CJ Rhodes | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

CJ Rhodes

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Mount Helm Baptist Church Pastor CJ Rhodes will take part in the Jackson Free Press' "Race, Religion and Society Series" tonight.

Tonight bears historical significance for Mount Helm Baptist Church pastor CJ Rhodes who will take part in a discussion about race and the role of the church as his congregation celebrates its 175-year anniversary.

In April, Rhodes, 28, became pastor of Mount Helm, located in the Farish Street neighborhood. Tonight's "Race, Religion & Society Series" features a conversation between him and Pastor Stan Buckley of First Baptist Church of Jackson. In the mid 1800s, slaves formed their own church inside the basement of First Baptist. Later Thomas Helm, a white benefactor, deeded property to the slaves so they could form their own church, which was named in his honor.

Rhodes met Buckley in June, and shortly after, the two had a three-hour discussion about the church's role in bridging racial divides. The pastors decided to extend their conversation to the community and honor Mississippi's Racial Reconciliation month.

"It feels like the church needs to do more to impact positive change," Rhodes says. "... Stan really has a heart for us working through on a lot of race issues, reconciliation and a way to be a partner. He and I both are trying to lead some positive change within and between our two congregations."

Rhodes says the format will be three parts: Storyteller Dianne Williams will open the series, Jackson Free Press Associate Editor Natalie A. Collier will moderate the discussion between the pastors and then the audience will have an opportunity to ask questions. A reception will follow.

Rhodes says though the two churches have had a complicated history, he hopes the discussion will address disparities along racial and class lines and spark a desire for the community to make change.

"We want to have a civil dialogue. It's OK for folks to disagree, but we want to restore some civility," he said. "I think Jackson, as a whole, is in the midst of a great renaissance. As we are going about that, we need to ask ourselves how to do we not leave behind the least of these? How do we address economic empowerment, educational empowerment for some our most abandoned communities and poor working class families? And, ultimately, it is my belief and Stan's belief that the church should lead the role in that transformation."

Rhodes, a native of Hazlehurst, attended Ole Miss and Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, where he earned his master's of divinity. After school, he was the administrative assistant to Dolphus Weary at Mission Mississippi, an Christian organization that works to bring people together. He was ordained in July, and is the youngest pastor in Mount Helm's history.

The Jackson Free Press' Race, Religion and Society Series begins at 7 p.m. at Mount Helm Baptist Church (300 E. Church Street). Call 601-353-3981 for more information.

Previous Comments

ID
160271
Comment

Thumbs up!

Author
Meredith
Date
2010-10-11T14:56:50-06:00
ID
160275
Comment

I went Last night and I left wanting the dialog to continue. One fascinating aspect of the discussion (cogently led by Natalie Collier) was the contrasting, yet cordial messages from both Pastors concerning the nature of racial reconciliation in the church. Pastor Buckley noted that racial reconciliation started with genuine friendships, and that shared experiences were the places to start to develop these genuine relationships. Too often, people don’t relate to one another because we don’t know each other, because we don’t interact. Pastor Rhodes agreed but astutely noted that these relationships are hard to develop because of the structural barriers to equal personhood experiences by people. And I agree. It is hard for me to make “friends” with socially and economically strong people if my health, wealth, and mind are inadequately supported and developed due to social structural impediments, such as inadequate access to economic development, education, and quality healthcare. In light of that, Pastor Buckley seemed to agree, but wasn’t willing to seriously address the structural issues, falling back on that familiar “good ol’e boy”- Southern Baptist refrains of “ My purpose is to preach Jesus Christ crucified” and “ Aw shucks, I’m not expert in that”. Yet, Pastor Rhodes seemed to be way more comfortable, able and purposeful in noting that the church’s strength and role these issues was to be the moral compass and conscience in addressing social, economic, and educational inequality and injustice. Pastor Buckley seemed to believe that if the church did anything, it was to provide missions, resources, and ministries, but that the bigger issues of social justice (a concept mentioned by neither Pastor) was possibly beyond the scope and mission of the church. It just amazed me how the two men, as cordial and eloquent as they both were, talk completely passed each other. If that is the case, then why would progressive Christians even see the need to reconcile with a church body like First Baptist, a powerful force in the Jackson community, that seems to be unwilling to seriously challenge the status quo? Pastor Buckley left me with the impression that he percieves that the problems with inequality have more to do with the inadequate moral and spiritual development of poor people (he noted that economics and education "trumped" race to the spattering applause of those in attendance) rather than issues of social equity and access, hence his "saving souls" mantra he prided his presentation on. To be frank, I have enough white friends, social-structural change doesn't necessarily start with a few interacial "drinking buddies". We need purposeful action toward social structural change in order to begin to realize the radical message of the gospel on earth, not a bunch of "friends" who are willing to ignore the unjust realities of this land in order to do the work of “saving souls” that yields no true just communities and society. I agree with Pastor Rhodes' quote of Dr. King, the church needs to be "the headlight, not the tail light" for social change. Last night, I saw more break lights than high beems.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-10-12T08:29:11-06:00
ID
160279
Comment

