Interfaith Leaders Desperately Needed, Including Gnostic, Alternative Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and whatever you are…

Here’s an intriguing and mind-changing article I just read in ChristianityToday where a muslim professor is telling ministers in training to be MORE Christian and that will make muslims and those of other faiths feel more safe (not threatened) to be who they are. He teaches there is a great need for mature Interfaith leaders that get the idea we are not supposed to disrespect other faiths, but neither are we to disrespect our own by watering it down in order to not “offend” people and clergy of other faiths.

For esoteric Christian ministers, Independent Catholic priests or alternative clergy of any kind, you can take this muslim professor’s words of advice and insert, “be more WHATEVER YOU ARE.” So be more gnostic, be more alternative Christian, be more Jewish, etc. That is the way to get the respect YOU deserve, AND to get your message across, to accomplish YOUR mission.

Please read the article below…it represents the way of the future in ministry, in my opinion. — +Katia

 

The following article was retrieved from:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/buildingleaders/ministrystaff/ministrylessonsfromamuslim.html

Ministry Lessons from a Muslim

His unexpected message to church leaders: fully embrace your Christian identity. Skye Jethani and Brandon O’Brien Monday, July 6, 2009

Eboo Patel is not the most likely seminary professor. His credentials are not the issue. Patel earned his doctorate from Oxford University, and he is a respected commentator on religion for The Washington Post and National Public Radio. He has spoken in venues across the world, including conferences for evangelical church leaders.What makes Eboo Patel an unlikely seminary professor is that he is Muslim.

The editors of Leadership first encountered Patel at the 2008 Q Conference, where he challenged 500 Christian leaders to change the rules of interfaith dialogue. “Muslims and Christians might not fully agree on worldview,” he said, “but we share a world.” Patel spoke of his enduring friendships with a number of evangelicals and his desire to move beyond the “clash of civilizations” rhetoric that dominates Christian/Muslim interaction. While holding firmly to his belief in Islam, he also affirmed church leaders. “Even though it is not my tradition and my community,” Patel wrote after the conference, “I believe deeply that this type of evangelical Christianity is one of the most positive forces on Earth.”

We were intrigued, so we contacted Patel to talk more about the ramifications of increasing religious diversity in America, as well as his outsider’s perspective of the church’s response. Patel gave us more than we bargained for. He invited us to attend a class he was teaching on interfaith leadership at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Patel is not on the seminary faculty. He serves as the executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)—a Chicago-based international non-profit that brings together religiously diverse young leaders to serve their communities. The seminary invited Patel to co-teach the course on interfaith leadership with Cassie Meyer, a Christian who serves as the training director at IFYC.

Be more Christian

When we arrived in the class, which included twenty seminarians—men and women from diverse racial and denominational backgrounds—the students were discussing a newspaper article. Patel and Meyer were using the report about tensions between Somali Muslim immigrants and Latino workers at a meatpacking plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, as a case study. The Muslims wanted the factory’s managers to adjust production schedules to accommodate their prayer times and holidays like Ramadan. Others in the rural community admitted being uncomfortable with the influx of so many Muslim neighbors—particularly after September 11, 2001.

“Imagine you are the pastor of a church in Grand Island, Nebraska,” Patel says to the class. “A reporter from The New York Times calls you because he is working on a story about the conflict between Muslims and Christians at the meatpacking plant. The reporter asks you, ‘What should Christians do?’ How would you respond?” After a few moments of reflection, a student answers.

“I would talk about the fact that this country was founded on religious freedom,” he says. “We have to respect other people’s beliefs.”

“Yes,” interjects another student. “But if they allow the Muslims to take breaks for prayer, it will disrupt the factory’s productivity. There is an economic reality to consider. If the plant shuts down, the whole community will suffer.”

For fifteen minutes the students debate the matter, fluctuating between constitutional rights and economic realities. Finally, Patel interrupts.

“I’m hearing you articulate two grand narratives. First, the narrative of American freedom. And second, the narrative of capitalism and productivity. But remember, the reporter is not calling you because you are an expert in economics or constitutional law. He’s calling you because you are a minister. Don’t be afraid to answer the question as a Christian. Answer out of the Christian narrative.”

The irony of a Muslim challenging a group of pastors to be more Christian was not lost on the students. Heads dropped as they contemplated a different response to the case study. Cassie Meyer assisted the students by adapting the scenario.

“Imagine you’re the pastoral intern at the church in Grand Island,” Meyer says, “and you’ve been given the responsibility to preach a sermon this Sunday addressing the conflict between the Christians and Muslims. What would you say from the pulpit? What would you use from Scripture?”

