Comparative Religion

COMPARATIVE RELIGION COURSE FINAL ESSAY
The course study about the comparative religions was found to be very informative. This course provided a fine background on the development of religious doctrines and how many are formed and the basic tenants of the main religious entities in our world. It is interesting to see the various theological considerations and beliefs. The manner of comparison given was excellent in its presentation.
I gained insight into many factions of religions and the similarities and differences from the concepts that exist. It is interesting to think back of the readings and find that there are many means used to formulate the various religions and their main elements that comprise them. What is noticeable is the basic term in which religion is founded and how that effects today’s life for worship. Beginning with Shamanism to the theory for the future where the female may take new roles in the male dominated religious thought. Early religion started with the female as primary and evolved into a male dominated system. The use of the stories and lesson to show what is now the main principles associated with each of the various beliefs is unique.
I was surprised to learn about how the evolution of the religions sprang out of other practices. I begin with the Shamanistic theories of a basically unorganized singular precept, to the modern elements to make an organized set of standards or beliefs, come to pass.
I found that each of the developed religions started with some form of leader to be called upon to be the basis of worship and the values they instilled into their faiths.
I think it is important to understand how religion was transformed and progressed to modern day. The fact that our religions have so many similar starts is interesting and how they incorporated hierarchies within and who is revered as leadership and attributed to such belief systems. Each seems to have some person who is given the form of responsibility for further the belief system here on earth and how they related to a supreme being is validity for each group of practice.
I gained insight as to the means of the various religions that exist and how they progressed to their present state of being from the founder to the current status in our world. What is interesting is the differences that are thought to be as in essences, they all seem to have similar beginnings. And yet, they consider themselves different from one another. There is a centralized deity for all. Who is this deity that we all believe in if we follow a religion? I see that it is all one in the same and thus wonder how we can be so different and fight amongst ourselves to show dominance.
The concept of G_d and the messenger sent to create the religion is an odd issue to me. The various religions all seem to have G_d and then messengers from G_d to establish the values of that religion. And, again they seem to be so different and so alike. The teachings from the Torah and the Bible and the stories of religions feature the similar set of beliefs in an established faith. So how can it be that things are so different for people in the decision to worship as they do? Why is their such divergent thought of how to achieve religious faith and yet we basically can consider the final outcome as having a faith to worship under G_d.?
I am perplexed that we have such problems with allowing people to have their faiths and yet one seems to value their beliefs as paramount to others. To me, the religions are then influenced by man as they, the scholars or teachers of such values, seemingly sway persons to believe they are they true means in which to value our Lord. This Lord is the same for all, but the teachings give their messenger the value of the means to achieve the best that can come to them. I find it somewhat incoherent that faiths cannot co-exist without the feeling that there is one and only one means to achieve oneness with the Lord.
In reading these lessons, it becomes apparent that there are the faiths that people choose for whatever reason to follow to achieve that oneness. It is not wrong or right, it is that there are many roads to take to get to a destination. These roads lead to the same place in symbolism. Yet, acceptance by faiths has a tendency to show predominance when none should be taught to see that. I think it is relative that different means to get to the destination are all valid and each has their own positives and negatives. There are the intervening variables of time and the way that life has evolved and this gives us the idea of how we achieve a state of faith.
In comparing religious faiths, we see that one can follow directions to obtain our faith through different means. We see that one’s faith is influenced over time and sets of beliefs and values are taught to us as a manner of finding our faith. Thus, one has to be indoctrinated into a form of following to find that which is right for them to obtain security with their faith. The generations prior have influenced the direction each takes to find faith. Groups then evolve into other means to find this goal. But, ultimately is not so important as to which means or road one travels, but that they get there in the end through the system they choose to guide them their.
As a non-denominational Reverend, I find value in all facets of belief as long as others are given the rights to choose the course they wish to follow. This course has shown me the different means by which people may choose and how they came to be and the precepts that they have to get their beliefs. It is intriguing and also somewhat odd that so many roads lead to the same destination. Is it wrong? No, not at all. It is what route seems the most feasible to those that choose to use that direction and the comfort they derive from using that faith.
I enjoyed this course as it gave me a wide amount of things to see and think about. It provided the basic to understand how various religions serve their devotees. It also shows the origin of such for people to have come to a choice or manner of belief.
If asked what I didn’t like as is suggested, there is nothing I have found that was not of valuable to me. And as asked, there is no suggestion that comes to me for improvement.
If I was to make suggestion, it would be to chapterize and feature each major religion specifically to see what it is they each have to offer or for following and show how each is established singularly in future course. For example and chapter on each religion itself without the comparison to others. It would like to see the individual analysis of each major religion discussed with all that is basic to it particularly and solely devoted to the primary religion as the next offering of course work. I think then one could read of Christianity as a primer and Judaism and Hinduism and such in a singular chapter encompassing that which was covered in comparative manner in this course. It would then be helpful to study each one and all of its beliefs separately and then together in a full course. Additionally, it would be helpful to have a matrix of the similarities and differences for each as a guideline to see that which is in existence with each religious set of values.
All in all, I looked forward to each weeks lessons and how they are intertwine with each other.
I hope this provides the analysis that is requested and indicates my thought of how this impacted my belief that we must all be accepting of each other. After all, the road is not as important as reaching the destination, but, tolerance must be exercised to allow each person to find their road to faith and oneness with G_d.
Thank you for such and enlightening course and all the work that went into it. It is obvious that a great deal of time and effort went into this and I am so pleased with myself to have taken the effort to enjoy the scholarly manner it was presented in and how it was composed.
Sincerely,
The Reverend Adam Rocke

