The discussion continues – Believe, Behave or Be One?

The Triple Gem. Photo courtesy Steve Lee.

Editor’s Note: Writer Steve Lee liked this week’s Viewpoint’s question so much he decided to write an extended response below.

Steve Lee

By Contributor Steve Lee

Consider the various ways in which a faith may be lived: belief, behavior, or “belonging.”

For some faiths, belief is paramount. I once heard, for example, the evangelist Franklin Graham proclaim, “If you cannot name the day, hour, and minute when you declared your undying belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you are doomed to eternal life in Hell.”

Buddhism is popularly seen as an exception to this kind of salvatory faith. Perhaps you’ve seen the refrigerator magnets that market this concept of Buddhism’s supposed devaluation of faith? A popular version, quoting The Buddha, reads:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

I must admit: I have such a magnet on my own fridge…

But the quote, however, is a snippet taken out of context from a much

The Great Buddha statue, Kōtoku Temple, Kamaku...

The Great Buddha statue, Kōtoku Temple, Kamakura, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

longer passage of a sacred text called “The Kalama Sutta.” In this story, the Kalamas of Kesaputta province in northern India—apparently adherents of no particular faith—have been visited by a number of different religious teachers that we might call “missionaries.” Then, Siddharta Gautama comes to town, and the Kalamas decide to check out “Gotama the Contemplative,” the one we label The Buddha. Here’s a portion of the sutta that gives the context:

As they sat there, the Kalamas of Kesaputta said to the Blessed One, “Lord, there are some brahmans and contemplatives who come to Kesaputta. They expound and glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, revile them, show contempt for them, and disparage them. And then other brahmans and contemplatives come to Kesaputta. They expound and glorify their own doctrines, but as for the doctrines of others, they deprecate them, revile them, show contempt for them, and disparage them. They leave us absolutely uncertain and in doubt: Which of these venerable brahmans and contemplatives are speaking the truth, and which ones are lying?”

What follows is a teaching conversation between The Buddha and the Kalamas. Without reference to any particular belief system, he skillfully walks them through the logic of his own teachings and concludes with the tenets of his own system. What follows is how the commentator Bhikku Bodhi describes what happened:

The Buddha next explains that a “noble disciple, devoid of covetousness and ill will, undeluded” dwells pervading the world with boundless loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity. Thus purified of hate and malice, he enjoys here and now four “solaces”: If there is an afterlife and kammic result, then he will undergo a pleasant rebirth, while if there is none he still lives happily here and now. If evil results befall an evil-doer, then no evil will befall him, and if evil results do not befall an evil-doer, then he is purified anyway. With this the Kalamas express their appreciation of the Buddha’s discourse and go for refuge to the Triple Gem.

Read the entire sutta here.

In other words, The Buddha leads the Kalamas from their doubt to a belief in the power of The Buddha’s approach to salvation. This salvation, at its essence, is a new way of relating to the exigencies of life. The salvation offered by the Buddhist path is a way of relating to whatever life throws at you with openness, equanimity, grace, wisdom and compassion.

As for behavior and belonging, Buddhism does not discount either. Both are integral to the Buddhist path. In the quoted section above, the Kalamas are said to be going for “refuge in the Triple Gem.”

When someone becomes a Buddhist, they go through a ceremony of “Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem.” The Triple Gem is: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Initiates take refuge in The Buddha as a model, exemplar, and archetype of the possibilities of awakening to a new way of living. They take refuge in the Dharma—the teachings of the Buddha that exist in accordance with the natural laws of the universe. And they take refuge in the Sangha—the community of adherents and practitioners who support one another on the path to awakening.

There you have it—belief, behavior, and belonging: belief in Buddha and the example of his awakening; clarity of thought and behavior in and through the Dharma; and “being one—a “Buddhist”, that is—through refuge in the Sangha. In short, Buddhist practice values all three: belief, behavior, and belonging.

Belief Bytes: Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

A piece of the Buddha’s skull is on display in Hong Kong, the first time the relic has been shown outside mainland China. Photo courtesy of RNS.

Here is your Religion news roundup for today:

By David Gibson
c. Religion News Service 2012
Reprinted with permission

“Suspected child abusers in Orthodox Jewish circles shouldn’t have their names revealed because of the “tight-knit and insular” nature of the community, argues Brooklyn’s DA.

