WISDOM Newsletter – June 2016

Written by WISDOM on . Posted in Newsletters

Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events  
Sunday, October 23 12:30 PM – 2:45 PM (includes lunch)
Five Women Five Journeys
at First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak
529 Hendrie Blvd, Royal Oak, MI 48067
Questions?  Contact Maryann Schlie


Now in progress at Cong. Beth Ahm, 5075 W. Maple Road, W. Bloomfield Wednesdays at 1 pm in the Teen Lounge

Free and open to the community, no reservations required.
Join us for this 24-part lecture series on DVD from The Great Courses ® now in progress, featuring Prof. Jodi Magness of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We screen two 30-minute lectures each week, followed by brief informal discussion. The course explores fundamental questions such as:
How was early Judaism markedly different from the Rabbinic Judaism practiced today?
What kind of world did early Jewish sects envision, and how does Jesus’s world view relate to theirs?
How did events like the Babylonian exile and the reign of Herod the Great affect the development of Judaism up to Jesus’s time?
What did it really mean to be a Jew in ancient Israel-and what did it mean for Jesus?
Jewish Ritual Purity: The Sons of Light
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Earliest Hebrew Bible
Was Jesus an Essene?
The Hebrew Scriptures and the Septuagint
The Reign of Herod the Great
Pontius Pilate: A Roman Prefect
Anarchy in Judea
Jesus’s Prophecy: Jerusalem’s Destruction
Flavius Josephus: Witness to 1st Century A.D.
Rabbinic Judaism’s Traditions about Jesus
Jesus’s Apocalyptic Outlook
Jesus’s Teaching and Sayings in Context
Weekday entrance to Beth Ahm building – To attend our DVD learning group, use the glass door overlooking the east parking lot and the Woll Memorial Bible Garden. Take steps from parking lot or, for barrier-free entry, start at main entrance canopy and use sidewalk to the glass door. Use buzzer on left to alert the office to your presence, and staff will unlock left door electronically so you can enter.
Donations are invited, to help underwrite this free weekly learning opportunity, which Beth Ahm offers to lifelong learners in the community regardless of religious affiliation. “Drop In & Learn on DVD” has been running for 9 years and is still going strong. New participants are always welcome. For more info contact Nancy Kaplan by phone (248) 737-1931, text (248) 390-4294 or e-mail nancyellen879@att.net