“The greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors,” says one student. “Whether we like it or not, these Somali Muslims are our neighbors and we are called to love them.”

“But many in the town don’t view the Muslims as their neighbors,” says another student. “They view them as intruders, unwanted outsiders, or even their enemies.”

“Do you think referring to the Muslims as ‘enemies’ in your sermon might inflame the problem?” Patel asks.

“I don’t think so,” the student responds. “Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to show kindness to aliens. But that would have to be made clear in the sermon. The story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind.” Patel is out of his chair, energized by what he is hearing.

“I want you to see what just happened,” he says. “I want to affirm this. You are using the grand Christian narrative to respond to an interfaith conflict. First, I heard the Christian story of loving God and loving your neighbor. Second, I heard the Christian story of the Good Samaritan and the call to love the stranger. By using these stories, you are defining reality through the Christian narrative.

“Remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race. You cannot afford to forfeit that territory by talking about economics or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Don’t be afraid to be Christian ministers. If you don’t use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative.”

Patel’s call to stand firmly on the Christian narrative isn’t what most students expect to hear from a Muslim professor.

“The more theologically conservative students are usually uncomfortable at the beginning of the course,” says Patel. “But they leave feeling affirmed. It’s the liberal Christians that are more challenged. They’re not used to being told to ‘be more Christian.'”

A false dichotomy

The exhortation to “be more Christian” is reiterated repeatedly in the class we are attending, and it represents a different approach to interfaith dialogue. Cassie Meyer says that most Christians have been told there are two ways to engage people from other faiths.

“The more liberal side says that Christians need to let go of their unique identity and affirm that all religions are valid; all roads lead to God. The more conservative side holds firmly to Christian identity and belief, but they sometimes see people of other religions as the enemy, so there is little desire for cooperation,” she says.

Meyer believes this dichotomy is one reason some people raised in the church abandon the faith as adults.

“The girl who led me to Christ in high school actually walked away from her faith in college,” Meyer recounts. “She was the strongest Christian I knew, but once she left home and started becoming friends with Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, she had a crisis. She’d been told these people were going to hell, that they were the enemy. The only way she could reconcile her friendship and admiration for these people was by abandoning her faith and affirming that all religions are true.”

Meyer and Patel believe there is another way. Somewhere between religious relativism and religious fundamentalism is a third option—what they call religious pluralism. This is the foundational principle of the seminary course.

“Religious pluralism is different than relativism,” one student tells us. “Relativism says you cannot make exclusive truth claims, that everyone is right. Pluralism simply recognizes that we live in a very diverse culture; there are a lot of different religions. Pluralism means talking about how we can live together and still maintain our own religious identity. Truth claims are okay.”

Meyer believes church leaders need to model and teach Christians how to cooperate with and befriend people of other faiths without abandoning their own convictions.

“If we don’t,” she says, “it will either mean more people will leave the church, or there will be more conflict between Christians and other groups.” An African student in the class agrees.

“Where I come from, there is so much conflict,” he says. “People are killing each other because of their beliefs. As a Christian, I am called to have compassion on the crowds, like Jesus did, and love my neighbor—even the neighbor I disagree with.” Created in God’s image In our increasingly secular society, many people have come to view religion as a problem and the source of conflict between groups. This sentiment was popularized in John Lennon’s 1971 song “Imagine,” in which religion is presented as an obstacle to world peace and harmony. But Eboo Patel is helping these seminary students turn conventional wisdom upside down. He sees the potential for greater cooperation and coexistence by embracing our different religious identities, not abandoning them.

“If you enter a ministerial gathering as a Christian minister and downplay your Christian identity in an attempt to make everyone comfortable,” says Patel, “as a Muslim leader, I’m immediately suspicious. I don’t trust you. Embracing your identity as a Christian creates safety for me to be a Muslim.” A student from a liberal denomination jumps in to affirm Patel’s statement.

“In my experience, the hardest thing about interfaith dialogue is Christians who are afraid to talk about Jesus, and that’s a tragedy” she says. “That’s what I appreciate about evangelicals. They enter the room and they want to talk about Jesus. They’re not afraid to own their identity and their narrative, and that gives freedom for everyone else to do the same.”

“We have often viewed particularity and pluralism as mutually exclusive,” says Patel. “We think that if you are one thing, you must be disrespectful of other things.”

The message of embracing identity and acknowledging theological distinctions brought great comfort to some students in the class. Maria, a self-identified Pentecostal, was initially hesitant about taking Eboo Patel’s class.