 

Defining Spiritualism by Rev. Mayer

Defining Spiritualism Final Essay
Rev Sharon J. Mayer
This is an extraordinary course in ministry. It has laid the groundwork for assisting others in the understanding of the complexities of belief. I enjoyed the whole course and the way it was relate to the ministry of the Universal Life Church. The author kept simple many ideas and teachings while not being overwhelming in fact or intellect. I am sorry the course has come to an end I did look forward to each lesson to gain either a way to move forward or an understanding of where I was and what needed to be learned or changed to move forward. This has been one of the more insightful classes I have taken from the seminary.
This will be a course that I will be able to use as a background to assist those I minister. Many of the people I come in contact with have a background in extreme religious Christian churches and have left this and grown away from any form of religion or spirituality. They are tired of being told they are not good enough to have love in their lives and to live life to the fullest. Because of this they are lonely and feel unworthy. This was a point brought out in Lesson 8 of the course. Unfortunately the younger people of today seem to be those that are the most affected by the thought they are not good enough. My little group has people in menial jobs, overcoming addiction, bad relationships, and despair. None of us have much formal education but we all have a desire for a better existence for ourselves and the world.
I believe one of the most destructive concepts of church writing was the concept of predestination. This is the major thought I have to overcome with my group. Many seem to feel this is Truth so why care? I was once asked to leave a church because I taught that God loves us all just as we are. I was using the church learning tools but when someone overheard me saying “No matter what you do you can overcome it because God still loves you.” They spoke to the church council who before speaking to me asked me to leave. Some did apologize when the realized it was from the church curriculum but I never when back to the church. If they could not understand of all groups why should I want to be with them?
In view of the events at VT I am again drawn to Lesson 10 and the paragraph that reads “So try to remember and be understanding of the fact that someone completely contained in his or her conscious mind is suffering greatly. These people believe themselves to have an absolute understanding of that which cannot be absolutely understood. When life acts in ways other than their absolute understanding, it affects them greatly. They suffer depression, anger, hostility, all host of negative energy emotions because they think they know absolutely and they are proven wrong every day.” I have compassion for the families of those who lost their lives but I also have compassion for the young man who felt he had The Answer. He never saw the beauty in life.
As to what I received from the lessons I can only repeat what the instructor stated. The more I study the more I realize I know nothing. I will take the ideas and suggestions given in the closing of the course to heart and realize that I can not change what I do not own and I own nothing. Each person in the world sees with only their eyes and each life is that persons alone.

