You gotta have faith for this religious mix
Compass: Pioneering City 10.05pm, ABC
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.
More beliefs than most: Australian author Stephanie Dowrick