Blackwatch, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I don't have much time now to comment, but a couple quick things. I didn't see last night as "brake lights"; perhaps as a white woman I realize how radical (in a good way) that it is that the pastor of First Baptist Church of Jackson, with its very poor race history, would even say words like: We need to look backward so we can go forward. That is huge in itself, even though it ought not be. I'm sure many people in his congregation would prefer he not say that and stick to the ignorant old saw of "the past is over; look forward!" That said, I did think the most interesting lesson of last night was that even well-meaning white people still often focus on the personal relationship aspect of race relations, rather than the structural barriers, which CJ brought up. The truth is, white people have always applauded them/ourselves for having black friends, employees, teachers, etc., etc. (or for just loving "the help" to death) rather than face the real effects of racISM and the way they vote to continue a two-tier system and a systemic unlevel playing field. And you just can't fully face that if you believe that racial "reconciliation" is all about building personal relationships. Those relationships help, of course, but only if you are willing to broach the tough topics and listen to a point of view and consider experiences that are not your own. That is, not look at everything through a majority-culture lens. I'm more hopeful than you, perhaps, because I believe that CJ is a wonderful person to try to get unexpected people to the table and to urge them toward having real conversations and past their comfort zones. I didn't go into last night expecting major fireworks or to leave feeling that the world shook under me with a new level of racial understanding. It is supposed to be a process, or a struggle to borrow from Mr. Douglass, and we will never get there if white people do not try and if black people assume that no (or certain) white people are willing to try. I think that was part of CJ's message: we have to have faith in the power of stories, change and love, and not give up before we get started. I spoke briefly with Rev. Buckley afterward about white people's discomfort in having these kinds of conversations or even showing up for them. (Last night, there were probably 20 white people, and I doubt many of them were from Rev. Buckley's congregation, sadly.) I mentioned Kent Moorhead's documentary, "The Most Segregated Hour," about a white and a black church in Oxford, MS., trying to have straightforward racial dialogue. It revealed what we already know: Many if not most white folks do not want to feel uncomfortable, or to be blamed for our racial situation. When the truth gets too uncomfortable, they stop coming. This is a serious problem, of course. We are not going to "reconcile" anything if everyone isn't willing to push past comfort zones, or to go to a different neighborhood. One thing that infuriates me in Jackson is that black people will go to white neighborhoods for these kinds of conversations, but white people in general seem terrified to drive past the Capitol on High Street and turn right across from Smith Robertson and pull into a gated parking lot to go to such an important event. We live in a majority-black city, but many white people are uncomfortable in majority-black settings. It's pathetic and tragic. We need to change this if we expect to help our city in any significant way. The burden is on white folks for that one. Anyway, I've rambled enough, and I have a paper to get out. I welcome further respectful commentary on this. And I do applaud Revs. Buckley and Rhodes for taking this important first step last night. The next step is up to all of us.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-12T10:21:16-06:00
ID
160280
Comment

