Posts Tagged ‘civic pluralism’

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  113                                                 Days Blogged: 99

New Mileage: 16                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 833

Over the past several days I have mulled the question: Should I make a response to comments about my last posting or just let them go and move on?  On Saturday I offered an apology to a group of Christians who were sending audio Bibles to the people of Haiti.  I apologized, as a lack of information on my part lead me to make unfounded accusations about their motives. I still have concerns about the usefulness of their activities and whether that money might be better spent buying shelter for homeless Haitians before the approaching rainy season.  But that is their choice.

Follow the Leader!

A number of people responded to the blog posting, many with positive feedback and a few with concerns and criticism. In particular, one commentator who had made accusations earlier about “atheist hypocrisy” concerning my criticism toward the group supplying the audio Bibles, sent me a follow-up comment.  I hoped he might follow my lead and offer an apology to those whom he lumped together under an “atheist” heading and lambasted with negative statements.  I hoped he might hear my message about the need to find common ground and pull out of the dichotomous thinking and the win-lose conflicts.  But what I received from him was a self-righteous “gottcha” comment in which he accused me of presenting a logical fallacy. There was no comment about my call to find common ground, or to consider the long-term consequences of our statements and actions. Just a ratcheting up of the tit-for-tat conflict.

We hold the answer in our hands!

I spent a bit of time yesterday speaking to a philosophy professor at my university.  We had a long discussion that culminated in the conclusion that arguments which feature accusations of hypocrisy are almost always circular, and in the end the process of the discussion degrades into entrenched positions.   I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who has always been consistent in what they say and how they act.  We all change our minds at some point and we all have experiences that cause us to retract an earlier position.  I made a statement in one blog and apologized in another.  Does that make me a hypocrite?  Does that make me wishy-washy and inconsistent?  Or does that point to a process of gathering new information and trying to refine one’s beliefs.  Doesn’t it speak to a process of finding the position that best fits the facts, but leaves itself open for new possibilities?

I find myself reiterating my earlier position that we must look for ways to find common ground. Dichotomous thinking and win- lose situations always lead to stalemates and increased friction.  A friend suggested that I should just ignore this individual and delete their comments.  I thought about it but isn’t that similar to what we accuse them of doing when they label us “nonbelievers” and ignore our comments?  I’m reminded of the words of wisdom and calm behaviors emulating from two profound sources.  The first is from the Dali Lama, who, even when faced with representatives of the people, who have taken away his country, never loses his cool or ceases to see them as individuals worthy of respect and compassion. 

Ask our youth?

The second is an unlikely source of wisdom on such matters: my youngest son.  I once picked him up from a weekend Cub Scout event. As I pulled up, I saw him sitting quietly under a tree in a meditative stance.  After we drove away I asked him about his meditation, he commented that before I arrived several scouts from a prominent Christian denomination had asked him what he was doing.  After he explained to them that he was meditating they told him that he was “going to hell.”  I asked him about his response and he calmly noted “I just smiled and said: if that’s what you believe, that’s what you believe” and then he returned to his meditation. 

He continues to be the happy, smiling, joyful youth that he is. I will follow his lead and continue to be a pilgrim. I will continue on my path and continue to share my joys and my concerns, regardless of what others think.  If I was to do anything else, I wouldn’t be honest with myself. That honesty  and the sharing of my beliefs is, I believe, the most critical part of my life journey  Thank you for being part of that journey and allowing me to share it with you!. 

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  82                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 83

Today’s Mileage: 4                                              Total Trip Mileage: 681

What to blog on today.  It is not a question of scarcity but of bountifulness.  There are so many potential topics. So many spiritual and religious questions populate my Blog idea folder!  Of course there is the symbolism of reaching the end of a calendar year and out with the old and in with the new. The local newspaper and many local news casts are speaking not only the best and worst of 2009, but the best and worst of a whole decade.  Of course many people are busy preparing their pledges towards the future with resolutions to better their health, living space, work productivity and to renew their religious and spiritual rituals.  Some might start a new journey, while others will resolve to double their efforts on their current path.

Happy New Years!

Cycles in nature and in our lives are but one of the things that give our lives meaning and some predictability.  Cycles give an excuse for a “fresh start.”  They give us a chance to banish mistakes and errors of “the past.”  This blog has become an important part of my life as a source of inspiration, and a testament to my perseverance and progress.  But it is not my whole life.  I am preparing to send one son off to the military and to war.  I am watching as a second son learns the ropes of having a first girlfriend.  I am preparing to once again enter the classroom.  Some classes will be filled with fresh faces, students who have not heard my stories and have not been challenged by my experiences and world view. Other classes will be filled with seniors, who have heard all the stories and are ready to “take off” into the real world.  All I can do is tweak them a bit, add a little polish and send them on their way.

My virtual bike trip has strengthened my legs and deepened my breath.  But my habit of snacking has limited its impact on my girth. I resolve to cut back on my snacking and make my studio and office more of a “clutter free” zone. What about the blog? Structurally I will complete the redesign of the Pilgrimage Site page and redouble my efforts to identify such sites as we return to our virtual map.  These will be only cosmetic changes.  This morning a voice from my past pointed out a philosophical and theological question which I intend to explore in the months to follow.

Martin Marty

I’m always looking for resource books and research projects for my classes and now the blog.  I glanced at the stack of books and one title jumped out at me.  I was Martin E. Marty’s book entitled: When Faiths Collide.  It was a book I picked up this summer before I had started the blog.  The title intrigued me, but the author was someone I had the pleasure to meet years ago. Dr. Marty is a Lutheran pastor, and a Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. I met him when he was a guest speaker at my University, lecturing on the dangers of religious fundamentalism. We sat and talked for close to an hour.  We discovered that we shared a common root.  He was from a small farming community in eastern Nebraska, the same town where my mother had grown up. It turns out that he knew my grandfather and inquired about my uncles.  It is truly a small world!

When Faiths Collide

As I sat at the car dealership this morning, waiting to have some repairs done, I opened his book to the chapter on pluralism.  Barely a page into it I realized I had found another resolution for the New Year: to use the structure he outlined to refine my definitions of diversity and pluralism.  An underlying theme of my blog has been my recognition of an interconnection of all faiths, something Dr. Marty would call a “theological pluralism.” He points out that this is not an “easy sell” as it is likely to raise defenses of more exclusionary faiths.  Whereas “civic pluralism” relates to practical adjustments people make in communities in order to promote orderly relationships and common ground between different faith communities.  Dr. Marty notes that civic pluralism presented us with a less daunting task to implement.  This form of pluralism existed in the small towns Dr. Marty and I grew up in, on the plains where there was a necessity for town matters not to turn into battlegrounds of inter-religious warfare.

I have stated in my blog that I see my efforts as a small ripple, but that when combined with others, these ripples could become a larger wave for positive change.  It will be my goal in the New Year to clarify and explore the distinction between these two forms of pluralism. In doing so, I will hopefully not only further focus my efforts in productive ways but help my readers clarify their positions on this important topic.  Forward into the future!

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