Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Mandala, Jesus, and Mr. Anti-Parliament

I'm sitting here in my hotel room with a veggie ball for lunch--don't ask. It comes with chutney, and it's actually very good: chick peas & veggies rolled up somehow into a soft ball with breading on the outside. Ooh--I think I just made it worse by trying to describe it….

Just a couple remarks before I head back for the afternoon sessions. First, my favorite sign of the day today is "Don't Trust Religions--Trust Jesus Christ Only." Now, while Karl Barth may have approved, it is an interesting idea, isn't it? It doesn't say "trust Christianity," it says, "trust Jesus." So, what does that mean, exactly? Is there some non-mediated experience of Jesus that I am to trust? What does that look like? How do I experience this trust? Reading the Bible by myself? What reinforces & solidifies my trust? What happens when I doubt? Where and how do I live out this trust? As you can see, I find the whole idea complicated; and, to me, it is a rejection of all non-Christian religions, as well as [perhaps] mainline Christian denominations in favor of a more personal, confessional experience of Jesus. Not everyone is open to all perspectives, although that is certainly the dominant ethos of the Parliament!
For another example of this, I want to mention a Hindu man I have named "Mr. Anti-parliament." I have been with him now in a few of the sessions, and let me tell you, he is feisty! He's dramatically critical of all other religions, particularly Islam and Christianity, and he says the most outrageous things to the presenters in the Q & A time: people have been extraordinarily patient & good humored with him, I think. Again, not everyone here is happy with all the respecting and celebrating of religious diversity! [Perhaps you can think of some other folks closer to your homes who might share that perspective…I can.]

I also meant to report that one other cool thing that is going on during the Parliament is that a group of Gyoto Tibetan Buddhist monks are constructing a mandala in one corner of the convention center. It has been amazing to watch it come into existence day by day, from the diagramming of the template, to the painstaking labor of gently shaking into place each colored grain of sand. It's a marvel.
Last thing: I bought the video "Praying with Lior" today--it was for sale in one of the booths. If you want to see it, you can borrow it from me when I get back, while I try to see if the library can order it for the Seminary.
Afternoon blessings--and, while I've gloated horribly about the sunshine & warmth here, truth be told, I miss the snow: it's winter, after all!
Kristin Johnston Largen

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