Where did we come from? What happened “in the beginning”? Humanity’s first question remains one of its most intensely debated. Were we created in the image of God, or are we the result of a 13.8 million-year-old singularity? Are there similarities among the religious creation stories from around the world? How do they compare with the scientific theory of the creation of the cosmos and the dawn of civilization? Morgan Freeman tackles these questions and more in the new episode of The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, airing Sunday April 24 at 9/8c. Several Patheos.com bloggers provide their thoughts on the topic of Creation. Read on to hear their thoughts, and be sure to click over to their blogs to explore further.
Chris Williams of Chrisicisms shares how growing up, “The only acceptable Big Bang was to believe that ‘God spoke and bang it happened’… And then I went to college.”
It wasn’t science, but a freshman philosophy college course that first made me question my foundations.” Referring to creation, “The harder I studied, the more stymied I became.” Eventually Chris realized, “One of the hardest things to admit is ‘I don’t know,'” but continues, “I don’t think God much cares whether we think he created the Earth in six days or if he took billions of years to craft it. I think all he cares about is we acknowledge his role.”
Farouk Peru of Person Al-Islam discusses how his faith presents the creation story. “As a young adult, I encountered rationalist interpretations of the story of Adam and this enabled me to achieve two things. One, to find a metaphorical understanding of the story which was both cogent and relevant to my life. Two, to find a much deeper connection with Quranic teachings.”He goes further to say, “The Quran does not have a mythological reading of Adam at all. He is not the first prophet nor even the first human. Rather, he is us.”
Paul Asay of Watching God asks, “Can the Big Bang and Genesis both be true?” He believes, “There is ultimately no tension between science and faith -not if my God is real and my faith is true.” When “faith and science seem to clash,” he believes, “It’s due to the limitations of our own minds: We misunderstand the nature of God, the nature of the universe or, very likely, both. And even if science can someday definitively answer the what and where and how of creation, only religion dares touch the why.”
Kyle Roberts of Unsystematic Theology states that, “Creation stories give us order, structure, and meaning. They function similarly to beliefs about immortality, or life after death.” He goes on to say, “Creation stories, mythologies about origins, give us a fixed point, a steady place from which to stand, an identity in a world of flux. Even more, they open up for us windows of transcendence through which we can see ourselves in the light of seeing the divine-our origin as dependent on Someone else.”
Padma Kuppa of Seeking Shanti explains that while “Hindus don’t have a single story of creation,” their “stories of creation don’t conflict with the scientific theory of evolution.Many Hindu schools of thought do not treat scriptural creation myths/hymns literally. Often the creation stories themselves do not go into specific detail, so there is the possibility of incorporating at least some theories in support of evolution.”
Kate O’Hare of Pax Culturati shares how “Genesis is essentially poetry, meant to express the deep truths, not the literal step-by-step facts, of Creation. Not aiming to be a scientific text,” she states “Genesis lays out the beginning of everything, emphasizing that was an act of will, and of love, by God.Genesis is a love song by God to His people, so that they would know why the world came to be, what God thought about it, and what He thinks about all His creatures, including Man.”
Nancy Rockwell of The Bite in the Apple discusses Eden by stating “Eden lives outside history and inside us, an eternal moment that is never and now. Eden is not merely an origin story, it is a path for the human spirit. The tale is centered in the touch of God and the blessing, it is good, that is given to every creature and every day.” While most of Eden’s “details are impossible… With God all things are possible.” Knowing this, “science and religions are in agreement. And the great words of liturgy still have power: ‘As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end’.”
Lori Erickson of Holy Rover says, “How we tell our story of origin shapes us, and shapes how others see us,” stating that her upbringing “still defines a good portion of my identity.” She asserts Western culture loves the Genesis account, because “the universe makes sense. It unfolds in an orderly fashion, one that can be comprehended by humans.” Lori continues, “It is the nature of humans to question, and it is the nature of God to create.”
Justin Whitaker of American Buddhist Perspectives shares the Buddhist take on creation by stating, “The Discourse has all of the ingredients of a creation myth though, and no doubt many Buddhists over history have interpreted it as simply this. It begins with a world-contraction; apparently out of a vast, ethereal state in which beings were mind-made, feeding on joy, self-radiant, etc.” He goes on to explain the story and ends with, “The story continues until beings resemble us, with all of our negative traits, needing the education and eventual awakening offered only by a Buddha.”

