A Religion Nerd’s Dream Week In NYC
For someone passionate about religion and interfaith engagement, last week was almost like a dream. In the same week, I was able to hear interfaith activist Eboo Patel, Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan speak, see Christian activist and scholar Cornel West. To top it off, on Friday I went to jumu’ah in the afternoon at the ICNYU, and in the evening went to Shabbat services (my first?) at Romemu with friends (more on that later). Wow.
In his talk, Eboo Patel recounted that when he was growing up and studying theology, he was very inspired by reading progressive Christian social activists. At that time, Islamic theology put great emphasis on interfaith growth, but not sufficiently on social action. For him, Islam was about social activism, and was manifest in the work of progressive Christian social activists. Today we see many progressive Muslim voices (along with Christians and Jews) at the forefront of social justice issues in America. Eboo’s experience deeply resonated with me. When I had my “religious renaissance” in college, I studied Hindu texts and read a lot of Christian theology, and while my mindset was shaped by Hindu values, I found himself more inspired by the lives of the great Christian prophetic figures. Can Hinduism be about social justice and activism? Today we lack the theological framework to determine what the “Hindu response” to social justice issues of the day should be, but I am hopeful. If Islamic theology in America has advanced, I am sure that Hindu theology can as well.
Tariq Ramadan’s talk was really insightful in helping me understand the Arab awakening, the role of the United States, the challenges that lie ahead, and what role Islam is going to play in region.
To end a great week, I am now on my way to Baltimore to spend time with some friends.
Say Jesus and people either get happy, or they get mad. They either smile, or a cloud comes over their faces. They are either elated or irritated. Embarrassed, they try to pursue deeper conversation and connection. No other name has such potency. Not Clinton, not Gandhi, not Thatcher, not Lennon.
This past Sunday evening I attended service at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in their Hunter College branch. I’m not sure why I decided to go, it was largely on a whim. I attended the Sunday evening service there once several months ago, and unfortunately fell asleep in the middle of Tim Keller’s sermon. I was disappointed to say the least. I had never fallen asleep at services in the past. Thus, I was unsure what to expect when I went to Redeemer last Sunday. I’m glad that I had a really positive experience. The music was meditative, prayerful as usual, and the sermon by Tim Keller was very smart. He spoke about who a true Christian is, and the difference between believing that one is saved by grace versus being saved by works. And to top it all, I went to service wearing my pride t-shirt, and nobody glared at me!
The photo above shows the altar in the auditorium. Just a simple cross that speaks volumes.
A unique take on evolution-denial, but worth considering especially on evolution denying not having a real impact beyond high school textbooks. At the same time, what kids are taught in high school has a great impact on their intellectual lives, and informs decisions they make later on. Thus, I’m worried that 46 percent of people who were polled were evolution deniers, even if the number hasn’t gone up much over the last 30 years. - Jahnabi
The fact is that belief in evolution has virtually no real-life impact on anything. That’s why 46% of the country can safely choose not to believe it: their lack of belief has precisely zero effect on their lives. Sure, it’s a handy way of saying that they’re God-fearing Christians — a “cultural signifier,” as Andrew puts it — but our lives are jam-packed with cultural signifiers. This is just one of thousands, one whose importance probably barely cracks America’s top 100 list.
After dropping off Sitraka on Sunday, I walked down along 1st Avenue from 17th Street to 1st Street. For the first time ever, I walked along the east side of the avenue, and stumbled upon this beautiful, ethnically diverse church — Immaculate Conception. This church was established in 1855 to commemorate the Pope declaring ‘Immaculate Conception’ a doctrine. The buildings where the church and rectory are now were a chapel (Grace Chapel) and hospital previously.
As I entered the church, the priest was celebrating the mass. Even though I entered the church hoping to leave soon, I stayed about 45 minutes until the mass concluded. After the mass concluded, we had the opportunity to listen to a Christian from the Holy Land talk about the life and difficulties of Christians there. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have heard him speak.
As I left the building, I glanced at the bulletin boards and saw that there were several flyers about ‘religious freedom’ with reference to the abortion debate. Sigh. Have you had an experience where you were deeply moved by attending a religious service but then conflicted by the political messages? That’s exactly how I felt as I left the building.
