Huston Smith is known for his research and interest in the religions of the world. He published a book, Religion’s of Man in 1958, which was later revised and renamed World’s Greatest Religions. This book was a summary of the adventures Huston Smith went on in his life as he traveled the world searching for new knowledge and understanding of the religions of the world. Huston Smith also made a collection of videos about various religions across the world, known as his “Wisdom of Faith” video series.
I recently watched the Christianity and Judaism video from this collection and discovered many of Smith’s views on those religions.
The video opened with Bill Moyers summarizing various beliefs Huston Smith had about religion. In this he stated that Huston Smith felt that all religions, and their “golden rules”, differ in ways that cannot be compared. Bill Moyers claimed that Huston Smith thrived to understand the claims of truth that other religions believed in, but at the same time he wanted to understand the truth claims of his religion and still believe in that to the fullest.
Huston Smith wanted to achieve this level of understanding and at the same time never lose sight of his own religion, which was Christian-Methodist.
Huston Smith claimed that life is all about learning how to pray and that the most important guideline of life is to pray with your heart because it is the most honest. Huston Smith explained that there are various types of prayer that can be used in many different situations, ranging from financial problems to life or death situations.
He defined the Petitionary Prayer as a prayer said in a time of need, or during hard times. I related this as an example of the Prayer for Help that he mentioned later in his interview, that people made when they were in need of help from God.
The next type of prayer he explained was Prayer of Praise, which was closely related to the Prayer of Dying. Huston Smith explained that during someone’s Prayer of Dying, which is the prayer people recite just before they die, does not contain a “please” or ask for anything, but is rather a “thank you” for their time spent here. This lead to the Prayer of Gratitude, or Prayer of Thanksgiving, where the person praying thanks God for all they had in their time in the material world and all that He gave them. He then explained that some praise is so personally overwhelming that it cannot be put into words, his type of prayer he called Prayer of Silence or Prayer of Union, and in my opinion this prayer is the most honest. I agree with Huston Smith in that prayer is one of the essential things in life, along with his statement that it is important to pray with your heart. I agree with this because in any relationship communication is a key elements, if not the most important element, especially communication that comes from the heart because it is true and it relays what the person is truly feeling and thinking.
In a personal relationship with God, prayer is one of the only ways of communication, and in my opinion it is the most powerful because it is an actual conversation between you and God. I think a prayer to God must come from your heart because He will know if you really mean what you say, and it will be evident to Him what your intentions are. Next in the video, Huston Smith explained the importance of the prayers that Jesus himself went into the woods alone to deliver. Huston Smith explained that the world of Jesus, like the world of the profits, was filled with spirits.
Huston Smith stated that in Jesus’ prayers he was “saturating himself in that reality of spirits and like a sponge that reality came to him” (Smith). That quote is basically saying that even Jesus had to open himself up to the spirits in order to get the knowledge that he needed to be able to do his works. Huston Smith said that even though Jesus would leave his people all night to pray and not get any sleep, he was still never tired because the prayer gave him strength and the power he needed to do his works in the world.
The solitary prayers that Jesus did, gave him metaphysical power and charismatic character, and in the New Testament it is evident that Jesus was doing the works he was meant to do and had the power to do. Huston Smith brought up a thought that had never crossed my mind before, “What did Jesus think of himself? ” Huston Smith said that it was impossible to find out or ever to know Jesus’ thoughts or personal feelings about himself. Then Smith also brought up the fact that Jesus may not have ever found out what he was, who he was, or what to think about himself.
Huston Smith revealed that the importance of Jesus’ human needs should be defined as well as his divine needs. He stated that by considering both human and divine needs one can better understand who Jesus really was and what he was meant to do. Some things in this world could have also been a mystery to Jesus during his life though, just as it is in our lifetime. Huston Smith believed that when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and he saw the angel that it could have been the first time he came to the realization of who he was and what his significance to the world was.
This idea was supported when Huston Smith went on to explain that the forty days and nights Jesus spent in the woods were spent to discover who he really was. This part of the video really made me think of my opinion of Jesus and whether I thought he knew who he was and who he was going to be. Huston Smith then talked about the cross and how it is the “central symbol for Christianity” (Smith). Huston Smith explained that the horizontal arms of the cross reach out to other people, representing love thy neighbor as yourself. Smith said that the vertical arms go upward, representing the relationship with the divine, God.