Who is God? Pluralism is the Answer
April 13, 2016 by Padma Kuppa
In the upcoming episode of The Story of God, Morgan Freeman attempts to discover who God is – and how he/she or they have evolved over history,  Leading off with questions such as “What are all the ways that people connect to God?” And “Is god fundamentally different to different faiths?” – Freeman heads to my spiritual homeland, India, the cradle of not only Hinduism, but several other faiths as well. I headed to one of my first blog posts for Patheos, where I was part of a community of bloggers challenged to answer, in a 100 words or less, Who or What is God?:
Ekam Satya Vipraha Bahuda Vadanti (Rg Veda). The Truth is one, the wise call it by many names. This is both Nirguna Brahman, an impersonal, formless God, beyond conception, beyond reasoning, beyond thought; and Saguna Brahman, a personal God with good qualities and of many forms. God is finding the balance, to live within this contradiction, to follow one’s Dharma, to open one’s heart and love selflessly, while being open to the suffering that comes with it, constantly seeking the light of knowledge from the darkness of ignorance, knowing that I am both the same as everyone else and unique.
That Freeman goes specifically to the city of Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Kasi, to understand the Hindu concept of God is not surprising. It is the most visited pilgrimage destination in all of India – and his desire to understand whether there is a universal concept of God that all people share starts with navigating the practices of one of the most ancient living traditions in the world. He is assisted in two different ways by two Hindu women from two countries:  on screen and in India, by Binda Paranjape, a Indian history professor at Banaras Hindu University, and on the editorial board and in America, by Suhag Shukla, the Executive Director of the Hindu American Foundation (Full disclosure: I sit on the board of the Foundation). He concludes his visit seemingly inspired by the way “believers have a spiritual fingerprint unique to each person,” and contrasts the monotheism of the West to the pluralism that is foundational to Hinduism: “on the surface, many gods…underneath the surface, a single divine energy.”
It is this pluralism that Diana Eck, professor of comparative religions and India studies at Harvard, and the Director of the Pluralism Project, wrote about in Banaras, City of Light, decades ago:
“…the compelling vision of the city as a thirtha – a sacred crossing place linking this world to the Transcendant…this great north Indian center of Shiva worship has had more than 3000 years of continuous habitation. Few standing buildings are older than the 16th century, however, as Muslim armies raiding from the 11th century onward destroyed the ancient Hindu temples and erected mosques on their foundations….this juxtaposition of mosque and temple right in the heart of the city, has been accommodated by Banarasis, both Hindu and Muslim, for over three centuries with far more peace than tension.”
Eck alludes to how one of the key temples in Varanasi, the Kasi Viswanath temple, is also home to the Gyanvapi mosque. In the 1600s, the Muslim ruler Aurangzeb destroyed the Hindu temple, and built a mosque – and in the 1700s, when Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore, a Hindu, came to power, she rebuilt the Hindu temple – but without destroying this mosque.  It is this ancient, inclusive and inherent pluralism of Hinduism that gives me the answer to “Who is God?” – an idea, a practice, a place of peace, that allows for houses of worship from two different religions to live side by side, for several hundred years.
The timelessness of the Hindu understanding of God, with its inclusive, pluralistic understanding is clearly in contrast to a binary, exclusive one that more easily gives rise to conflict and exclusion. I can worship Vishnu as Rama, Krishna or another avatar, or God in yet another form altogether – or I can meditate on a form that is “neither male nor female, that is faceless and nameless,” as described by Prof. Paranjape.  As HAF Executive Council member Fred Stella, an interfaith leader in Grand Rapids, points out, “Some religious traditions find their strength in uniformity and conformity. Hinduism, I believe, draws from its inherent pluralism that simultaneously acknowledges the seemingly divergent doctrines of sharing an underlying cosmic unity yet expressing our individual lives in wild variety. This not only allows for freedom of belief on the nature of God, it demands it.”

