Last week was a cultural and religious whirlwind for me. From a Lutheran Theological Convocation to a discussion with a Hindu in Austin, TX to a Houston World Tour including a visit to a Hindu temple, Buddhist temple and Islamic mosque and even to the Houston iFest where Muslims, Christians and Hare Krishnas were all represented one thing was made clear –
Everyone wants to be heard.
It was my wife who pointed this out to me.
As we were sitting down and enjoying our veggie samosas and palak paneer we were hoping to hear a little bit of Raicas del Peru to relive some of our musical experiences from our trip to Peru last August. We strained our ears to hear the beauty of the Peruvian melodies over the ever loudening sound of drums and chants of “Hare, hare, hare Krishna” coming from, you guessed it, the Hare Krishnas at their booth in the Silk Road Zone. Elizabeth looked at me and said, “I guess everybody wants to be heard.”
Hare Krishnas are known for world peace movements, drums and dance circles…not for quality of vocalisms. Nonetheless, they sang. And then as Raicas del Peru got louder, they got louder.
Like I said, everyone wants to be heard.
Earlier that day we walked past two booths of Muslim groups from Houston. Each time there was someone there arguing with them or talking with them about what they believe. When all was said and done, I wonder how much listening either side did. I bet you everyone did a lot more talking than listening.
Today, I just got an e-mail asking me to come on a local Christian radio program. I am overwhelmed with how many Christian radio, TV and internet programs there are…especially in Houston. Here in Houston, on basic cable, any Sunday morning will have at least 20 different Christian worship services available to watch. Get on the radio and there are at least as many frequencies playing messages and liturgical music.
Of course, these days they also have to compete with Clairvoyant Radio Ads and the ubiquitous sponsor-commercials of Interfaith Ministries on KUHF Houston Public Radio. Maybe, like Houston Second Baptist, they should try billboards.
Oh, the Atheists are using billboards these days too.
Evangelical New-Agey-Hindus, evangelical Muslims, evangelical Atheists and Evangelical Christians, but what about evangelical Buddhists?
Now there’s something different.
I took a group of college students on a “Houston World Tour” last week. Part of our journey took us to a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple near Sugar Land, TX. There, the monk tried to get all the students (all of them Christian) to meditate, do some Buddhist prayers or offer something to the Buddha. In all the times I’ve visited Buddhist temples on three continents and in several cities I’ve never once met such an evangelical Buddhist.
These days, everyone wants to be heard in the modern market place of religious exchange. Hare Krishnas, psychics, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Atheists.
The danger is that instead of getting people’s attention and inviting them into positive religious dialogue we might just be bugging everyone with all of our “HEY, LOOK AT ME!” advertisements. I hope that amidst it all that people don’t just get up and walk away like my wife and I did at the International Fest when Hare Krishnas and Peruvian folk musicians competed into cacophony just so that they might be heard.
In the end, it ceased to be beautiful music and wound up being a whole lot of senseless noise.