“I thought the class was a call to believe that all faiths lead to the same place,” says Maria, “and I don’t believe that.” She went on to explain that her denomination is very intentional about not engaging in interfaith dialogue. But now she realizes how important, and how possible, interfaith cooperation is. “Can my church respect another person’s identity? Yes. Can we have mutually encouraging relationships? I believe we can. Can we work together toward a common cause? I believe we can.

“This class has reminded me of a basic Christian belief—that we are all created in God’s image,” she says. “When I’m in conversation with my friend who is a Muslim, can I honor her as someone created in God’s image? I believe that’s what God calls me to do.”

Michael also confessed to being apprehensive about taking the class on interfaith leadership.

“As an army chaplain, I have to deal with religious pluralism all the time,” he says. “But God placed me in this class for a reason, because I’ve had a very negative view of Muslims.” Speaking to Patel, he says, “I’m an African-American man from one of the poorest sections of Chicago. I was raised Pentecostal and now I’m a very conservative Presbyterian. But God has shown me that I need to reach out and view you as a man created in the image of God, respect you, and when possible, work alongside of you. God humbled me, Dr. Patel, in ways you can’t even imagine.”

Maria and Michael, both from conservative Christian backgrounds, were not the only students challenged by Patel’s class. Amy comes from a mainline church with a more liberal theology.

“I grew up believing in Jesus,” says Amy, “but I was also told to accept what everyone else believed, too. I was supposed to love and accept everyone, and that meant taking different identities, including my Christian identity, and merging them together. But I’ve never really understood what that meant. It never made sense to me. How can I believe in Jesus and in everything else?

“This class has helped me see another way. Now I understand that I can love others, I can have compassion for others, I can even work alongside others, and still retain my identity as a Christian. I don’t have to give up my belief in Jesus.”

Eboo Patel and Cassie Meyer hope their class will create more momentum for interfaith dialogue and leadership.

“With religious conflict on the front page every day,” says Patel, “you would think there would be a huge, robust field called interfaith leadership. But there isn’t because it is really hard.”

“It’s not easy to engage meaningfully with others and hold on to your own identity,” says Meyer.

“The ability to bring mutually exclusive people together is the gift of the great leaders of our time,” says Patel. “If religious leaders will not model for their people how to live beside other faiths, then who will?”

Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

www.ChristianityToday.com
Copyright © 2009 Christianity Today International

Published by

Katia

Katia is a consecrated independent sacramental bishop. She directs the online Esoteric Mystery School and Interfaith Theological Seminary. Check it out at NorthernWay.org.

28 thoughts on “Interfaith Leaders Desperately Needed, Including Gnostic, Alternative Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and whatever you are…”

  1. Katia!!
    This is exactly the day that I got the notion of a multi-denominational “Church of the Sacred Feminine ” through which women (hopefully a few men) around the globe via the Internet can bond, whatever their personal beliefs, around the expression of the Goddess in the form of giving to nurture the world. Most Magdalene and Goddess groups are a lot about how great it’s going to make you feel and your personal spiritual growth. Those things are fine, and surely should have a prominant place, but I think that the spiritual center needs to be socially moral center, where we are focused less on getting and more on giving…so you can imagine how delighted I was to find your blog of today. // We seem to be of like mind.

    Blessings,

    Ellie Norton

  2. What a great article this is. The idea of being more of what you are causing others to feel protected and encouraged to be more of who they are is quite revolutionary. Being a Christian Shamanic Practitioner is sometimes a hard road to go. I have very close friends that are both Christian and Pagan and I have sometimes felt that I have been walking a tightrope. Though both Christianity and Paganism are at work in me, Jesus has always been my first love. This article has got me to thinking that I need to honor that first love within both the Christian and Pagan environments that I live in. Thank you so much for sharing it, Katia!!

    Peace,

    Joe Berney

  3. Hi Katia,

    i was using google.images to collect all pictures related to prehistorical and classic goddesses when i came across your web and blog. this is a great job you are doing to bring people together.

    i wouldn’t know how to do that myself after reading Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade. It seems to me all three Abrahamic religions have lost part of their legitimacy and the whole world is coming back to paganism. thanks gods.

