Saturday, October 13, 2007

Greg Mortensen on Faith and Religion

Mountaineer and school builder, Greg Mortensen, reflects on the influence that his parents had on him when he was growing up in Tanzania:

“With both Dempsey and Jerene wearing their faith lightly, the Mortensen home became more of a community than a religious center. Dempsey taught Sunday School. But he also laid out a softball diamond with the trunk of the peppertree as a backstop.” (p36)

With that beautiful phrase, “wearing their faith lightly”, I don't think that Mortensen is meaning that the faith of his parents was not real or was superficial. He seems to be referring to the holistic expression of their faith as it took flesh in their lives and their community.

Mortensen does not write a lot about religion in his book, ‘Three Cups’, apart from pointing up the dangers of fundamentalism and the way such an approach opposed his goal to provide an open education, especially for girls.

He does, however, write about religious leadership:

“I came to respect and depend on the vision of Syed Abbas,” [Greg] Mortensen says. “He’s the type of religious leader I admire most. He is about compassion in action, not talk. He doesn’t just lock himself up with his books. Syed Abbas believes in rolling up his sleeves and making the world a better place.” (p201).

Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time (New York: Penguin Books, 2006).

A review of this book can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: Tea in triplicate.