Charles Hynes said Orthodox communities are so familiar that identifying the suspects would likely identify the victims.

Oklahoma authorities are investigating whether the executive director of The Voice of the Martyrs, an international Christian ministry, killed himself amid allegations he’d molested a 10-year-old girl.

Jews in Hollywood are standing by Mel Gibson despite his past, ahem, issues with anti-Semitism and his current brouhaha with screenwriter Joe Eszterhas over their “Judah the Maccabee” project.”

Read the rest of the article here.

-Samantha Freda, Wilmington Faith and Values news intern

NOTE TO OUR READERS: Change is coming. Change is good.

The WilmingtonFAVS Mobile, side view. Photo by Amanda Greene

Dear readers,

I just wanted to let you know about some changes you’ll be seeing on WilmingtonFAVS in the next few days.

First of all, we’re not going anywhere. You will find all your great faith news and views at WilmingtonFAVS.com. My email is the same at Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com. My phone number remains 910-520-3958.

But we’re going to look different; more professional.

You’ll be able to search for articles by the topic you’re interested in instead of articles being all in one stream.

You’ll be able to submit articles, obituaries, calendar items and press releases using our online forms.

And it’s pretty! It showcases our local photos and videos of faith happenings in many different ways.

It’s fancy, we know. This community is worth it!

One thing that will change is the subscribe function. Right now, we have daily subscribers to the blog. I’d like to include those daily subscribers on our daily email digest on the new site until a subscriber function is ready there.

Thank you for reading and trusting WilmingtonFAVS.com as your source for community faith news in the Cape Fear region.

We’re building this site together!

Onward,

Amanda Greene, editor

Court says non-Jewish man can sue for anti-Semitic remarks

By STACY JONES and BEN HOROWITZ
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS)A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man who alleges he

endured anti-Semitic slurs can sue his former supervisors — even though he is not Jewish.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, N.J., sued the company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year.

Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., produced DVDs that appear to show supervisors Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli making such comments in his presence as “Only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven,” according to a state appeals court ruling handed down April 18.

The appeals court did not consider the merits of Cowher’s case, only whether he has standing to pursue it. The suit, alleging discrimination that created a hostile work environment, had been dismissed by a Superior Court judge who ruled that because Cowher was not a Jew, he could not sue.

However, the appeals court reversed the judge in its 3-0 decision, saying that if Cowher can prove the discrimination “would not have occurred but for the perception that he was Jewish,” his claim is covered by New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination.

The “proper question” in this case, the court said, is what effect the supervisors’ allegedly derogatory comments would have on “a reasonable Jew,” rather than on a person of Cowher’s actual background, which is German-Irish and Lutheran.

Employment attorneys say the ruling is significant in that it expands the scope of who can bring discrimination suits under the state law by allowing a person who is not actually a member of a protected class to pursue a claim.

The law has typically been used to protect people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality. Judges, like the one who initially ruled on the validity of Cowher’s suit, have sometimes dismissed cases when there’s a discrepancy between the alleged remarks and a person’s actual characteristics.

The alleged slurs occurred from January 2007 until May 2008, when Cowher left the company due to an unrelated disability, according to his attorney, Robert Scirocco.

Gingerelli, who still works for the company, and Unangst, who does not, could not be reached for comment. Both men denied that they perceived Cowher to be Jewish, the court said.

Unangst also said that “perhaps” he had commented to Cowher about “Jew money,” that he had called him a “bagel meister” and that he had used the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” as the ring tone for calls on his cell phone from Cowher, the appeals court said.

Cowher testified he had told both men to stop the comments, but they had not, the court said. Cowher’s attorney said Cowher is pleased with the ruling and intends to go forward with the case.

Cowher stayed on the job for more than a year after the alleged comments began because “he needed the work,” Scirocco said. He added that Cowher is now working as a truck driver for another company.

(Stacy Jones and Ben Horowitz write for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

Nixon felon and evangelical icon Charles Colson dies at 80

Chuck Colson in prison. Photo via Religion News Service archives.

