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Showing posts from February, 2012

On Taoism

Following are the contents of another of our interfaith seminary take-home exams, which use Huston Smith's The World's Religions as a guidebook in addition to other sources as cited herein. 
TAOISM1.     Consider the story about Confucius meeting Lao Tzu.  What do you think is meant by his legendary remark, “Today I have seen a dragon?”
The quote attributed to Confucius following his meeting with Lao Tzu: “I know a bird can fly; I know a fish can swim; I know animals can run.  Creatures that run can be caught in nets; those that swim can be caught in wicker traps; those that fly can be hit by arrows.  But the dragon is beyond my knowledge; it ascends into heaven on the clouds and the wind.  Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and he is like the dragon!” 
A dragon is powerful, mysterious and mythical.  Confucius said that the dragon was beyond his knowledge, because the dragon lives in the realm of ideas and cannot be observed, categorized and defined.  Nonetheless, the image of the dra…

On Judaism

As I have done for our units on Hinduism and Buddhism, I am including the text of my take-home exam on Judaism.  All references to "Smith" are to the book, The World's Religions, by Huston Smith.  We use this as a base textbook, but we read scriptures and other source books for each of the faiths in preparing our exams and rituals.  The readings and site visits for the assignments are enriching, and I think it is useful to prepare these "cliff notes" style guides for each of the religions.  
JUDAISM1.         What are the four reasons Smith gives that history was of “towering significance” to the Jews?
A.The first reason is that life cannot be removed from the context in which it is lived.  All of the events described in the Hebrew bible come out of a particular context; similarly, the presentation of biblical characters is inextricably linked to the circumstances surrounding their lives.  Our lives also take form in response to events, and events have history to…

The Ethos of Lent

 Lent has a certain feel to it, and a specific cultural code.  My choice of Lenten "sacrifice" is gauche and offensive by pretty much any Catholic or Lutheran standard.  I knew this going in, more or less, but after attending Ash Wednesday services in our local Catholic parish yesterday, there could be no doubt in my mind that my new 40 day commitment is inappropriate for Lent.  Hearing the priest talk about "the extent of our depravity" and the way our Lenten sacrifices come to show us how helpless we are, I felt a little out of place to say the least. 

The bad habit I am sacrificing is celibacy within marriage.  Traditionally, people who observe Lent have done the opposite of what I have chosen to do; giving up sex for Lent is apparently more of a done thing than giving up marital laziness. 

It is noteworthy that Martin Luther, by historical accounts, did not advocate giving up sex for Lent and he and his wife apparently always had a very regular schedule of inti…