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Posts Tagged ‘Respect

Just Because You Love Jesus Doesn’t Mean You Have to Disrespect the Buddha, Dishonor Muhammad or Disregard Moses

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Photo: Josh Kenzer/Flickr

On this 11th anniversary of 9/11, it’s a good day for us to look back and assess the damage.

The damage to buildings long been accounted for, and much has been rebuilt. The damage to the economy has also been debated and estimated — and replaced by new, greater, primarily self-inflicted economic wounds.

The damage to families is, of course, impossible to assess or quantify. It can only be mourned.

But there’s another impact of those attacks that is still too seldom tallied: how our religious communities have turned from their deepest teachings and values of peace and reconciliation, and have too often become possessed, we might say, by spirits of fear, revenge, isolation and hostility.

As a Christian, I’ve certainly seen it and felt it in the Christian community, expressed often in a sense that the more you love Jesus, the more inhospitable you’ll be toward other faiths. “Don’t let them build mosques or temples on our turf,” some say. “Don’t let them express their difference in dress or ritual,” others suggest. “Require them to conform to our holidays and cultural codes,” others demand.

This turn toward hostility has disturbed me, so a few years ago I began studying it more in earnest. My research led me to the underlying relationships among religious hostility, religious solidarity and religious identity. Today, the results of my research and reflection go public in a new book (“Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?“), and among many conclusions, one stands out — one that I hope my fellow Christians can hear and ponder.

To be a strong Christian does not mean you have to have a strong antipathy toward other faiths and their leaders.

To be hostile rather than hospitable, in fact, makes you a worse Christian, not a better one.

To be respectful, curious, humble, inquisitive and hospitable to people of other faiths makes you a better Christian — meaning a more Christ-like one. To love your neighbor means, at the very least, not to discriminate against him, not to dehumanize him, not to insult him or what he holds dear, not to act as if God made a mistake in giving him a place in this world.

Put more positively, to love your neighbor of another faith means to seek to understand her, to learn to see the world from her perspective, to stand with her, as it were, so that you can feel what she feels and maybe even come to understand why she loves what she loves.

In the book I recount a conversation I shared over lunch with an imam who became a good friend in the weeks after 9/11. We each shared what it was we loved about our religions and their founders. He went first, and then as I was sharing, he interrupted me. “I have never heard a Christian share what he loves about his faith,” he told me. “I have only heard my fellow Muslims tell me what Christians believe. It is so different to hear it from you.”

I knew what he meant.

What would happen if more of us, whatever our religious tradition, extracted ourselves from the vicious cycles of offense and revenge, hurt and resentment, misunderstanding and counter-misunderstanding, rumor and innuendo? One thing is certain: We would become more faithful to the vision of our founders, not less. May that be so.

~ Brian McLaren

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Written by MattAndJojang

September 14, 2012 at 9:38 am

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Photo: Mommysaurus75/Flickr

“All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you come home” — Aretha Franklin

I was raised by “the help.” I don’t mean that “the help” served me in my parents’ mansion. No, my parents were “the help” in white households — my mother a domestic servant and my father a handyman. While their employment was not necessarily the most desirable, domestic workers of their generation practiced in their lives what they had learned from those who professed a more genteel upbringing.

My parents were in their prime during the years of the Great Depression. They both worked in “some of the finest white homes” of their community. They earned a paltry $4.50 per week. Still, they were blessed to have any job as millions went unemployed in ways that even today’s economic climate can’t begin to mirror. During it all, those two people thought it important to teach their children basic manners and respect.

Our home was small in comparison to today’s dwellings but it was paid for and proudly ours. Mom and Dad had paid Mrs. Watters, the previous owner, on a weekly basis so that we kids would have a roof over our heads. Dad contributed his weekly 50 cents by walking to work rather than taking the trolley — even during the heavy snows of winter. Times were hard, the country was in disarray, but the Grays had a roof over their heads, food on the table and hope for a better future.

Much of that hope was invested in their children and in the future our folks prayed would result from their own sacrifices and continued efforts. Part of that hoped-for future could be seen in the ritual which unfolded when visitors were expected. We kids would be scrubbed clean, dressed neatly, and expected to wait behind the swinging kitchen door as the guests settled in the living room which adjoined the dining area. At some point after the guests had arrived, either they or our parents would bring up the topic of “the children.” Then my mother would call out, “Children!” and we would enter the room, with a bow from the boy (me) and a curtsy from the girl (my sister). We quietly took our seats with our backs straight, feet firmly on the floor, and with hands properly positioned on our laps. We spoke only when spoken to and responded with the expected “Sir” or “Ma’am.”

Ours was a world of respect — respect for our parents, neighbors, anyone older, but — more than anything — respect for ourselves. These weren’t the affectations of “the help” trying to copy the masters; it went much deeper than that. It went to a true appreciation of human life, regardless of wealth or station.

