Contender Ministries

Too often, Christians join in the fray of religious "tolerance" and "diversity" by espousing practices that blur the lines between Biblical Christianity and other religions/cults.  For instance, the article below (taken from the Seattle Times) refers to an "interfaith chant".  While purporting to join members of various religions in a show of mutual respect, tolerance, and diversity, this event simply discourages the notion that there is a right way and a wrong way.  Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, NIV).  That is a pretty unambiguous statement.  It means there is ONE right way to Heaven.  Oh, there are numerous wrong ways, but only one right way.  Tolerance and diversity are nice sounding concepts on the surface, but practices such as the interfaith chant support the tenet of the New Age and Unitarian Universalists: that there are many paths to righteousness, and everyone is on their own path.  No one should judge anyone else's path.  I've heard some Christians counter, "I know that Christianity is the only way, but I'm not about to tell anyone else how to live."  Given that the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), and the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23b), allowing someone to follow the wrong path - for whatever reason - without reaching out to them, is to willfully deny them the love of Jesus Christ.  As Christians, more is demanded of us.  We must not only follow our Lord, we must "contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3), and share the good news of salvation through grace, and faith in Jesus with our non-believing neighbors. 

    So as you read the article below, I hope you'll bear in mind what Christ has called you to do.  He has called you to contend for the faith.  He has called you to take up your cross and follow Him.  He has called you to let your light shine - don't hide it!  Don't be ashamed of your Lord.  Don't put Him on a level with Buddha, Muhammad, or one's own "Christ consciousness".  Do not blur the lines between the One True and Everlasting God of Christianity, with the false gods that distract people from the true Way, Truth and Life.  God bless and keep you, and may you draw on His strength to let your light shine bright in this world of darkness.  May you be contenders!

Interfaith chant bypasses reason, wakens hearts

By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times staff reporter

Two years ago, Joy Carey, a founder of Mystical Chant, thought it would be nice for organizers to provide lunch for those who attended that first daylong interfaith chanting event.

The volunteers had enough for 400 servings of pita bread and hummus surely adequate, they thought, to have leftovers to donate to local soup kitchens.

The food ran out in minutes. About 800 people had come to St. Mark's Cathedral to watch and participate in Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist chants.

"We were absolutely amazed at the number of people who showed up," said Carey, a counseling psychologist and Sufic Muslim. "I never expected this to be an annual event."

Indeed, next Saturday marks the third Mystical Chant, with about 800 people expected to chant along with groups representing Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. (Coffee and tea will be provided this time, but no lunch.)

So good has the response been that organizers are hoping the event can serve as a model for chants in other cities.

"I think this is a prototype of a possibility of doing deeper interfaith activities that can move beyond tolerance to really appreciating the spiritual wisdom in each other's traditions," said Ted Falcon, rabbi at Seattle's Bet Alef Meditational Synagogue and a Mystical Chant founder.

Each of the participating groups will lead audiences in chants from their tradition. The groups include Taneen, a Sufic Muslim group from San Rafael, Calif., singing with Navah, a local Sufic Muslim group; Tiferet, a chanting group from Bet Alef; monks and members of the Hindu Vedanta Society of Western Washington; members of the Dharma Sound Zen Center of Seattle; Peregrine, a Seattle medieval vocal ensemble that will lead Gregorian chants; and St. Mark's Cathedral Women's Choir, which will conduct Taize chants part of a style of worship created by a monastic community in the French village of Taize.

"It's quite an amazing atmosphere when you get 600 or 800 people in a cathedral booming back when you're doing these faith chants," said Jim DeCaire, a novitiate monk with the Vedanta Society of Western Washington, which will be performing shanti mantras (peace chants). "It really creates an atmosphere of reverence and respect for various faith groups. It's not one group trying to outdo another group. That harmony of faith is an unspoken theme of this event."

For Carey, harmony was the point in creating a day of interfaith chanting.

"People were focusing too much on the negative misunderstanding level of the religions," Carey said. "It's just obvious that we all come from the same place, we all go back to the same place, and we are breathed by the same mystery while on this planet. And it's obvious the religions are trying to call us to that.

"Music, because it involves the breath and avoids the mind, goes directly to that awareness that's in the heart. That's where we have that knowledge of unity and oneness, that we never seem to be able to find in the head."

Chanting is a part of most world religions, with roots that stretch back centuries. The earliest music in the Jewish service had to do with the chanting of the Torah. Development of chanting in Christianity arose in the 4th and 5th centuries, primarily as a celebration of Mass and in the chanting of psalms during daily prayers. Many Hindu Sanskrit chants are devotional prayers to God.

The practice of chanting, with its repetitious vocalizing of words or sounds, serves to focus the mind on the sacred and can deepen the spiritual experience.

"I think we forget that spirituality is intimately interwoven with our physical being," said Joe Anderson, a spokesman with Peregrine. "We think it's something out there somewhere God in heaven or on a mountain or something when in fact it's here with us. By generating a bodily vibration through chant we bring all of ourselves into involvement with the sacred."

Chant is also "a way to get a community to breathe together," said Falcon of Bet Alef. "There is something that happens when you breathe together a sense of community and communion that is deeper than words."

Americans have steadily become more interested in chant and song "and nonrational ways of disposing oneself to contact with the divine since the rediscovery of mystical traditions that began in the late 1960s," said Patricia O'Connell Killen, professor of religion at Pacific Lutheran University.

Recordings of Gregorian chants by Benedictine monks, as well as the spiritually infused works of classical composers Henryk Gorecki and John Tavener, have sold briskly in recent years. Pop stars such as Madonna have included chants in their hits.

(Another local spiritual music event making its debut is Town Hall Seattle's "Lift Every Voice: Celebrating Cultures Through Song." The series features a night of Jewish cantorial singing and African-American gospel and spirituals March 2.)

"Most of the time when we do interfaith events, we talk to each other about our traditions," Falcon said. "We raise our levels of understanding, which is wonderful. But the guiding principle (of Mystical Chant) is to guide each other into chants and melodies of our actual worship experience and to share an experience of the holy and to clearly demonstrate a belief that the universal presence to whom we direct our energies is the same."

Toward that end, the Muslim, Christian and Jewish chant groups will be participating at an interfaith chant in Portland in April, and perhaps another in San Francisco next year.

At the end of last year's Chant, "we saw people in the audience, standing up, with their arms around each other's shoulders, rocking and singing, and you know that in previous years and generations of their families, they were probably at war with each other," said Carolyn Browne, a member of Tiferet and this year's planning coordinator. "They were spontaneously expressing the joy of being around each other. Something special's been created. We hope it perpetuates."

Contender Ministries