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  • Deacon Dan Wright serves the Diocese of Austin, Texas. His work outside the parish is as a special education teacher serving students with significant cognitive disabilities.



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June 08, 2007



Personally, I am not bothered at all to see a Hindu heading a religion department at a Christian university.

Well, not to be thought a flaming alarmist or anything, but isn't that pretty much what happened in Europe? "Diversity." Especially diversity that finds it necessary to slam Christianity. Pretty soon, we'll be reading Starhawk et al with new eyes (oh wait..we already are!), and I'll just have to hope, in the midst of pretty and Christless diversity, that my children's grandchildren will never have to ask their mom why she's wearing a burkha when Americans once didn't have to.


That possibly seems closed-minded to some, but the newest martyrs for this faith (we're supposed to be inviting into) aren't even cold in their graves. Where are our guts?

I know it bothers you that there is upset on the 'net, but pretty soon, after Ireland (hot for diversity in its newfound Celtic Tigerness) closes a few more churches -- into pubs -- the problem may resolve itself quite naturally off the 'net.

Hindu students in a Christian school is a potential good fruit of diversity; but a Hindu teacher of religion in a Christian school? That seems utter foolhardiness to me. Or have I misunderstood?


When Jesus said to Peter that satan had asked to sift him (and the others!), Jesus admonished him to remain alert. Jesus knew that satan wouldn't be kindly announcing all the ways he would indeed be sifting Peter.. and all the others. Tripwires can look so very warm and fuzzy, human..

And when He left that day on the mountain, He said to them and the many more and the many more to come, "All power in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Go and make disciples of all the nations." We're still standing there, gaping at clouds, but that commission is our assignment, clear cut, and sealed with chrism. He lived mercy and forgiveness and taught it and commanded it of His followers, but there was no addendum about diversity, except (to the Boanerges) that they were not to go and slay non-believers. "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him."

Deacon DW

Just a couple things to consider--I'll be as brief as a good homily.

St. Olaf college is a school of the ELCA--the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America--a denomination known for, dare I say, being somewhat liberal. My guess is that it's part of their ethos to be open to hiring the most qualified person regardless of his or her faith background.

Also, consider that Rambachan has been at St. Olaf for 22 years so he's no newcomer to the religion department. While I couldn't find much on the St. Olaf religion department's web page, from personal experience I know such departments to teach comparative religion, which is not quite the same thing as having the fellow be the head of Christian Theology or Church Doctrine. From my experience with ELCA Lutherans, I know that diversity is something they value a great deal. So their appointment of a Hindu to head their religion department makes sense--at least from the vantage of a school that promotes diversity.

Regarding diversity in itself, rather than being something warm and fuzzy that we do, the word describes the way things are. Diversity happens as people of different religion, ethnicity, and race come together in a common environment. As the world gets smaller respecting diversity becomes more important. Diversity is the situation--how we react to it demands a moral and ethical response. A world of trouble can come from overlooking our natural diversity.

Respecting diversity never requires anyone to "take a slam" or compromise what they believe. It has nothing to do with doctrine or dogma, but it has everything to do with saying "I accept you for who you are and I do not wish to change anything about you. Rather, I am open to learning more about your ways, your religion, and your culture." In being able to respect diversity we foster peace.

St. Olaf claims to be a college of the church. Martin Marty explains what that means.

A. Non

....Rambachan wrote, "It is only ignorance of other traditions or the refusal to be challenged by their claims which enables one to explain away religious pluralism by the naïve conclusion that one's own tradition is true to the nature of God and that all others are false."

Deacon  DW

Promoting diversity is not the same thing as insisting upon religious pluralism.

For me the question of pluralism has always been difficult. There is a tension, or theological difficulty, in accepting it wholeheartedly, at least in terms of remaining faithful to Catholic teaching. Pluralism was addressed in Dominus Iesus.

I'm not arguing in favor of pluralism--I don't believe that true pluralism is possible because at some point it turns into religious relativism. However, I strongly believe that we have to understand pluralism. We have to grapple with it, and if we find that we cannot accept the claims of pluralism then we must be prepared at least to accept diversity--realizing that the claims of others differ from our own, and accepting that we have no right to impose our beliefs on others in such a way to devalue their beliefs--and be able to live peacefully with a world of difference.


Impose our beliefs? So, you're saying you have bought into evangelization as "imposing our beliefs"? Semantics is often just a fun way of saying "sifting." Human words want to split hairs enough so as to make all things acceptable, but there remains a beefy question that defies every sort of explanation but one: Do martyrs die for their beliefs, or for Truth?

"Do not think that the Son of Man has come to bring peace, but a sword.." The divisions are uncomfortable, but necessary. Emaciated, thirsting little Fr. Max Kolbe "imposed his beliefs on Nazis" until they injected him with acid, thinking they were doing him and the Church the greatest harm. Same for AB Romero and 1400 Jesuits in one century and all who died Catholic for a weak-kneed earthly king. What did the Church the greatest harm was the tepid-hearted; and diversity is what the men (and women?) of Sodom wanted when they asked for the 3 new pieces of meat in town to be sent out to be sampled. Diversity is only as good as its goodwill.

I have been best friends with a black Baptist girl, a sweet white Mormon-turned-Evangelical, a white JW-ex-Catholic, a Greek Orthodox kid, and I loved the Muslims at my work.. I love diversity, and I respect everyone, BUT.. I teach religion with Catholics, even those who couldn't be more diverse in all other ways, like the beautiful, sweet Rwandan widow.