Some years ago I journeyed to Oklahoma to attend the funeral of a young cousin. He had lived in Pennsylvania while his mother lived in Southern California, but he had chosen to endure his watch for resurrection morning among other family members in the little cemetery in Wybark, Oklahoma. That community wasn’t much more than a dozen homes stretched over the length of a couple of football fields, just five mile from Muskogee, Oklahoma — the closest “big” city.

It was during the drive from the mortuary in Muskogee to the Wybark cemetery that I was reminded of those kinder days, those periods of human respect that appear to have left us now. As the funeral procession moved along the way, motorists on our side of the divided four-lane highway stopped, exited their vehicles and stood in respect for the departed. But the crowning deference came when cars going in the opposite direction of that divided highway also stopped to give honor to the deceased. No one was aware of whose remains were carried in that hearse, be they white or black, rich or poor, male or female. It was simply understood that a child whom God respected by giving them breath had flown home.

I miss those gentler times.

May we all be blessed.

~ Darius A. Gray

Written by MattAndJojang

February 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

Treat Anger with Tenderness

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Photo: Dewberry Parfum/Flickr

Treat your anger with the utmost respect and tenderness, for it is no other than yourself. Do not suppress it—simply be aware of it. Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed. When you are aware that you are angry, your anger is transformed.

~ Thich Nhat Hahn

Written by MattAndJojang

October 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

“Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemies Fall”

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Photographs of firefighters killed on 9/11 are seen outside the World Trade Center site after the death of accused 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was announced May 2, 2011 in New York City. Bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”
—Proverbs 24:17

We feel compelled to respond today to the killing of Osama bin Laden by the United States and to the jubilant response across the nation.

A nation has a right to defend itself. From the perspective of the fundamental national security of the United States, this action is legitimately viewed as an expression of self-defense.

But as Christians, we believe that there can no celebrating, no dancing in the streets, no joy, in relation to the death of Osama bin Laden. In obedience to scripture, there can be no rejoicing when our enemies fall.

In that sense, President Obama’s sober announcement was far preferable to the happy celebrations outside the White House, in New York, and around the country, however predictable and even cathartic they may be.

For those of us who embrace a version of the just war theory, honed carefully over the centuries of Christian tradition, our response is disciplined by belief that war itself is tragic and that all killing in war, even in self-defense, must be treated with sobriety and even mournfulness. War and all of its killing reflects the brokenness of our world. That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.

This event does provide new opportunities for our nation.

President Obama’s respectful treatment of Islam in his remarks, and his declaration that Osama bin Laden’s body was treated with respect according to Islamic custom, offers all of us an opportunity to follow that example and turn away from the rising disrespect toward Muslims in our nation.

A second opportunity is for the United States to reconsider the questionable moves we have made in the name of the war on terror. From our perspective, this includes the indefinite detentions of scores of men at Guantanamo Bay, the failure to undertake an official investigation of detainee interrogation practices, the increase in Predator attacks in Pakistan, and the expansion rather than ending of the ten-year-old war in Afghanistan.

We also now have the opportunity for national reflection on how our broader military and foreign policies — including the placement of our troops throughout the largely Muslim Arab world, our posture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and our regular military interventions around the world, create a steady supply of new enemies.

There can never be any moral justification for terrorist attacks on innocent people, such as the terrible deeds of 9/11. But we must recognize that to the extent that our nation’s policies routinely create enemies, we can kill a Bin Laden on May 1 and face ten more like him on May 2. Might it now be possible for us to have an honest national conversation about these issues?

May we learn the right lessons from the news of this day. For Jesus’ sake.

~ David P. Gushee

Written by MattAndJojang

May 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

The Vulnerability Of God

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My experience today is much more the discovery how vulnerable God is. You see, God is so respectful of our freedom. And if as the Epistle of John says that God is love, anyone who has loved in their life knows they’ve become vulnerable. Where are you and the other person and do you love me back? So if God is love, it means that God is terribly vulnerable. And God doesn’t want to enter into a relationship where He’s obliging or She is obliging us to do something. The beautiful text in the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelations: “I stand at the door and I knock. If somebody hears me and opens the door, then I will enter.” What touches me there is God knocking at the door, not kicking the door down, but waiting. Do you, will you open? Do you hear me? Because we’re in a world where there’s so much going on in our heads and our hearts and anxiety and projects that we don’t hear God knocking at the door of our hearts. So I’d say that what touches me the deepest, maybe because I’m becoming myself more vulnerable, is the discovery of the vulnerability of God, who doesn’t oblige.

Jean Vanier

Written by MattAndJojang

February 23, 2010 at 10:57 am