The Limits of Religion

Two stories caught my eye/ear in the last 24 hours.  The first came on MPR last night.  It seems that a group of Somalian Muslims had boycotted the first few days of school in the small town of Winona, Minnesota because their children were not being allowed to pray when they wanted.  Six years ago, the school superintendant reported, a group of parents and administrators had agreed on when the children could pray, even though the prayer times shift slightly every day in relation to sunrise and sunset.  But the current parents don’t feel they should have to abide by an agreement made six years ago by other people.

But, of the entire report, I found a quote by an Islamic rights expert to be the most interesting.  He said that afternoon prayer can take place anytime between 1:30pm and 4:00pm — it’s just that some Muslims only want to pray at the very beginning of that time and not wait until, as the superintendent called it, “Non-instructional time” (a.k.a., passing time, recess, lunch, etc.).

The other story has been around for a while, but it’s just been written up poignantly by its protagonist and posted on Steve Waldman’s blog.  Doug Kmiec is a scholar and author with conservative, Republican bona fides out the wazoo.  But he endorsed BO because of BO’s commitment to the full range of life issues.  In a much ballyhooed incident, Kmiec, a devout Catholic, was denied the Eucharist by a priest, and even shouted at during the mass for “cooperating with evil” and “killing babies.”

It seems to me that both of these are stories of religion beyond the limits of religion (how’s that for a Rollinsesque turn-of-phrase?).  These are examples of when religion slips past theology and into the realm of unthinking ideology.  And, methinks, this is the very thing that Jesus so often spoke and acted out against.  When we turn thoughtful, reflective theology into reactionary, unthinking behavior, we’ve left Christianity (or Islam, for that matter) and ventured into a space that is no longer bounded by a humilty before God.

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  • My simple minded, non ivy league response to all of that is thus – – selfish!

    that’s what happens when religion is too much about the individual (person, institution, denomination, etc). And I agree, it’s religion that is beyond the limits of religion.

  • It is really nice to have you back on your blog regularly. Really. Nice.

  • Pingback: Tony’s Rollinseque Turn on Relgion Beyond Religion : The Edge of the Inside()

  • Evidently, Jesus is on your side. How convenient.

  • Brian

    Hmmm… I disagree with both Catholicism and Islam. But to say that these people in these examples aren’t thinking, I think that is just a bit arrogant. Thinking people have disagreements and come to different conclusions about the same issues all the time. Just because someone holds strongly to their interpretation of their religion when one “expert” says that it’s OK to pray within the range of times proves nothing. Other experts say other things. And a thinking person must choose somewhere within or outside of the ranges. Because one happens to have a more strict view than you doesn’t automatically make them out of bounds, unless you are being arrogant. And Jesus didn’t speak out against “unthinking ideology” as much as he spoke out against self-worship, false worship, etc. as seen by it’s opposition to Scripture. Some of those pharisees thought quite a bit, and they were condemned for their false worship, being called sons of the Devil, etc. And yet those who were very open, and not at all strict were called wolves in sheep’s clothing, etc.

  • Brian

    And really, who is it that defines the limits of religion. If the most important law (as told by Christ) is to love God with everything we have, then that would seem to me that religion has no bounds, and that we should seek to be religious in the true sense at all times, whether at school, or in politics, or whatever. Loving God is more important than whether you get an A or B in high school geometry… or spending all you energy promoting a candidate who won’t make any difference anyway.

  • Clint,

    lovely. why not grapple with the substance of Tony’s post?