As a preacher and teacher, I make my living telling stories. While I know people who say that they “use” stories to make important points, I am one of those listeners who consistently remember the stories and forget the points.
Six years before he died, American philosopher William James filled out a questionnaire about religious experience. He was asked, among other things, “Do you pray?” His answer was forthright: “I can’t possibly pray.
This past May, at an interfaith conference in Skopje, Macedonia, I began a keynote address with a few remarks on what it means to speak in a Christian voice in an interfaith setting. Since religious pluralism increasingly defines the American social landscape and since religions are an important factor in the way we relate to each other, it is important for us to reflect on this issue.
Last fall on a weekend trip to Manhattan, I noticed an unusual addition to the art galleries listed in the Times. The gallery was in the apse of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the art was a collection of religious treasures from Spain, including handwritten letters from Teresa of Ávila and her mentor John of the Cross.
From the heart of New Mexico to West Texas and Oklahoma, the pressures of drought have led Christian preachers and Catholic priests to encourage prayer processions and American Indian tribes to use their closely guarded traditions to coax Mother Nature to deliver some much needed rain. An interfaith service in Oklahoma City was held where Christian, Muslim and Jewish prayers were used for rain. The Catholic bishop in Lubbock is planning a special mass at which farmers can have their seeds and soil blessed. The archbishop of New Mexico’s largest diocese has turned to social media to urge parishioners to pray: “Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad” (AP).