 

How To Write A Universal Life Church Sermon

Here’s my simple, proven formula for a sermon or gospel talk:

Name the topic and sub-topic (if there is one).
Make sure your talk informs, inspires, entertains, blesses and empowers.
Are you passionate about this topic yourself? If not you’ll lose your audience in the first minute.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them what it will mean to them, personally and collectively.
Tell it to them.
Tell them what you told them, summarize briefly.
Give them a related, viable challenge.
Bless them.

Blessings and Abundant Love, Morgan

Final Essay Master of Spirituality

I found this course easy to understand, it leads you right through the historic thinking of man, on the subject of is there, or isn’t there? Rev. Bynum set this course up following the progression of thought as it happened, as a list of great thinkers, that shaped the way we think today!

As I studied these discourses more, and more, I realized how correct the instructor was when in his first discourse said, “it is designed to aid in your ministerial abilities”. Following these discourses, I was able to see how modern thought was shaped, so many centuries ago! Understanding how the scientific mind works, and their thought processes has been an enlightening, and rewarding learning experience. It’s helped aid in my ability to spot these different philosophies in people, and use the appropriate technique while ministering to them (still a work in progress).

The first homework assignment blew me away, observing the two different types of people, the heart driven, and the mind driven. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to distinguish between the two when you really pay attention. It’s something you always knew about different people, but that lesson brought more thought into why we are, the way we are, and wet my appetite for more!

I had never compared religion and science. I guess I always saw the differences between the two, and it never occurred to me to look for the similarities, and how closely related they really are. How both of them incorporated into ones life makes for such a rich existence of health, and learning ( mental, spiritual, physical) it transcends any former philosophy in my opinion.

How is it possible to go backwards once you see the limitations we put on ourselves for so long with closed minds? :thumbsup:

Rev C Watson
Enjoy your next 24, PEACE!

