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Center for Religious Experience and Study

Two Comments
about the Many Paths essay,
"The World's Religions: Pieces or Patterns"
 Clarion Call, by Gene Flanery
Media Ascertainments, by Patrick Neas
copyright 2000 by Vern Barnet or the author, Overland Park, KS

Responses to the Many Paths essay "The World's Religions: Pieces or Patterns"

For a free copy of the eight-page essay which provoked these two responses, send a self-addressed envelope with a 33¢ stamp affixed to CRES, Box 45414, KCMO 64171. The essay considers a way of looking at “three families of faith” in the context of an increasingly secularistic society, how the faiths can be purified by mutual encounter, and  how the wisdom of the world’s religions can bring about healing of the environmental, personal, and social distress of our age.

Clarion Call

Vern, I have been personally involved in interfaith dialogue for about a year and a half here in Kansas City. Our church is in physical proximity to both the Hindu and Sikh temples in Shawnee, Kansas. We have had community dinners together with both groups and have found the experience exhilarating. A few members of our church now meet on a monthly basis with some of the Hindu and Sikh leaders and we are currently planning a community picnic in June.

I found your article fascinating. Comprehensive is the word that comes to my mind but I know you like the term holistic. So yes, it was holistic. The definition of terms such as profane, sacred, and worship were helpful in setting a good framework of what a God-centered world view would look like.

Your categorization of the world religions into primal, Asian, and monotheistic brought a greater sense of a clarity of role for each group. These distinctions as you have laid them out provide a solid basis of appreciation for the diversity that is represented in each group and a clear view of their contribution to society at large.
I found “The World Religions: Pieces or Pattern” to be personally challenging while at the same time encouraging. I keep asking myself as I read how much am I contributing to the larger issues afflicting our society such as pollution, violence, and other causes of fragmentation of our culture. It is so easy to disagree with what’s happening all around without seeing our own contribution to it through either neglect or ignorance. In a day when organized religion is looked on with such contempt in our society, you have given adherents of all religions a gift.

Your article clearly suggests that faith communities have a great deal to contribute to the making of a healthy and just society. May we only accept the clarion call that you have issued and go forth in the power of the Transcendent One and make a difference.

Finally, I appreciate the fact that your efforts at CRES are not to blend all the religions but to celebrate our difference. You state clearly that the world religions are not all one. That gives me the courage as a Christian to dialogue with people of other faiths without the fear of contaminating my own.

We at Pathways have found our faith strengthened by interaction wit people of other faiths just like you say. Thank you for your efforts.

God bless!
  Gene Flanery

Gene convenes Pathways, a group of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians that meet for dialogue and friendship building in the Kansas City area. He is a missionary with the Full Faith Church of Love — West.

Media Ascertainments

TA few weeks ago I attended a talk by Dr Andrew Weill, the well-known holistic medical doctor. He asked his audience to join him in a thought experiment designing the worst diet in the world.  After listing unhealthy foods which would comprise the diet like refined carbohydrates, excessive saturated fat, hormone and anti-biotic ridden meat, and tons of refined sugar, Dr Weill went on to list those foods which would be avoided, the healthy stuff: unsaturated oils, high quality protein like fish and soy products, whole grains and fruits and vegetables.

Of course, after all of this, the audience got Dr Weill’s point: The Worst Diet in the World is the typical American diet.

I thought of this after reading Vern Barnet’s “The World’s Religions: Pieces or Pattern?” in a recent issue of Many Paths. Barnet decried our society’s addiction to violence. Any thoughtful person must be troubled by the state of our culture. If one were to design the Worst Culture in the World, our contemporary American culture would serve as an excellent paradigm.

The Worst Culture in the World, first of all, would banish uplifting, ennobling and intellectually challenging entertainment to the ghettoes of PBS or artsy cable channels. The mainstream media — the media that 90% of the population watches and listens to — will avoid like the plague the glories of Western Civilization — and Eastern Civilization, too! There will be no mention of Bach, Buddha, John Coltrane, or Dickens.

Instead, the air waves will be filled with moronic sitcoms, gratuitously violent action shows and wrestling matches, hateful political commentary, misogynistic and self-hating rap music, loud and stupid pop and rock, vulgar and violent talk shows which will air in the afternoon just as children are coming home from school and — of course — endless sports. Endless, endless sports. To top it all off, these delightful programs will be interspersed with advertisements encouraging people to become mindless consumers.

Voila!  The Worst Culture in the World. American culture at the beginning of the 21st Century.
In his book, Dr Weill admits that junk food has appeal because it is tasty — we are biologically programmed to like fatty, sugary foods — and it’s addictive. The same can be said of our culture. Most people are hooked on the cheap thrills of violence and brainless entertainment which requires no mental effort.

I recently attended “ascertainments.” At ascertainments, representatives of local charities and social agencies address the local media and tell them what their needs are. An afternoon session is devoted exclusively to high school students who talk about their concerns. The particular group students at the recent ascertainments were very sharp and articulate. A common concern many of them had was the lack of arts coverage in the local media.

I suggested that just as local TV news devotes time to high school football, perhaps they could devote some time to the arts. This provoked a woman representing a local TV station to whip her head around and tell me in a very petulant tone “We cover high school football because Western Auto is willing to sponsor it. They aren’t interested in the arts.” I opined that it is a shame that Western Auto decides what is newsworthy.

After I said this, several other media people jumped in to put me in my place and explain to me the reality of the media today: the media are just giving people what they want; no one is interested in the arts and that is why they cannot find sponsors for the arts, etc.

The media have created a mindless herd addicted to their slop and now they blame the victims. It’s like a heroin pusher saying he’s only giving his customers what they want. I must admit I don’t know what the solution is. At least for those of us independent thinkers who have avoided becoming addicts, great culture can still be found. Just as you can bypass McDonald’s for a restaurant which serves healthy food, there still are choices we can make. We should avail ourselves of all the beauty we can while we can and, if possible, share it with others. We should also, like a voice in the wilderness, proclaim what is culturally great and point out unsparingly that which is bad.

Patrick Neas

Patrick’s voice is known throughout Kansas City as the host of the Morning Show on KXTR.