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Friday, October 16, 2009

I remember when I received my first piece of Christian jewelry in the form of a cross with the body of Jesus upon it at my First Communion. I later learned that a crucifix was typical Catholic Christian jewelry as opposed to Protestant Christian jewelry, a cross sans the body of Christ upon it, symbolizing Christ’s resurrection as opposed to his crucifixion. While the cross of course symbolizes the crucifixion, an even deeper symbolism for Christians has meant the promise of eternal life and salvation. How special it was to me that day as my parents, devout Christians that they were, looked so proudly upon me as I received my communion shortly after my 13th birthday.

I also remember my girlfriends crowding around me at school that week praising the beautiful piece of Christian Jewelry that I was wearing around my neck. As a mother, giving my own piece of Christian jewelry in the form of a fish symbol, to my daughter, I have learned that “fish” Christian jewelry is very popular amongst teens who wish to stand out from the crowd. Early Christians in particular utilized the Christian fish symbol during the first few centuries after Christ was born as a covert sign of places secure for Christians.

It is also interesting to note that Christian jewelry especially crosses, are worn equally these days by both men and women. The men usually wear heavier gold crosses than the women and they seem to have become not only a symbol of devotion, but male virility. An interesting phenomenon is that many non-Christian people now wear Christian jewelry for style and fashion. Some humanists wear Christian jewelry alongside their Star of David to bespeak their embracing of all religions.

On an interesting note, it appears that Christian jewelry is one of the hottest new trends sweeping churches. In fact, the term of “lifestyle evangelism” has recently been coined. Wearing Christian jewelry such as rings, bracelets, and necklaces have become powerful ways for people to share their faith. Some young Christians have spoken of how when they are placed in situations where they feel shy about declaring their faith; they are comforted in the fact that their Christian jewelry speaks for them.

As a woman, my own favorite pieces of Christian jewelry are those representing the Madonna and Guadalupe. It is interesting to me that most people when wearing their Christian jewelry choose a cross rather than a pendant of the Madonna or Guadalupe. Of course, everyone knows our Madonna, but not everyone is familiar with Our Lady of Guadalupe who appeared as a miraculous vision in Mexico in the year 1531. As she is carved into Christian jewelry, our Lady of Guadalupe represents the many miracles possible for those who have faith.

Christian jewelry in the form of St. Christopher seem to be preferred by men as their choices of Christian jewelry, although in these days of unisex clothing, it appears that this trend is fading. It was believed that when Jesus appeared to him as a young child in need, St. Christopher carried him across a great and dangerous river, thus becoming a patron of travelers and motorists. Many ecological groups have adopted St.Francis, one of the most beloved saints of all time, because of his deep connection to animals, as their patron saint. St.Francis is a reminder to all of us who love Mother Earth and her offspring to protect our dear and vulnerable friends. It is felt that wearing this particular piece of Christian Jewelry has become a popular symbol to show people of our love of the environment and Mother Earth. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;” ….

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Today the word “interfaith” has enormous influence in the world. We are asked to move from a parochial way of viewing the world and ourselves in it to widely consider a more global view. We can no longer in the interest of planet survival take a solipsistic view of the world in which we think of ourselves as the sole purveyors of religious or spiritual belief, or the dominant religion to which all persons must adhere. One need only look to the violence in the name of holding to one’s spiritual or religious belief as the only truth to see the danger of holding such views. As we gaze out at the enormous global problems of starvation, violence and ignorance proliferating in the world, we must have a philosophy of interfaith that acts as an umbrella under which all religions and spiritual beliefs may gather. Seeking the diversity of cultures, mores, religions and beliefs can only enrich us with an interfaith view.

What is interfaith? Interfaith allows members of all religions and spiritual teachings to reach out across barriers to understand and communicate with each other. Interfaith affirms and supports the true goodness of each person as we set about to heal the planet. While there is not an effort to homogenize religious differences, one is asked to honor and respect religious differences, recognizing that we are each individual and unique. As such, with interfaith, we have the freedom to choose whatever fits us in our desire to lead spiritual or religious lives. What is most important during these times is that we begin an interfaith dialogue that supports the common ground on which we meet and that we recognize not only our differences, but affirm our sameness in attempting to do good in this life. Interfaith dialogue is very important at this juncture. When there is dialogue, then there is a desire to promote acceptance of difference and in that acceptance, one achieves the pinnacle of interfaith philosophy.

In the Jew in the Lotus, one is treated to an extraordinary experience of a Jewish man as he encounters Buddhism at Dharmasala for a Jewish/Tibetan Buddhist interfaith dialogue. This interfaith get together was inspired by not only Jews who had become Buddhists but the Dalai Lama’s perception of Jews as experts in exile and preservation of faith and practice.Some of those attending aa the group were surprised by the similarities between these two beliefs, both in how they coped spiritually and how they resonated in service to mankind. These interfaith discussions shed an important light on the similarities rather than differences in all religious and spiritual belief. When seen through the door of “sameness,” one can only see the vista that interfaith dialogue provides to the world. Kameneth approaches these weighty matters with skill, personality, and a wonderful sense of humor.

Kashi Ashram is noted for its promotion of interfaith dialogue. In all of its projects including “feeding the hungry,” and its affordable living facility By the River, it promotes and welcomes interfaith discussion and philosophy. In fact, it is a contributing member of the Parliament of World Religions whose mission is to sustain the interfaith view. This beautiful sterling silver Interfaith Necklace with sterling silver chain was designed by artists at Kashi and depicts the symbols of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism and Taoism. Not only an interfaith statement you are making when wearing this necklace, but you might consider this an interfaith amulet that will bring the world peace and interfaith dialogue.

When one thinks of interfaith, one thinks of the similarities of messages and exhortations to do good in all religions. In the book Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Lao Tzu one sees the similarity in the message of service and doing good to others that reaches across all religions and transcends religious differences. As one contemplates the teachings of Christ, juxtaposed with those of Buddha, Krishna and Lao Tzu, one witnesses the true parallels and similarities in their most integral teachings. This book is a wonderful seminal book for those interested in conducting an interfaith discussion with others in an effort to point out humanity’s similarities rather than their differences, thus promoting interfaith cooperation and cohesion rather than divisiveness and disharmony.

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