By DAVID MARK and ADELLE M. BANKS
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON (RNS) Charles W. Colson, the Watergate felon who became an evangelical icon and born-again advocate for prisoners, died Saturday (April 21) after a brief illness. He was 80.

Despite an early reputation as a cutthroat “hatchet man” for President Richard M. Nixon, Colson later built a legacy of repentance, based on his work with

Prison Fellowship, a ministry he designed to bring Bible study and a Christian message to prison inmates and their families.

Colson founded the group in 1976 upon release from federal prison on Watergate-related charges. Prison reform and advocating for inmates became his life’s work, and his lasting legacy.

Colson had undergone surgery on March 31 to remove a pool of clotted blood on his brain. On Wednesday (April 18), Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske told staff and supporters that Colson’s health had taken a “decided turn” and he would soon be “home with the Lord.”

Due to his illness, for the first time in 34 years, he did not spend Easter Sunday preaching to prisoners, his ministry said.

”For more than 35 years, Chuck Colson, a former prisoner himself, has had a tremendous ministry reaching into prisons and jails with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said evangelist Billy Graham in a statement. “When I get to Heaven and see Chuck again, I believe I will also see many, many people there whose lives have been transformed because of the message he shared with them.

He will be greatly missed by many, including me. I count it a privilege to have called him friend.”

In many ways, Colson’s life personified the evangelical ethos of a sinner

in search of redemption after a dramatic personal encounter with Jesus. He also embodied the evangelical movement’s embrace of conservative social issues, although often as a happy warrior.

Today, Prison Fellowship has more than 14,000 volunteers working in

President George W. Bush listens to Robert Sut...

President George W. Bush listens to Robert Sutton, left, a graduate of the Prison Fellowship Ministries InnerChange Freedom Initiative, during a roundtable discussion in the Roosevelt Room Wednesday, June 18, 2003. The initiative is is part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice System and the new prisoner reentry and treatment program proposed by the Department of Justice. White House photo by Tina Hager (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

more than 1,300 prisons across the country. More than 150,000 prisoners participate in its Bible studies and seminars every year.

The organization founded by Colson also provides post-release pastoring for thousands of ex-convicts, and supplies Christmas gifts to more than 300,000 kids with a locked-up parent through its Angel Tree program.

Colson also founded Justice Fellowship, to develop what he called Bible-based criminal justice, and advocate for prison reform. In 1993, Colson won the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated the money to his ministry.

As recently as February, Colson was still contributing to political debates, writing an open letter with fellow evangelical leader Timothy George that criticized the Obama administration’s health care contraception mandate.

”We do not exaggerate when we say that this is the greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime,” he wrote with George, comparing the mandate to policies of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

In 2009, Colson was a chief architect of the “Manhattan Declaration,” which advocated grass-roots resistance to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. He called the manifesto “one of the most important documents produced by the American church, at least in my lifetime.”

”The Christian’s primary concern is bringing people to Christ,” Colson told Christianity Today magazine in 2001. “But then they’ve got to take their cultural mandate seriously. We are to redeem the fallen structures of society.”

Colson also was a key figure in Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a network of religious leaders who found common ground supporting a “culture of life” and reaffirmed their stance in 2006 when they called abortion “murder.”

Religion was far from Colson’s mind during his early adult life, when his main passion was politics. A Boston native, Colson showed early signs of political acumen as a star debater in high school.

After graduating from Brown University, Colson enlisted in the Marines and rose to the rank of captain. Following law school and a stint in the Pentagon, Colson worked on Capitol Hill as a top aide to Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, R-Mass.

After serving on Nixon’s 1968 election team, Colson was appointed by the newly elected president as special counsel to the president. During Nixon’s first term, he was known as Nixon’s feared but respected “hatchet man.”

Colson once bragged of a willingness to “walk over my grandmother if necessary to assure the President’s reelection,” and was roundly known within the Nixon administration as the “evil genius.”

”I was known as the toughest of the Nixon tough guys,” he said in 1995.

Nixon himself described Colson as one of his most loyal aides. “When I complained to Colson I felt confident that something would be done, and I was rarely disappointed,” the former president wrote in his memoirs.

Among other activities, Colson helped set up the “Plumbers” to plug news leaks. The Plumbers engaged in illegal wiretapping of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex, triggering the scandal that took down the Nixon White House.

