Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ahimsa is Still Speaking


Sorry that we haen't posted in a while. Our connection was down for a few days and I was finishing exams and Elizabeth's work has been busy (which is a great thing - I'm sure she'll post soon).

We spent last weekend at the CESCI Ghandi Ashram outside of Madurai. We participated in an interfaith dialogue session sponsered by the World Council of Churches. The core group is called "Thinking Together" and is composed of 15 people representing all the major religious traditions from around the globe. In addition, there were another 15 or so that were invited as guests. We were lucky enough to get an invitation because of our good friendship with Wesley Ariarajah.

The topic of the conference was "Nonviolent Resources in our Religious Traditions." As the name implies, the objective was to share concrete resources from our respective religious traditions that could be useful for anyone seeking a peaceful resolution to conflict. I think one idea behind the concept is that if there is a conflict between two people of different religions, it is helpful to be aware of peaceful resources in our own religion as well as in the religion of the other person. The transcript of the presentations will be published in the coming months.

One thing that was particularly exciting for us was the presentation given by Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations of the US National Council of Churches. Not only was it an excellent speech, but guess what resources he presented to the group? "God is Still Speaking"! For those of you who aren't members of the UCC (United Church of Christ), the basic idea behind the phrase "God is Still Speaking" is that we should regard the Bible as the living Word of God and that God still speaks to us through the Bible. The point is that we should not simply accept traditional interpretations taught by the church through the centuries, but we should allow God's Word to reach us today. Also, God Still Speaks to us today through the people around us and the world in which we live.

Shanta demonstrated, through his presentation, that one resource in the Christian tradition is that of continued revelation through the Spirit. Dogmatism, therefore, has no place. Dogmatism is the ultimate roadblock to peaceful, nonviolent conflict resolution. He ended his presentation with the phrase "never put a period where God has put a comma." (well, actually, since we are in India, he said "never put a full-stop where God has placed a comma.")

By the way, Shanta is a Sanskrit word meaning "Peace." He works in Manhattan and lives in NJ, so I asked if he would be willing to come and speak sometime at FCC (our church in NJ). He said he'd love to.

Overall the weekend was simply amazing (mostly, I admit, because we got to spend time with Dr. Ariarajah), and we'll both post more about it, but I think that is a good start for now. Here is a picture of the Ashram at night. This is not intended to be the "God is Still Speaking" comma, but I choose to interpret it that way! More pictures to come.


Anonymous said...

You guys are doing such beautiful work. I hope someday to get to do something with so much meaning!

Brad said...

Thanks, Kristin, but I honestly can't think of anything more meaningful than teaching kids - especially giving them a meaningful appreciation of art. An Indian proverb goes, "an acorn never sees the tree it produces." Teaching art to kids is, in my opinion, a great way to plant acorns. By the way, Elizabeth and I both painted pictures last weekend - maybe that will be my next post!

TJ said...

Wow, that really does look like a comma - cool! How awesome that you were able to participate in this dialogue. I think these would be important issues to discuss given the fact that most wars in history have been waged in the name of religion. I have not read "God is Still Speaking", but maybe I can find it in your library that resides in my closet (let me know if it is there & I will dig it out to read). This is something that I have really been experiencing lately through all of my studies. The Bible is definitely the 'living word' of God and it is His Spirit that reveals its truths. God still speaks to us through His Word, prayer, circumstances, the church (body of Christ). His revelations to us are our encounters with God and who He is. As we are in a constant relationship with Him through prayer, His Spirit reveals these truths. It is correct then that Dogmatism has no place in these revelations. Take replacement theology, for example. The Christian Church taught for centuries that the Jews (Israel) had been replaced by a spiritual Israel (the church)as God's chosen people. The long history of anti-Semitic violence in Christendom is well known and well documented. I dare say that this Dogma made fertile ground for even the Nazi anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. Not that the Church committed these acts themselves, for many Christians were also martyred in concentration camps, but a lack of action to stop the genocide came at a very high price. It seems the burden of this guilt has led to a second look of this replacement theology, which is a good thing. But maybe if the followers of Christ had just been seeking Him on their own through prayer and studying His word, then this theology would never have taken hold at all. Maybe now we can put God's comma back where Christendom put a period, and embrace our Jewish brothers and sisters while we watch God's fulfillment of His promises to Abraham.

Brad said...

Wow, thanks, TJ, for sharing your great insights. There is one book of mine somewhere there that has a couple of articles, but I have no idea where it is and, at the moment, can't remember the name. It is a series of articles from different people in our congregation. Some great articles. There is one book - maybe in Mom & Dad's game room or maybe in your basement - that I think you might like, although it is a tad academic. It is called "The Spirit of God" by Jurgen Moltmann. There is another one that I think you would like called "A Wideness in God's Mercy" by Clark Pinnock. Unfortunately, that one is coming apart a little, but I think you would like it very much. Thanks again for your comments.

Mom (Bannon) said...

Hi Brad & Tonja :)Just wanted to let you know that after reading both your entries that I took a quick look and found "The Spirit of Life" by Jurgen Moltmann (Brad, would that be the one? I will continue to look a bit for A Wideness of Mercy by Clark Pinnock, but am heading to get an estimate on your car door :)