Master of Religion Essay by Rev. Jack Anderson

Master of Religion Essay
By Reverend Jack Anderson
 
The Bible is the sacred text of all Christians. Although there are differences between the bibles of some Christian denominations, essentially all Bibles are divided into two parts – the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament gives the history of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. It’s filled with myths, stories of love and hate, peace and war, adultery, murder, victory and loss. It also includes stories of Prophets, messengers of God, who came to remind the people of how God expected them to act, but more importantly to foretell the coming of a Messiah who would be a savior to the people. After years of compilation these stories and messages of prophets now make up the Old Testament.
The New Testament is the story of the growth of Christianity, and the coming of the long awaited Messiah. This covers the time shortly before this coming, the birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, as well as his life and the lessons he taught during his time on earth. The New Testament also recounts his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. The rest of the New Testament tells how his followers dealt with his absence, how they carried on his work and spread his message, and waited for the promised “Second Coming” of the Lord.
The New Testament begins with four books called Gospels, which means “Good News”. They are (in order as in the bible): Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John . Although all four gospels recount events of Jesus’ life, the Gospel according to Mark is unique among these four. It is the shortest of all four gospels; however, one of its most important features is that (according to the Two-Source Hypothesis) it is thought that the gospels of Matthew and Luke took much of their information from Mark. There are large sections from these two gospels that are word-for-word exactly as the same as sections are in Mark. This is significant because Mark was believed to be written first, therefore, it is considered to be a “cornerstone” for which the other gospels were built. Although the book does not officially have an assigned author, and it is officially labeled the “Gospel According to Mark”, the author is traditionally thought to be John Mark, a follower of Jesus some time after Jesus’ death and resurrection (most likely between A.D. 55 and 70, since this is the date that the book is thought to be written). John Mark traveled with Jesus’ apostles Peter as well as worked by his side in Rome. It is because of John Mark’s relationship with the apostle Peter that the gospel of Mark is categorized as having apostolic origins, meaning that it was written by either an apostle of Jesus or someone who had a close connection with an apostle. John Mark is also mentioned in some of Paul’s epistles, because he traveled with Paul and Barnabas (who was his cousin). Because of his close relationship with these influential figures in Christian history, particularly Peter the apostle, it is no wonder that the gospel of Mark is a narrative, and even a lot like a biography of Jesus, recounting very detailed events of his life and exact lessons that he taught. While working with Peter he must have been privy to all kinds of stories of the man whom he was so devoted to and for whom he and all other Christians sacrificed so much. He, of course, also heard many stories of Jesus’ teachings, which he and other apostles, disciples, and missionaries were teaching others. One of those stories of Jesus’ message, recounted in the Gospel According to Mark, 12: 28-34, is commonly referred to as “The First Commandment and Greatest Commandment”.
In this narrative gospel of Mark, Jesus is preaching when a scribe ventured to ask him which commandment was the first, or in other words, which one was most important to follow. His response to “love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30) and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31) is what this passage centers around. At hearing Jesus’ response, the scribe who initially questioned him responded by stating that he knew these things were important above all other things, particularly, “burnt offerings and sacrifices required by the law” (Mk. 12:33). The importance that Jesus sees in understanding and abiding by these commandments is emphasized by the author, John Mark, by writing that when Jesus saw that the scribe understood he told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”.
The location of this passage in the Bible is not surprising because it is surrounded by passages (particularly in chapters 11 and 12) which are similar in that Jesus’ authority to teach and beliefs are being challenged by the authority figures in the Jewish faith, particularly those who run the Jewish Temple. It is important to notice that Jesus answered by stating not one, but two commandments, that had been given to Moses and the Israelites many years ago – found in Deuteronomy 6:5, as well as in Leviticus 19:18. These passages are in not only what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, but are in the Torah (the sacred scripture of the Jewish faith), which Jesus would have been very familiar with as a practicing Jew. Equally important, is the fact that these passages are based on the core idea of love. As a result of these two details which cannot be overlooked, I think that the message of “The First and Greatest Commandment” is to establish Jesus as the new lawgiver with the message to love God and to love others. We must know and understand these commandments, as well as apply them to our lives, and it is when we are able to do these things, that we may fully enter into the kingdom of God.
When reflecting on Jesus’ answer to the scribe, one must notice that Jesus states two passages from the Old Testament. This may seem insignificant; however, it is highly significant. Also notice that in the surrounding passages, as well as in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the books surrounding the Gospel of Mark, Jesus authority is constantly being questioned and he is being put to the test by Scribes and Pharisees. The Jewish leaders were uncomfortable with Jesus’ practices because he did not follow the Mosaic Law, or Covenant (the set of rules and regulations that strictly guided the Jews “religious and community life and acted as their ‘constitution”, which also includes the Ten Commandments) as strictly as they believed he should. Jesus healed the sick on the Sabbath and ate with sinners and lepers, things that the scribes and Pharisees would never dream of doing. In quoting the sacred texts of the Jews, it was established that Jesus was a devoted, and practicing Jew, something the Scribes may have been confused by, because with his teachings Jesus made a statement to the Jews that he was the new covenant, the new lawgiver. The thought of something with more authority than the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament was highly disturbing to the Jewish leaders because they neither knew, nor wanted another way. The Old Testament can also be referred to as the “Law of Fear and Servitude” because it focuses primarily on rules, laws, and punishments. Jesus came to preach a very different message – one of hope and love, which he summed up in two sentences. That is why the New Testament is referred to as the New Law, or the “Law of Love and Liberty”. As Sullivan explains, this is why St. Thomas Aquinas considered the New Law to be infused, to come from within. The Old Testament was about outwardly appearance, while the New Testament was about individual intimate relationships. Although Jesus certainly taught the importance of obedience to God, he taught that instead it is better to obey the Lord because of love, not fear of punishment. As a result of that love for the Lord, we are inclined from within ourselves to follow the law of God because we love him (thus, the title “Law of Liberty”). And with that same love, it is only logical that we would treat our neighbors with that same love, as we would want to be treated. Because the New Testament is a reflection on Jesus and his teachings, this passage in Mark is a perfect model of Jesus’ different form of teaching, and how he established himself as the new lawgiver, or new covenant to the people with his message to love God and to love others.