Thanks Donna, My frustration with these “conversations” is that too often racial reconciliation becomes more about how much Black people ought to be more understanding about the ”un-comfort” level of white people when it comes to these conversations. Yet, as you point out, these very white people continue to support policies and ideas that serve to reinforce the status quo of structural inequity, in the name of “supporting what’s right about America”. Too often, social justice has to come at the behest of white people’s sensibilities, rather than the imperative to respect the personhood and dignity of oppressed people of all races. This is why Dr. King noted that “we can’t wait”. What are we waiting on? Are waiting for White people to become un-comfortable in the comfort provided to them by the status quo? How will they ever be pricked in their consciences if they go to churches like First Baptist and all they hear is this status quo reinforced by people who are supposed to be “speaking for God”? Can you understand the absurdity of this reasoning? I have sat in on more than my share of racial reconciliation attempts by local churches, and more times than not, it has boiled down to notions of either ignoring race (rather than defeating racISM) or noting that the Gospel is about changing hearts, which in turn changes social systems (as if Jesus were killed by the people as the Roman Gov’t stood idly by simply because he sang “We are the World” too loudly.) Jesus’ gospel hit at the very heart of human relationships, how we see one another as evidenced by how we treat one another, interpersonally, economically, and politically. Why many of these pastors don’t note this and see the social gospel as central the so called “traditional” gospel, has more to do with politics than theology. Can churches, the powerful, influential churches like First Baptist, speak as prominently and dogmatically about, say, the scourge of segregation in our public schools as it does about the need to preach the Gospel “in season and out of season”? Buckley noted that he didn’t know what to do about public education. Here’s a suggestion, why not preach to the very prominent and influential leaders in his congregation about the effects that white flight (and the resulting private-segregation academies that are its progeny) has on the educational quality of most Jackson Public Schools? He admitted last night that he didn’t feel that it was the place of the church to tell people how to vote, but that preaching the Gospel would change their minds and that would influence their votes. But, if he doesn’t preach specifically that segregation destroys communities, how will his message in the gospel ever confront segregation? Yet, I am supposed to be patient while the public schools in my community continue to wallow under the crushing weight of concentrated poverty and indifference from business and political leaders throughout the state, who attend these powerful churches every Sunday and hear a message of class privilege masked as the “gospel”? Pardon my frustration Donna, but I am just weary of these attempts at racial reconciliation that are really just pleas to black folks to get with the program and stop being so “angry”.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-10-12T10:59:05-06:00
ID
160281
Comment

Blackwatch, you are fully right to be frustrated, as am I. And your comments are so powerful. You're saying it, and you need to keep on saying it. I'd have to look hard to find anything there I disagree with. Phil Reed from Voice of Calvary was on our radio show recently, and made incredibly powerful statements about how churches are supposed to serve the community right outside their front doors -- not run from communities in need. There is evidence that Rev. Buckley is trying to do a better job of that than previous First Baptist pastors (although I certainly can't claim knowledge of all of them, just of the segregationist history of the church, which he said last night did not officially end until the 1970s). But think of the people who get in their cars after church and return to wealthy neighborhoods with little regard toward their own role in policy-making that affects the communities where their church is located? And that, of course, isn't limited to First Baptist (or "white" churches). And for the record, I would argue that the education in those seg academies is poor as well. I can't tell you the number of young people I meet who attended so-called "good" academies who know diddley-squat about their own state's history. And that, of course, feeds into everything that we're talking about. Just as Rev. Buckley was not familiar with James Baldwin last night, young white people don't know what they don't know. They then grow up to make assumptions about "the other" based on their limited education, and then vote for policies based on faulty assumptions. I also urge both reverends to engage closer in the immigration conversation. This is quickly becoming the civil rights nightmare of our time.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-12T11:18:48-06:00
ID
160284
Comment

I had a conflict and could not attend last night, but I got a review from a friend who said they were disappointed in Rev. Buckley's comments relative to being called to only preach Christ crucified and unstained by worldly matters. The Christ we serve did not stay on that cross. He came down and walked among us, giving additional instructions on how we are to live with each other. Christian ministers should be preaching the Redeemer Savior who came for the oppressed, not the wealthy; came for the wronged, not the powerful and the elite. This online dialogue between DLadd and Blackwatch is probably what should have taken place last night before those gathered at Mt. Helm. What is the next step? When is the next dialogue? Yes, there should be more. Let me suggest that (1) publicity be more widespread and released well in advance so people can put it on their calendars, (2) pastors from white churches get commitments from their congregations to go into the neighborhoods of "the other" and participate in these discussions. Farish Street Baptist Church is another good location [Black people already know how to get along with white people. Generations of being rebuffed have made them suspicious and hostile, or docile and accommodating, but they know how it is done. White people think that they have all of the answers and don't think they can learn from anybody but themselves. That is wrong-headed thinking. It is time for whites to practice some Christian hospitality and go to a black church with a spirit of humility.], (3) People of western faith read the same texts, whether the Bible, the Koran, or the Torah but obviously don't comprehend their teachings the same way. Maybe we should also examine why that is. Thanks, once again, to the Jackson Free Press for staying in the struggle to get us to be our better selves in all things.

