Parliament World Religions Day 4

8am Holy Communion in the Anglican style “Thank you for a welcoming service” began the Sabbath Day at the PWR Convention – room105!  +Philip Freier of Melbourne led, Colin prayed and I preached. A special occasion of worship amidst the cacophony of the world’s religions.

Advent 2, Luke 3:1-11 (and Luke 1:68-79) on John the Baptist proclaiming a repentance for the forgiveness of sins and prophesying of the coming Saviour. We looked at sins(acts) and sin(my being a rebel who is in proud disloyalty to God); sins individual(camera flashes going off despite our being asked not to at the Opening Plenary-see Day 1 post), and collective (“City of Wrong: A Friday in Jerusalem” by Karmel Hussein) and the GFC; yet, noting that it is too easy to point at the wrong doing of others: What are the wrongs of commission and omission of which I should repent?

The law condemns but it cannot save. Education is frustrated by our human perversity and pride. Then, if we are incapable of saving ourselves, what is God to do to bring reconciliation? God sends a Saviour, “Prepare the way of the Lord”. In Jesus we see the clash between the claims of God and the self-centred claims of human beings: this latter taking the Sermon on the Mount to the Cross on Calvary. What does love do? -Evil and love is resolved within the person of God. As we draw near to the baby in the crib we see the adult who dies that we might live: a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

CharterforCompasssion is a dream to draw all religious groups together around the theme of, yes, compassion. The ‘Golden Rule’ is taken to be common between religions and Karen Armstrong and others have written a 4 paragraph Charter that they want 100,000 people to sign. We were not given a copy which seemed a major oversight, but some people signed the petition after it was read out. Is this just another ‘chasing after the wind’ or could it acheive something? It is a little odd that this is being promoted independantly of ‘A New Ethical Manifesto for the Global Economy’ that Hans Kung is to present on Monday. I get mildly irritated still when “all religions have the Golden Rule”. In fact they have, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to you”, whereas Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”! This is the call to the generous exaggerated love of self sacrifice, not the restraint of evil in “Do not do to others what you do not want done to you”.

Role of Religion and Spirituality in the Public Discourse +Philip Freier and Rabbi David Saperstein with Penny Mulvey moderating looked at the difficulties in Australia and the USA of getting a serious and sustained conversation with the public through the media. eg, In Australia a ‘sound bite diet’, a ‘living in the moment’ attitude; the widely held but erroneous understanding of the ‘separation of church and state’ and the word ‘secular’ misunderstood as non-religious or non-spiritual. I explain the issue, ‘we Australians live in a secular state and a spiritual society’. ‘Secular’ as applied to the state means that the state is not to favour one religion or denomination over another. Thus, no one religion would dominate public discourse. The sad result has been that religious discourse has been relegated to private discourse!

In the USA, you will not be surprised to know, things are different! David was excellent and I learnt heaps. eg, due to the very high importance given to free speech, broadcasters, writers and commentators can readily sensationalise conflict and extreme views to exercise their power and so advance their ratings and views. Twenty years ago the hate speech that is now heard on USA media would not have occurred because the cultural norms of the day would have restrained them. Do you speak out against this and so draw more attention to it, or do you stay silent and seek to address it through grass roots activism and cultural change? We have a role to play!

Proselytisation and Religious Freedom was a session that demonstrated the enormous differences between religious groups in this area. The biggest surprise was a Sufi speaker who opposed the right of a person to change their religion because it would upset the stability of the current social order. The UN Declaration of Human Rights included the freedom to change one’s religion but when the Charter which gave legal legs to the UN Declaration was drawn up, this freedom was deleted due to opposition from Islamic nations. The death penalty for changing your religion in some Islamic nations applies today, the law of Apostasy. For general comment on this theme see my post on Evangelism is not proselytism.

Religious Leadership in a Global Perspective  The question, ‘What is the role of the leader in your religious community?’ was nearly uniformly answered across the 9 panelists as ‘to teach’.

The Sacred Music Concert in the evening was inspiring but ran late due to technical difficulties. We left after the Whirling Dervishes.

Oh! And the flash cameras continued to ‘flash’, despite specifically being asked at the beginning and a second time during the concert.  Attendants went around trying to stop the people disregarding and disobeying the clear will of the organisers to give the performers an uninterrupted run. If the leaders of the Parliament of World Religions cannot discipline themselves then what hope, etc – Yes! I know, telling of our sin and brokenness gets boring. Sleep well.

Day 4 (Sunday) from the ABC Religion Blog on the PWR led by Margaret Coffey has an interesting video report on the Indigenous Peoples.

An atheist’s perspective on this PWR 2009 and the Global Atheist Conference 2010 at this same venue.

Further posts can be found at: Parliament of Religions – It’s coming!, and at Multi-faith society – an oxymoron? and also at Parliament World Religions Day-1 and at Parliament World Religions Day 1 and Parliament World Religions Day 2 and Parliament World Religions Day 3.

Further videos, photos and news available at 2009 Parliament Coverage.

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