  4. I completely agree with your article here. If christians in the name of pluralism lose respect for their own religion, then their faith means nothing. Each religion must struggle between keeping their core values safe, and having tolerance for others. I feel so strongly about this issue of religious pluralism, that I wrote a book. It’s titled “A Pluralist Portrait of God” The whole message I tried to portray in the book is that God has revealed himself differently to each religion.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    congratulations for your book, i’ll look for it. it seems to me you are trying to reach some sort of inter-religious consensus and that is always a good cause.

    your angle reminds me of bahai’s belief on PROGRESSIVE REVELATION -taken from muslim religion. however, my question is:

    Has God revealed himself differently to each religion?
    or was it the same message translated in different ways according to the ruling elite of the time -and not always totally concerned about spiritual matters?

    blessings,

  6. First, thanks so much to Rev. Katia for posting this article. This is a wonderful lesson from a truly inspirational man who possesses a keen insight into religion and its impact on the world today.
    Also, I appreciate Lisa Bugayong’s post and I share her feelings. I have studied other denominations and have often felt empty, or even ashamed, at some who do not allow room for other denominations or religions.
    In response to Domenec’s question, I believe that God, who created all things, is mysterious and wonderful. It is certainly right, to me, to believe that He has made the beauty of His word available to different peoples of the Earth at different times and in different ways. I said on another post that God must have a palate of many colors. Christians make up about 34% of the world’s population today, so having an opportunity to embrace people of all faiths is important to me.
    I hope to realize my dream of an Interfaith Church in my area, and thanks to my new ordination from E.I.C., I may help to make that a reality one day.
    Thanks Rev Katia, and everyone here.

  7. Has God revealed himself differently to each religion? or was it the same message translated in different ways according to the ruling elite of the time -and not always totally concerned about spiritual matters.

    Great question. I do not believe that God revealed himself differently to each religion. I do believe that each “people”, tribe if you will, translated God to their own understanding, which is at the root of our differences. Those differences need not separate us as enemies. As an example My dear wife Jennifer was born Jewish, but to a non-practicing family. I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath keeper and feel more “jewish” than my wife. I and my wife are launching an interfaith servant leadership outreach october 1, God willing. The Website noted above will be operational by then. Religious differences need to give way to spiritual inclusiveness in this often confusing world. If we as spiritual leaders do not lead the way now, then who will? and when? This article is a call to arms to be more, and as my website states there is more2life. Thanks to Katia for Sharing this article.

  8. I have to agree with Patel’s position that liberal Christians are challenged by the notion of being “more Christian” in a society that tells us we need to accept and respect everyone no matter what they believe. What many people of faith forget is respecting others does not mean you have to be embarrassed about your own beliefs. I think most people, not just Christians, feel if they are more assertive in their beliefs, they risk the possibility of conflict with others. Respect, however, is supposed to go both ways. When a Christian, Muslim, Catholic, or anyone is emphatic about their beliefs, they exude confidence and a mutual respect is earned. Accordingly, if the individual or group you are addressing attempts to dismiss your religious beliefs because those beliefs are in contrast with their own, then they are the ones who need to understand the meaning of respect. In other words, don’t change who you are in order to please others. Rev. Katia is correct in her opinion that this is the way of the future in ministry. This new approach to interfaith dialogue could very well be the catalyst to our religious evolution.

  9. I am an Interfaith Minister living in Bristol UK.
    I am a gnostic christian who worships with the Quakers and teaches Kabbalah, I also volunteer at the goddess temple in Glastonbury. I love this article. I love living in multi cultural Bristol, I have only been here three months. I find that when I say that I will not do something ‘Spirit’ calls me to do that work. I have always said that I would never hold Interfaith Services but your article inspires me to do just that. Are there any others in the Brisol area that would join me in this work?

  10. I believe each individual has the Divine Gift of Sophia within themselves. However, it remains hidden from realization through the illusion of this world. Once uncovered though, it can result in a deeper connection to the true God. Embracing our inner “I” of the Divine can be had through a variety of ways. It remains a truly personal and individualized experience. This is where I see a need for different religious traditions. The rites and ritual of one path may advance some individuals, while they will fail to move another. One should not reject the religious or spiritual path of another as that, which is not seen as beneficial, may be to someone else. That which brings one closer to God, while not harming another, should be respected. The religious community needs to accept this need for respect between the different traditions as it would result in less conflict the world over. We may maintain unique spiritual identities while still meeting on common ground, at least in dealing with civil matters. We are all humans and share the same ground called Earth after all!

    Personally, I always can find room to grow as a better person. This is one of the reasons I find myself as a continual student in some form or another. By advancing my own spiritual self, through more specific Gnostic and early Christianity study, I am better suited at maintaining my own religious identify in the face of external resistance from the illusory world. The more I life according to my path, the greater reflection I will give to my environment. It is this reflection that will grant respect from other religions and my fellow man. As mentioned above, this respect can form a foundation of civil interaction and unity in attempts to further our common goals and ambitions as a species.

