a column by Vern Barnet every Wednesday in the FYI section of the Kansas City Star,
[printed and Star web versions versions and versions here may vary]
copyright The Kansas City Star.
correspondence with critics
2002 January 1 - December 31
|434. 021225 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
What's your Christmas IQ?
Here's a Christmas Quiz. Which of the following statements are true?
The Kansas CIty Star Dec 22, 2002, H8Vern Barnet convenes the Kansas City Interfaith Council, teaches world religions and writes the Wednesday "Faiths and Beliefs" column for The Kansas City Star. His articles, poems and reviews have been published in many journals. He lives in Kansas City.
The Catholic Key -- Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City - St Joseph
433. 021218 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
While others are welcome to eavesdrop,
this column is directed to Christian parents.
Kansas City Star Dec 16, 2002, page B-1
A multicultural crowd of more than 250 attended the Crescent Peace Society's 2002 Eid dinner Saturday to help the Muslim community celebrate the end of the holy month Ramadan.
432. 021211 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
We rejoice at a baby's first steps, awkward
though they may be. Tonight at 8, KCPT broadcasts a two-hour special about
baby steps in the journey of understanding between Christians and Jews.
These steps have their slips and falls, but the effort lifts the heart.
431. 021204 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are
required during daylight hours to refrain from eating, drinking and sexual
relations. Here are two Ramadan stories of grace, one recent, one ancient.
430. 021127 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
That early American Thanksgiving in 1621
was an interfaith affair, Indians and Pilgrims together. It was a fitting
if unintended introduction to the astonishing claim Americans made in 1776,
declaring Independence, that "all men are created equal; that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
429. 021120 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
In 1996, Pam Peck visited Turkey. She met
a group of Muslim women carrying elegant dresses over their arms as they
boarded a bus for an embassy reception that evening which Pam was also
to attend. Pam confided to one that she was unprepared for the affair and
would be wearing the one casual skirt she'd packed. When Pam next saw the
Muslim women, none were wearing their party dresses. They wore skirts and
blouses like hers.
eKC November 14, 2002 page 6
COMMENTARY by Deborah Young
428. 021113 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
The life of faith can be an adventure,
where we set off in new directions, make friends in unlikely places, pass
through trials and sorrows, gain wisdom and sense the sacred so deeply
and pervasively we hesitate to put it into words. Whether it is Jesus surprising
his family by leaving the carpenter's bench or the Buddha-to-be renouncing
his right to his father's throne, the stories of the world's religions
intrigue us when we see them less as a set script and more as an exploration
on behalf of others who are, like us, caught in the web of finitude.
427. 021106 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Patricia Lynn Morrison was one of the adults
at Rockhurst High School Oct 22 when students of Amnesty International
there joined with Christians, Jews and Muslims from other high schools.
Adults--their teachers, parents, guests--and the students, in separate
groups, spent the evening sharing information about their traditions, breaking
down stereotypes and hoping to better understand their commonalities and
The Catholic Key, Nov 1, 2002
Round table forum gives teens
a chance to talk about faith
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
426. 021030 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
This is a difficult time for all of us,
and particularly for Jewish and Muslim communities. When we feel threatened,
it is hard for us to reach out with neighborly trust.
425. 021023 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Garry Wills, author of Papal Sin: Structures
of Deceit, calmly and methodically attacked the notion that the practices
of the Roman Catholic Church are changeless. Wills spoke last week at Rockhurst
University to a crowd so large the venue had to be changed.
424. 021016 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Ignition, yoke, video--what do these three
terms have in common with Hinduism or its sacred language, Sanskrit?
The Kansas City Star Oct 21, 2002 Letters to the Editor
Root out prejudice
423. 021009 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
For some, ritual is boring, meaningless
rote. It speaks nothing. But St Mark's Catholic Church liturgist Susan
Walker, with her interfaith ritual team, planned to observe the anniversary
of Sept. 11 by using something as ordinary as water to speak the best of
422. 021002 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Now that we're into the baseball season,
I asked Dan Johnson, who is writing a history of the sport in Japan where
he lived for 1 1/2 years, to tell us about its relation to religion there.
421. 020925 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
In a troubled world, we crave an island
of peace. We want to do no harm, but our first concern is to not be harmed
University News - Forum -- Issue: 09/23/02
Kansas City has religious bias
2002 September 20 By Marty Denzer, Catholic Key Reporter
420. 020918 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Several months ago, when the Kansas City
Interfaith Council asked Mayor Kay Barnes for her suggestions for its 9/11
observances, her immediate response was "music."
