One of the prompts in our handout was "How do you define 'civic engagement' and what significance does it have for the religious or spiritual community you grew up with or that you identify with today?
For me, civic engagement has included involvement in volunteering from a very young age. In the small Texas Panhandle farming community I grew up in, there was a family, the Joneses, that had a boy who had been born with birth defects. His name was Stanley and he could not walk or sit upright. The family received guidance from a doctor that creating a crawl-like movement for Stanley could help him develop the ability to eventually walk. It took five people, twice a day to do these patterns of movement with him.
The Jones family belonged to the Kress Methodist Church, where we were also members. Many from the church signed up for duty with Stanley. I remember going out to their place in the country with mother and others from the church. Because I was too short to work one of his limbs, I held his head, which had to turn left, then right, depending on the side that was being moved. I eventually graduated to one of his arms, which was tricky, because he was supposed to open his hand and move the open fingers along the table. His entire body was drawn up into a fetal postion and his hands stayed in fists. I remember the struggle of trying to do it right, and stay in the rhythm with the person moving his leg at the same time. The support offered for this family went on for years. I don't think Stanley ever walked, but I can imagine the benefit to the community in caring for him in a team effort. This was one of my first experiences with civic engagement.
"When I was a child, it was clear to me that life was not worth living if we did not know love. I wish I could testify that I came to this awareness because of the love I felt in my life. But it was love's absence that let me know how much love mattered." ~ bell hooks
I liked it that most people chose to speak about bell hooks instead of Karen Armstrong during introductions in our class of January 22st. I mostly got over my aversion to poetry, thanks to a class last semester, when I discovered the freedom in writing poetically. bell hooks and Thich Nhat Hanh seem an unlikely combination to me, but in reading the interview I learned that they are both Lovers, in the true sense of the word.
And in listening to the introductions of everyone, it turns out we have a whole class full of Lovers.
What is Pluralism? ~ —Diana L. Eck
The plurality of religious traditions and cultures has come to characterize every part of the world today. But what is pluralism? Here are four points to begin our thinking:
- First, pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Diversity can and has meant the creation of religious ghettoes with little traffic between or among them. Today, religious diversity is a given, but pluralism is not a given; it is an achievement. Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.
- Second, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Tolerance is a necessary public virtue, but it does not require Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and ardent secularists to know anything about one another. Tolerance is too thin a foundation for a world of religious difference and proximity. It does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves in place the stereotype, the half-truth, the fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly.
- Third, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. The new paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.
- Fourth, pluralism is based on dialogue. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the “table” will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table -- with one’s commitments.