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Happy New Year!

1. New Year Message - A purposeful life – Huffington post
2. A Note about Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox News –request
3. Note about Bridgette Gabriel’s comment on Fox News – upon request
4. American Muslims are proud of taking the right step - Link
5. Moderate Muslims Speak out? Link

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Texas faith: Pope Francis Redefining Sin

Two thousand years ago, a man from Nazareth was bent on mitigating conflicts and building a cohesive society. He taught us to separate the sin from the sinner, and made it work by embracing the sinners of the time; lepers, and the prostitutes. Indeed, Pope Francis is repeating that man’s challenge of casting the first stone by witnessing the weddings of traditionally defined sinners.

This bi-weekly column is published in Dallas Morning News by Wayne Slater on September 24, 2014 -  http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2014/09/texas-faith-pope-francis-redefining-sin.html

TEXAS FAITH: Do we all have to agree what sin is in order to confront it?

By Wayne Slater
wslater@dallasnews.com
9:06 am on September 24, 2014 | Permalink
Pope Francis recently presided over a wedding ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica for 20 couples. In the Catholic tradition, marriage, like communion, is a sacrament. And a wedding is a statement of the beliefs of the church. Officially, the Vatican has a position on divorce, remarriage and cohabitation. Remarriage can happen only if a previous marriage is annulled. Couples are not supposed to live together outside of marriage. There’s a word for that: sin.

And yet, when the pope married those 20 couples in one of the holiest places of the church, he did so with the full knowledge that one bride was already a mother,  some of the couples had already been living together. For others, it was a second marriage.

Presumably, Pope Francis was not retreating from the church’s teachings. He was not abandoning the principles of his faith. But he seemed to be balancing the highest hopes of his faith tradition with the pastoral duties of his church in the real world. And in doing so, he was making a statement about how we deal with sin in everyday life.

Earlier this month, my colleague Rudy Bush asked the Texas Faith panel to consider the idea of sin. What draws the soul or mind toward sin? What is the defense against it? The answers were fascinating.


That’s this week’s question. What does your faith tradition say about sin? Are the points of agreement -- its origin, its remedy, the possibility of forgiveness -- that connect us?

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas

Two thousand years ago, a man from Nazareth was bent on mitigating conflicts and building a cohesive society. He taught us to separate the sin from the sinner, and made it work by embracing the sinners of the time; lepers, and the prostitutes. Indeed, Pope Francis is repeating that man’s challenge of casting the first stone by witnessing the weddings of traditionally defined sinners.

Perhaps that was a rebellious act by Jesus to the conservative men of the time, and so is the act of Pope Francis.

Two occurrences are happening at once ; i) the narrowing definition of sin or exoneration of many from the category of sin, and ii) inclusion of sinners into the fold of the mainstream society.

First let me disclose my bias. Pope Francis is my religious hero and inspiration, and represents the values of pluralism espoused by Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad and all other Godly men. That is respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of his creation. No one falls out of his ambit of love, none at all.  I consider Pope Francis as a mercy to mankind, and eventually his acts and talks will bring hope and relief to women, children, oppressed, rejected, maligned, poor, and the weak. 

Pope Francis has understood what God is all about; just, fair, equitable and merciful. Although God sounds like a guy who is eager to punish the sinner, in reality, he is not, he is the most merciful.

In my faith Islam, the capstone words in 113 out of the 114 chapters of Qur'an are mercifulness, beneficence and kindness of God, despite all other attributes we ascribe to him ( her or it), the chapters begin with those foundational words.  

Sin is broadly defined as violation of the rights of fellow beings in the Quran, the corollary of which is caring for the neighbors.  Indeed there is a story where a prostitute (sinner) feeds water to a thirsty cat and God forgives her sins. In another instance a bad guy (sinner) shares his food with his neighbor and is compared to a 24/7 worshiper, the prophet was asked who will earn Lord’s grace – the obvious answer was the one who cares for the well being of fellow humans. God emphasizes over a dozen times, that it does not matter whether you are a Jew, Christian, Muslim or other, but if you care for your neighbor, he says, you’ll have his rewards.   

What Pope Francis has done by his singular act of witnessing marriages of traditional sinners is to narrow the definition of sin and take out the not-so-sinful behavior into the range of acceptance and inclusion.  He has subtly reminded people not to be hung up with the social definition of sin, but go by the overall greater value of social harmony and cohesion that God ultimately wants.  

The Political Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and others can certainly take cues from the Pope. He is reviving the essence of what religion is all about; to create cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. Blessed are the peacemakers. 

To read the take of 10 other panelists, go to Dallas Morning News http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/09/texas-faith-do-we-all-have-to-agree-what-sin-is-in-order-to-confront-it.html/#more-44326

Thank you
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Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. All about him is listed in several links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are atwww.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

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