City Jewish Chronicle September 13, 2002
Interfaith in the Aftermath:
419. 020911 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
What are the reasons of the heart so many
of us gather in ceremonies of faith today?
September 6, 2002:
‘passport’ opens doors
By PAT MORRISON
Once the smoke cleared from the tragic events of Sept. 11, many Americans came to realize that there was “collateral damage” far beyond what the nation first imagined. It took various names: racism, suspicion, religious intolerance, ignorance. As in cities around the country, religious leaders in Kansas City, Mo., quickly convened their congregations to provide interfaith services for the community, offering prayer and healing in the wake of the disaster. But they also knew that in the post-9/11 climate they needed to do even more.
Hatred and intolerance -- and a terrible distortion of one religion’s beliefs -- had been a major force behind the death and destruction America had suffered. One effective antidote to the poison, the Kansas City religious community realized, would be a positive outreach to promote better understanding among the area’s faith traditions.
The result of their planning is a tangible aid to achieving interfaith understanding: a “passport” -- more specifically the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Passport -- a 32-page document that’s the same size as the official U.S. document (minus the hefty fee). The catchy understanding-builder was a joint project of several groups active in interfaith and interracial efforts in the community, including the Kansas City Interfaith Council, Mosaic, CRES, Kansas City Harmony, and the Kansas City region of the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews).
The person who brought the passport from concept to reality was the Rev. Vern Barnet, a Unitarian Universalist minister who serves as minister-in-residence for CRES and writes a weekly religion column in The Kansas City Star titled “Faiths and Beliefs.”
Barnet, a well-known figure on the Kansas City religious scene, has a lifelong passion for interreligious and ecumenical understanding. “We felt that one of the best ways to get people out of their denominational ‘boxes’ and comfort levels was to provide a resource that would encourage them to visit other faith traditions, to learn more about other religions,” he told NCR. “And from there, tolerance and understanding deepen, and appreciation and respect take root.”
In addition to knowing little or nothing of religious traditions other than their own, many people have no incentive to visit another faith’s house of worship, Barnet said. Kansas City’s religious leaders felt they needed to build some bridges to get people moving beyond the familiar. For Barnet, the passport concept was a natural one to achieve that.
“Just as travelers visit other cultures and countries, and come home with a stamped passport as proof of their expanded world, we thought an interfaith passport would do the same thing,” he said. And there are more than a dozen religious “lands” for the interested spiritual traveler in metropolitan Kansas City to visit, from A (American Indian spirituality) to Z (Zoroastrianism). In addition to the better-known religions like Buddhism, Christianity (with a category each for Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic), Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, the passport also includes space to visit other traditions, from Jain and Sikh to Wicca, as well as interfaith activities and programs.
Each of the participating traditions in the metro-politan area has agreed to offer a stamp, a self-stick “visa” or to sign the passport when a person or group visits. There’s also a bit of healthy entrepreneurial spirit at work: Those who accumulate at least one visa on 12 pages for specific faiths and at least five visas for interfaith activities will be honored at an awards dinner and get a discounted rate to attend the city’s 2003 interfaith conference.
The interfaith passport was launched July 1, and Barnet said the first printing of 5,000 is almost sold out. The $2 cost covers just the printing, with a $5 donation asked to cover the booklet and postage if it’s mailed. In addition to orders from individuals, Barnet said several congregations have purchased quantities to give their members, encouraging them to “travel” to other faith “lands.”
Besides the official pages where “visas” can be affixed, the passport contains information on all the faith communities that are members of the Kansas City Interfaith Council and their representatives. Also included is the declaration from the “Gifts of Pluralism” Conference that brought participants from the area’s faith traditions together a year ago and was the genesis for the passport.
“This is a small step, certainly,” Barnet said, “but it’s a practical, tangible way for people to learn more, widen their perspective and embrace tolerance. We’re all journeying together, after all. Isn’t it a wonderful thing if we can widen the circle of our fellow travelers through respect and understanding?”
To learn more
about the interfaith passport or to obtain a copy, visit the CRES Web site
at www.cres.org/passport or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
418. 020904 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Water, used for its spiritual significance
in many faiths, is becoming a symbol of interfaith cooperation in our area.
