Welcome to Part 3 of the series on challenging our thinking. Up next: People of other religions.
I was excited to read a recent post by Brian McLaren (I will feature him in the next post in this series). His latest book, due out in just under a year, is about how we can maintain strong faith yet hold deeper respect for other faiths. This is something I care about deeply. As a person raised in an interfaith family, it was always awkward when the subject came up at my first church. After hearing for several years that my family of non-believers were all essentially condemned to Hell, I recall vividly the desperation I felt when my Jewish grandfather passed away. One of the adults made some lame comment about Jews being God’s chosen people. I understand that he was trying to offer a sliver of hope, but it fell somewhat flat, because of the constant contradictory message.
It was a long time before I could co-exist with non-Christians before feeling defensive. I had been taught that we would be “hated” by “the world,” which included people practicing other religions. Not surprisingly, I had also learned that Catholics were considered to be in this category, that they were not “saved” and that we were at odds with them. After all that, it’s no wonder I viewed religion as a competitive sport.
Some years ago, I let go of the need to win. Perhaps it was because of my family, almost none of whom are Christians. Perhaps it was being away from the insular bubble that is high school and college life. I’m sure that making friends of all sorts made an impact. In any case, I realized that it wasn’t up to me to make any sort of proclamation about someone else’s eternal soul.
Over time, I’ve gained valuable insight from many sources. Social media is great for interacting with a variety of interesting people. Outspoken Christians are now urging us to open ourselves to dialogue about faith and listening to each other. We may not agree, but we can be respectful and honest. We shouldn’t be afraid to hear what others have to say about our religion, either. Just as we need to have open hearts when interacting with our GLBT brothers and sisters, we need to listen to our fellow humans with different spiritual beliefs.
That said, let me highlight a couple of my favorites. First, if you don’t know who Queen Noor is (she’s the Queen Dowager of Jordan), then you should make the effort to find out. Although I knew of her, I didn’t know much. I will let this web page speak for itself. She has done much to educate people about Muslim culture and politics.
Second, here is a fantastic article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Love him or hate him, he’s not to be ignored. In this article, he talks about Jacob wrestling with God. Some of what he says is controversial, but I appreciate that he doesn’t shy away from that. There’s a lot to chew on, and we Christians would do well to consider what he says.
It’s one thing to read words on a page. It’s another thing entirely to build relationships. I encourage you to make friends with other beliefs. Do this without an agenda to “convert” them. Just listen, love, and learn the value of mutual respect.