Finnegan's Awakeby Megan Finnegan
- Dialed down St. Patrick's Day
- A first time for everything
- Talking religion in 2011
- The uncertainty of prayer
- Smithsonian should have kept "ant-covered Jesus"
An An article in this week's issue of Time magazine reports on how the Claremont School of Theology, formerly offering training for only Methodist seminarians, is transforming itself into an interfaith institution and will offer programs to train Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams alongside Christian ministers. The school made this leap because its enrollment was foundering, and two years into the experiment, enrollment has increased. While the ultimate success of the program will depend on how well its graduates are regarded and whether or not people continue to enroll, the fact that it has existed for two years tells us something - that understanding other religions does not have to dim the belief in one's own.
A family friend of mine once told her young daughter, when she asked if there were other religions in the world aside from Catholicism, that there were not. She was young enough to accept this answer, and thought for who knows how long that everyone in the world was Catholic. A few generations ago, this myth might have been believable. It was common for Americans, especially immigrants, to live, work, and play with others of the same religion. My father and his 8 Irish Catholic siblings grew up in a neighborhood full of other big Irish Catholic families. While communities like this still exist, it becomes increasingly unlikely for children to grow up without any interaction with other faiths, and so it becomes increasingly important that children (and adults) get the tools they need to develop respectful, thoughtful relationships with these people.
So what would happen, I wonder, if a Catholic seminary took a cue from the interfaith camp and invited other religions to study under the same roof? It might produce a greater understanding of how the world's religions fit together. It might only create confusion and water down the mission of a seminary, which is to train Catholic priests. It might be too much of an extreme step, but a step in that general direction doesn't sound like a bad idea.
This past week, our country has seen two separate victories, in policy and politics, for tolerance and the separation of church and state. This past week, our country has seen two separate victories, in policy and politics, for tolerance and the separation of church and state. California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage was overturned in federal court. The proposed mosque (which is really a cultural center with a space for prayers) at Ground Zero (which is really several blocks away) has avoided major roadblocks and garnered