Colson was also involved in the creation of the Special Investigations Unit, whose members broke into the office of Dr. Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist of Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, who had given copies of the Pentagon Papers, a secret account of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, to newspapers.

Nixon aides justified the break-in on the grounds of national security, but

Colson later admitted that the agents were trying to dig up damaging information about Ellsberg before his espionage trial.

As the Watergate scandal mushroomed, Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 1974, and the felony led him to serve seven months of a one- to three-year sentence at Alabama’s Maxwell Prison as Prisoner 23226.

Colson later said he became a Christian before going to jail, and his time behind bars cemented his faith.

”There was more than a little skepticism in Washington, D.C., when I announced that I had become a Christian,” he said in 1995. “But I wasn’t bitter. I knew my task wasn’t to convince my former political cronies of my sincerity.”

In addition to his work with Prison Fellowship, Colson authored more than 30 books that sold more than 5 million copies, including his seminal 1976 autobiography, “Born Again.”

Colson became an evangelist for better prison conditions and championed what he called “restorative justice,” in which nonviolent criminals should stay out of jail, remain in the community where they committed their crime, and work to support their families and pay restitution to the victim.

Colson also forcefully advocated President Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office in 1998 over what he called perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Newspaper series focuses on clergy’s role on both sides of Amendment One debate

David Scott

By Blogger David Scott
Politics + Religion

The Durham Herald-Sun is running a three-part series on how clergy are involved in the Amendment One debate.

Starting on Sunday (April 22) and continuing Monday (April 23) and Tuesday (April 24), the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper is running a series about how clergy are involved on both sides of the debate about Amendment One, North Carolina’s proposed change to the constitution for marriage between one man and one woman.

I recommend these articles to our readers.

WilmingtonFAVS: 910-520-3958

Belief Bytes: Monday’s Religion News Roundup

Here is your Religion New’s roundup for today:

Noah mosaic. Courtesy of RNS archives.

By Daniel Burke
c. Religion News Service 2012
Reprinted with permission

“Lots of interesting obits and encomia over the weekend for Chuck Colson, the Watergate felon turned evangelical advocate for prisoners.

A church-state watchdog filed a formal complaint with the IRS alleging that the Catholic Diocese of Peoria violated rules barring tax exempt organizations from opposing political candidates when Bishop Daniel Jenky compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin.

University of Notre Dame faculty have drawn up a petition asking for Jenky to resign from the university’s Board of Fellows if he is unwilling to publicly and “loudly” renounce “this destructive analogy.”

Some Liberty University students and alumni are protesting plans to have Mitt Romney deliver the commencement address next month. “Liberty University should have gotten a Christian to speak not someone who practices a cult,” said one student.”

Read the rest of the article here.

-Samantha Freda, Wilmington Faith and Values news intern

VIEWPOINTS: What’s more important to your faith – believing, behaving or belonging?

By AMANDA GREENE
Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

A new survey out last week from the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs has some sobering figures about millennials leaving Christianity behind.

“A Generation in Transition: Religion, Values and Politics Among College-Age Millennials” said while only 11 percent of the millennials surveyed were religiously unaffiliated as children, now 25 percent identify as religiously unaffiliated. Catholics and mainline Protestant denominations lost the most footing among millennial membership.

At the same time, some Americans in middle age are returning to the faiths of their youth.

So this week’s Viewpoints deals with a human’s core desire when involved in a belief system or no faith at all:

What’s more important to your faith- believing, behaving or belonging?

David Scott

David Scott

I assume, in this context, that believing means religious belief or faith. If that’s the case, believing is not that important to me. In my case, I would prefer to define believing as having confidence that the spiritual and social beliefs I had were moral, logical and best for the common good. Without this type of belief system, my life would seem empty, meaningless and without purpose.

My first impulse to this answer is to reply “Behavior is by far the most important,” and I guess that comes close to what I think. What good is a religion or faith if it allows its adherents to behave poorly? What good is a belief system that allows its followers to justify criminal means to reach a selfish, misguided, or even a noble end? In modern society, we observe a series of perennial “holy jihads” fought by religious fundamentalists of all stripes who are convinced that his god is on his side. If a god condones this type behavior, what good is he?

