Jun 27 2010

Multi-culti theology at Claremont

Category: church,God,higher education,theology,universityharmonicminer @ 8:48 am

Incredibly, the Claremont School of Theology is getting ready to expand its offerings, just a tiny, wee bit:

In a bow to the growing diversity of America’s religious landscape, the Claremont School of Theology, a Christian institution with long ties to the Methodist Church, will add clerical training for Muslims and Jews to its curriculum this fall, to become, in a sense, the first truly multi-faith American seminary.

The transition, which is being formally announced Wednesday, upends centuries of tradition in which seminaries have hewn not just to single faiths but often to single denominations within those faiths. Eventually, Claremont hopes to add clerical programs for Buddhists and Hindus.

Although there are other theological institutions that accept students of multiple faiths, or have partnerships with institutions of other religions, Claremont is believed to be the first accredited institution that will train students of multiple faiths for careers as clerics. The 275-student seminary offers master’s and doctoral degrees.

“It’s really kind of a creative, bold move,” said David Roozen, director of the Institute for Religion Research at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. “It kind of fits, to some extent, California…. I think there will be a lot of us who will be watching that experiment.”

Claremont’s administration sees the multi-faith expansion as the wave of the future in American theological training. But it is straining relations between the school and more conservative elements of the United Methodist Church, which this year was expected to provide about 8% of Claremont’s $10-million budget. The church suspended its support for the school earlier this year pending an investigation.

I’m not sure just what is meant by the phrase, “the more conservative elements of the United Methodist Church.”  Would that mean the people who think Jesus was actually the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, who was born to the virgin Mary, died on the cross, and was bodily resurrected by the Father on the third day?  Whose sacrifice is the means for our forgiveness, who atoned for our sins by the crucifixion, who demonstrated the He alone has the power of eternal life, as demonstrated in the resurrection?

I suppose that these days only “conservatives” believe these things.  For all the rest, who think the “narrative” is what matters, that the “metaphor” of the resurrection is meant to apply in some analogical way to human life and society, nothing much is true enough to fight for.  Why shouldn’t Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc., get their innings?  After all, don’t they have a narrative, too?  Don’t they have some of God’s truth?  What are we worried about, anyway, if all truth is God’s truth?

In the meantime, I think it’s a safe bet that John Wesley, founder of Methodism in the 18th century, would be beyond appalled.  I can’t help but wonder what (few?) remaining United Methodists who believe in orthodox Christian teachings are thinking about this.  I would guess the response of the United Methodist Church to this decision is going to tell the tale.   I am not very optimistic about it, given its recent history.  Essentially, if the UMC doesn’t rise up as a body and resoundingly reject this out of hand, they should just give up, and change their name to Social Justice, Incorporated, or maybe United for Leftist Politicians (ULP).  Or they could just join the Unitarians, who don’t believe in Jesus either.

In the mad dash to be a better exemplar of “diversity” than the other guy, look for other (especially denominationally untethered) seminaries to follow Claremont’s lead.  One can only wonder where they’ll draw the line.  Why not mix in a little Hopi Indian tradition, some voodoo, and a dash of Shintoism?  And these multicultural days, what about Zoroastrianism, or, for that matter, cannibalistic fertility cults of the south Pacific, or African tribal rites?  Who is to say where some slice of God’s truth may not be found?

When Claremont starts building Aztec pyramids in the parking lot on Foothill Avenue, I’m going to begin sticking to the 210 freeway whenever I drive through the area (well…  if the freeway sniper doesn’t make a reappearance, anyway).  I don’t think I would be an acceptable sacrifice to appease the Sun God (who, to the surprise of the eco-pagan Cult of Gore, seems to be unusually quiescent this year), but I don’t want to find out the hard way.  Hey…  maybe the new religion of eco-pagan EarthWorship could get a department at Claremont, too!  Oh, I forgot….  they already have one at most universities.  They just need to move it into the School of Theology, where it belongs.  So maybe Claremont will be ahead of the game.

When this whole Aztec-sacrifice-in-the-parking-lot thing really gets up in high gear, it’s going to do a number on the restaurant trade in the city of Claremont.  Talk about eating meat sacrificed to idols….

6 Responses to “Multi-culti theology at Claremont”

  1. K dippre says:

    Just a slight conflict of interest there…. Don’t leave out the Satanists and the Scientologists. Apparently they want their seminary to be all-inclusive to the point of meaning nothing anymore.

  2. k salveson says:

    Yes… tolerance, ecumenical outreach, building bridges between centuries old faiths around the world and understanding the universal spiritual urge in humans from disparate perspectives… as Jesus said about everyone but his own Jewish followers…Screw you! There can only be one! Take off those stupid caps and shave those smelly beards! All others must be stamped out, or tarred with a cult brush, they offer nothing but impure heresy! Huh? …Seems to me all religious share common components of prayer, morality, and discipline, but even if Jesus rose from the Jewish tradition and even if Muslims share many aspects of worship and morality with Christians, screw ‘em, we’d rather foster religious conflict around the world. Only one world cup winner. USA USA!

  3. harmonicminer says:

    I suppose it all depends on whether or not you actually believe what your seminary teaches. If you do, you won’t allow it to teach what you believe to be false. If you don’t, on what ground will you decide it should not teach sun-worship, or voodoo?

    Of course, if you don’t really believe that anything is exactly true, then by default you fall in the second category.

  4. tonedeaf says:

    k salveson, read the non-religious, non-political book, “The Bookseller of Kabul” and then say that “…Muslims share many aspects of worship and morality with Christians..”. You might be surprised.

  5. innermore says:

    Putting all these beehives together in one place sounds like a knock-down drag-out cage match in the making to me. Maybe we’ll finally find out which religion is the truest.

  6. k salveson says:

    Tone,
    Looks like great book, thanks for the recommendation. However, we already know the Taliban is radical Islam at its worst. Does that mean there can be no ecumenical meeting point for moderates from both sides? Are many US Generals, and others who invaded Afghanistan, Christians? Sure. So somewhere on a website a moderate Muslim is condemning both radical Islam and US Generals who profess holy war, and yet there is no place for him or her in the discussion? Tim McVeigh was Christian, so does that mean all Christians are terrorists? The Ecumenical approach is the right approach here… all religions have their good points, and all have their radicals. We cannot let the radicals set the tone of the dialogue. We all have to live together, and Jesus preached tolerance, understanding, forgiveness, etc even if some who profess the creed do not follow its commandments. Its better to meet at the middle and discuss similarities rather than blow out the candle so that we can better curse the darkness. I think that’s the general idea rather than something radical or condemning.

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