Mar 22, 2000
Bulgaria is a small country with a long history. Like other Balkan countries, it has gone through turmoil, slavery, exaltation and defeat. Though Bulgaria is the quietest and most obscure nation on the troubled Balkan peninsula, its people have to wrestle with the usual social evils that plague former communist-bloc countries: slow reforms, economic difficulties and moral confusion. And Bulgaria’s evangelical community of 100,000 people has its unique problems and anxieties.
The furor over George W. Bush’s campaign speech at Bob Jones University is full of ironies. Candidates have visited the campus in search of Republican votes ever since 1980 with no discernible repercussions—until now. In addition, John McCain’s criticism of Bush’s failure to attack the university’s now-famous policy against interracial dating and its hostility toward Catholicism came only after his own staff failed to arrange an appearance there.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” our priest droned for the tenth time. His pedagogy was nothing if not dogged. He would have said it again, but I jumped in: “How can I love someone I can’t see?” The other kids sat up. Would he ignore me or call my parents? I always tried to rattle him, but for once I wasn’t showing off.
I’ve often wondered what sort of conversation Protestant Reformer John Calvin and Catholic Bishop Francis de Sales would have had if they had met. These humanist scholars were both trained in law, were both afire with the love of God, and both ended up in Geneva, Switzerland, though separated by a generation.
This week I am headed to the Hindu Temple in Atlanta so that the students in my World Religions class may see a living faith in action. When they fill out their final evaluation forms, many of them will say that the field trips were the best part of the class, and I will agree with them. While our textbook does a good job of explaining bhakti yoga—the devotional way—it is no substitute for the smell of fresh almond and coconut offerings, or the sight of a hundred sesame oil lamps burning in front of a dazzling Hindu deity.