  11. I am not surprised at all to hear of a Muslim promoting respect for other religions or encouraging others to be MORE what they are convicted to be. It is a common mis-conception that Muslims are violent extremists. Indeed almost every religion has been scarred by extremist activity. Muslims believe in respecting the beliefs of others. They refer to Christians and Jews as “People of the Book”, they believe there is only One God, “La ilaha Allah” and that One God is the God of all people.
    I truly hope Eboo will keep on talking … and you will keep posting things like this …

    Much Love,
    Sarah 🙂

  12. I learned from this article and I feel the same hope.

    It will be a heavy load for interfaith ministers to carry this burden of leadership and hope up the mountain side that is being climbed everyday by known and unknown people of every faith,

    If a effective interfaith dialog is reached on a worldwide scale, a new human era might be born with more of a positive trend then present day. Much of human errors toward self and others might be minimized in this world.

    This futuristic interfaith goal may give credence to a familiar and popular saying,
    “Out of chaos comes order?”

    The pioneers of interfaith ministers will be very brave, and visionaries with hope and endurance as some of the first spiritual tools they will need to realize their dream.

    It is a worthy cause. I hope to share in the dream, also.

  13. I applaud Eboo Patel for being such a positive influence within the interfaith
    movement and agree with Bishop Katia’s opinion that interfaith leadership
    constitutes the future of ministry. Over time, our culture will increasingly
    come to accept the idea of an inclusive spiritual philosophy that honors the
    sacredness of all faiths; acknowledges that each religion reflects a unique
    expression of divine love and wisdom; and, creates a safe environment for every
    individual to celebrate his or her relationship with God in a distinctively
    personal way.

    While Patel’s message is certainly inspirational, it is not revolutionary. The
    visionary Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886) said, “We should
    always maintain an attitude of respect towards other religions. Remain always
    strong and steadfast in thine own faith, but eschew all bigotry and
    intolerance.” Having attained God-realization through four different religious
    paths (Tantrism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity) and encountered the same
    Absolute God each time, he declared, “God is one, but many are His aspects.” My
    sense is that the higher one advances through the levels of consciousness, the
    more blurred the lines between diverse spiritual paths become. Ultimately, all
    paths converge into and point to One.

    It might also be wise to consider applying Patel’s advice to “be more whatever
    you are” to our personal relationships, as well. Instead of allowing ourselves
    to be shaped by group norms and abandoning our sense of self in the process, we
    need to embrace our own identities. Being afraid to distinguish oneself as a
    freethinking non-conformist with creative ideas and an unconventional outlook on
    life serves no purpose, least of all one’s own. Although it is essential to be
    tolerant and accepting on all levels, I think it’s a mistake to suppress our
    uniqueness for the sake of showing obsequious deference to whatever insipid
    group ideals happen to be in vogue at the time. This is not to say that we need
    to share our esoteric religious beliefs with everyone; but we need not hide
    them, either.

  14. This was an eloquent, well written article. The author made excellent points about a middle ground between fundamentalism and relativism. The point that one should hold onto one’s identity in an interfaith discussion was well made.

    While interesting, perhaps, as a sophomore course lecture, the discussion of the accommodations of various religions in business missed the point. With the multiplicity of faiths in the United States, religious freedom is indeed guaranteed and important. So is the freedom to contract.

    As Justice Holmes said in 1892, “the petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.”

    What I really missed was a discussion of how the author would address members of his own faith. How would he address the lack of women’s rights in many regions? Would he view some positions as wrong, no matter how strongly felt by members of his faith?

    Perhaps this is an article that could be written in more depth.

    Sir James

  15. I agree totally with Pluralism. To be an interfaith minister, one must be knowledgeable and respectful of all human ways of worship. So many of the faiths have common themes and it is a good exercise that Dr. Patel introduced in his class. Provoking thought and emphasizing our beliefs is what keeps us set apart in some aspects, but these differences make us all stronger. Like the pillars of a temple, each with its own design yet all holding up the house of our universal faith.
    How this intercedes with government that cleanses itself of all religious influence should be discussed more in a class of political science than religion. But the minister caught in the middle must give sound advise to his parishioners for understanding and acceptance of all.

  16. Amen, yes there is a great need for more interfaith leaders. As our ego grows stronger as humans, out of fear we feel we must continue to press our beliefs on others as a confirmation of how “brilliant” or “better” we are- in false confirmation to ourselves that we are “good”. But not only do we press our belief system, we demean and diminish our fellow brother that we are speaking to when we speak out of ego. As a mother I teach my children to speak with others…not at them. I believe a good minister would do the same. Maybe angels have put that other person and their belief system in your path for your growth, if you refuse to listen to what they have to say you have just missed an opportunity from the spiritual realm. Because you listen and respect a fellow human being, does not mean you have to take their belief system into yours. But what if…what if there is a bit of a gem that you could take away and make your soul shine even brighter-and what if something you said is gem, and the other person’s soul takes it with them and shines even brighter. Wow, what a world we would live in…

  17. This article was very inspiring for me. It gave me the encouragement to never be shy or quiet in acknowleding that I am a Christian, and to be more firm in expressing my religious beliefs.

