Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Enriched by Other Voices and Views

 “This imam and the nun work together for healing and reconciliation saying Muslims and Christian in Central African Republic never had a conflict. It is all about politics.”

My friend Don is a well-read academic who is constantly informing me of numerous volumes that he has read, especially in the fields of ethics and religion. He recently sent me a fascinating quote from a new book by Daniel Maguire*, Christianity without God:

"Chang Tsai (1020-1077), a major thinker in the Confucian tradition, produced what is seen as "a Confucian credo."  It begins by saying that the earth and universe are his father and mother:

Therefore that which fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I consider as my nature.  All people are my brothers and sisters and all things are my companions.  Show deep love toward the orphaned and the weak ... and those who are tired, infirm, crippled, or sick; those who have no brothers or children, wives or husbands, all are my brothers who are in distress and have no one to turn to.

Francis of Assisi would embrace every word of that credo.  So, too, would Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hannah, and Jesus.  The moral vision contained therein should not fall victim to unnecessary and futile disputes over a deity's existence or nonexistence, its unicity or multiplicity.  When it comes to appreciating what we are and what we have in this privileged little corner of the universe, god-talk should not divide us.  What would be refreshing is a moratorium on god-talk so that together we could explore alternatives to earth's current social, political, economic, and ecological distress."                      
                                                                                              ~Daniel McGuire

I have yet to delve into Maguire’ book, but the quote from the Chang Tsai reminded me of the interesting dynamic in Chinese culture that I learned about when I lived in Hong Kong. There you have, at different times, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism coming into play, with one or the other more emphasized depending on the times and the situation. In our own culture, we also hark back to different influences at different times. For example, why are there so many towns in the U.S. settled by Scots-Irish and English immigrants who named their towns after cities in ancient Greece (Troy, Athens, Sparta, Argo, Corinth, Delphi, etc.)?

It also reminded me of how much my own philosophy has been enriched by giving myself permission to listen to wisdom from many different cultures. Some of that wisdom includes, just to name some of the more prominent in my pantheon of influence:
  • Black Elk's vision of the world (Black Elk was of the Lakota Native American tribe)
  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • Krishna's concept of three ways of knowing God outlined in the Bagavad Gita
  • Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus
  • The Baptist concept of "soul competency"
  • Writings from the Quakers
  • Writings from the American Buddhist community
  • Trappist monk, Thomas Merton 
  • Reb Zalmon Schachter-Shalomi of the Hasidic community
  • Rumi and Hafiz, poets of the Sufi Islamic tradition

I realize I am being a bit stream-of-consciousness, but I was reminded of all the happy influences around us. Perhaps some of these strands will be topics for future blog posts.

* Daniel C. Maguire is Professor of Ethics at Marquette University and the author or editor of many books, including (with Larry L. Rasmussen) Ethics for a Small Planet: New Horizons on Population, Consumption, and Ecology, also published by SUNY Press.

Photo: from The Parliament of the World’s Religions Facebook page: “This imam and the nun work together for healing and reconciliation saying Muslims and Christian in Central African Republic never had a conflict. It is all about politics.” See the full story at UNHCR TRACKS


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