Posted by: Susan Strouse | August 9, 2012

Progressive Christianity: A Response to Sikh Temple Terror

Much has already been written about the senseless tragedy at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, WI – much of it the same thing we all wrote about just three weeks ago when Aurora, CO became the latest scene of mass murder.

This time, however, there’s the added element of religious hatred. Even the response in the media has had undercurrents of religious prejudice. Reports that emphasize that the victims are Sikhs, not Muslims, even though they are often misidentified as such,  implies that if they had been Muslims, the attack would have been justified.

This tells us that we still have a whole lot of work to do in the interfaith arena. Just as 9/11 became a teachable moment about Islam and other religions, this tragedy should do the same.  It should also be a teachable moment in the intra-faith arena. And one place for Christians to get started is with a soul-searching look at our own history of exclusivism and how that has contributed to an environment of suspicion and even hatred toward ‘the other.’

The need to do this is, I suspect, the reason that the second point on ProgressiveChristianity.org’s ‘8 Points of Progressive Christianity’ is:
“By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean that we are Christians who affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.”

Now that should raise some eyebrows – because it’s not what most of us have been taught. We’ve learned that there’s one way, and we’ve got it. Everybody else is ‘the other.’  Oh, we might say that we respect them, have tolerance for their beliefs, want them to live in peace and safety – but at the end of the day (or end of time), we know that we are right and they are wrong.

We need to unlearn this. Granted, that will take some doing. Our scriptures, prayers, hymns, liturgies are loaded with language that reinforce our belief in One Way.  So we need to seize this teachable moment and fearlessly examine our traditions and enter into the evolution of Christianity. This doesn’t mean we’re giving up the core of our faith. The #1 point of the ‘8 Points of Progressive Christianity’ is:
“By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean that we are Christians who believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life.”

That’s a pretty good #1 point.  And from that starting point, we go on to #2.  We owe it to our brothers and sisters of the Sikh community, as well as the Muslim, and the Jewish, and the Pagan, and all the other ‘others’ who are all part of the Sacredness and Oneness of life.

Now get out there to one of the candlelight vigils in support of the Sikh community! And while you’re at it, make plans to visit a gurdwara, and a synagogue, and a mosque. Make new friends. Invite them to your church – not to convert them – but to welcome them as beloved brothers and sisters.

What we will NOT tolerate is any more violence like we just saw in Oak Creek.
No more!  Nowhere!


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