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.

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