The Guardian Havana, 1/29/98: Nearly everyone in Cuba, Fidel Castro included, is rumored to believe, to some degree, in Santeria, the Way of the Saints....Belief is everywhere. When you open a new bottle of rum in Cuba, you always pour some onto the ground. Not much, mind you, as you often have to pay for bottles of rum with dollars, and dollars are rare—but just enough “for the saints.”
For the officially atheist population of Cuba, it is merely a superstition. But unofficially, it is a symbol signifying a primitive belief in either Catholic or voodoo saints. Or both, for they are frequently the same.
The center point of the Pope’s visit was a trip to Santiago de Cuba for the coronation of the Virgen de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity), the wooden image found floating in the Atlantic by three fishermen in 1606, with a helpful note attached to it saying, “I am the Virgen de la Caridad.” It is the most sacred Catholic relic in Cuba.
The relic is also one of the most sacred saints in the Santerian canon, and the Virgen is associated with Ochun, the Yoruba goddess of love. A copy of the relic stood promi- nently in the babalaw’s shrine, the part of his living room he called his power base.
The replica was next to a primitive sculpture of an African warrior, and scattered about were colored stones draped with shiny necklaces. The stones are believed to contain the spirits of both the saints and the Yoruba gods of distant Africa. The babalaw was at pains to point out as
many parallels as he could with Catholicism....A Santeria ceremony...takes place in a private house. As drums summon up the saints, a makeshift “altar” is erected in the front room with a variety of offerings, including an iced cake.
There is a lot of singing and dancing. ...Most people chant in African languages, and a few people speak in tongues as the saints possess their bodies.
Our Sunday Visitor, 10/15/95: Celeste Champagne [says], “...my mother taught me about the voodoo—and the spirits....The voodoo is part of my life to this day—just like Holy Communion....”
Andy Antippas, a former professor of English who now devotes his time to studying the history of religion...says, “Africans...sold into slavery...brought their voodoo religion with them. Christianity [Catholicism] was forced on them. So, to appease the masters, the slaves prayed through the icons and statues of Christianity [Catholicism] to their own voodoo gods....”
On a clear day, the line...snakes through the front gate of the Lafitte Cemetery. Why? So men and women of every description and background can scratch the traditional X on the late Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb, giving impetus to their invocations for good for themselves and ill for their enemies....
Priestess Ava Jones [is] a graduate of Xavier Prep Catholic High School and Loyola University School of Law...[and] has foregone a career in law to devote her life to voodoo....She lectures frequently on voodoo and African religions to such diverse groups as the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Cardiology....
A call to her will often be met with, “I’m with a client now. Can I call you back?” And she will...as soon as she returns from daily Mass, and Communion.”
The Sunday Times (UK), 11/23/97: The locals are already dubbing it Club Med— Club Meditation, that is, writes Andy Goldberg.
Maharishi Yogi, the diminutive Indian guru who gained fame in the 1960s for winning the Beatles over to transcendental meditation, is planning an ambitious new complex on the historic shores of the Sea of Galilee in an unusual attempt to bring peace to the Middle East.
Backed by millionaire Jewish magnates who have raised $400 million, the ashram —or meditational village—will be home to 7,000 of the Maharishi’s disciples.
Officially called the Israeli capital of One Government for One World, the village of east-facing chalets will be set in 250 acres of spacious landscaped gardens, near the point where Jesus is said to have worked miracles 2,000 years ago.
The Denver Post, 1/31/98: If there is no peace among religions there can be no peace among nations, the famous theologian Hans Kung said.
Jewish and Mormon scholars believe the statement and did their part this week to find ways to talk to each other.
About 100 people attended an academic conference about the two groups early this week at the University of Denver, sponsored by Brigham Young University and DU’s Holocaust Awareness Institute. Five Mormon and five Jewish scholars spoke.
Raphael Jospe, one of the speakers, said, “There is less reason for people to proselytize another group when they understand and appreciate the integrity of the other group.”
Jospe, who formerly lived in Denver and now lives in Jerusalem, believes Mormons and Jews have a lot to talk about, including the fact that both are minorities in the U.S. population and both have suffered great discrimination from societies.
Both Jews and Mormons believe they’re the “chosen people” of God, and both groups believe they have a special covenant with God.
