On the Saturday after the shootings (as I am writing this), the reports from Ft. Hood, Texas, are still coming in. Details are yet sketchy, but the media is grasping at the obvious story lines for their ubiquitous 24-hour coverage. As we have come to expect, the non-Christian identity of this "Muslim-American" has become headline news.
This story-line is not without consequences. The L.A. Times reports this morning that our Muslim friends in Southern California are once again bracing for the backlash of media coverage. The message during Friday prayers at the Islamic Center of Southern California was one of caution and care, the Times reports. The article goes on to quote Salam Al-Marayati, who is executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles: he said his first prayers were for the vitims; then he prayed that the shooter was not Muslim. The Islamic Center's press release condemning the attack also thanks the city of Los Angeles for their increased presence and protection of their facilities during this time.
This is our America, a society we share, divided along deep faults of difference and disparity. As a "Methodist-American," I do not fear for my safety after a fellow Methodist commits a heinous crime. The denominational affiliation of such person most certainly may not be mentioned in news reports (unless he or she were an ordained elder or deacon). And the churches of my tradition have no need to renounce the deeds of an outlier when one of our own goes astray. As a Methodist-American, these are not my realities. But for Muslim communities, this is their America.
This event reiterates again the importance of Claremont's new mission. The need for inter-religious education is more important than ever. We need leaders -- chaplains, counselors, educators, scholars, professionals in all fields -- who learn alongside those of other religious backgrounds. This educational strategy -- of ending religious segregation -- not only benefits individual students, but it is also an active step toward a world in which responses to disasters need not be divisive, when religious communities need not fear for their safety, and where society can avoid crass simplifications that grow from our deepest suspicions and prejudices. Claremont is choosing to help transform the world, even as the School is being changed by it. As our communities continue to change, our education -- and Claremont -- must evolve with it.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Professors Frank Rogers and Andy Dreitcer are in Zimbabwe with doctoral student Mazvita Machinga for a 3-day workshop with religious leaders, tribal chiefs, and victims of Zimbabwe's political and social violence. The nation -- which is notoriously ravaged by violence, poverty and HIV/AIDS -- is in desperate need of reconciliation and peace-making, skills which our faculty and students possess. The 3-day meeting is entitled "Creating a Path to Healing: The Church's Role and Its Promise for the Country."
Whenever they have both electricity and Internet access, Andy, Frank and other members of their team (including noted author and spiritual director Mark Yaconelli) are blogging their trip, which so far has been nothing short of remarkable. In a recent post, they talk about their strategy for the workshop:
For real healing and reconciliation to take place, people need to tell their stories, particularly the victims, but there is some concern that if victims tell their story the event will be perceived as a political gathering rather than a pastor’s conference. At the invitation of organizers, the government will be sending representatives to observe the presentations and discussions, so for the well-being of everyone, it is important that we do not allow the conference to become politicized ...We often hear lofty language about "healing the world," but Claremont is doing its part in very tangible ways, half-way around the world, to help a community heal from political violence in ways that do not perpetrate further hatred and hurt. This is Tikkun Olam.
Monday, November 2, 2009
[My recent editorial "Being Methodist and Multifaith" attracted no small amount of attention in the Methodist world and resulted in a number of responses. One message, from "Angela", was published as a comment to a previous post on this blog. Her concerns are similar to many responses I have received, so I wanted to highlight my response to her.]
Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with me and other readers by putting your comment on my blog. Blogs are great places to share our disagreements, so as a matter of principal, when we simply disagree I will not argue. Our differing views should be sufficiently apparent that readers can see where our views diverge. I will, however, provide some perspective on matters related to what we are attempting and, in doing so, give elements of our rationale in taking this new direction.
I see that a major concern relates to our effort to create a multi-religious school. This is a new idea in theological education and constitutes both the key to our new direction and the matter of most concern to readers. New ideas often do create concern because, by their nature, they are unfamiliar and not well understood. In fact, the concern you reflect is reminiscent of the perceived threat that many had to the ecumenical movement in the mid-twentieth century. Now more than half a century later, for those denominations that have participated in this movement the Christian family has been brought closer together. An example of this is the joint communion recently entered into by the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Similarly, all of our United Methodist related seminaries have student bodies characterized by multiple denominations—a circumstance that has in no way weakened the distinctiveness or faithfulness of United Methodist students.
The Board of Trustees of Claremont School of Theology have taken this action (to be not only ecumenical but also multi-religious) for the purpose of creating a campus where tomorrow’s religious leaders can not only deepen their faith in their own traditions but can also learn first-hand to understand differing cultural heritages, to respect each other’s right to believe differently, and to collaborate across religious boundaries to solve problems that span religious boundaries. The School of Theology, of course, will continue to educate leaders for service to Christian churches, agencies, educational institutions, and other areas as it has for many years. But educating religious leaders in the isolation of their own traditions has not proven effective in reducing religious inspired conflict, so we are attempting to develop a better way. And we believe that a mature, theologically diverse, and global denomination like United Methodism is well equipped to lead the way in developing such a model.
I might add that this is particularly important in America where no religion has been “established” by the State and where religious pluralism is growing. If we take steps now to create educational models that will lead to harmony and understanding among Americans of different religious traditions, we will not only enjoy the benefits (which could include avoiding conflict, fighting hunger, reducing homelessness, and so on) but also develop institutions that can be duplicated elsewhere in the world.
Again, thanks for writing, and I hope you will write again.
Jerry D. Campbell