There were two reasons for the light showing: one, some folks went to Washington DC to march in opposition to the Iraq war. The story of this protest got kind of lost in the Hurricane Rita news (and now that "Desperate Housewives" is back on and a celebrity couple got married I expect anti-war protests will get pushed out of the main-stream media.) But amid the devastation of another natural disaster in our country, it's important to remember that well over a hundred thousand people in the US spoke out about a disaster we can stop and lives that can be saved.
The second reason there were fewer at Sunday services was the appearance of the Dalai Lama at Rutgers. At least sixty members of the congregation went to hear his presentation. After receiving an honorary degree, the Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke about, well, peace. He urged people to make this the century in which we stop war. From the Times of Trenton:
"You are the new generation of the 21st century," he said. "Your responsibility is to bring peace. My century, the 20th century, was one of bloodshed, but this can be the century of peace."
To achieve this, he said, young people in the United States must develop self-confidence, awareness and a holistic view of the world. "It can't just be America, America, America," he said.
He said Americans must rethink a lifestyle that consumes too many resources compared to the rest of the world.
He offered comfort to students whose questions indicated hopelessness about the world situation, saying the world is becoming a better place.
"The protest here and across the world against the war in Iraq is an encouraging sign," he said. "There is a public movement of people who are concerned about peace and reconciliation."
He said war is expensive, potentially harmful to the entire globe because of today's technology, and an outdated concept because of the interdependence of the global economy.
"This is the new reality," he said. "We and they no longer exist, just we. The destruction of the other is the destruction of the self."
He will be denounced by some. He hates America, they will say, and our patriotism.
How sad, that one whose message is of peace and hope will be criticized and the warmongers will pat themselves on the back.
I'm sorry that so many had to miss services on Sunday morning, and not just because we sang one of my favorite hymns, Morning has Broken, either. The sermon topic was on creation stories and the place of science in religious teaching. It is an important subject this week. In Dover, PA, during the teaching of evolution, a school board official comes into the class to state that evolution is a theory and that there are other theories including Intelligent Design, and that students should keep an open mind. The parents of eight students sued to keep out of the classroom the mention of a religious concept, and the trial starts in a Harrisburg, PA federal court today.
Of course, the school board's words don't jibe with their assertion that Intelligent Design is not a religious teaching. From the LA Times: "Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on a cross for us," said board member William Buckingham, who urged his colleagues to include intelligent design in ninth-grade science classes. "Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?" You should stand up for what you believe, Mr. Buckingham, and I'll stand for what I believe. I just don't want your religious tenets taught to my kids in a public school.
If they really want students to keep an open mind, why are there not disclaimers in history class that history is written by the winners, and the losers may have a different interpretation of what happened? How about a disclaimer in physics that we haven't learned everything there is to know yet so there may be some changes in the future? How about teaching Pastafarianism?
I will be watching this trial as closely as the mainstream media allows. The line between church and state is becoming thinner by the day, and it scares me.
It was interesting hearing this issue discussed form the pulpit. The reverend talked about how our interpretations of science and religious teachings have changed over time. Creation myths have been around as long as humans have, and are used to explain what we don't yet understand. Our religion should provide a framework within which we can interpret science and these stories to find our own truths and our own peace. A good message for this Sunday morning.
So, attendance was a little light this Sunday, but the people who could not attend services had a day of hope also. Everyone was looking for their own truths- a clearer vision of our whole world, and peace.
"Peace is not just the mere absence of violence. . . . It is an attitude, a motivation based on compassion. Every action motivated by compassion is peace. Every act motivated by negative emotions like hatred, anger and jealousy is violence." - His Holiness, the Dalai Lama