    Often times most people are shy or too quiet about their beliefs because they are afraid that they might “offend” those who don’t share their same religious beliefs. However, according to Dr. Patel by standing firm in our beliefs we actually help encourage those of other faiths to follow our example and stand up for their own beliefs as well. They can receive strength from our example and feel more confident in their religious beliefs.

    I believe that if people would begin to stand firm in their religious beliefs that we could then begin to have some of our religious practice rights restored. For example the Christians by not standing up for their religious beliefs have now caused all religions to lose their freedom to publicly practice their religion. We have seen this in most areas of the country now in terms of public prayer. Because many Christians were afraid to stand up and practice their religion, they have allowed activist judges to take away public prayer. This does not just hurt the Christians, but hurts any other religion as well, as they are also not allowed to offer open public prayers.

    As one stands up for their own religious beliefs, they begin to develop a great respect and appreciation for other’s religious beliefs. Why should it bother a firmly convicted Christian to hear a Muslim, or Jew pray? After all they are praying to the same God as that of the Christians. In fact the Quran even calls both Jews and Christians “People of the Book” and calls for Muslims to show tolerance to them. I therefore believe that if every religious person would stand up for their beliefs and “be more” Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever they may be, then this world be be a much better place to live in. A world where religion is a big part of the culture and sociology of the people. A great place where no one is afraid to practice or proclaim their religious beliefs, and a world where everyone respects each other because they are firmly living their own religion and are not afraid to share their beliefs with each other.

    I like how this article finished with Dr. Patel saying “The ability to bring mutually exclusive people together is the gift of the great leaders of our time,” “If religious leaders will not model for their people how to live beside other faiths, then who will?”

    Here he certainly raises an excellent point. People really look up to their religious leaders to show them an example of how to conduct their lives. If their religious leader does not stand up for their religious beliefs and as a result provide encouragement to those of other religions to do the same, then how will their practicioners learn how to do that? As this country continues to grow multi-culturally we will also see the growth of different religions. By being strong in our own religious practices and beliefs, we will better be able to understand and respect others’ beliefs. We will not feel threatened by them, for we know where we stand in respect to our own religion.

    I think that the best way to accomplish this in my work, is to not be afraid to begin to share and tell others what I believe. Tell them that I am a Chrsitian and I believe in my religion. Then it is vitally important to ask others what they believe. It is important to let them feel that I truly do care and respect them, that while I don’t agree with some of their religious beliefs, I do understand why they hold a particular religious belief and why that religious belief is attractive to many of their religion’s followers. It is this beginning dialogue where we can begin to make a difference as an Interfaith Religious Leader and thereby help teach and show a great example to our followers.

  18. It is my belief that everything he said was very insightful. I do believe that if we all were to learn to be better people it would be through our religious belief systems. In fact it has been proven time, and again that our Faith can drive us to do Miraculous achievements, therefore if we were to use it to both solidify our own systems of faith, then we can use it to build all of our faiths.

  19. There is no doubt in my mind that this issue is both timely and imperative. In a time when the polarised minority of fundamentalist opinions seems to dominate the centre stage of the religious debate, surely a more rational and loving approach to all who ‘believe’ must be extended. ‘God is no respecter of persons’ and chooses to reveal itself to all people in all times, and that means taking into account; the culture, historical time frame, political and economic, philosophical, traditional and symbolic views of a whole bunch of peoples. The thing that separates most of us is fear and ignorance. If we choose instead to be certain and clear about what it is that we have believed upon, then living in harmony and fellowship has a chance. Even within my own movement -UUA, there is a watering down of terms and words that we may not use for fear of offending someone. This is nuts, if we can’t communicate effectively within our own ranks, what chance has a follower of another religion got when we are attempting to dialogue.
    Hats off to this writer…

  20. Upon reading this article, I must respectfully state that I do not necessarily feel any more motivated to do things any differently than already being done. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I have always nurtured a deep respect for all religions. Every individual is entitled to their own spiritual beliefs. After taking a number of world religion courses, it became apparent that there must be some grounds for said beliefs. Further, the majority of religions have common elements, such as the ideals bestowed by the Ten Commandments in Christianity. However, this does inspire maintaining a continued resolve towards this point of view.

