Thursday, April 14, 2011


Tonight, my friend Kylie and I attended an interfaith discussion at one of my favorite local bookstores.

Bilal, a Muslim man spoke about his Islam beliefs.
Brian, a 30ish man, gave a brief summary of his secular humanist ideas.
Fritz, a stuffy-looking sweater-vested man talked about Unitarianism.
Rabbi Michael, a Jew originally from Amsterdam, described his walk in Judaism.
And Dan, a dairy farmer, gave a brief description of the values of Zen Buddhism.

I could write a lovely essay about what each man said and what I thought about it. However, I think that what most impressed me about my 2 hours there was my excitement that these conversations are taking place. Yeah, that's probably quite simplistic compared to all the notes I furiously wrote in response to their ideas, but, really, among academia and term papers, what I've really been craving is a deep, intellectual discussion. Particularly one about faith.

Their dialogue and their integrative beliefs were relevant and explored and well-traveled. Which I'll admit was a surprise. I made some judgments from the beginning: they were older and one man had eyebrow hair longer than a hamster's. I expected a younger group. I expected that young people would be more interested in dialogue about various faiths than would older people. I expected that the older people would act like the stereotypical elderly Adventist who appears on 3ABN. I was wrong. Gladly.

What I most appreciated about this interfaith gathering was the assumed level of respect for all faiths or beliefs. The atheist in the back row heard the Muslim in the front row. The humanist valued the Buddhist. The Jew need not prove anything to the Unitarian. I've grown up with the assumption that "we" had the truth, the right way, and everyone else was lost. I've always been well-aware of what I needed to do to be "good" or "saved." But if you were to ask me what I believed and why, I couldn't tell you.

Tonight, for one of the few times in my short life, I felt like a pupil sitting at the foot of these wise older-adults during a discussion about spirituality. Usually, around such a topic, I would rather avoid it because it turns into an argument about "my" generation and "your" generation. But this room of people would have none of it.

See faith is always on the table. Ya know, faith? The complete trust or confidence in someone or something? It's like a regular knock on the door. Sometimes I try to pretend like I don't hear it or don't feel the desire to open the door, but when I do, I'm reminded that I can't not hear the knocking.

When I say faith, I don't mean religion. Or church. Or Sabbath school. Or a lot of things.

When I say faith, or even better "trust," I'm talking about my own personal belief that someone or something bigger than myself plays a major role in my life and can be trusted. This used to really bug me: the fact I can't fully explain or even comprehend for myself what Spirit (or God, or the Universe, or the Force, or whatever you want to say...) is or how Spirit works. But I believe it does. Somehow.

I don't feel the need to claim a religion (I may act like or look like a Christian and that's okay with me. I was raised to take a Sabbath and give some of my money to a greater cause. I believe in those things. So I continue them.)
I don't need to evangelize to others how my way is better than theirs.
I don't need to attend church to be spiritual.
I don't need to prove my faith to anyone.
I believe that most beliefs and religions have more in common that in contrast.
I believe that religion can serve a fine purpose, however, it is not a pre-requisite or requirement for a connection with Spirit.
I believe that it's okay to say, "I don't know." Because honestly, none of us really do.
I believe that--try as we might--life operates mostly in the grays. Very few things in life are cut and dried, quick and easy.

We do the best with where we're at and surrender the rest away.
We're just doing our balanced best.
We're just showing up each day to a life that rarely makes complete sense.
We're learning how to function, how to support, how to grow, how to help each other.

And what I've found, is that fostering these qualities is almost always enough.


Hannah said...

love :-)

Sometimes I wish that words could contain the Universe. But then--for brief moments of remembrance--I experience It instead.

And goodnessgoddess, I'm glad to see It lights up your heart too :-)

Thanks for thinking out loud in an electronic fashion to friends and strangers alike. Part of the root of community comes from "making common to all," and I've noticed how your are creating community just by BEING. I dig it. Also, love the "Remember who you are" image you included in another post.

Sendin you explosions of sunshine kisses straight to your heart.