A Note to Erika Menendez
To Erika Menendez,
The names of the 9/11 hijackers are: Mohamed Atta, Waleed al-Shehri, Wail al-Shehri, Abdulaziz al-Omari, Satam al-Suqami, Marwan al-Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al-Shehri, Hamza al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Hani Hanjour, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami and Saeed al-Ghamdi. They are no more. The mastermind Osama bin Laden is not alive either.
The average Hindu or Muslim had nothing to do with 9/11. So enough of “beating up” Hindus and Muslims. Sunando Sen (may he rest in peace) should never have died the way he did.
However, the real mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was not even Osama bin Laden. It was hatred — a vile hatred of people who are different. Unfortunately, that is alive and well in our community. I see that in you. I see that in people who bomb our places of worship. I see that in people who denigrate others for being who they are — a particular religion, ethnic group, nationality or sexual orientation.
I have devoted my life to inter-religious reconciliation. I think we can do better than hatred. Are you with me?
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.
Faith Inspires: Hindu American Seva Charities
This week’s Faith Inspires highlights the work of Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC), an organization whose mission is to engage in “seva, interfaith collaboration, pluralism, social justice and sustainable civic engagement to ignite grassroots social change and build healthy communities.” Seva, which means “service” in Sanskrit, is an important aspect of the Dharmic traditions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
In 2009, when President Barack Obama issued a “call to serve,” Anju Bhargava, a Hindu American resident of Livingston, NJ, was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. HASC is a result of that collaboration, and was designed to strengthen and put a spotlight on civic engagement and community service efforts in the Dharmic community.
Despite the White House’s support and guidance, HASC did not have the easiest start, and their success over the past two years can be attributed as much to creative theological thinking, as to the Dharmic community’s desire to be fully accepted in the American community.
To continue reading, click here.
My Experience Worshipping at Calvary — St. George’s
Earlier this afternoon, while walking from Murray Hill to Union Square, I passed by the Parish of Calvary — St. George’s in Gramercy Park. I had walked this church multiple times without ever going in, so I decided to step in for a few minutes of meditation. It was 5:50 p.m. and since their evening service starts at 6 p.m., I decided to stay for the service. And I’m glad I did because the service was quite unusual for an Episcopal church (or at least, the Episcopal churches I’ve been to).
The interior looked like most Episcopal churches I’ve been to — stained glasses, pews with cushions to kneel on, a high pulpit, the works. But I also noticed a big white screen projecting the liturgy, the reading for the service, lyrics of the songs, etc. There was no choir will richly-robed men and women holding hymnals and singing their hearts out to God. Instead, there was a band that sang devotionals closer to Christian rock than traditional hymns. The sermon was about predestination, with a strong apologetic tone where the pastor made a poor comparison between Islam and Christianity, saying that Allah, or the God of Islam, is one who sits up there waiting for people to come to him, whereas the God of Christianity is in our midst waiting for us to meet him. Regardless, I am glad I stayed for the service, though I was slightly disappointed to see that there were less than 25 people there. My first reaction after leaving the church — wow, that’s an interesting Episcopal Evangelical church.
Later, when I read up the history of the church — I found out that three churches that comprise Calvary - St. George’s: St. George’s Church, Calvary Church and Church of the Holy Communion (which was sold to a drug rehabilitation program because of dwindling finances, and is now an upscale marketplace). The Church of Holy Communion has a fascinating evangelical Catholic history, and St. George’s Church has an equally interesting evangelical Episcopal history. I’d be interesting in learning about other churches with distinct theologies that have merged, what prompted them to do so, and what challenges they might face (theological, and otherwise) as a result of merging.
Thank you for pointing out the flaws that the laws are “anachronistic relics that can’t be enforced.” Since I shared this chart earlier about seven states which ban atheists from holding public office, I’m sharing it again so that you can read a more nuanced explanation. - Jahnabi
We learned something new today. Er.
This is just straight up not true. Or at least, not of Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Maryland (and completely unenforceable in the other states). Pennsylvania’s wording:
No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania doesn’t actually ban atheists from holding public office, it just doesn’t explicitly include them in their protections in this article (but it does in the section right before it, emphasis mine):
All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.
And this court case which was ruled on by the United States Supreme Court EXPLICITLY struck down the ruling in Maryland. Similar laws on the books in other states are therefore anachronistic relics that can’t be enforced since the supreme court was pretty clear on this.
Oh, and South Carolina struck it down in their state supreme court as well.
Yup, thanks for pointing this out. We noted this previously, but since we let the cat out of the bag in the first place, we’re re-upping the correction. We’ll be more careful in the future when it comes to charts we find on the Internet.
Our religious traditions are filled with tales of extraordinary mothers. These mothers were prophetesses and goddesses; and gave birth to gods, prophets and religious leaders.
The mothers from our religious traditions were theologians, artists, warriors and business leaders. Many of them were revolutionaries and feminists in their own time. They were models of compassion, love, grace, self-sacrifice, purity, protectiveness and ferocity.
To continue reading, click here.
Every spring, thousands of hijras (as male-to-female transgendered people are known in India), eunuchs and cross-dressers from all over India and neighboring countries flock to the southern Indian village of Koovagam, for Hindu festival celebrating transgender people.
The two day festival at Koothandavar Temple is held in honor of the Hindu deity Aravan (also known as Iravan), who is believed to be the patron god of transgender communities.
To continue reading and to see some amazing photos, click here.
Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies.
Continue reading here.
Today being Good Friday, it’s an appropriate time to re-visit the Stations of the Cross, which are a series of artistic representations depicting the last few hours (or Passion) of Jesus Christ. There are 14 traditional Stations. They are: (1) Jesus is condemned to death, (2) Jesus accepts the cross, (3) Jesus falls the first time, (4) Jesus meets His Mother, (5) Simon of Cyrene carries the cross, (6) Veronica wipes the face of Jesus, (7) Jesus falls the second time, (8) Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, (9) Jesus falls the third time, (10) Jesus is stripped of His garments, (11) Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross, (12) Jesus dies on the cross, (13) Jesus’ body is removed from the cross and (14) Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.
To read more, and to look at pictorial depictions, follow this link: http://huff.to/HY8NLj
What does America believe?
Most Americans believe in God. A majority pray. More than a third go to religious services every week.
Yes, religion is a fundamental part of the American experience.
Yet we are in a moment of unprecedented upheaval and religious transformation, fueled by changes in immigration, population shifts, secularization, and increasingly liberal social and theological attitudes among young people. At the same time, the political conversation is dominated by conservative Christian ideas that are finding a new audience. These shifts are affecting everybody’s lives, whether they are believers or not.
Today, The Huffington Post begins a year-long series, called “Faith Shift,” to explore and examine this changing landscape. Through on the ground, character-driven stories, our religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem will show us how people of varied faiths and cultures are reacting and adapting to contemporary issues. Our coverage will focus on the one essential question: “Does religion still matter?” We have our own answer: Yes, but not in the ways that you think.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ beneath and Christ above.
Christ on my right hand, Christ on my left.
Christ with me waking, walking and sleeping.
Christ in every heart thinking of me,
Christ in every tongue speaking to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
- From St. Patrick’s Breastplate
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.