…in honor of a week of interfaith study and celebration, Terri asks:
1. Have you ever had an experience of a religion other than your own? And, if so, what was it like for you to experience something different? If you haven't, what religion might you like to study, experience, and learn more about?mainly religion and faith
2. Have you ever studied, travelled, or explored other cultures? What and where, and when?
3. Any stories you wish to share about a person (author, teacher, etc), or a friend or colleague, from another culture or religion, who has impacted you in some capacity?
So, not exactly a five question Friday Five. You can respond in five easy answers, if you wish, or one reflection.
I've lived within quite a few variant expressions of Western Christianity. When my anthro of religion teacher told our class she'd "changed religions" from Roman Catholic to Quaker, I wanted to say, "No, you didn't! They're both Christian," but I sort of get what she meant, since (among other details) the worship styles are different and Quakers don't have formal sacraments, yet at their best both seek to follow Jesus and particularly emphasize just peace (among other details). For that class my term paper/project assignment was to visit and experienced a "religion" other than our own or the one we were most familiar with. I spent some time with a Sufi group and I gotta say, so much of it was so much like mainline protestantism!
I spent a long-ago summer working as an au pair for a Jewish family. Although they attended synagogue and Hebrew School, the parents and kids were basically secular Jews, but the Russian immigrant grandmother was very observant. I loved how she prepared during the day to welcome the Sabbath at Friday sundown and can't ever forget how she lit the candles and especially the loaf of fresh-baked challah.
Without a doubt, various brands of Christianity bring culturally-informed perspectives to the essential gospel of death and resurrection and physical geography in turn has informed each culture; each Christian tradition lives and acts in various degrees of alignment with and opposition to prevailing local culture and customs. Sometimes they seek to use similar = "vernacular" - styles and symbols to attract adherents, sometimes from the get-go they attempt to be seen as different from. Remember early Christianity's subversive use of imperial Rome's practices and assumptions and how they not only had a critique of culture, they were and they lived as a critique of culture while using and sometimes inverting familiar symbols?! We need to contextualize the reality of Jesus Christ to some degree, but what's the point if we're not offering an alternative to the commoditization of everything that invariably leads to death, who cares, if it's not different from and better than? However, how will strangers get it if the church presents itself as so completely "other than" everyone else? In Jesus of Nazareth, the Spirit of the Living God was incarnate and enfleshed, in some ways looked and acted like everyone else and in other ways was very different and highly unlike…
For a while I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, and moved there because I had a call to serve a local church in one of the protestant mainline traditions. SLC itself is *only* 50% Mormon, but you'd almost never know it! I frequently attended Friday night ward parties and sang from the Mormon Tabernacle choir's seats in the Tabernacle with the grouped choir for Stake Conference. I also became pianist for a Tongan United Methodist congregation. Most weeks I played for choir rehearsal, but the choir sang during worship only once a month. I tend so to emphasize the sacraments and, of course, a sacramental worldview, and though I was so pained that they celebrated communion only 4 times a year, to me, a very unlike-them stranger, they demonstrated hospitality unlike any I'd ever experienced in the church.
There's an Antiochian Orthodox priest on the Ecumenical Council's Faith, Order & Witness Committee I've been serving for a while now. A couple of times he's arranged for committee members to attend the west coast version of the annual Orientale Lumen conference that for many reasons no longer meets locally. I've also attended Divine LIturgy at the church he serves. I find the completely male leadership along with all the gold, jewels and bling almost completely off-putting. Instead of presiding at Eucharist versus populi as the rest of us do, they still preside facing East!
As a wannabe world traveler, I've visited only Western Europe, parts of Canada and Mexico as far south as Mexico City, "Mexico DF, distrito federale." I've lived in different areas of the USA but how striking it is that you need only cross the border from one state to another to experience a surprisingly different style and culture. In New England, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have a vastly different feel (and I'm not even considering the American Puritans booting Roger Williams out of their theocracy…). New Mexico and Arizona are cultures and laws unto themselves; multi-cultural southern California is a different world from the central coast which is different from northern California.
A lot of folks in the West have found originally Eastern disciplines like yoga and tai chi true gifts; a lot of Christians have found a Buddhist type of detachment useful, too. I still remember a comment from the book Water Buffalo Theology (it's ecological theology, liberation theology, theology of the cross and an offering in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue; we discussed it a few UCC forum iterations ago) "this Christian God is a hot God!" A God so passionate about creation to live as part of creation, and remain totally attached - anything but detached - from creation and the entire physical world.
Thanks, Terri! I appreciate getting a topic to blog about today. A blessed, fruitful green and growing Ordinary Time to everyone!