    Nevertheless, I feel that the sentiments being presented are noble. Pluralism does present the premise of accepting the faith of others, while maintaining your own beliefs and not succumbing to a temptation to stray. Further, it should be noted that it is vital not to try to impose your own beliefs on others of differing faiths, as this could be tantamount to the mutual coexistence being sought. Rather, someone seeking true pluralism should endeavor to understand and assist others in understanding the unique points within the respective spiritual practices.

    Interfaith leaders play an important role in teaching the general populous a respect for other religious perspectives. Good interfaith leadership will observe true pluralism, and teach their congregation a respect and understanding for others that may have differing beliefs. The best way for an interfaith minister to exact pluralism from its congregation would most certainly be through their exemplification of the trait. Nonetheless, a world utilizing this ideology would most certainly be a more peaceful one. Perhaps then the true personification of brotherly love would prevail. Many wars and much persecution have resulted from ideological disputes throughout history, and those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  21. As an Interfaith Minister I strive for balance in not only recognizing but understanding the differences in Spiritual paths, both Christian and otherwise. I have come to the conclusion that while many are on the same road there are diverse Spiritual paths that intersect, parallel, and merge with that road. If I were going from Denver to Washington D.C. I could choose any number of routes to take that would ultimately get me to my destination. The most direct route (flying) will get me there in the least amount of time but I would miss much along the way. Going by bus or train will take me longer, but I’d get to see more of the country along the way. Going by car, I would have the opportunity to stop from time to time and take in anything that caught my eye along the way – allowing me the most opportunity for interaction with my surroundings. Spiritual paths are similar. Some are more concerned with “getting there” while others value what can be learned along the way. When one securely embraces their own beliefs, they are less likely to be shaken when encountering the beliefs of others. In ministry, my goal is to help others reach their destination, not to dictate which route they take to get there. I constantly reaffirm my own beliefs and I continue to research those that aren’t so engrained. In reevaluating my own tenets of faith, I strengthen my resolve to become more of whatever it is I am called to be on the path that I am compelled to take by the one I call God. Ministering becomes less of who is right and more of how can we help each other reach our destination despite our spiritual differences. Conflict becomes cooperation, hatred becomes healing, and unwavering faith becomes understanding. I believe that God reveals himself (or herself) to each individual in a way that they can comprehend, not in a static way dictated by the majority in power at the time. Most especially for the Interfaith Minister, they must be steadfast and strong in their faith if they ever expect to obtain the respect and the trust of their congregation. A solidly anchored wall will generally withstand the high winds of hypocrisy that threaten a congregation, whereas a wall that constantly waivers will end up falling over onto and crushing their own congregation.

  22. This is a well done article. Mr. Patel’s message is refreshing in a world of misunderstanding and it is shared so effectively. I find his argument well considered but even more than that I appreciate that he is suggesting that we all go back to the basics, if you will. Seeing the differences we see in other faiths has caused many to reject those faiths rather than push them more strongly in the direction of their own faith. And when they do so they seem to find that the core values of their faiths essentially promote acceptance and wellness for all.

    From the perspective of my faith, contrast is essentially an opportunity to learn and grow. That is the beauty of differences. It allow us to see ourselves in a clearer light and from a different perspective. What more do we have to learn, in what ways might we have to learn, and how can we best better ourselves and the world around us in any ways possible?

    We may never all see eye to eye but that does not seem to be the point. After all, babies are born while the elderly die. We are not meant to all have the same beliefs at the same time. But what is important is that we learn to take our steps, that we all help each other to each get to where we are going. If we all did that, peace on earth might not be something to imagine but simply the way of this beautiful world and its splendid diversity.

  23. This dialog reminds me of the topic I chose for my dissertation. It was Religion: A universal cultural construct. After reviewing numerous anthrpological research studies involving culture and religion, I noted and asserted that eaach society had similar basic premises which varied specifically according to their culture. I found each compatible in that each held a belief in a higher power, a creation story, morals to guide society, and beliefs about the afterlife. What differed were names (language) and the cultural norms and beliefs reflected in each religion.

    Best regards,
    Deborah Kopko Vitale

  24. Dr. Patel has simply asked the students to inhabit their calling, no matter the faith path to which he or she has been called. It is sometimes so easy to get caught up in the day to day problems of life that one can profess to be an Interfaith Minister, yet allow the concerns of humankind to blur one’s sight to the Divinity in every living thing. I have found that one of the most important ways that an Interfaith Minister can remain true to his/her Interfaith calling is to take the time to pray every day in the type and method taught by his/her personal faith path. There are as many types and methods of prayer as there are faith paths, but the importance of the daily watering of one’s roots through prayerful communication with the Divine Source cannot be overstated. As a member of a community of Ordained Interfaith Ministers, I have found that daily prayer assists each of us in walking the talk as strong and committed Ministers on our personal faith paths, while allowing us to remain welcoming,flexible and open Interfaith Ministers to all seekers of the Divine Source.
    Kind regards to all, and thank you for your thought-provoking and enlightening statements.

