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Doubting Thomases ponder faiths, perplexing questions over espresso

Jan. 23, 1997

By Alison Kuehn

Lariat Reporter

A discussion group called 'Heirs of Thomas' met to discuss perplexing religion issues Wednesday at Common Grounds.

Sponsored by Mission Waco, the group has weekly interactive discussions about worldview ideology, ethics, theology and interfaith issues. Guest speakers representing different religions and philosophies are invited regularly to share with 'Heirs of Thomas' members.

Laju Balani, an Indian graduate student, addressed the forum and offered a broad history of Hinduism by touching on specific stories that express the dimensions of the Hindu way of life.

'My purpose is not to prove or disprove anyone's beliefs,' Balani said. 'The most powerful thing is to share, to tell one's own story.'

Balani said he was raised to regard Hindu philosophy as influential and true. He also shared how he takes his faith in Jesus Christ very seriously.

'I am learning how to incorporate the good teachings I find throughout Hinduism in to the Christian life I acknowledge, confess and believe in,' Balani said.

Balani's words stimulated questions and discussion about Hindu history, creation accounts, spiritual revelation and prayer.

'I came because I am really interested in the historical backgrounds of other faiths,' said Milton Gutierrez, a Cameron freshman. 'I have a lot of questions about the structure and truth behind certain philosophies.'

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director at Mission Waco, said the group does not meet simply to reaffirm strongly-held traditional beliefs.

'This meeting is specifically designed for the religious doubters on campus who are searching for truth and want to know more about unique world views outside of a totally Christian perspective,' Dorrell said. 'The topics presented are geared toward people who are honestly searching for answers to legitimate questions about life.'

The group plans to discuss different philosophical views such as existentialism, but also world religions like Buddhism and Islam, said Brooke Smith, a Houston junior.

'Christianity will also be presented as a reasonable faith and a reasonable truth in comparison to these ideologies,' Smith said. 'This meeting is intended to give students the option to hear about and discuss philosophical ideas and religious beliefs in a non-condescending, non-judgmental way.'

Mission Waco workers said they hope people will come to the weekly meetings with an understanding about legitimate rules for the open discussion, stressing that it is not a debate forum and that ideas and beliefs from any perspective are not forced upon anyone.

The 'Heirs of Thomas' meet at 5 p.m. Wednesdays in the back room at Common Grounds, located at 1123 S. 8th.

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