As previously mentioned, the surrounding Gospels of Matthew and Luke also include this same passage; however, they differ greatly, as Agnes Norfleet notes in, Between Text and Sermon. In the other gospels, the environment in which Jesus is questioned is very tense, accusatory, and unreceptive. The individuals questioning (more so challenging) Jesus are not questioning in order to receive answers, they are searching for a way to catch Jesus saying something that could be taken in an offensive way to the Jewish faith and tradition, in hopes of convicting him on a charge of blasphemy or another related crime. After hearing Jesus’ response his questioners are merely more aggravated and set on his conviction than before. The same passage, but in Mark, is a great contrast! The environment in Mark is pleasant and accepting.
More importantly, the scribe who questions Jesus reflects on the answer he is given and finds that he agrees. When he states he thinks these commandments must be “more important than the burnt offerings and sacrifices required by the law”, he expresses understanding because he is able to apply Jesus’ message to his own life. Unlike the Jewish leaders in the surrounding books and passages, he is able to see the big picture and look past the “Law of Fear and Punishment” and sees the message of “Love and Liberty” that Jesus preaches. This is exactly what Jesus wants all of his followers to do! He wants his followers to take his message and not merely accept it, but to judge for themselves and if in accord, to apply it to their lives! The importance Jesus places on this, as well as the desire he has for us to understand and act on his love is sealed when he tells the wise scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”.
The Gospel of Mark 12:2-34 can be interpreted and debated hundreds of ways, but I believe that the theological message of the passage was to establish Jesus as the new lawgiver, as well as to preach his message: to love God and to love others. Once able do this, his followers would be able to realize that they could live out his message by understanding and applying it to their everyday lives. When his followers could fully live out this “First and Greatest Commandment” they, like the scribe, would be in a place in which they longed to be, and Jesus longs for all of humanity to be, and that is “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).
 No discourse on religion in general would be complete without a glimpse into Christianity and Islam.
Historically Jesus & Mohammed are very important religious figures, and still remain important religious figures today. Jesus Christ (also known as Jesus of Nazareth) is the central figure of Christianity. Mohammed is considered to be the founder of Islam. Muslims regard Mohammed as the last and most important profit.
Christian views of Jesus are both diverse and complex. Most Christians believe that Jesus is simultaneously the Son of God and God made incarnate, sent to provide salvation and reconciliation with God by atoning for the sins of humanity. Nontrinitarian Christians adopt various other interpretations regarding the divinity of Jesus. Most Christians believe that Jesus was born from the virgin Mary, than later crucified and buried in a tomb. They also believe that he was resurrected on the third day of death, also know as Easter and ascended into Heaven where he resides with God the Father until the Second Coming. Most Christians also believe that Jesus performed miracles and fulfilled biblical prophecy. In Islam, Jesus is considered one of God’s most beloved and important prophets, a bringer of divine scripture, and also the Messiah. Furthermore, the Virgin Birth of Jesus is an article of faith. Muslims, however, do not share the Christian belief in the crucifixion or divinity of Jesus. Islam teaches that Jesus was raised to heaven. Most Muslims believe that Jesus will return to the earth as Messiah in the company of the Mahdi once the earth has become full of sin and injustice.
This information shows just how important Jesus was and still is today. Many people still view Jesus in these same ways.
Mohammed was historically very important to his followers as well, According to Islam Pakistanway (2007)[The main sources of information on Muhammad's life are the Qur'an, and the traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him (the sira and hadith literature). These sources are part of the oral traditions, the compilation of the Qur'an was completed early after the death of Muhammad and while the earliest surviving written sira dates to 150 years after Muhammad, and the compilation and analysis of the hadith literature took place even later. Thus, historians as well as Islamic scholars (Ulema) have attached varying degrees of skepticism to these accounts. Most historians agree that Muhammad lived during the 7th century and adopted various monotheistic traditions in an effort to replace the common polytheistic religions of the Arabian Peninsula, eventually gaining wide acceptance as a prophet.]
Modern historians do not really accept the medieval western conception of Muhammad; they feel that he is an imposter. Academic scholars such as Montgomery Watt, Sprenger, Noldeke, Weil, Muir, Koelle, Grimme and Margoliouth agree that Muhammad was sincere and had a profound belief in himself and his mission as nothing else could explain Muhammad’s readiness to endure hardship and persecution during the Meccan period when from the secular point of view there was no prospect of success. There are differing views as to whether he remained sincere later in the Medinian period. Several scholars hold that Muhammad’s ideas developed gradually: Some traditions were taken from the Bible and included in the Qur’an in order to have followers from Christianity and Judaism convert to Islam.
The death of both Jesus and Mohammed had significant impact of their followers. The death and resurrection of Jesus are still the most important events in Christian history. This it’s self is what formed the entire Christian religion. This showed that God himself has the power over life and death, also showing that he has the ability to give people eternal life. Most Christians accept the New Testament story as an historical account of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is center of their faith. Some liberal Christians do not accept a literal bodily resurrection, seeing the story as richly symbolic and spiritually nourishing myth. Almost all non-Christians do not accept the bodily resurrection of Jesus. They therefore either deny the resurrection as a form of myth, or agree with liberal Christians that the resurrection was a devoutly held, powerful myth.
As we can see the death of Jesus split his followers. Some people believed the story of his death and resurrection; other passed it off as a myth or never believed he was human at all. Within a few decades after his death, his successors had united all of Arabia under an Islamic empire, which essentially became the successor to the Sassanid, Byzantine, and ultimately Roman empires. Islam today is the faith of 1.3-1.7 billion people all over the globe, and is now the second largest religion after Christianity by the number of adherents.]
The teachings of both Jesus and Mohammed are still carried out today in much the same ways they were before they died. The story of both Jesus and Mohammed is being taught by people all over the world to kids of the next generation. Jesus and Mohammed are both still being worshiped around the world. People still gather together to warship, pray, and listen to the teachings of both Jesus and Mohammed. Special days are set aside for the worship of both Jesus and Mohammed. Called Holidays, Christmas and Easter are days sent a side for Celebration of Jesus birthday and the day of his resurrection. Mohammed’s followers have days sent aside as well.
In conclusion this glimpse at Islam and Christianity allow us as students to look at their parallels and make us better for them. Jesus and Mohammed were very important people in religion and still remain very important today. I have several friends who are of the Islamic faith and this prompted me to do this research.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this chance to reset my own basic tenets and re-establishing my belief system. I would not change anything in the course.
 
