Sunday, July 26, 2009

Faith, Inter-faith and Politics: the limits and challenges.

Limits of interfaith
May. 12, 2009
(This editorial appeared during the visit of Pope Benedict to Israel)

Perhaps we expect too much of priests, rabbis and imams. We want our clergy to be spiritual beacons, above the temporal fray; and to be politically savvy. Alas, on this earth there is no unscrambling politics and religion. And this inevitable mingling of the holy and the profane sometimes leaves us dismayed that those who claim a deeper understanding of the Creator's will should behave parochially.
Still, man is a political animal and in his image did he create religion.
Since there is no separating politics from religion, the best we can strive for is that the spiritual in religion informs our politics more than the worst in our politics informs our religion.
Pray we have the wisdom to know the difference.
The following letter was sent to the ABC in October 2008 when it was annonounce that the Religion Report was going to be axed.
Dear Sir,

I first heard then read with alarm about your intended axing of Mark Crittenden's Religion Report on Radio National.

I am an avid listener to ABC Radio,- RN, 3LO and the News Station. The Religion Report is my regular RN program, as well as the Spirit of Things, Health Report and a few others.

I am not a religious person, but a secular individual belonging to a cultural and an ethnic faith community. This is what I think "Anglo-ethnic Australians" fail to understand in today's Australia. We are so much a whole of a multi-ethnic-multicultural-multi-faith society today, that the word "religion" per se is not the criterion by which many of us as individuals may identify,- but it is the way many of our ethnic communities may be recognised.

We may come from many lands, speak many languages, but there is a unifying bond also via our communities' faith systems, via schools, Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples, plus social, cultural and traditional ties. Stephen Crttenden's program I think recognises this and therefore it is interesting for all of us to listen to.

For Australia and Australians to be unified under our secular democracy, we have to be able to understand each others' faith systems as well as each others' values, communal leadership systems and how everybody practices their religions in Australia. It is particularly important, as Christopher Pearson points out in today's 'Weekend Australian', "The war on terrorism is going to take a long time. .....Now is not the time for the ABC to be closing down its religion department or silencing that unit's most accomplished broadcaster."

I heartily endorse those sentiments. Perhaps the time has come to give it another title,- such as "Faith and Australian Society",- because the word "religion" seems to be associated with negative connotations. But we can't eliminate it from our vocabulary as long as there are so many institutions and individuals who cling to it.

Society should then give the program also a sense of responsibility for the faith practitioners to the State, rather than to any particular faith-system alone, which under the guise of religion becomes the ultimate arbiter of truth according to each one's interpretation of "God".

This is what the National broadcaster's responsibility should be,- bring us all closer together,- inform us and unify us!

There will always be room for audio-programming,- too many people may be visually impaired and computer-illiterate to take advantage of all the digital-visual programs available.

Respectfully yours,

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