I realize I'm pretty heavy duty here, and I've been known to surprise a few out in the eyeball-to-eyeball world as well, but have you by any chance noticed that as open as you are to hearing about others' religion, or "faith tradition" (dear God, forgive me but that phrase grates on me) they are not quite as open to listening to Catholicism?

Deacon  DW

What I said was "impose our belief on others in such a way to devalue their beliefs." This is not to say that we cannot share our faith, both in word and deed. Really, we have a command to share the gospel with all the world. However, we have to adapt our methods to times and situations. Our times are calling for considerations that may have only begun to be made.

It may seem like a merely semantic argument or difference, but the words evangelism and evangelization are not the same. I used to wonder why Catholics did not say "evangelism," but it really became clear upon reading Evangelii Nuntiandi. There is much more to evangelizing than making a convert or even preaching to the heathens. True evangelization is a process of converting the human heart to the image of Christ; it is a process that we both share and participate in simultaneously.

I say my faith is truth, and other religions say the same. Martyrs die for truth--this is the same whether you're talking about Christian martyrs, Islamic martyrs or Hindu martyrs. It's the difficulty that we're being called upon in our times to address in a manner that does not erupt into the next world war.

The thing that appeals most to me about Maximilian Kolbe is that he gave his life so that another might live. Ask me and I'll tell you that's the real gist of truth. No greater love has anyone than to lay down one's life for one's fellows. Might we say "no greater truth?"


First, find the truth in what you oppose and the error in what you espouse.
Then and only then can you declare the truth in what you espouse and the error in what you oppose.

Robert J. Nash, Real World Ethics


Thank you for that clarification, DDW, my heart is eased. And I hear you..when the most recent two young men in white shirts and ties and backpacks came to my door, I said yes, they could still give me a brochure, and added that I appreciate their love for God and man, and I appreciate their courage in going door to door to try to make life truly better for others. I am always aware that Jesus said to a nice young man, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God.."

And indeed, Fr. Kolbe laid down his life for another - few of us get such a concrete example to live. Would you or I have done that in order to spell a man who couldn't bear to die just then? I'd like to think so. The one thing that allows me to think so is knowing that Fr. Kolbe laid life down for others well before he laid it down in finality. Priests and all clergy and Religious lay down their lives for us every day, and parents lay down their lives for their children, and spouses for each other, and friends do so also, sometimes. And many soldiers, too, yes.

As for Nash's statement, Joanne, a Catholic doesn't speak to what one personally opposes, and one doesn't espouse only what one personally believes-- that is what politicians do; but I know what you're saying, so I suggest there's a word missing from his statement: best. "Then and only then can you best declare.." But this Truth is the only truth on earth, and He lives with or without others' verbal dexterity (for which such as I must be most grateful).

Deacon  DW

Without directing this toward Gypsy, or Joanne, or anyone else who might be following occurred to me that Nash's statement is the logical equivalent of something someone else said:

First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Spiritually speaking, somewhere I've been living for the last several weeks is with the simple Jesus sayings like the one above. I think in a lot of ways they offer us the best picture of how to live our lives.

It's not that they are anything extra to or separate from what the Church teaches us. It's not that we can disregard Church teaching or ever forget the price paid for our salvation, which is embodied in the living, unchanging, undeniable, truth of the Catholic Church.

It's just for some reason, spiritually--I don't know why really--I've been hanging out with the simple things that Jesus taught us, like how to be a good Samaritan; how to forgive the worst sinners (let the one without sin cast the first stone); how to pray short and meaningful prayers (Our Father);how not to judge others; how not to worry about tomorrow, and how to love without condition. Certainly, I'm not there yet...


Well, I find that I am Deacon Dan, then, except without the good looks.

I maintain, however, that to say that a Hindu shouldn't be teaching religion in a Christian school is not merely shoving my own planks over so that I can see who I'm yelling at. It's valid questioning of whether it's a case of diversity or of Christian failure or slumbering. All the alleged Christian Jeffersonians who nodded in great pleasure to the diversity of a neo-Muslim's choice of truth to be sworn into U.S. office on, should know that they have not embraced diversity.. they have placed Jesus, God and Man, into the paper shredder, and will reap exactly that crop.

(To ask, "Where are our guts??" IS somewhat to judge, tho', considering I don't know for sure what all anyone is or isn't doing to forward Christ's agenda.. the cleared-eye saints always keep that quiet until after the fact.) Mea culpa. But.. satan creeps up on us more and more and more, we call it everything but danger.

Trust me, I don't have any choice but to live with His simple sayings. As for loving without condition, it's not possible. It is only possible to try, and to keep praying for that. There is, until resurrection, only one spot on earth where Unconditional Love exists. It is made of splinter-ed, spike-d and thorn-ed -- but risen -- Flesh and Blood.


What incredible timing. Love you, dd, and looooooove you, gypsy, you know that.

Have opened an inter-religious page on my blog just last night. Not much on it yet, but it is a subject very close to my heart. Ack, gypsy, get away from me with that hammer...:)


If one mentions peace proponents, many names are applicable. If one mentions social justice, again, many names. If one mentions contemplation, the same: many names come into it and hold it up. When one mentions salvation, however, the name of Christ must be there, lest we make liars not only of self but of all on the earth and under the earth and all throughout Heaven who bow to that Name which is above all.

I'll have a look at your new page again soon, G. Last night I tried to, but my tired was bigger than my best intention.

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