I have been thinking a lot lately about the need for conversation and dialogue with people from different faiths and religious traditions. I count myself quite luck to know many folks from different faiths and feel that I learn from my Jewish, Muslim, Traditional Native American, and other friends quite a bit when I spend time in dialogue with them. I don’t see our conversations having a purpose of conversation at all, rather of partnership and dialogue about what we can learn from each other and how we can support one another. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong follower of Christ and have come to know the grace of God through the person of Jesus. But I pray my faith never gets in the way of rational, thoughtful discourse and partnership. To me it is more than tolerance…or acceptance…it must go deeper than that. Tolerance is simply allowing someone to exist and that is a good start but we must accept AND support AND work together- for to me that is the example of Christ. Maybe I am crazy.
I was a bit disheartened by the news from a local congregation’s response to a Choral performance that was to be held in their space featuring the Traverse City West Chorale and the local college’s chorale. You can read here the information about what went down. Now, hear me out- this pastor and this church have every right to do what they deem is correct- yet, it makes little sense to me that they took this path. To not allow this beautiful piece of music seems a bit contradictory to the teaching of peace that Christ brings. Yes it was a Muslim cry to prayer…but it was all about a greater work of peace and tolerance. Sure…there are times Jesus calls people out and even is frustrated to the point of crying out against certain practices…but this does not line up (again in my opinion) with his teaching. Proof for me lies in the response of the 16-year-old girl, who happens to be Muslim and belongs to the West Chorale group. The report suggests that she ran from the room crying when she heard the call to prayer would be cut from the program. The articles also quotes her saying, “I felt like I wasn’t being treated equal…I felt I was unwelcome and that I didn’t belong any place near there.” The church, in my opinion, failed. Causing another to feel pain is not okay. Period.
My friend Seth Bernard has a song called “Collage” where he writes, “Separated into smaller and smaller camps, people more and more like us, we take shots at the other camps like we know…like they don’t know what we do, like they don’t have a camp they cling to for dear life, a fear of life, like we do….a collage of all the flags, all the scriptures put together, a race spinning through space.” I think these words are all to true when it comes to the Christian Faith…we put walls up around our faith out of fear, the unknown, and who knows what else and in doing that we create a smaller and smaller camp. The example of the cancelling of part of the music performance is just one example of how the church has done this again and again.
So what do we do? I wish I knew the complete answer to that question. What I do know is that we need to work hard to listen, to talk, to be open, to learn and to work together with our sisters and brothers from other faiths to make the world a better place. For by far we are better together than we are alone.