Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One of the most valuable presentations at the Interfaith Seminarians retreat I recently attended was that of Dr. Hunt from the Perkins School of Theology.

Dr. Hunt spoke, not of hospitality, but of hostility, and gave insights as to how to better confront hostility toward other religions or beliefs in our communities.

Dr. Hunt emphasized the need to address hostility through utilizing our own religious texts, and identified three key examples: “Thou shall not bare false witness”, “Do unto other as they would do unto you”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

If these simple and well known verses were lived and embodied by each of the major religions which hold them central, hospitality would be the norm, and hostility would be eliminated.

Dr. Hunt’s insights about how to challenge

  • hostility found in false witness
  • hostility in assignment of collective guilt
  • hostility in association of religious issues with national issues
He provided great tools and resources to encourage people in our faith communities to resist hateful words and actions and to embrace the central value of hospitality present in each of the Abrahamic traditions.

Some of the most important insights I gleaned from Dr. Hunt’s presentation included

  • a reminder to avoid reading the sacred text of another religion through our own lens
  • to question the authority of the information we receive (through media or mass emails)
  • to “never compare their real with our ideal
  • to complexify anecdotal experiences with counter-narratives
The most informative insights for me were around the importance of entering into interfaith dialogue. I was grateful for Dr. Hunt’s reminder that we should fall in love withand be ‘fascinated by’ someone who is different than us- that we should enter into genuine relationships with the ‘religious other’.

I resonated with his emphasis on face-to-face dialogue, and building relationships in order to bring new perspectives and transform lives.

What would it look like if each of us followed the best and most central tenant of our faith?

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

new friends

This past week I had the opportunity to gather with a group of my fellow students studying other religious traditions. I spent four days in the Texas hill country at a camp with students of Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, and various Protestant traditions.

Each day we heard from resource scholars of each religion, and experienced worship and prayers led by our fellow students. We also met as small mixed groups several times each day to discuss and process together. Of course, my favorite parts were our shared meals spent getting to know one another, and our time to talk and play in the evenings.

I came to the end of the retreat with a sense that this conversation (inter-faith dialogue) makes me a better me, and makes you a better you.

Similar to the way a healthy marriage or friendship makes one want to be a better person, I left inspired to be a stronger follower and leader.

I found that learning of the depth, the struggles, and the commitment of my peers studying to be religious leaders gave me a better understanding of my own faith and tradition.

I felt a connection to new friends who are obviously a little bit crazy (like me), nerds for theology (like me), and highly dedicated (perhaps more than me...). Though we have real differences as individuals who are part of distinct and unique religious traditions, we share a common longing to learn, grow, connect and serve.

I found that I felt challenged, encouraged and inspired by entering friendship with people who are a part of other religions.

In an unhealthy marriage or relationship one person tries to dominate the other, or one is so submissive they try to mold themselves into the other.

A healthy relationship is one of mutuality and respect- there are two unique, whole people.

I came away from this week strengthened in my own beliefs, grounded in my 'why', and inspired to live a Christian life full of kindness, grace, mercy, joy and love.

I came away feeling that this was the first step of a continuing conversation with people of other religious traditions and faiths.

I came away grateful.