I recently decided to sign up for a certification course on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Studies. I didn’t know what Ecumenical meant until my first class, and I can still barely pronounce it, but even after just the first class, I feel a sense of great hope for the world. Hopefully I’m not just overexcited.
Why am I filled with such a sense of hope? After getting the Christianity 101 overview laid out for me, I realized that many of the world's problems, wars, and bloodshed could have been avoided if people just talked to each other. The initial split of the Catholic Church into eastern and western perspectives was due to Rome deciding to make a decision without consulting the four other Sees. Originally, there were five Sees that governed independently, but equally, and they included Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Sure, there was already fission growing within the Church, but by not discussing and consulting with the other as they had been doing all along ultimately split the church.
Later on, the Reformation began with Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. While some would like us to believe that that was his declaration of independence from the Catholic Church, it was in fact simply a request for "dialogue." The man just wanted to have an educated discussion about his questions and concerns!
As we have seen in history, and still today, power often makes people greedy for more power or to at least maintain their power. They will manipulate and abuse their powers so that they might flex their muscles to prove such power. When this happens, we need to remember the ultimate goal. As such, and despite separation of church and state, I am now convinced that it will take willing religious leaders from all sects working together to bring unity and peace to this world. Political leaders must work with religious leaders, because religious leaders who can set aside their stubbornness for certain traditions and schools of thought, can help all remember the ultimate goals and see the bigger picture.
During the Bosnian War, the heads of the three great religious communities of the former Yugoslavia--Patriarch Pavle, head of the Serbian Orthodox Church; Ra'is ul Ulama Jakub Selimoski of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Islamic community, and Vinko Puljic, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sarajevo--banded together to say this, "crime in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion." People like to use religion as a tool for selfish gains and egotistical desires, even leaders of a religion like Rome in 1054 A.D., but let us not confuse religion with people.
Today in the United States, it seems there are certain issues that we all argue over, but no one is really listening to the other side. We're talking, but we're not having a dialogue. If we could put aside our differences and our stubbornness, perhaps we could actually have a conversation that transforms into action. If we could stop hyper-focusing on the differences, and look at what really matters, perhaps we could actually move towards positive change.
Again, this was only my first class, so maybe as I learn more I'll change my mind. I'd like to think that I'm on to something though. Stay tuned as my revelations on this matter evolve.
BIG LOVE & HUGS