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Religion and spirituality in Oklahoma

By Carla Hinton, Religion Editor Published: October 25, 2008
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Oklahomans have seen religion-related issues heat up the headlines: “Edmond cuts ties with Jesus statue.”

“Activists say religion should be used to fight anti-homosexual beliefs instead of sustain them.”

“17 state lawmakers refuse Quran gifts.”

“Immigration: As new law’s effects are felt, church members are asked to continue attending.”

And faith has become just as big an issue on the national front: “Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic theology.”

“Episcopal Church faces deadline on gay issues.”

“Rev. Wright lands Barack Obama in trouble again”

In the past, polite conversation did not include talk about religion, but with religion such a hot topic, it’s almost unavoidable these days.

Both in the public and private sector, people seem more inclined to talk about their faith and how it impacts their daily lives. Find a conversation — whether at the office water cooler, the barber shop, beauty parlor or a school sports event — and sooner or later, religion and spirituality will likely come up.

Why that is depends upon who you talk to.

Jerry Faught, Dickinson associate professor of religion at Oklahoma Baptist University, said he thinks America’s distinction as a land of many faiths is key.

“When the Baptists and the Methodists have a mosque down the road or they have a Muslim neighbor, they are curious about who they are, so I think the increasing pluralism in America is what’s causing it,” Faught said.

He said some scholars might say that today’s post-modern environment supports open dialogue about faith and spirituality.

“In the modern era, the first part of the 20th century, people believed that they had the truth and no one else does. That hindered religious conversation. With post modernism (late 20th century to present) there is the idea that we can’t really come to a knowledge of the truth. It encourages people to maybe listen to other religions.”

Faught said the Internet and the proliferation of blogs also has helped propel religion to the forefront. He said many bloggers feel free to express their religious beliefs in the open format of the Web log.

Meanwhile, others have their own views on the subject.

“I’ve noticed it — that people are more willing to acknowledge that we are using religion to guide our daily lives,” Barry Cohen, rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City, said recently.

He thinks it is a good thing.

“I think we can all tap in to religious strengths and ideals,” Cohen said.

The Rev. Randy Faulkner, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, said the fact that the religious beliefs of the U.S. presidential candidates have played a significant role in the upcoming presidential election says a lot to him about how significant religion and spirituality have become.

“It’s really kind of unprecedented that a local church pastor like Rick Warren would invite two presidential candidates to his church and get both of them to come. It tells me that millions of Americans are interested in what these two men believe,” Faulkner said, alluding to an August non-debate forum that Sen.

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