Posted by Ben Irwin | April 27, 2016
To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We had never met our Muslim hosts prior to visiting their suburban mosque. We had never met the pastors who chose to accompany us, either. We had no idea how the discussion would go.  During this year’s Q conference, a gathering of Christian thought-leaders in Denver, we hosted a conversation about how we can love our Muslim neighbors in the midst of a cultural moment dominated byISISIslamophobia, and all-around fear.
But we knew that any meaningful dialogue would be impossible if it did not include members of the Muslim community. One thing we’ve learned in our years of waging peace: talking with someone is always better than talking about them.So with the help of our friends at Peace Catalyst, we reached out to a Denver-area mosque. Without hesitation, the imam invited us to come-and to bring as many Christian leaders as we could. The imam welcomed us without even knowing us. He opened the doors of his mosque to us, sight unseen.
We would later learn that our host, Imam ShemsAdeen, has a history of leaning into conversations like these, offering generous hospitality and welcome to anyone who is willing to engage. On our ride to the Islamic center, we took a quick survey. Most of us (including myself) had never set foot inside a mosque before. Most of us did not have a single Muslim friend. In other words, we are a lot like our fellow Americans-nearly two thirds of whom do not know a Muslim personally.
We pulled into a parking lot in a perfectly ordinary suburban neighborhood. We took off our shoes as we entered the mosque, our Muslim hosts greeting us warmly as we did. We were ushered into a room filled with sweets, snacks, coffee, and tea. After several minutes of casual conversation, we took our seats and began a more intentional dialogue. Imam ShemsAdeen encouraged us not to hold back. No question was off-limits, he assured us.
So we talked about head coverings. (The hijab, we learned, is more than an article of clothing. It is a character trait, one meant to be cultivated by women and men alike in Islam.)
We talked about violence and martyrdom. The treatment of women. How Islam had come to abolish slavery over time (not unlike Christianity). We talked about abrogation-how some verses in the Quran supersede others. We talked about how Muslims interpret and apply their sacred text, and how Islamic revelation came over the course of several years and not all at once-which is important to keep in mind when you’re wrestling with difficult or troubling passages (much as it is with Jewish and Christian revelation, both of which also have their share of challenging texts). We asked what compels someone to join a terror group like ISIS. Imam ShemsAdeen recalled a conversation he had with a researcher who had interviewed more than 100 former ISIS fighters and found they had two things in common: (1) most were isolated from their societies, and (2) most were ignorant about the teachings of Islam. We heard what it feels like to be on the defensive all the time, constantly pressured to renounce acts of violence that you had no part in committing. Our hosts wanted to know why non-Muslims aren’t held to a similar standard. What about the murder of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina last year? What about the Norway shootings, perpetrated by a man who described himself as “100 percent Christian”? When confronted with these acts of terror, Christians do not feel obligated to speak for the whole church and say, “These killers do not represent us.” So why should the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims be made to feel this way? Why should they be held to a different standard? We wrestled with the way many of us, including the media, talk about terrorism as if it were exclusively a Muslim problem-and how we tend to use other, softer words when talking about crimes committed by non-Muslims. Instead of “terrorists,” we call them “gunmen.” Instead of “extremist,” we say they were “troubled.” We talk this way, even though the vast majority of terrorist acts committed since 1970 have nothing to do with Islam-well over 90 percent, according to multiple estimates looking at terrorism in the U.S.Europe, and worldwide.  Religiously motivated terrorism is a real concern, but even if every terrorist act over last 40-plus years had been carried out by a Muslim individual-which is not even close to being the case-terrorists would represent less than 0.009% of the Muslim population. Yet they occupy a much higher portion of our public conversation about terrorism.  We discussed areas of common ground between Christianity and the Muslim faith. “If you don’t believe in Jesus and the virgin birth, then you’re not a Muslim,” Imam ShemsAdeen told us. Most importantly, we talked about how Christians and Muslims can love one another. Often, the first step is simply to pick up the phone or walk across the street. “Reach out to a mosque in your area,” the imam told us. “There are mosques around the country that would love to have these conversations and ask the important questions.” We left determined to do just that. We walked away with greater appreciation for our Muslim neighbors. We said goodbye with a profound sense of gratitude for their kindness.
Much like their hijab is more than a piece of clothing, their hospitality was more than just the food they laid out for us. It’s the way they move through the world. It’s the the way they open their doors to friends and strangers alike, warmly receiving those who are willing to step inside, questions and all.
I’d like to think we also left with a heightened awareness of what it takes to wage peace one heart at a time, beginning with our own.

Nearing 97, interfaith dialogue pioneer still a ‘trailblazer’
As a young Irish priest in 1944, William Treacy raised his hand when his bishop asked for volunteers to help out for a while in a U.S. archdiocese short of priests because of the world war.
Little did he know that his temporary assignment in the Seattle archdiocese would last the rest of his life. Nor did he imagine he would become a Pacific Northwest media personality, the founder of a 200-acre facility dedicated to interreligious dialogue, a sought-after speaker, a widely read author, and beloved pastor.
Treacy, who turns 97 on May 31, is still going strong — residing at the Treacy Levine Center he helped establish in 1966, presiding at Masses weekly, witnessing marriages, celebrating funerals, leading retreats and writing.
And, he says, continuing to do all he can to encourage “unity and harmony in the human family” through dialogue, common cause and mutual respect.
To read the rest of this article, please go to the website listed below.

WISDOM Mission Statement

To Provide concrete modeling of women from different faith traditions working together in harmony for the common good.
To Empower women to take a more active role in furthering social justice and world peace.
To Dispel myths, stereotypes, prejudices and fear about faith traditions different from our own.
To Nurture the growth of empathy and spiritual energy that result from our projects and interfaith dialogue.


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WISDOM’s challenge is to bring together people from different faith traditions, ethnicities, races, and cultures in an atmosphere of safety and respect to engage in educational and community service projects. Let’s change our world through the positive power of building relationships!