Author
duBois03
Date
2010-10-12T12:31:02-06:00
ID
160286
Comment

Thanks for your comments, duBois (and nice name; smile). Far be it from me to critique a preacher on how he preaches, but I do like the idea of spiritual leaders walking among us. I don't know that he wasn't saying that, either, but I'll leave that discussion to others. I'm not here to criticize or defend him or CJ. I'm interested in the conversation that results. This online dialogue between DLadd and Blackwatch is probably what should have taken place last night before those gathered at Mt. Helm. Thanks for saying that. Do bear in mind that I have been in a lot of these conversations now and am pretty comfortable. I wasn't always as comfortable, even as I was at least always willing. And people on all "sides" can be annoyed by my doggedness about these kinds of discussion and education. And I've taken my hits from African Americans who would rather see white women in Mississippi act like the stereotypes. So this can be hard in every direction, make no mistake. I will admit that this event had way too short of notice. Natalie and CJ wanted to do it this soon, and it had very little time to be promoted. I won't do it that way again, I promise. We'll give white folks the benefit of the doubt and say that's why more didn't show up. (Smile) I couldn't agree more that white people ought to quit being stupid about being int he minority and get their butts to majority-black churches, neighborhoods, events, etc. And we plan events that look beyond Christianity. I want to have a dialogue about Islam next, hopefully. Thanks, all.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-12T12:56:47-06:00
ID
160290
Comment

I totally agree with your assessment, blackwatch. I could have predicted or forecasted how this would likely turn out for all of you. I get invitations to go to certain kinds of churches all the time and routinely refuse because I know a voting booth could be set up even during service and most would vote against my interest down South. The south is what it is and that all that it is with a few exceptions. I admire the faith and hope that you and others showed by attending and engaging in the event though. I doubt I could have participated because Eric Holder hit the nail on the head a few months ago. And we should never forget that the practice of Christianity and justice didn't play a role in how the rich got rich and haves got so much. The very things Christianity abhors is what accounted for the power and wealth. I wish everyone the best and good luck in all the endeavors. Surely, nothing worthwhile will come of it. But hey, Barack Obama became POTUS. The South did have something to do with it, didn't it?

Author
Walt
Date
2010-10-12T16:52:23-06:00
ID
160292
Comment

If religion, Christianity and justice are considerations far behind capitalism, power and supremacy why would intelligent people expect the beneficiaries of those things to ever concede or compromise them voluntarily?

Author
Walt
Date
2010-10-12T17:06:41-06:00
ID
160296
Comment

Dialogue is critical to effective problem-solving, and our nation has a specific problem which underlies every relationship: racism. Whether the relationship is personal or business, we all dance around each other based on our perceptions of who we are and how we are perceived. Isolated monologues in isolated neighborhoods/communities do not advance understanding and appreciation among the cultures. Anyone genuinely interested in improving the racial situation in this country will support and participate in dialogues designed to improve our understanding of each others truths. Prejudging an attempt at dialogue is to sabotage the attempt and ensure that not much will change. We need everyone to come informed and articulate, with the intent to listen as well as comment; to comment with facts and not simply emotion. We need people who can ask questions without prefacing them with ten minutes of personal comment. If racism is ever going to be minimized in Mississippi, those who think nothing will ever change would do better to prove themselves wrong, and show up to help some things change.