(I took this photo just as the mass concluded and people were leaving the building.)
“For Christians, the Easter egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Painting Easter eggs is an especially beloved tradition in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches where the eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. Easter eggs are blessed by the priest at the end of the Paschal vigil and distributed to the congregants. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Moreover, historically Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent, and Easter was the first chance to eat eggs after a long period of abstinence. (Orthodox Christians continue to abstain from eggs during Lent.)”
To continue reading, follow this link: http://huff.to/HEKaAZ
Man is priest of the creation through his power to give thanks and to offer the creation back to God; and he is king of the creation through his power to mould and fashion, to connect and diversify.
“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware
I love this quote, because of the dual emphasis on our gratefulness for what is, but also our ability (obligation?) to add to that.
The giving of names is in itself a creative act: until we have found a name for some object or experience, an “inevitable word” to indicate its true character, we cannot begin to understand it and to make use of it.
“The Orthodox Way” by Bishop Kallistos Ware
This is a profound thought I’m meditating on tonight.
A Visit to North Carolina
This weekend, I went down to North Carolina to visit Kwesi, one of my best friends from Princeton. I took a bus down to Raleigh, NC and reached there Saturday morning. Poor Kwesi woke up at 4 a.m. to pick me up at the bus stop. We had a fantastic day together - I met his church family, we saw some of the sights in Raleigh (the History museum and the State Capital), drove down to Wilmington, which is a beautiful beach town, before driving to White Lake, where Kwesi lives. The next day I went to church with Kwesi (my first time ever attending a UBF meeting), followed by lunch with his church members. After that, we drove to Duke University to see the chapel, which looks very much like Princeton’s. That night, I took the bus back to New York City.
This was my first ever trip to America’s “South” and let me tell you that everything you might have heard about “Southern hospitality” is completely true. Andrew and Heather (Kwesi’s church leaders) not only invited me to lunch but also made sure to have vegetarian food for me. It might be a simple gesture, but I was nonetheless touched.
Andrew and Heather had secular jobs but served as lay ministers. It was interesting to learn from them their experience in spreading the gospel to NC State students. They said that student reactions ranged from curiosity to downright antagonism. In my own experience with UBF missionaries at Princeton, I have to say that initially I was mildly interested / hesitant but after many attempts, started largely ignoring them. Now I am embarrassed to recall those memories and wish I had done things differently.
Nonetheless, I loved going to church with Kwesi (he presided, no less!). I believe that sharing and understanding religious experiences is pivotal to any relationship. While I’m not an evangelical Christian (or even a Christian in the formal sense) and thus had some theological disagreements, I appreciated the strong communal aspect of worship. There were nine people including myself — so it was a really small church and each person was strongly vested in everyone else present. Since I’ve always gone to much bigger churches, this was a new experience for me and something that I fondly remember.
To be a Christian is to be a traveller.
“The Orthodox Way,” by Bishop Kallistos Ware
A Christian is never to stop traveling. Monks, nuns and others who live in monasteries are never to stop traveling in their journey as a Christian. But where are Christians traveling to and why is this so critical to being a Christian? Here, it might be useful to think of this journey as a pilgrimage, and the Christian as a pilgrim. This is, of course, not a new idea — many well-known theologians of the past have sought to think of Christians as such.
As I see it, the sentence above can be interpreted in a few ways:
1. Christians are to always seek out a stronger relationship with God through personal prayer and in the community. There is almost no such thing (before Judgement?) as a perfect relationship with God and throughout their life, Christians are trying to know God better. In other words, Christians are pilgrims trying to find God.
2. Christians are to think of their time on earth as a passage to their ultimate destination in heaven. In other words, Christians are pilgrims seeking heaven.
Any other ideas on what it could mean. Please share in the comments section.
Turns out you can’t even have a simple bracket about Hollywood Jesus’ without people getting all excited in the comments.
JCS #2 SEED! Come March, this is the only bracket that matters.
if you enjoy pretty much everything about this, or created this. so.much.love.
Our Religion editors are pretty fantastic, indeed. PS: #11 ftw!