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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Texas Faith - Role of religious faith when there are no good choices

Wayne Slater/Reporter    Bio |  E-mail  | News tips

When a Catholic hospital in Phoenix recently terminated a pregnancy to save the life of the mother, the church acted. The bishop stripped the hospital of its affiliation with the diocese and excommunicated the nun who approved the abortion. The hospital said the 27-year-old mother would almost certainly died otherwise. But abortion runs counter to Catholic faith. And there's no doubt the bishop had the right to do what he did.

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times suggests the episode underscores a clash between two expressions of religious faith. Without litigating the deep and difficult issue of abortion itself (if we can), consider a broader question: What's the role of faith when there's no good choice? Sometimes doctrine says one thing but circumstances say another. What happens when both sides believe they have the fundamentals of faith on their side? How do we bring our faith to bear in situations where there is no good choice?
Our Texas Faith panel weighs in. And it's telling that two members invoke Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which is where we start with the panel's answers. Read on.

TEXAS FAITH: What's the role of religious faith when there are no good choices?

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
The pledge of allegiance defines the role of faith fairly well; it is to build cohesive societies, expressed as one nation under God (oneness) indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

When conflicting sides believe they have the fundamentals of faith on their side, division is an amicable outcome as a last resort in civil societies, whereas the intolerant societies will resort to harassment and oppression.

Pluralism is a culmination of an attitude in civility, if we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the genetic God given (or genetic) uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge for societies to function cohesively.
Indeed, every social, cultural and religious system has a built-in mechanism to sustain its cohesiveness, however when insecure men get threatened, the spirituality (humility) of religion gets knocked over and control aspect of fallible human beings takes over and sacrifice the very purpose of religion; cohesiveness.

Islam was endowed with such a mechanism to deal with issues that had no precedence or choice. The system was called Ijtihad, a process of achieving consensus among parties independent of a given understanding.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asked his followers to refer to Quraan for any questions that might come up after he was gone, if no answers were to be found, he said, check out my examples and if there isn't one, then consult among yourselves, struggle to be just and righteous.

That system was weakened nearly four centuries after death of the prophet. The rules were made to exclude those who did not subscribe to the ideas of men controlling knowledge and power. Thus a great tool of keeping the communities together got decimated.

Thanks to America and its spirit of freedom and fearlessness, the institution of ljtihad will flourish and influence the Islamic thinking around the world for Muslims to once again become participants and contributors towards the well being of societies at large.

Research is warranted to determine the factors that split the groups. There was one Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism once, not anymore. Even the smaller groups like Jainism, Judaism, and Sikhism have split into sub-groups and the process will continue with every group as they grow in size, as naturally as the amoeba.
How do we bring our faith to bear in situations where there is no good choice? We have to do our Ijtihad and focus on the purpose of religion; cohesiveness.

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