Drawing on the "City of Fountains" designation for Kansas City, the Interfaith
Council plans a water ceremony to begin the metro-wide Sept. 11 anniversary
417. 020828 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Earlier this month the Jackson County Diversity
Task Force held a fact-finding session at the Islamic Center. The testimony
revealed both horrendous acts of prejudice against Muslims and the extraordinary
protection and concern non-Muslims have extended to their Muslim friends.
The report the task force issues on Sept. 10 will detail this as well as
other material it has gathered from the entire metro area.
416. 020821 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
The Kansas City Interfaith Council recently
received an angry phone call from someone who identified himself as a pastor.
Referring to the symbol representing the pagan traditions, he shouted into
the telephone, "Are you crazy devil worshippers?" He does not realize that
while Satan is a figure in many forms of Christianity, Satan never appears
in paganism. No one on the Council worships the devil.
415. 020814 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
What are the rules by which we decide whether
someone else is a member of a particular faith? Is our own religious identity
something we are born with, something we choose for social reasons or the
result of spiritual search?
414. 020807 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
A few readers continue to attack my column
about my honoring a request to give a non-sectarian prayer in a theater.
One writes, "Vern, the 'separation of Church and State' you mind-numbed
PC liberals worship so much does not exist. The First Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." Sure
is convenient to ignore theor prohibiting the free exercise thereof
part, isn't it?
413. 020731 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
After looking at other cities, CBS-TV is
sending a crew from New York to Kansas City Aug. 12 for several days to
see how the metro area is preparing for observing the first anniversary
of the terrorist attacks last Sept. 11.
412. 020724 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Reader Hubert Speer questions my recent
column about a prayer I offered before a film at a Westport theater. The
prayer was addressed to the "Spirit of Generations" and did not use the
411. 020717 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Why does Buddhism, unlike most faiths,
teach that no self exists? The idea that each of us has a separate, distinct,
unchanging and eternal soul seems obvious to many people, so the Buddhist
insistence that no such soul exists may at first seem shocking and even
410. 020710 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Offering public prayer is often a challenge,
especially when one is asked to pray on behalf of people of many faiths,
or no faith at all. The challenge is even more difficult when the occasion
may have a political purpose, for the prayer must both embrace the urges
of those gathered while at the same time it must rise above any partisanship.
409. 020703 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Muslims from Indonesia to the inner city
gathered at UMKC last week-end for a conference entitled "Muslims for Peace
and Justice." A resounding theme was the affection Muslims here and abroad
feel for America.
408. 020626 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
What is the most important thing Americans
should know about Islam?
407. 020619 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
To mark the nine months that have passed
since Sept. 11, members of several faiths gathered earlier this month to
pray together silently and then as led by Sister Ruth Stuckel, Anand Bhattacharyya,
Doug Alpert, Syed Hasan and Charangit Hundal in words from each of their
traditions. I was asked to offer an "interfaith prayer." Here it is:
406. 020612 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
In an address last month at the Ottawa
University--Kansas City commencement, I discussed "Vision, Vocation and
Valor" in building meaning for our lives. Here is a gist of some of what
405. 020605 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Many Americans are squeamish about "American
civil religion." In fact, scholar Robert Bellah, who popularized the term,
no longer uses it. He fears that those who identify Americas with their
particular faith may wish to impose their views on the rest of us. Often
they assert that God favors Americans over other peoples.
404. 020529 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
To mark the current "Eternal Egypt"
show at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, I asked Paul Mirecki (ThD, Harvard)
to comment on ancient Egyptian religion. Professor of religious studies
at the University of Kansas, he focuses on ancient Mediterranean religions.
403. 020522 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Would you be surprised to learn that this
week-end, near Kansas City, over a thousand men, women and children will
gather for the 17th annual Heartland Pagan Festival? It is part of a rapidly
growing tradition, a revival of ideas and practices that reach back to
402. 020515 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
"Just more talk. I'm tired of talk. I want
action." It is a common complaint from those of us who want to improve
401. 020508 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Nearly nine months have passed since the
Sept. 11 terrorism. How are we doing? The Rev. Richard Maraj, pastor of
Christ Church Unity, offers these thoughts:
400. 020501 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Kansas City is fortunate to have reservoirs
of good will within its religious communities. In innumerable conversations,
Jewish friends have poignently expressed their grief at the deaths in the
Middle East conflict--both Israeli and Palestinian deaths. Within the Muslim
community, I have repeatedly found the same grief for the victims on both
399. 020424 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
"Moral clarity" may seem desirable. But
the Taliban had it. Fred Phelps has it. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
has it. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat has it. Both the absolute pacifist
and the suicide bomber have moral clarity in their minds.