Author
duBois03
Date
2010-10-13T08:15:28-06:00
ID
160298
Comment

Interesting take Walt, I have thought about the feasibility and worth of racial reconciliation movements in general among churches in particular. You are correct; most people in power wouldn’t see the need to give up anything in order to achieve a more just society. The thing that disappoints me the most is that one would expect folk who profess to be Christians would see the value of justice and sacrifice in this process. Too many times, the White Christians don’t see the need to change anything systemically. I read a fascinating book called “Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” By Sociologists Michael Emerson and Christian Smith and they note that the problem with racial reconciliation among White evangelicals is that any discussion about systemic change weakens their message of evangelical conversion. That message notes that the problems in society stem from people not having strong, personal relationships with Jesus. The power of Jesus is in the power to change individual hearts and minds. Without Jesus, people go astray. So, any problems in the world can be fixed when everyone comes to Jesus. If the problems of the world are systemic, then they can’t necessarily be solved by individuals coming to Jesus. In other words, if the world’s problems are systemic, then Jesus isn’t necessarily the answer, changing the system is. So, if the discussion about reconciling centers on structural critiques, it takes away from the central message of the Gospel (that Jesus saves), at least in their minds. I sometimes don’t think most people take it to that logical end. Most white evangelicals just don’t see the role that white supremacy has in structuring the community. Everything they have, they worked hard to get, and they see that as the way out for everyone (Just as Donna mentioned, seeing these problems through their own experiences only). So, any reconciliation discussion that targets structural issues challenges that paradigm, and thus their “un-comfortability” in these discussions. On another level, I wonder what role the Black church should have in these discussions. Too often, I hear the refrain that Pastor Rhodes mentioned, that black people, and all Christians really, tend to idolize culture and tradition to a point that inhibits the reconciliation work. My question is, what would black people be gaining if we gave up our worship styles, preaching homiletics, and prophetic hermeneutics to worship with white Christians, especially if the white Christians will see the united worship as the ultimate end of racial reconciliation, rather than the beginning of a united effort to work toward social-structural change? What would white Christians really be giving up in that scenario? Just some thoughts

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-10-13T08:31:58-06:00
ID
160300
Comment

Blackwatch, you need to write some columns for us. Also, I'm thinking about bringing back the Faith blog. Have we talked about your writing for us? (I've lost months of e-mail twice this year, so I can't be sure.) E-mail if you're interested.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-13T09:30:47-06:00
ID
160301
Comment

I don't think everyone should come informed, duBois, or that we should ask them, too. People have to have space in which to not know things. People don't know what they don't know -- whether it's white people about black people, or vice versa. We've got to allow space for people to not say things "right" every time or to work through their stereotypes. (I really don't think I smell like a dog when I'm wet, for the record. Smile.) I know one reason people can be uncomfortable in race dialogues is that they are afraid of not saying something exactly right and offending people of another race. I've been on the brunt of African American disdain that I even try to have the conversation as a white woman, and it can sting. I have a thick skin, and I expect it and don't care -- but not everyone has practiced as often. I'm not asking anyone to pull punches or go easy on white people, or anyone else: Just don't expect everyone to come to the conversation informed. If we do, we'll be preaching to the choir, and that's not very useful.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-13T09:35:09-06:00
ID
160308
Comment

Donna, of course you are correct. I have read back over my last comment and see how it does not state clearly what I intended. I won't try to clarify it though. I will just follow this thread to learn more. Thanks.

Author
duBois03
Date
2010-10-13T15:11:15-06:00
ID
160312
Comment

duBois, I was clear that you likely didn't mean it that way. My comments were more for public consumption, as there are people who want everyone to come to the table more "informed" and belittle them if they don't. I know that's not you, though.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-13T16:00:49-06:00
ID
160313
Comment

Pastor Rhodes, Thanks for you contribution. I want to make clear that I understood your thoughts on the panel to be just what you have articulated here. When I critiqued the notion of “idolizing culture and tradition”, I was thinking about how many times in racial reconciliation discussions among both black and white Christians, the notion of worshiping together and giving up culture and tradition seems to be the thing that characterizes the process. Personally, I think that joint worship services between congregations are empty actions if all that it is going to lead to is a conflation of congregations at the “comfort” of the white participants, such that the prophetic preaching and teaching tradition of the black church is lost. But do you see any real racial reconciliation happening where the prophetic tradition of the black church is allowed to propagate, yet at the same time the comfort level of the white church is not dissuasive enough to preclude such a union? In a broader since, does racial reconciliation in the Body of Christ necessitate the end of distinctions like Black Church and White Church? If so, how would a church like that look? I feel you on the “bourgeois” black church shunning the prophetic tradition. During the Jeremiah Wright episode in the Obama campaign, quite a few black pastors around Jackson took that time to exclaim that Wright’s prophetic preaching was no part of any Black Church tradition they knew. I even engaged a prominent black pastor on the subject via e-mail exchange after I saw him on the local news proclaiming this sentiment. It was eye opening to say the least how far many black churches have come from our roots in the social gospel/prophetic tradition. I am Familiar with J Cameron Carter’s book. It is very insightful indeed, he's intellect is quite towering. I have some critiques that I would like to share with you as well, perhaps in another forum. I will be coming to Mt. Helm this Sunday for Sunday School and Worship (the wife and I are looking for a church home). I would like to come to Bible study, but I have babysitting duty on Wednesday and Thursday Nights.

