Midweek Inspiration” is a little different than ones in the past, but still I think is worth a watch. I don’t want to spoil the video for you so I won’t get to detailed, but what I have to say is something universal: We need to be aware of those around us.

The world has a lot of things that need to be changed. How will we know that there are conflicts happening across the globe if we aren’t actively looking to see what is happening? Unless we are aware the problems of hunger and homelessness exist in our community, will we really notice how many people are sleeping in boxes and on park benches when we walk by? If we don’t take the time to sit by that person in class or at work who never seems to say anything, how will we know that they are actually really struggling and need a listening ear? On both the global and local scale it is imperative that we are aware to help those around us.

On the flip side, we won’t see the beauty in the world around us if we aren’t aware. In my personal experience, I would never been writing this blog in the first place unless I took a new class and became aware of the beauty of other faiths, especially Islam. The moment when you stop and watch the sunset on the drive home from work or the time that you really do actually stop and smell the roses are the moments that really take one’s breath away. There is something to be said for being aware of the good things around us too.

“We don’t see what we’re not looking for.” Let’s all be looking to make the world great, and be looking for the great things in it already.

“Is the Book Better than the Movie?”: Hollywood and the Bible

Photo: History Channel

Rising in popularity is the show “The Bible,” where different episodes are different stories from the Christian text. I’m finding this phenomenon of Hollywood recreating the Bible to be very interesting, and am reminded of the controversy surrounding the film “The Passion of the Christ” when it was released. It seems that film adaptions of the Bible are becoming more and more popular as time goes on. What does this mean for religions in general?

Watch the video on ABC News here!

Religions around the world have sacred texts, believed by the followers to be divinely inspired and crucial to following the religious doctrine. Christianity is one of these religions, and we see the Bible being used to condemn movements and groups of people in our country as well as inspire people to do incredible good. Although we are a country who prides itself on separation of church and state, it is obvious that Christian ideals are woven into our society.

That being said, I find it interesting that the show “The Bible” has been getting so many views and (according to the ABC clip) positive attention. My instinct would tell me that there would be a lot of resistance and a lot of negative press for it. Is our society having a change of heart?

In the clip, someone was describing how great it was to be able to watch the show and then look it up in the Bible. Let’s be honest though, how many times have students watched the movie instead of reading the book for class? I know I personally just saw the movie “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” and so I don’t really feel the need to go and compare it to the book. Could this be a new way that people could start to treat the Bible, just watching the movie?

Now is the Hollywood takeover of the Bible something that could happen to other religions? I have a feeling that a film adaptation of the Quran is not in our future, but what about film adaptations of Hindu texts? The story of the Buddha? Maybe one will be the next History Channel miniseries…

One positive thing about the show is that it brings the content and spirit of the Bible to non-Christian viewers. Someone who isn’t Christian would probably be more apt to watch a television show than sit down and read the whole Bible. Could this promote more interfaith cooperation? I guess time will tell.

Since the show is so new, I think all we can do right now is speculate. But I’m really curious as to whether the age old statement will ring true: “The book is always better than the movie.”

 

What’s in a Name? – Pope Francis I

Just over a month after the Pope’s resignation and my very first blog post, the story finally comes to a close with the election of Pope Francis I. After reading about his background in Argentina and seeing his humble and endearing nature during yesterday’s ceremonies, I must say that I personally am impressed with the choice made.

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Read a CNN article here.

Personally, I absolutely love the fact that he chose the name Francis after the good ol’ St. Francis of Assisi. Now I may seem a little bias because I attend a Franciscan university, but it really speaks to the character of the Pope as well as his intentions for his papacy. For those of you unfamiliar with Francis, not only was he the first person to have an interfaith dialogue (which I briefly discussed in a different post), but he dedicated his life to serving the poor and ill as well as completely reformed the way people see the church through his radical lifestyle and practices. Francis didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. (Usually barefoot, preaching love and the word of God through the streets.)

The fact that Pope Francis is known for his simple lifestyle as well as his compassion for the poor is a great sign for the direction of the Church. Also, since St. Francis is known as a reformer, one must wonder if this is part of the Pope’s intention for his papacy as well, to “rebuild the church.” Quite frankly, I think a little bit of change would be a good thing for the Church, especially regarding the grandiose nature of the Vatican. The simple living of Francis would be a breath of fresh air indeed.

Of course, this being an interfaith blog, I do also hope that Pope Francis emulates our dear saint in his interfaith work as well. I think that the new pope could mend a lot of wounds and build a lot of bridges between Catholics and other faiths. If such a strong leader like the Pope could do that, it would make cooperation that much more obtainable.

I have faith in Pope Francis, especially because of his unique nature and name. As the CNN article said, “The willingness by Francis to dispense with tradition was interpreted by a Vatican spokesman as a sign he will be willing to chart his own path in other ways.”

I like the sound of that.

Midweek Inspiration: Love

Today was a big day for the world with the naming of the new pope, but I’m going to save that for tomorrow’s post and keep today’s post nice and short. Today, I want to share with you this video about love.

What I love about this video is how much variety there is in the different submissions. While watching other people’s surprise parties and memories, I started to think about my own family memories and what I see love as.

I guess that’s something that we all have in common with each other, knowing the feeling of love even if we all believe in different things or live different lives.

So what does love look like to you?

Sikh Wedding Crashers Against Multi-Faith Marriages

After a week off for Spring Break, I was sitting at home perusing the news to try to get back into the habit of blogging. I came across this article describing an issue becoming more and more prevalent: Sikh wedding protests. Throughout the UK, protesters are barricading themselves in Sikh temples to preventĀ  mixed faith marriages, which are technically not approved by the faith but until now have gone by without problems.

Protest outside Swindon gurdwara

Photo Credit: BBC

Read the BBC article.

I think that this conflict brings to light an issue which interfaith stumbles upon: at what point does acceptance of a faith go against one’s religion? Is it possible to accept another religion’s values too much to the point of going against your own?

In my own conversations with people about religious pluralism, I often get asked the question, “Does that mean that I have to acknowledge that all other religions are right too?” The answer is no, you don’t have to believe in all of the religions in order to believe that they are important. Now, if I am Christian and my fiance is Sikh, and we want to get married, does getting married in a particular religionĀ  mean that we forgo the other faith? Or does our marriage mean that the faith that we get married in has to accept both religions beliefs? Those are the questions that the Sikh church is struggling with right now.

Now I don’t have the answers to the questions surrounding this issue in the Sikh faith. This issue is something that has many layers and a lot of emotions surrounding it which cannot be answered in one blog post. However I think that it is important to bring attention to the fact that this problem can be solved in a way more peaceful than the protests that are happening.

A statement by the security general said the following: “I would say there is no place in a modern Britain for any community to resort to violent threatening behaviour.”

Overall the impression is that those in authority positions in the Sikh faith agree with the sentiments of the protestors and why they are protesting, but do not agree with the threatening behavior which is quite uncharacteristic for the normally passive faith.

My hope is that the protests will end and the Sikh faith will come to some sort of agreement on what should be done. Right now the agreement is that no one should be afraid to be married on their wedding day or be worried for their safety. Weddings should be a joyous day and celebration with the community, not a day where one is being rejected by the community.