Interfaith: The Only Way Forward
This past summer, I have written seven different articles, critiquing and ranting about Christianity, hoping new progressive ideas and acceptance would lead to a better understanding and involvement of Christians in the modern world. This internship has helped me understand a lot about myself and my faith, and I hope it has done the same for you. But some questions still remain. How can we go on? What can we do to move forward?
I think that’s the key word. Much of faith, especially Christianity, has been stagnant, dormant, for years, decades even. They have been stubborn, exclusive. It is time to change that. But how?
I think the answer lies in interfaith work. The world is comprised of about 4300 religions. So, the key seems to be commonplace. Where can we find a middle ground? Where can we find respect and kinship within 4300 religions? If there is anything I’ve learned in my spiritual journey, it is that, who are we to know? Who are we to know if we are right? Who are we to know if Jesus was the savior and Christianity is the way? Or that Buddha is the way, or the Hindu Gods? We are, but, humans. We don’t know what lies beyond or above or below. So, what is the point of scolding and hating people who believe differently than us? It is pointless.
Yet, I find that a lot of these religions focus on something similar, varying here and there: being a good person. The qualifications of a good person change from person to person but the essence of it is the same. Care for others, love one another, help each other, and cherish the good moments. The list can go on. Is that common ground enough? I’d like to think so.
I consider myself a pluralist. This means that I believe there are many roads to the same destination. Or many shores to the same sea, if you’d prefer. I believe we’re all chasing the same thing. Chasing the same hope that there’s something out there that will let us know we’re okay, that tomorrow will come with a bright sun. It is something we all hope for, something I think we can all relate to. We all just want to be comforted, be loved, and be happy. We all, with our 4300 religions, try to define this figure, this being that can assure us, whether it is God or no god. Different definitions lead to different branches, different denominations, to 4300 different religions. But I really think it all is the same thing. The same sea. The same destination. I waded on the shore of the Christian sea, got there through the Christian path. Others follow a different route. Yet, we all wade in the same water, I believe. And the waves are warm and the sand is fine, a gentle current swaying our relaxed bodies.
A while ago, I went for coffee with a friend of mine, a leader in our school’s chapter of Hillel, a Jewish club on campus. They were telling me all about their club and I was telling them about my bible study. We both found beauty in what we spoke about. I invited her to my study and she invited me to Shabbat on Fridays. I went many times and it was a wholesome community that helped me feel welcome. I struggled through the Arabic prayers and was mindful of when to eat and speak. It was all new territory but it was exciting. It made me look at religion in a different lens. To this day, Hillel and InterVarsity have a great relationship, and I look forward to continuing involvement with each other.
You see, it’s not impossible. What I’ve explained in a small scale example, nothing near to mending the gap between Christians and Jewish people in the world. In all honesty, Christians have hurt a lot of people. They have hurt close friends. They have hurt me. Whether it was an unwarranted prayer and advice or a complete disowning of a family member. It has happened and and continues to happen everyday. Though, through interfaith practices, understanding each other in a different lens and finding common ground in being good people, we can begin to heal some wounds. We can see higher beings called to action, to help instead of hurt, to love instead of loathe, to bolster instead of break. I hope we can press forward this way. I hope to see good in the world. I have hope for the coming generations. I have hope in my heart. Until then, I’ll do my part and you do yours.