Good morning! I am guest blogging here this week so that some of the regular crew can get a break. It's the least a Buddhist can do.
Today is the observance of the annual cease fire on the war on Christmas. In celebration, people wallow waist deep in shredded gift wrap and prepare the armistice feast.
Seems to me Our Side -- representing religious liberty, diversity, and tolerance -- gained some ground this year. This past week Jonathan Tilove of Newhouse News Service noted that our new Congress will be the most religiously diverse in history. For the first time, Jews will outnumber Episcopalians. For the first time, Congress will include one Muslim and two Buddhists.
Most remarkably, six new members of Congress -- all Democrats, naturally -- are religiously unaffiliated. Whoa. I don't know who they are, but I salute the voters who sent these six to Washington without giving a bleep about their religion.
I want to give a big Christmas morning shout out to our atheist and agnostic brothers and sisters, who must face this day with a certain degree of, um, ambivalence. You are not alone. Well, maybe you are alone, physically, or not, but be assured there are many others in the same nonreligious boat, even if they've had to keep their heads down in recent years. Someday an atheist will win a congressional election. You and I may not live to see it, but I have faith that it will happen. In the meantime, Sam Harris explains Ten Myths and Ten Truths About Atheism. You might also enjoy reading about The Brit Who Avoids Christmas.
For those looking for a little drop of spirituality in the ocean of commercialism, I recommend "The Peaceful Crusader " by Thomas Cahill in today's New York Times. Cahill remembers the great bodhisattva Francis of Assisi, who joined the Fifth Crusade to be a peacemaker between Christians and Muslims. He failed. But, writes Cahill, "his failure is still capable of bearing new fruit." Cahill continues,
Islamic society and Christian society have been generally bad neighbors now for nearly 14 centuries, eager to misunderstand each other, often borrowing culturally and intellectually from each other without ever bestowing proper credit. But as Sir Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, has written, almost as if he was thinking of Kamil and Francis, “Those who are confident of their faith are not threatened but enlarged by the different faiths of others. ... There are, surely, many ways of arriving at this generosity of spirit and each faith may need to find its own.” We stand in desperate need of contemporary figures like Kamil and Francis of Assisi to create an innovative dialogue. To build a future better than our past, we need, as Rabbi Sacks has put it, “the confidence to recognize the irreducible, glorious dignity of difference.”
I say Amen to that. And Merry Christmas.