Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
“I heard a wonderful interview on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air show on NPR last week, featuring a new novel by author Christopher Beha. Now, I confess I haven’t read his work, What Happened to Sophie Wilder. But the interview dealt largely with the role religion plays in his work. The walkaway point was that he used the novel to describe how religion has become more therapeutic than challenging.
Nothing wrong with a faith comforting or guiding one through a rough patch, but I do think he raised an interesting issue. Has faith been boiled down into tenets that mostly make us feel good about ourselves? Or, to put it another way, has modern religion lost its ability to make us feel uncomfortable about parts of our lives?
Ironically, a day or so later I read a passage by the late Oswald Chambers, who said:
“The teaching of Jesus hits us where we live….He educates us down to the last scruple. The Spirit of God unearths the spirit of self-vindication; He makes us sensitive to things we never thought of before.”
Now, I’m not asking you to get into the teachings of Jesus, if they are not part of your tradition. But I would like to hear your thought about this question:
Has modern religion lost its bite?”
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
Well, number 1: Over 99% of our citizens do not know the difference between a dead body and a living body. This percentage also includes our religious authorities.
Most people erroneously think that the ever-changing temporary body is the self and therefore claim that they are Caucasian, Black, American, Democrat, homosexual, punk rocker, artist, and so on. Based on this temporary concept of the self, society runs after temporary gains. Thus the insignificant pleasure that it members find most often comes at the expense of another.
This lack of knowledge causes the darkness of selfishness and the cure is the knowledge of the self. Religion has seemed to lost its bite for its advocates generally because it cannot clearly and concisely answer the most basic question, “What is the self/soul?”