Bibliography
The International Student Bible for Catholics: New American Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1987.
The Zondervan NIV Bible, Zondervan Publishing, 2008
Norfleet, Agnes W. “Mark 12:28-34.” Interpretation: Between Text and Sermon 51, no. 4 (October 1997): 403-406. ATLA
Arikah Encyclopedia (2007) Retrieved June, 2012 from

http://www.arikah.net/encyclopedia/Jesus

Islam Pakistanway (2007) Retrieved June, 2012 from

http://islam.pakistanway.com/ShowTopic.aspx?topicid=230&typeid=24

Life of Christ (2007) Retrieved June, 2012 From

Chaplaincy Studies Essay by Jack Anderson

Chaplaincy
By Reverend Jack Anderson
 
Spiritual direction: Finding the key to our inner souls
Inside each human person, say pastoral ministers, is a deep desire to connect with what is most beautiful, joyful, peaceful and true about the world and about each person’s unique call from God to be of service. But the noise, and trying to meet deadlines, and pressures of contemporary life often leave many people too frazzled to experience God’s presence for more than a nano-second here and there.How do people maintain virtues of hope, joy and love and not be overrun by becoming bitter, despairing or resentful?Enter the Chaplain–a skilled spiritual person assisting other people of faith to discover God’s presence in his/her life, build a vibrant prayer life, learn spiritual tools for discernment and decision-making, and develop a close relationship with God. Christians who are serious about their faith recognize they can’t do it alone.

As a Chaplain I will be able to offer a helping relationship to anyone seeking answers to spiritual questions and wanting to develop a spiritual background that supports their call. I can offer advice about solving problems as a pastoral counselor and help a person tap into God’s guidance and to sort out God’s voice from other pulls or tugs that come from the culture or elsewhere.

As a trained Chaplain I will provide counseling or therapy that is consistent with my skill level. My role will be to help individuals deal with a particular issue where they feel stuck. A Chaplain is using a microscope to help in locating and dissecting the problem for effective remediation..  A Clergy person asks, Where is God in this particular situation?  That person would be using a telescope to identify that a problem exists.

Many lay people become interested in seeking a Chaplain’s guidance when facing life-altering decisions like whether to change careers, move to another city, or choose a marriage partner.

