Exploring Houston’s cultural diversity through faith
Houston is a city renowned for diversity. From that diversity comes an array of religious institutions and services. Everyone from evangelical Christians to devout Muslims to followers of the Dali Llama have made the fourth largest city their home.
This increased pluralism has showcased itself in a variety of worship centers that dot the streets of Houston.
Everything from the recent prayer Buddhist services for the trapped water climbers in Thailand to Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of the largest Islamic conventions, takes place in the largest city of the south.
The Menil Collection
The Rothko Chapel is a token part of Houston’s culture. It was founded by John and Dominique de Menil. The non denominational chapel features 14 abstract paintings by Mark Rothko with sturdy benches and pillows for prayer and meditation.
Outside the chapel is an art installation that offers just as much meaning as tranquility.
A broken obelisk sits at the base of the a serene pool of water. It symbolizes the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. The Christian pastor was instrumental to the development and progress of Black liberation theology
The aversion this country had to his message of equality and pacifism is embodied by the de Menils. The Broken Obelisk is dedicated to Dr. King and placed at the Rothko Chapel after the de Menil’s purchased it because of the denial of Houston City Hall wanting to have a monument dedicating to the activist.
The fractured dream of the assassinated key figure of faith has made its home in Houston because of the remarkable ability this city has to accept and honor great spectacles of faith and culture, regardless of their origin.
Rothko is the manifestation of faith in action.
Hare Krishna Rham:
The Hare Krishna Rham Temple was built in 1969 as testament to the late but prominent arrival of Hinduism in Houston. The faith took a strong hold in the city immediately and today temples have sprung up all over Houston and its suburbs.
The Hindu presence in Houston manifests itself in the many vivid celebration of culture hosted by the many temples. Celebrations like Diwali and Holi — The Festival of Light and The Festival of Color respectively —bring attention to the beauty and intricacy of the faith.
Hindus in Texas specifically have been making the push for a more modernized and mainstream Hinduism. The American Hindu Foundation started an initiative called “Take Back Yoga” a means to explain the lifestyle and philosophy of the faith and reclaim the ancient practice.
The cultural center showcase not only the bright culture of the faith but also includes a boutique, restaurant, Sunday school and cultural halls
Islamic Da’wah Center
Islam is a key influence in the city of Houston. There are worship centers for Muslims all over Houston and it’s residential suburbs with at least 80 registered mosques with the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, but the Texas Da’Wah Center has a different focus. While prayers are performed there, the institution is built on the mission of perpetuating knowledge and awareness on Islam.
It was founded by Houston’s adopted and most famed Muslim, Hakeem Olajuwon.
Hakeem needs no introduction as a man who won the Rockets two back-to-back championships. His common cameos in various Masjids — especially during the holy month of Ramadan — and his charitable donations has made him a fixture in the Muslim community.
The athlete founded the Center to push for dialogue to promote interfaith collaboration and challenge the limited scope most have of the faith, including the race of adherents.
The history of Catholicism is heavily interwoven within the history of Houston. The first catholic church was founded in 1839 but the key demographic was Caucasian. Despite the heavy minority influence and membership of the faith, the churches remained Anglo only and specifically excluded any other race, especially Hispanics who were either banned or forced to the very back.
The first Hispanic catholic church was built in 1911 in the Third Ward to overcome this issue of discrimination.
The year 1912 marked the creation of that first Hispanic church as a means to make Anglo Americans more comfortable with different races under one church. This accommodation shouldn’t have had to have been made because the premise of inferiority based on race defies the principals of the faith itself but it did set the precedent for a Hispanic and Black Catholic Church in Houston.
The Co Cathedral of Sacred Heart was built in 1911 but is an extension of St. Mary’s Cathedral, among the oldest in Texas. The church pushes for inclusion by offering sermons in Spanish, English and Vietnamese. While the catholic community of Houston can’t erase their past, they can use it as kindling for the future