398. 020417 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
"Judaism is not a creedal religion," Rabbi
David J. Meyer said at a one-day interfaith institute last week. "Judaism
is based on observing the commandments."
397. 020410 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
While most religions allow a person to
defend oneself or one's group, some religious leaders have questioned whether
violence even in self-defense ultimately works. Non-violent approaches
have been used in the West, sometimes at the ultimate cost for their advocates.
In many respects Martin Luther King Jr was successful in leading the United
States toward greater racial justice, and he paid for his work with his
396. 020403 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Same-sex love makes spiritual contribution
[Some claim that spiritual renewal comes
from unexpected arenas, even those places scorned. It is an old motif,
best known in the story of the birth of the Christian Savior in a stable.]
Can homosexuals contribute civilization's spiritual renewal? Theologians
like James B. Nelson, himself a heterosexual, in his Body Theology,
say yes emphatically. Now Mark Hayes, one of the nation's most popular
composers of church music, has created a cantata with the same affirmation.
395. 020327 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Ancient Egypt lures us with its art, its
engineering and its exploration of spiritual themes. No other culture reaching
back five thousand years ago has been better preserved, with so much to
see. We are fascinated by the fascination the Egyptians themselves had
with survival beyond death, indicated by mummies, funerary objects and
the monuments which bespeak a great civilization.
394. 020320 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Humanity ensures plenty of topics for column
Readers ask many questions, but the one
that always surprises me is, "Do you ever run out of things to write about?'"
393. 020313 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Two recent events are signs of improving
understanding among faiths. Last Thursday Temple B'nai Juhudah hosted more
than 60 Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs clarifying misconceptions about
their faiths. Part of the two-year old "Good Morning Kansas City" series
involving the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, Community
Christian Church, Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and the Temple Brotherhood,
this was the first session focusing on religious diversity.
392. 020306 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Last year Franklin Graham and others began
saying that the God of Jews and Muslims is not the same God worshipped
by Christians. Several readers have tried to convince me Graham is right.
Here are three reasons which suggest Graham may be mistaken.
391. 020227 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
About one third of the world's population
is Christian, about one fifth are Muslim and about two of every thousand
are Jewish. An estimated 15,000 Muslims and 20,000 Jews live in the greater
Kansas City region out of a total of 1.5 million.
390. 020220 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Last Friday I delivered the invocation
at the annual Mayors' Prayer Breakfast. Preparing words for such civic
occasions is an awesome responsibility. Mistakes are easy to make.
389. 020213 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Jews may bathe in a mikvah, Christians
practice baptism, Muslims observe ablutions, the Shinto tradition includes
misoge -- almost every faith has some way of using water to develop a sense
of transcendent reality. While the different ways the various faiths use
water should not be confused, water is a natural symbol of the spirit in
388. 020206 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
``Jews do not hate Palestinians.'' ``Muslims
worship God, not Muhammad.'' ``Most Christians are not homophobic.''
387. 020130 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Guests included former Kansas City mayor
Charles Wheeler and Kansas Congressman Dennis Moore, both of whom spoke,
and Missouri Congresswoman Karen McCarthy sent a representative. Kansas
City mayor pro tem Al Brooks received an award. Kansas City Star
columnist Lewis Diuguid presented the major address. UMKC Chancellor Martha
Gilliland was ill but sent a representative.
386. 020123 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
He took me to breakfast. He was doubtful
about God. Words like religion and spirituality were empty to him. ``I
just don't know if I could call anything sacred. What does sacred mean?''
385. 020116 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Martin Luther King Jr was criticized for
making a fuss about racism. Even religious leaders said that in due time
the relations between the races would improve without his intervention.
He was repeatedly told to "Wait!" In his famous letter from a Birmingham
jail, King explained why passivity did not work in the face of disenfranchisement,
exploitation, injustice and murder.
384. 020109 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
Last week I wrote about my childhood ignorance.
I thought that "Catholics worshipped idols of saints." The column included
the inflammatory word "idols'' to illustrate how absurd my impression was.
383. 020102 THE STAR'S HEADLINE:
When I was not quite five, I knew
I believed in God. A Roman Catholic friend, not much older, asked me if
I believed in the Trinity. I said No, I was a Protestant; I don't believe
such stupid things.