God has given each one of us the key to understand our inner souls. I don’t think we were taught to trust that feeling by ourselves but were made to understand with clarification from your clergy.

Choosing the career path of a Chaplain should also be guided by faith. You should meet with other Chaplains and/or clergy to get a sense of the job and then to choose, as time allows, the path you will take.

People are going to ask, ‘How will I know this is the right path?’ I would then have to respond by saying  ‘I don’t know, but I know you’ll know.’


It’s already moving out into the world as Chaplains apply their ministry in hospitals, homes for the elderly, prisons or homeless shelters.
Immigrants often lack extended family and trust the church as a place where they can be listened to. Occasionally that is not enough and the Christians will seek the friendliness of the Chaplain as they can counsel at the person’s home or living abode. Sometimes the people may choose the atmosphere of the Church setting. The really important thing to me is that the troubled person has someone to talk to and confide in while seeking spiritual and emotional answers.

Students quite often will be an excellent choice for enrolling in the Chaplaincy program as it gives them a real opportunity to see how people of the community may have a multitude of problem both spiritual and being a human in general. A good portion may not have received a “calling” but it is critical for questions to be answered.  Students will come to a sense of their own answers within. Speaking with different clergy men and women gave me a birds-eye view of the profession (calling in general). I would only suggest this program to require you to visit different clergies and not just your own faith.

Students’ deepest dreams or desires are planted by God and the students need to sense God’s deep love for them. What will bring someone the greatest fulfillment, greatest joy and peace? A student’s desire, a dream, if they really listen, is not going to go against who they are and who God has created them to be in their uniqueness.

 
During the early days in the Prison Systems, chaplains were exclusively Christian. Their unabashed objective was to convert everybody to their particular brand of Christianity, and it was either Jesus’ way or no way. Though much of this remains the status quo in some places, prison chaplaincy has become increasingly pluralist in the ensuing 117 years, and chaplains find themselves dealing with more contemporary issues.
 
Though Christians still dominate the landscape of prison chaplaincy, diversity is now the order of the day. Proselytizing is still active in many prison facilities, but it is officially prohibited or generally discouraged. Chaplains are still a mainstay of prison operations, but many of their positions are being eliminated. Prison religious programs are still widely available to all inmates. Religion itself is still an integral element of correctional programming, but even it is being redefined by the courts.
 
As a Prison Chaplain I will need to look at each of these issues,
 
Christianity vs. Diversity  As the country’s prison population has dramatically increased, so has the religious diversity of inmates. Though more and more minority clergy have been answering the call to prison chaplaincy, they are often excluded by qualifications that are based on Christian type ordination and pastoral education standards. Likewise, prison religious programs are all too frequently limited to Christian modes of practice, whereby inmates of other faiths are often obstructed in fulfilling their religious obligations. The world is made up of much more than just Christians and all faith traditions should be honored and accorded equal treatment in prison environs.
 
Permitting vs. Prohibiting Proselytizing  As inmates are literally a captive and vulnerable audience, proselytizing is rightfully prohibited in most prisons. Yet, inmates are regularly subjected to subtle and active forms of proselytizing by dominant faith groups subtly, by way of heavily focusing on certain faith programs while limiting others, and actively by using outside volunteers and inmate “disciples.” This behavior is highly offensive and disrespectful to targeted inmates of other religions. Again, all faith traditions must be honored and adherents of all faiths should be free of proselytizing pressures from others.
 
Professional Chaplains vs. Volunteers  Correctional chaplaincy is a professional discipline, requiring extensive training beyond that of one’s own faith group. Staff chaplains must have sufficient working knowledge of divergent faith requirements in order to properly administer the activities of all faith groups. When properly augmented by contract clergy and community resources of other faiths, staff chaplains are highly effective, contributing significantly to the orderly operations of correctional facilities and the rehabilitation of offenders. However, some correctional systems have recently fallen prey to offers of “free” chaplains from religious organizations whose agendas are self-centered. Consequently, religious programs in those places have suffered greatly, and the religious rights of many inmates have been trampled upon. The integrity of religious programs can be best ensured by retaining professional correctional chaplains and fully using their expertise.
 
