Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Quandary Over Our Culture

It was reported in the newspaper that Iran was sending up a satelitte. Although the range was not to be feared, the West is still fearful of Iran's intention in regards to nuclear weapons. This fear is well-grounded through experience and the perception that Iran's president has toward the West.

Iran, as well as other strict Islamic states, do not affirm the human, but God. God is to be revered above all else, and disrupts Islam's life for prayer many times during the day. While strict tradition can limit the diversity of the 'human", so can politically oppressive regimes. The politically ideological are focused on thier own way of life at the expense of another's expression and understanding. The politically ideological also limit diverse expression of the human.

We are in a quandary in the West with many countries on the verge of bankruptcy and our own cultural demise. Many think that the West is dying and are seeking spiritual renewal. While this may help a few, I don't think that it will affect most of the cultural elites, as thier interests would not even expose them to "the revivalists". Neither will tradition's tradition help alleviate the demise. The cultural elites are those who are our policy makers and power brokers. These are not impressed by "strict traditional understandings of faith".

Tradition and revivalism is based on the supernatural. Scientific understanding is not open to such "superstition". So, there must be educated believers in all areas of "life". These believers are not radicals, but are rational in their beliefs. These have an understanding of broad issues of history, culture, and politics. These people seek to make a difference in "real life" not the "by and by".

Just yesterday I got an e-mail about a Rabbi who heads up a National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. I was fascinated by it's vision, as it is inclusive of all religious traditions, while affirming all of learning. I find it hard to swallow that one should "cut off" learning because it has led one "astray" from a speicifed "faith understanding". If all truth is God's truth, then the only thing to be cautious about is the perversion of truth. Understanding life this way means that we are open to all of learning and struggle and seek how to understand learning within an open universe, where God is not defined in limited ways, and all human learning is a way of understanding life. It is not about right, and wrong, but about cultures, peoples, and humanity at large.

Some are of the opinion that one must hold to a certain view to be "saved" or "right with God". This is a very narrow way to understand life and limits those within it "confines" to tradition's understanding, without coming to terms with one's own personhood. That is not to say that some may find themselves most at home and comfortable in such an atmosphere, but,it is not for everyone.

The West's concern over it's culture should be one about the humanities, as the humanities are about the human. The humanities are the creative avenue of expression that makes the difference between man and animal. And the humanities are as diverse as the people who create them and they are expressive of the diversity within the universe. The humanities enlarge the heart and express the transcendent. One of our presidents, John F. Kennedy, has gifted our nation's capital with the "Kennedy Center for the Arts", a place where many can gain a glimpse of the transcendent from a life below.

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