Saturday, March 5, 2011

Interfaithiness Panel

A minister, a rabbi, a Buddhist monk, a Muslim, and a nun walk into a library.  It was not a joke, but it ended with a comment that poignantly told all.  Last week my Jewish husband and I attended an “Interfaith Panel” at a local library.  These sorts of things are always attended by people who already espouse the idea of interfaithiness.  The people who can’t stand the idea of learning something about other religions simply aren’t going to show up.  Also, I think it is rare for people of the majority religion to show up, because those people just don’t need this bumper sticker:

The event was a bit too freeform for my liking.  I would have preferred a Large Question Relevant to All Life, and then have the representatives of the different religions answer that question.  Instead, the moderator said to the panel something like, “Tell us about yourselves.”  The Presbyterian minister began by asking and answering the question:
Why would Presbyterians be interested in an interfaith panel? 

And his answer was this.
            - Because all creatures (not just Presbyterians) are
              loved by God: in Genesis, God’s
              wind-breath-spirit animates all life. 
            - All truth is God’s truth, however it is expressed. 
            - We have a calling to listen to other traditions.

One of these thoughts echoes my pastor’s sermon from this week:  God loves whom God will love, not whom we tell God to love.  Still and all, many people of many faiths (probably including my pastor) will have a problem with one or more of the above statements.  We get stuck in saying, “God’s truth is only expressed in my faith.”  “It is dangerous to listen to people from other traditions.”  “God does not love those people over there.” 

After many kind and sweet words were exchanged about how all the represented faith traditions wanted to get along, my husband asked:  “I have heard you say tonight that there is no barrier to us all getting along, and yet there is a lot of contention in the world due to religion.  Why is there all that contention?”

The moderator balked and then responded, “The Contention Panel is next week.  This is the Loving Dialogue panel.” 

He really was going to end it there, but some panel members wanted to respond.  The rabbi said that spiritual leaders have a particular point of view which allows them to get along with other religions, but those views are not shared by the “rank and file” practitioners of each faith.  The Buddhist monk contended that it is human nature to have conflict.  Even within our own families we have conflict, so how can we expect larger groups of people and society in general to not have conflict?

How about you – would you have any interest in an Interfaith Panel?  How about a Contention Panel?  


joanie said...

Does this mean that animals go to heaven?

Common Household Mom said...

That will be discussed at the "All Dogs Go to Heaven Panel"

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

I was invited to attend one of those panels. I have an acquaintance who is of the Baha'i faith and she had invited me. I have friends of many different religions (Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu) and have worked with people from even more backgrounds. I find that, as a Christian, I need to accept the fact that God gave us all the right of free choice. I don't have to agree with the tenets of their faith, but I do have to respect their right to choose that faith.

I don't want to be in a position where one religion takes precedence over another where someone else decides that only "their" way is the right way and that no one else has any right to their point of view or belief.

I do believe that this nation was founded on Christian principles and that people of other faiths need to respect where "we" come from, just as much as they want us to respect where "they" come from.

Not sure that answers your question or if it makes much sense. I may have rambled a bit there.

Fujifiddle said...

I like Elizabeth Coatsworth's book, "The Cat Who Went to Heaven." (Sorry, I can't figure out how to underline in the comments, but I do know that book titles should be underlined!)

I'm not sure I understand the concept of a "contention panel." Then again, I can't really grasp the concept of a heaven with no animals.

Michael said...

Is there not an inherent tension? Don’t most traditions teach that they have the true “truth” – a view that seems to be a necessary foundation for “faith” in the tradition. Such a view necessarily excludes other traditions from having the “truth,” making them at least inferior if not a threat to the true “truth.” Coexistence on an equal plane with other traditions is thus inconsistent with the foundations of the faith. “Tolerance” of others may be plausible, so long as the perceived threat from others is not existential. Tolerance, though, falls far short of acceptance of those that are “different,” resulting in tension. Is it possible for a tradition to maintain its foundational faith in its truth without creating contention among traditions?

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I've never been to anything like this, but I bet it would be fascinating. Right now there's enough contention in Wisconsin to last me a mighty long time.

Common Household Mom said...

Michael: yes, I think there is an inherent tension. I think some people direct that tension outward. That is, they say, mine is the only truth and therefore yours is a threat. More often than not, these folks are not willing to even learn about other faith traditions.

But I think other people can hold that tension within themselves. They say, I do not know the entire truth and I'm willing to acknowledge that someone else might have truth too. These people are probably more apt to say, "All truth is God's truth, however it is expressed" rather than "I know the truth - come on over to my side."

Green Girl: from what I've been reading about Wisconsin, your entire state IS the Contention Panel.

Common Household Mom said...

As for animals in heaven, some (many?) Christian theologians believe that heaven is not some far-off place in the sky. Rather heaven is whenever and wherever God's justice and mercy are in effect. So at the end-times God's rule will be established on earth. Humans will not be swooped up into heaven in a 'rapture' but God will return to earth. In this scenario, all the animals will be "in heaven" since heaven will be on earth. My question about this vision is: what about the mosquitos?