You gotta have faith for this re­li­gious mix

Com­pass: Pi­o­neer­ing City 10.05pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THIS three- part Com­pass se­ries on the ‘‘ quiet revo­lu­tion’’ in re­li­gion drowns in its own sanc­ti­mo­nious­ness and fails to an­swer the hard ques­tions.

The hor­rors per­pe­trated by or­gan­ised re­li­gion have been well doc­u­mented and any­thing that soothes ten­sions is worth hear­ing about. Too of­ten, though, the enor­mously pub­li­cised in­ter­faith di­a­logues, spon­sored at vast ex­pense by well- mean­ing gov­ern­ments ( in­clud­ing Aus­tralia’s), merely preach to the con­verted. Hate­filled ide­o­logues don’t at­tend five- star con­fer­ences; they go to stir­ring ral­lies to re­in­force their prej­u­dices.

This se­ries’ quiet revo­lu­tion con­cen­trates on re­li­gious peo­ple reach­ing out across creeds — and fea­tures a few who have adopted two, or even three, reli­gions at once — a Chris­tianBud­dhist and a Hindu- Bud­dhistChris­tian. The pro­gram’s so- called revo­lu­tion also en­com­passes the in­ter­faith move­ment, which cher­ryp­icks from all reli­gions and welds the pieces into a spir­i­tual whole of sorts.

Yet there ap­pears to be lit­tle ev­i­dence this multi- mov­able- faith is any­thing more than a blip, let alone a global revo­lu­tion.

This is the sec­ond part of the se­ries, and it con­cen­trates on that mul­tire­li­gious me­trop­o­lis New York, where some­thing called the In­ter- Faith Min­istries pro­vides a mul­ti­faith re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion and even or­dains min­is­ters.

It is rather a feat: many peo­ple spend their en­tire lives ab­sorb­ing one re­li­gion, whereas th­ese stu­dents study an ar­ray of faiths in seem­ingly speedy cour­ses ( al­though there is no men­tion of ex­actly how much time it takes to be­come an in­ter­faith min­is­ter).

The min­is­ters, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian au­thor Stephanie Dowrick, wear prayer stoles em­broi­dered with the sym­bols of many of the world’s reli­gions, in­clud­ing a Sufi heart with wings, the Chris­tian cross and a cir­cle of in­clu­sive­ness.

One cou­ple’s ser­mons in­cluded lit­tle bits from any num­ber of reli­gions, in­clud­ing Ju­daism, Bud­dhism and Is­lam, and some chant­ing with half- closed eyes. It all seemed a lit­tle woolly. Sadly, the pro­gram failed to note how many peo­ple fol­low this new re­li­gion ( or if it’s not a re­li­gion, this new move­ment), nor did it spec­ify how much the min­is­ters pay for their ed­u­ca­tion and or­di­na­tion.

It’s true the gen­tle moves of the re­ceived faiths to build bridges with other reli­gions are fer­tile ground for in­ves­ti­ga­tion. For in­stance, it wasn’t un­til Vat­i­can II that Catholi­cism of­fi­cially recog­nised the worth of other reli­gions.

Yet the lu­natic fringes of es­tab­lished faiths abide by their own rules: mem­bers of var­i­ous war­ring Chris­tian sects in the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre in Jerusalem rou­tinely beat each other up; fa­nat­i­cal Mus­lims launch sui­cide bomb at­tacks in Iraq; ul­tra- ortho­dox Jews in Is­rael throw rocks at any­one silly enough to drive on the Sab­bath.

This pro­gram only nib­bles at the edges of one of the abid­ing ques­tions of our time: how to rec­on­cile the war­ring faith­ful.

Sian Pow­ell

More be­liefs than most: Aus­tralian au­thor Stephanie Dowrick

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