Both believe their people are descendants of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, a belief not shared by other religious groups. “Covenant and Chosenness in Mormonism and Judaism” was the title of the conference.
Mormons consider themselves Christians, but believe that the revelations from God didn’t end with Jesus, said Truman Madsen, a scholar from BYU who spoke at the meeting.
They believe their prophet Joseph Smith got later revelations, and that point separates them from other Christians.
Grand Rapids Press, 9/1/97: One of the most visible American televangelists, the Rev. Robert Schuller...through his weekly Hour of Power TV program...reaches 20 million viewers from his Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.
The cathedral houses an organization called Christians and Muslims for Peace. ...Schuller told [Imam Alfred] Mohammed that if he [Schuller] came back in 100 years and found his descendants Muslims, it wouldn’t bother him so long as they weren’t atheists.
Seattle Times, 1/17/98: “I’m a believer in Christ in the Catholic Church,” said Paul Knitter, a theologian at Xavier University who is coming to Seattle next week to help Christians explore common threads of faith with people of other beliefs....
Knitter says Christians must re-examine what he calls “the one-and-only language” of the Bible if they are to have meaningful dialogue with people of other faiths....The Rev. Earl Palmer, pastor of University Presbyterian Church, said other faiths must be respected “because they’re on a journey, too....”
“I think we can say God has expressed himself or herself in other religions that are valid in other places, at other times,” said [William] Cate, an ordained Methodist minister [and director emeritus of the Church Council of Greater Seattle].
The Orange County (CA) Register, 2/9/98: No pews. No crucifix. No icons.
Chapman University’s future chapel is innovative not for what it will have, but for what it won’t.
The school’s planned Wallace All Faiths Chapel represents the latest spiritual trend, genuinely interfaith structures that reflect growing religious diversity nationwide.
Come Feb. 27, about a dozen groups will gather at the end of Sycamore Avenue off Glassell Street and pray for the chapel.
Some plan to read Scriptures—from the Bible, Torah, Koran, Hindu texts and Buddhist sutras. Others will likely give voice to religious songs. And still others might burn incense, perform Wiccan rituals or beat drums during an American Indian dance. Their invocations will lay the bedrock for a house of worship that every faith tradition can call its own.
Interdenominational churches are increasingly part of the public landscape, and most colleges nationwide have long owned interfaith chapels. However, both formats have traditionally retained Christian features.
Chapman’s $5 million chapel will depart from that tradition.
World-renowned architect E. Fay Jones has replaced the pews with removable chairs. His blueprints show neither icons nor a crucifix. Large glass panels, the two-story structure’s eye-catcher, are transparent to avoid the Christian connotations that stained glass might generate.
Jones’ team also drew in storage areas for each religion. That way, groups can quickly decorate the chapel with their distinctive materials for worship.
“The students, faculty, trustees and community members on our planning committees emphasized neutral functionality,” said Ronald Lynn Farmer, a religion professor and Chapman’s first dean of chapel. “This layout will allow Buddhists to meditate on their cushions and Muslims to spread out their prayer rugs.”
But the story delves deeper than architecture. The chapel will highlight growing religious diversity on campus.
In the university’s early years, nearly every Chapman student was white and Christian. In fact, the institution is affiliated with First Christian Church Disciples of Christ, a progressive denomination.
Today the school is home to a religious kaleidoscope. By year’s end, Chapman will boast 13 faith-based groups that span at least three Christian branches, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca and American Indian spirituality.
These groups have instituted the Interfaith Communications Team, meeting weekly to discuss organizational and theological issues. They’ve also coordinated two interfaith services.
“The first all-faiths worship (during orientation in August) convinced me that we could do more than dialogue,” said sophomore Leslie Elliott, student director of spiritual programming. “People were so excited about learning from their peers. That day was the first time I saw clearly the many faces of God.”
Farmer and English Professor Polly Williams, assistant dean of chapel, envision even greater interaction. They plan to sponsor lectures, seminars and study groups covering an array of interfaith topics. A variety of departments are slated to offer classes that incorporate religion....
[Jill] Greenblatt, [campus president of Hillel], and Chapman trustee Dennis Savage....cite the university’s longstanding emphasis on spirituality, one of its “four pillars” of education.
TBC: Regarding all the above news articles, 2 Thessalonians:2:10-11 seems to summarize what’s taking place globally: “...they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie....”