Belonging is important to most people in that it helps to affirm one’s worth, gives identity, and provides many social advantages. Conversely, belonging can also have a corrupting influence on an individual, if that person finds himself belonging to a group that adopts a doctrine that is immoral, unenlightened, or counter to achieving the common good. In my observation, many groups, religions, political parties, or cults have seduced good individuals and indoctrinated them to become robotic monsters—puppets of groupthink or mob psychology.

Steve Lee

Steve Lee

In short, Buddhist practice values all three: belief, behavior, and belonging. Belief, behavior, and belonging: belief in Buddha and the example of his awakening; clarity of thought and behavior in and through the Dharma; and “being one—a “Buddhist”, that is—through refuge in the Sangha. Read Steve Lee’s expounded post on how Buddhist texts inform the values of believing, behaving and belonging later today on WilmingtonFAVS.

Philip Stine

Philip Stine

In the stream of Christianity where I grew up, right belief was all important. You had to believe in certain things, e.g. the resurrection, the need for personal salvation, or a triune God, to be a “real Christian.” I learned later that right belief is hardly even biblical. What is required is right relationships: we are to love God with our whole being, and we are to love what God created, specifically, our fellow human beings. Behaving and belonging are natural results of the these relationships. If we love others, we will act in certain ways, and instead of creating divisions, we will see how we are joined together.

Christine Moughamian

Christine Moughamian

In the context of faith or no faith at all, it seems belief would determine behavior and belonging.

A friend of mine once told me about a tragedy that happened a decade earlier to her son, then in his early twenties. When he was at a large public event, a young man stepped out of the crowd and held him up at gunpoint.

Her son was so shocked, he cried: “Are you going to shoot me?”

The mobster hesitated a fraction of a second; then shot.

Although he gravely wounded my friend’s son, he missed killing him, by a fraction of a… doubt?

The police later reported the mobster was required to kill four people that day, in cold blood, to gain admission in a street gang.

The mobster’s hesitation proved to me that he was not motivated by belief in a certain set of values but by a desire to belong.

A desire so strong that it drove him to attempt murder.

At the other end of the spectrum, I attended a retreat in August 2009 with Thich Nat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who founded the Unified Buddhist Church. He gave a lecture on the Three Jewels of Buddhism: The Buddha (the teacher), The Dharma (the teaching), The Sangha (the community of believers). He emphasized the importance of belonging to a community of believers. That tenet echoed everything I’d heard before in my Yoga training.

Swami Satchidananda put it this way: “Associate yourself with like-minded people.”

In the two Christian churches I’ve belonged to in Wilmington, studies showed “fellowship” was the number one reason people became members.

Discrimination of belief is paramount since it dictates behavior. Without belief, behavior and belonging balanced as a solid tripod, we might be condemned to play musical chairs.

Amanda Greene: 910-520-3958 or on Twitter @WilmFAVS

BRIEF: Two locations scheduled for National Day of Prayer next week

Prayer Mormon

Boy praying (Photo credit: More Good Foundation and Wikipedia)

The Wilmington citywide observance of The National Day of Prayer will be in two locations at noon on May 3: in downtown Wilmington in the courtyard beside the Main County Library on the corner of Third and Chestnut street, and the second location is Hugh MacRae Park on South College Rd. Each observance will include music and prayer and will last until approximately 1 p.m. There will be prayer for national leaders, local leaders, communities, military, families and many more topics. There will also be opportunities for attendees to pray.

Details: contact Dale Miller at 910-763-2452.

– Amanda Greene

BRIEF: Temple of Israel plans an “Invite your neighbor” service

The Temple of Israel is planning its first Invite Your Neighbor Shabbat service at 8 p.m. on May 4 at 1 S. 4th St. The service will include explanations of Jewish prayers and customs and a “Torah Roll” (a close-up look at and explanation of the Torah scroll).

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, courtesy StarNews file photo by Paul Stephen

“Many people are curious about Judaism and often aren’t sure if they are even allowed to enter a Temple or attend a service,” said Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, spiritual leader of Temple of Israel, Wilmington’s reform Jewish house of worship. “Of course they are always welcome, and this is a great chance to reach out to people, both unaffiliated Jews and those who are not Jewish.”

Details: 910-762-0000.

– Amanda Greene