ICON – Images of the Sacred

As we start to gear up for the Winter Magic Festival at the next solstice in June, I thought it was appropriate that I finally got around to saying something about ICON – Images of the sacred.

ICON was an art exhibition held in the Katoomba, Australia in 2001. It was co-organised by one of our friends, Warrick Saxby, for the purpose of opening a spiritual dialogue between people of diverse spiritual backgrounds using art as the medium and common ground of expression. Participants included Buddhists, Wiccans, Christians, Pagans who joined for conversation and creative discussion. As the site states, “barriers of prejudice and past hurts came under the scrutiny of our common search and common humanity.”

Truth: Who owns who?

I was meditating this morning and the words came to me:

You don’t own the truth

The truth owns you

I found myself drawn down into a space where I was thinking, “Isn’t claiming to ‘own’ the truth just like saying we ‘own’ God? It puts truth in a box. Yet the bible affirms that we don’t have all truth; we only see dimly this side of the return of Jesus. We don’t even have a monoploy on truth. We just know enough to make a decision. I was struck by how arrogant a claim this human ‘ownership’ is.

Jesus said: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” If the truth is to free us, lets make sure we don’t foolishly try to enslave it.

McLaren on other religions

In his book, The Church on the Other Side, Brian McLaren writes:

“One of the toughest challenges in the church on the other side will be to develop a new way of talking about – and with -other religions.”

I would like to kick off this new site by inviting the emergent church to seriously consider this challenge posed by Brian.

McLaren points out that globalization is reshaping, not only the world, but our local communities:

“To dismiss Buddhism when all Buddhists lived on the other side of the world was easy; but when a Buddhist lives next door or teaches your college chemistry class and proves to be a good neighbour or professor, his beliefs are not so easily dismissed.”

I find this an interesting comment, as I do in fact live next door to a Buddhist. She is a dear old lady who has recently been widowed.

But that’s just the beginning.

On the other side of our house are a young family of Sikhs who’s one year old daughter plays with my son. Two doors further up is a young Hindu family, who’s son also plays with my son. The world is at our doorstep – literally. Yet the majority of Christians I speak to, even in my local area, have a curious resistance to direct two-way dialogue with people from other religions. Despite years of trying to encourage Christians to engage, behavioural change has been meager. It is indeed a great challenge.

Is my area so unique? Yes and no. It is true we are in a hot spot for Hinduism, but other areas have their own demographic quirks. We’re not THAT unique. In my experience it have more to do with willingness to set outside your comfort zones. You don’t see what you shy away from.

McLaren continues:

“To caricature all Muslims as terrorists is easy until you meet a Muslim of grace and ethical depth. To focus on the cruelties of some Hindus and in so doing dismiss Hinduism might work until a Hindu points out a few of our own embarrassments and egregious failures as Christians. Just as we must acknowledge that both kooks and saints stand under the Christian banner, we will have to stop giving ourselves permission to be prejudiced and stereotypical about members of other religions. We can’t keep comparing our best with their worst and feeling smug.”

As a person who is deeply committed to justice and truth I find the vilification of other religions by Christians to be most disturbing. In our previous house we lived next door to a Muslim family. I became friends with the husband, Mohammed, and he was one of the best and most gentle neighbours I’ve ever had. Yet again and again Christians characature Muslims as violent. Only recently a pair of Christian ministers were found guilty in Melbourne, Australia for incitement to religious hatred. It sickens me that this is allowed to continue within the ranks of the contemporary church. One of my great hopes for the emerging church is that it can rise to the challenge of being good Samaritans to our neighbours.