“A Third Way” conference, small but fervent in participation, was recently held in Chattanooga, TN. The main point and goal of the conference was this: How do we have a strong Christian identity that is also benevolent to others? So many times “tolerance” goes along with a weak identity, weak loyalty to a tradition. On the other hand, people who are really strong in their beliefs can sometimes behave in hostile ways (or perceived hostile ways) to outsiders. The idea for the conference was that there was a “third way”—a way to have a strong identity that is generous and benevolent to outsiders.
On Christmas Day 1938 the head of the Bahá’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, wrote a very important letter to the Bahá’i communities residing in the United States and Canada. (The letter was later published as a book under the title The Advent of Divine Justice.) It was the eve of World War II. The Empire of Japan had already invaded China in July 1937. In March of 1938 Nazi Germany had absorbed Austria into the Third Reich. In September 1938 the Germans forced Czechoslovakia to cede part of its territory to Germany. On November 9, 1938 many German Nazis attacked and destroyed Jewish businesses and synagogues in the pogrom later known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Against this background of world events, Shoghi Effendi wrote this letter.
Despite an increase in lawsuits related to religious expression and workplace discrimination, religious diversity is an area of Diversity & Inclusion often missing from leadership development. The silence is due to lack of exposure and to fear, perhaps well-founded, that religious diversity training may actually increase animosity in the workplace, rather than build bridges. Given the recent Supreme Court ruling sanctioning public prayer as an American tradition, a tradition that has often been Christian, the role of diverse religions in the US is increasingly murky and contentious.
This headline makes for eye-catching copy, does it not? Now, if I said that these are the actual words that accompany the email signature of a person in the U.S. who communicates, often globally, to members of his organization, would you believe me? Well, that’s the truth. I kid you not.
One of the richest adventures I’ve had in my adult life is working as a resident chaplain in an urban setting. I worked for two years for a major hospital system in Houston, Texas. This hospital system had a mission statement of serving its diverse community and offering appropriate pastoral care. What I came to understand from this work experience was the incredible ethnic diversity as well as the religious diversity represented by patients in the hospital. I learned this as I made my rounds through the ER, ICU, Ambulatory Care, and other surgical units.
The night atmosphere is alive with colour and sound. Vibrant costumes adorn humble people as they dance to ward of evil spirits. Bright fires cast a warm glow; the balmy warmth of incense caresses the air. Our spirits soar. This is a traditional Buddhist festival in Nepal. Contrast this with another scenario I experienced: Before we alight the bus in Beijing we are told not to ask questions. We are told not to mention anything political. We giggle and laugh, every one of us thinks it’s a joke. But our guide tells us again firmly, he is 100% serious. We could get arrested and thrown in prison and that is no laughing matter.
My Dad puts me in the same category as murderers and rapists. Shocking isn’t it? But true. You see he’s a Jehovah’s Witness. To him, because I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, I’m evil like all sinners. When the world is soon destroyed, I will die along with it. I still consider myself to be a good, principled person, I do lots for charity, believe in God (ish) respect others, don’t steal, fornicate or cheat. (much)
Religion has long institutionalized the subservience of women. Today’s woman fights for tangible equity as a way of claiming equality, but will never fully succeed until the root of the problem, religion, either alters its interpretation, or is no longer considered a reputable source of societal authority. Because religion structures the family, hence society, the elimination of sexism must proceed concurrently with the eradication of archaic attitudes within the churches, and servile innuendoes within the home.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Mall, last minute shoppers scurried from store to store; short on patience and with little evidence of the holiday spirit of love. The only ones smiling were the store owners and the costumed Santa, who gets paid to be jolly.