Open Religious Programs vs. Faith Based Units  In the past few years, prisons have been experimenting with inmate living units that are operated in accordance to faith-based principles a promising development but one that is ripe for abuse. Though most of these programs profess to be open to inmates of various faiths and “interfaith” in nature, many are actually operated out of a single faith contingent’s mission and are proselytizing machines. Furthermore, in some systems where these units have been established, they have become the entire focus of religious programming. Fortunately, however, some truly “multi-faith” unit programs are proving themselves to be the preferable alternative because inmate participants are being taught about their faiths by members of their own faiths and proselytizing is discouraged. These multi-faith units should be encouraged, but only so long as they do not detract from religious programs that are available to inmates elsewhere.
 
Religious vs. Civil Law  Recently, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act was enacted to ensure the religious freedom of all inmates. Likewise, some state and local religious freedom initiatives have been enacted to ensure the religious freedom of all citizens. Some may view this as being burdensome on or intrusive of correctional operations. The alarming development, however, is that civil courts have been ruling that a supposed “sincerely held belief” in a given faith is the proper test for determining an inmate’s religious affiliation. This directly conflicts with the standards (i.e., religious laws) by which bonafide members of various faith groups are affirmed and it would also appear to violate proper separation of church and state. It has created a nightmare for prison religious program administrators in that they are essentially being required to accept the faith claims of inmates who are not recognized by the faiths themselves as well as accept some claims that are not even linked to any particular faith tradition. As religious freedom is a hallmark of American life, it should be protected at any cost, even if it requires correctional administrators to step out of their familiar operational box. However, when the courts start making religious decisions, they should be actively challenged. Likewise, correctional systems and personnel should be vigorously defended against inappropriate religion related lawsuits.
 
Though chaplaincy is facing new and old challenges, it is of proven benefit and deserving of the utmost support. As a Chaplain I will be asked to perform a myriad of tasks that encompass a broad knowledge base. If this is to be my career pursuit, I must begin now to enhance myself both intellectually as well as spiritually.
 
I chose the prison chaplaincy as some force brought it into my mind and has continually reminded me that this is the path I need to travel. I have let God control what I need to do and I merely obey and follow to the best of my abilities. ULC has been a huge part in my decision making process. Everything from the seminary styled courses to the weekly messages from Reverend Amy have helped in my decision making process.

Universal Life Church – Leadership

Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

 

Kind Words

Amy,

Thank you for taking time to write me such a personal and heartwarming message.

I am touched deeply by your words.

Thank you.

Mark

 

Story of Faith

Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son ?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor: So, you believe in GOD ?
Student : Absolutely, sir. Professor : Is GOD good ?
Student : Sure.
Professor: Is GOD all powerful ?
Student : Yes.
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would … attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?
(Student was silent.)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD
good?
Student : Yes.
Professor: Is satan good ?
Student : No.
Professor: Where does satan come from ?
Student : From … GOD …
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student : Yes.
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it ? And GOD did make everything. Correct?
Student : Yes.
Professor: So who created evil ?
(Student did not answer.)
Professor: Is there sickness?
Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world,
don’t they?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them ?
(Student had no answer.)
Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD?
Student : No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard
your GOD? Student : No , sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?
Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student : Yes.
Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student : Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.

Student : Professor, is there such a thing
as heat? Professor: Yes.
Student : And is there such a thing as
cold?
Professor: Yes.
Student : No, sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theater became very quiet with this turn of events.)
Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat,
white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)
Student : What about darkness,
Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student : You’re wrong again, sir! Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?

Professor: So what is the point you are
making, young man ?
Student : Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed ? Can you explain how?
Student : Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is
life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never
seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the
natural evolutionary process, yes, of
course, I do.
Student : Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the
argument was going.)
Student : Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir?
Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class was in uproar.)
Student : Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s
brain?
(The class broke out into laughter. )
Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your
lectures, sir?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student : That is it sir … Exactly ! The link between man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

P.S. I believe you have enjoyed the conversation. And if so, you’ll probably want your friends / colleagues to enjoy the same, won’t you?
Forward this to increase their knowledge … or FAITH.
 By the way, that student was ALBERT EINSTEIN

Kind Words on Happiness

Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul. Democritus