Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013.04.21 Interfaith Faith

Yes, I watched the interfaith service at Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston last  Thursday. And yes, I was moved to tears of both grief and joy. And yes, I was struck again about the energetic resurgence of religious vocabulary in our secularized culture at times of national catastrophe, in this case the holocaust of Marathon Monday in Boston, 2013.

Words like God, prayer, sacrament, blessing and many citations from scriptures abounded, led and modeled, in this situation and others, by our President Barack Obama—and he’s had more than his share of such occasions. Of course it was a religious service, therefore such language was natural, but it was also a civic commemoration, a collective funeral. Our civil “religion”emerged as strong and healthy as our spiritual religion. Is there a difference really?

A few things I loved.........
    President Obama should have been a preacher. He took to the podium as if it were a pulpit, which it was.  He cited verses from II Timothy 1:7 which are worth repeating here. Paul the apostle was encouraging his student and disciple for his mission to teach and proclaim the gospel of grace: “For God did not given us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” These are inner gifts available to us all.
  
    Is there a call to turn to our faith traditions for solace, strength, and national invigoration?  Could it be that God, whom many think of as omnipotent in the way the world understands power, is begging us to consider a new/old theological perception: Godde as love within?

    The visual diversity was an astounding image. Many “minorities” in leadership.
 
     Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke with calm eloquence and offered a biblical insight: Crowd and community are often present but are not the same phenomenon. A crowd is a bunch of individuals grouped together, loosely or tightly, each individual invested in her/his own desires and interests. A community is also a bunch of individuals but these individuals derive their identity, meaning, purpose, and quality of life from being part of a community with a unifying vision.  Marathoners and fans have formed community over the years—and a vision, without which the people perish. (Scripture again.)

    The cello, played by the inimitably passionate Yoyo Ma, is the one singular instrument able to convey the pathos of such a time—mournful, melancholic, yet as deep and rich as soil and soul ready to receive new seeds of life. In the final phrase the melody grew faint, trailed reluctantly off, leaving and not leaving.

    Nasser Wadeddy, Islamic interfaith activist for democracy and an American citizen by only one week, remembered his own terrifying experience with a bomb explosion on a road in Damascus, Syria.  (Some will recall St. Paul’s encounter with Christ on a road in Damascus, a time when he began his turn away from violent persecutory ways. )

    Closing Hymn: “American the Beautiful” based in beauty and grandeur of landscape, not military victory as was our national anthem.

And didn’t love.............
    Extremism in any form, including a bit too much American positivism and can-do pride
    The phrase: “This doesn’t happen in Boston!”
    That there were many many more men than women up front—still, still
    I heard no prayers uttered for the young male criminals
    That people who "don't believe in organized religion" flock to God and the offerings of organized religion when something catastrophic and inexplicable happens yet never mention the sacred in other venues or give religion a voice in public conversations. Do people flock to cathedrals for political reasons, or for spiritual reasons?

This week Boston and the nation have traveled the arc from vibrant life through death and despair, into hope and hints of healing, and now the journey arcs forward into a climate of uncertainty, unsteadiness and wondering.

Yes, we will go on.  Yes, nothing will be quite the same. The best way I know to assimilate the “new normal”  is to find a community that is not a crowd.
   

2 comments:

Laurie Barnhart said...

I quoted your last line and shared it on facebook. So so much to take in learn understand and discern in this new violent world. Laur

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

I wish this violence were new but I do think that it seems to be more arbitrary and widespread. Gawd! Thanks for sharing my blog-thought. Lyn