Author
Renaldo Bryant
Date
2010-10-13T16:03:48-06:00
ID
160314
Comment

Hey, we're feeling kind of like a matchmaker here. ;-) So thrilled to see you here, CJ. And I'd love to hear more book suggestions from both of you (appropriate for the laywoman, of course. Not sure I can keep up with you two.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-13T16:12:34-06:00
ID
160318
Comment

Cosmetic diversity will not alone do; but it can bear hope for deeper transformation. I love that statement. Too often, it seems that people (of all races) don't even want to attempt the most basic diversity, assuming that it won't work or someone will laugh at them for trying or such. I hear it from media leaders all the time--handwringing over not knowing where to start or worrying about looking like they're trying too hard. I always wonder why they don't worry more about the obvious problem of trying barely at all. I think we can be prophetic and still draw those of other races who's hearts and heads have been moved by amazing grace to see the trauma, tyranny, and totalizing evil of white (male) supremacy. That statement brought tears to my eyes. My favorite examples of these people are, indeed, white males who see and feel it, like my partner Todd. And the idea of "beloved community" is one of the most remarkable concepts I can imagine. Thanks for your comments about the JFP, CJ. And I admit I don't mind us being called "hip whites." I will emphasize that the diversity on our staff (and among owners) has a huge impact on the way we do things and our outreach. We can't do any of this alone. I like it when you're shameless, Reverend. ;-) I appreciate the invitation. It is no secret that I'm a bit of a spiritual freelancer (to borrow a phrase from Karen Armstrong), but I know I would enjoy your services, and I plan to attend soon.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-13T16:51:17-06:00
ID
160319
Comment

I'm going to have to come by Mt. Helm too someday for a visit. I'm not used to churches with ministers who are well-educated in academics and the gospel. I'm familiar with many that pretends to be though. I don't want to see just a sweating show and pretense of having super powers or even perfection, which is why I was so offended by Eddie Long telling the congregation he wasn't perfect. Had I been present I'd have been tempted to scream out I know that Negro, what i want to know is.... Anyway, in light of what's now being said and discussed, y'all be sure to let me know when the next event of the type is to take place. I want to attend and assess it for myself. I just don't want Master preaching to me about my going to heaven after he finished working me to death. I rather have can't-read-John preaching about how we can overcome ole Master while we live so no other slaves will have to live this way. I'm all for trying to reconcile and make improvement, but I'm not in the mood for continued domination and trickery. I know the whole story on integration and about what we gave up and got in return. I have faith but I also have very good sense.

Author
Walt
Date
2010-10-13T16:55:23-06:00
ID
160322
Comment

Speaking of Armstrong, I just saw this passage in an interview with her about fundamentalism (and the next question explaining her "freelancer" status is interesting, too): You’ve explored the rise of fundamentalism as a response to modernity’s challenges to religious faith. Could you characterize a fundamentalist mindset? Every fundamentalist movement that I have studied is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation. It is a defensive, embattled religiosity that is fighting for its life. Because fundamentalists fear annihilation, they are highly suspicious of the “other” and have all developed quite pernicious views of the “enemy,” though it must be emphasized that only a tiny proportion of fundamentalists take part in acts of terror and violence. Most are simply trying to live what they regard as a true religious life in a world that seems increasingly hostile to faith, and all have developed in a symbiotic relationship with a secularism that is felt as invasive and destructive. Every single fundamentalist movement that I have studied is convinced that modern secular society is trying to wipe out religion. And besides religious fundamentalists, there are secular fundamentalists who often have as bigoted and inaccurate an idea of religion as fundamentalists have of secularism. What does it mean to be a “freelance monotheist,” as you have described yourself? I do not belong to any one tradition exclusively. In my studies, I have drawn nourishment from Judaism and Islam, as well as from the various forms of Christianity. I cannot regard any one of these faiths as superior, and certainly do not regard any one as having the monopoly of truth. But this description of my position is not really accurate any longer, because, as you know, my last book was about the Buddha, and I was quite enthralled by his insights. I am also discovering the Chinese traditions, as well as Hinduism. These faiths are all so deeply similar. Each has its own particular genius, each its peculiar weakness. And at the moment I find inspiration in them all.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2010-10-13T17:04:18-06:00

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