  25. Jesus taught us the how to live life. Notice that he always answered a question with a question. “Who do you say that I am?”, “Who is my mother?” Or he chose to use parables to answer questions. He knew the deep sins of each human, and He knew that at the core of every loaded question was a deep sin waiting to erupt. Loaded question such as what Patel posed to the students are for sure to lead to a dispute if answered directly (and probably even if answered with a question or parable). If we look at any religion we will find that the best way to deal with such questions as those posed by Patel are to answer them like Jesus taught, with a question or a thought provoking parable that gets to the core of what the person is actually asking. So I appreciate that Patel tells the students, “remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race. You cannot afford to forfeit that territory by talking about economics or the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Too much politics from the pulpit, too much feel good let’s please everyone sermons, and not enough basics core religious teaching being preached. I find that the more I get the basics of any religion the more there is in common than there is different.

  26. I want to add to this article the idea that religious study and religions are based off of the lives of masters of spiritual experience which are mystical God /Goddess/ Source understanding and display’s of their spiritual gifts .They are recounted by those who come after these great men and woman mystics!
    Religious mystical experiences and religions are the Pillars built to carry forward their great Love and spiritual understanding. If you follow the words of these great master’s simple teachings, which always points one to the experience of the Heart and Soul, then respect, tolerance, and unity will be the natural result from your spiritual experience. The organizations and the dogma’s are here to bring the information to us , we have to figure out if we are living from the master’s works or the dogmatic works of any religious path!
    Spiritual Experience and Religious Organizations have different missions, but they do serve each other as well ! The message of the Master’s have a unity to them , if we take a look at the various teachings of the world we will see how similar they are!

  27. I have been an educator in the public schools for 30 years. I was the sponsor for a prayer group for many of those years. Most of the students that attended the group were christian but from several denominations. My statement to the students was always to believe what you believe and respect what others believe. I feel that this article confirms what I have always believed. Jesus taught on the sermon on the mount many things about loving our enemies and that we should elevate our minds and hearts to a higher way of living and loving that is greater then that of the pharisees.

  28. As a Jew I do not believe that God revealed Himself differently to each world religion for the Torah states clearly that God revealed Himself through His commandments first to Adamah and Hava and then to their descendants after them, i.e. Cain and Abel, Noah, all of whom were gentiles. I have excluded Abraham from this list of gentiles because he was arguably the first Hebrew which means one who crossed over. It was through Abraham and his descendants that the Jewish people, the descendants of the patriarchs proved themselves worthy of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.
    While the Jews proved by their faith their worthiness to receive the Torah this by no means excludes the gentiles or nations. It was God’s will to deposit His instruction with the Jews whom He chose to be teacher/custodians to the nations. But just as other nations did, so we the Jewish people added our own interpretation to the revealed truth that we were given and we formed what has become a somewhat exclusive religion. This was contrary to the will of God.
    The Torah not only reveals to us who God is, but it also reveals to us how we are to relate to God as well as to our fellow man. The Torah therefore in universal and includes all, it does not exclude anyone. So as some of my Christian friends were fond of saying, “There is only one way…” they are right. The right way is God’s universal way as revealed to all nations through Moshe Rabbaenu, Moses our teacher and giver of the Law.
    Not everything written in the Torah is exclusively for Jews; in fact there are mitzvoth or commandments that apply only to Priests, Rulers, Men, Women and Jews living both inside the land outside of Eretz Israel. A clear example would be that the gentiles are to celebrate the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkoth or The Feast of Tabernacles. Just as the Jews are required to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem so too the gentiles must send up representatives or God warns that He will withhold the rains from their lands which would cause disaster. Jews living in Israel must build and dwell in booths, while Jews who live outside of the land do not. Jews are required to wear ritual Tzit-tziyot or ritual fringes on the corners of their garments but gentiles are not required to do so. A menstruating non-Jewish female and a menstruating Jewish female may not be approached for the purposes of sexual relations. All in all there are 613 commandments broken down into two categories of positive commandments and negative commandments. Only a fraction of these apply to Jews while others such as eating biblically defined unclean animals are permissible to gentiles. Jews were set apart by these commandments in order so that we as a people could fulfill our role as teachers/custodians of the Torah to the nations.
    To reiterate a point I made previously about their being only one way, there is and that is God’s way, His revelation, not the individual interpretations of the truth that has formed into the various religions of the world.

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