Huston Smith then described the cruel punishment of crucifixion and how severe of a punishment it was back then. He explained that in that day and time it was the most agonizing way of death and for God to let his son die for humankind that way shows the unconditional love that God has for us and how much he really cares. I saw a perfect example of this in a well known bible verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
This segment of the video made a lot of sense to me and really tied most of the video in together and made a strong point about Christianity. Huston Smith went on to state that the main point that Christianity had spread on the world was that “God is love” and he cared about everyone the same, no matter who you are or what you have done. God and love are the central part of faith because one cannot think of a God whom does not love, and that is clear in almost all religions. Huston Smith went on to talk about evil and stated that evil things are objective in broad daylight and are always in the center of your attention.
I believe that when it comes to good and evil the benefits of a religion are shown in a person’s daily choice of giving into evil, or choosing to be strong. I disagree with Huston Smith’s thought that “evil is in broad daylight”. I believe that evil and temptation are disguised and are more often not noticed by Christians, that is why so many people do evil things. This fact and evil deception, I believe, is what makes some Christians ease off the path of righteousness and commit sin. Huston Smith quoted Roma Krishna who said, “Religion is like a cow, it kicks, but it gives milk to” (Smith).
I believe Huston Smith recited this quote to show that there are burdens that come along with any religion, but beyond burdens there are even greater rewards. I really agree with this quote because I understand that religions have guidelines that the followers do not want to follow, but the reward for following the guidelines, despite the temptation, is well worth it. Huston Smith then discussed Judaism, which he explained to be a religion that he is sometimes envious of for one important reason.
Huston Smith claimed that he is envious of the rituals to the Sabbath Day, because as a Christian he said that he had lost touch with the appreciation and observation of the Sabbath Day which used to be very holy in Christianity, but has faded out throughout the years. The Sabbath Day is a day where people relax and do nothing but pray and worship. Bill Moyers continued with the interview and asked Huston Smith what he thought was the one thing that people should know about Judaism. Huston Smith explained that the most important thing was the meaning of the role of sacrifice.
He said that Jesus came to earth and gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life; therefore to repay him we should give something back, like worship and praise. A big question in Judaism is the question of the role of sacrifice. Many followers of Judaism seek the answer to the question of, how much of life should be devoted into sacrifice. I think that as long as the followers stay true to the religion and abide by the guidelines, while providing praise and worship to God, then that is enough. Huston Smith described Yahweh as the Jewish God.
Huston Smith claimed that the followers of Yahweh believed that they were chosen people, not for privilege, but for responsibility of Yahweh and to do what he expects of them. These followers never buckled under the pressures of sin or gave up on their praises. An impossible situation always seems possible for the followers of Judaism because they were constantly seeking help from Yahweh for direction and advice on what to do in their life. The followers of Judaism believe Yahweh was always evident and they were constantly seeking counsel from him on how they should lead their lives.
This alone made the Hebrew profits and the followers of Yahweh the most extraordinary group in their own way. These people found themselves in a moral desert of temptation and sin; however, despite the temptations around them, they were never forgetting of justice. This factor made this group extraordinary because they upheld justice, and a society ridden with injustice cannot last. Huston Smith then went on to talk the reason for the denominations of Christianity and non ethic Judaism.
In the past an individual could only be considered of Jewish religion if he or she was ethically Jewish; however this factor has since been revised to an extent. As time passed, the truths of Yahweh and Judaism became so evident that people that were not of Jewish ethnicity wanted to be of Jewish religion. Therefore, because Judaism couldn’t remain so selective of the followers, Christianity came about as a sister religion to Judaism. As well as Christianity developing from this movement, now there are also non ethnic Jews.
The points and views of Huston Smith on the topics of Christianity and Judaism were very similar to my own. Many of the points he made I agreed with and many of his opinions I appreciated and really considered the truth in them. Throughout his interview I was opened up to ideas that I had never really even considered possible or thought about, but I was actually interested in. I found his interview very insightful and intriguing to watch, and I learned many things about my own religion that had never been explained to me.
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