Learning to Experience The 'Tapestry of Faith'
By Chas Griffin
Special to The Pilot
On Sunday, Nov. 18, my wife, Pat, and I attended an ecumenical Thanksgiving service at Chapel in the Pines in Seven Lakes. It was a creative, diverse expression of worship and gratitude.
We sang, prayed, listened and experienced a presence that each group might describe differently. The key was we experienced this presence rather than argued about it theologically. We experienced a beautiful tapestry of faith.
Religious diversity is an integral part of our lives. After my recent column headlined "Tone Down the Rhetoric and Listen," a person responded: "What planet do you live on? It's impossible to listen to someone with whom I vehemently disagree. How am I supposed to listen when I think my adversary is wrong and possibly crazy? We're not to be unequally yoked."
Well, for one thing, listening may help him move out of his craziness. Our problem is that when we attack and argue rather than listen and debate respectfully, our differences divide us.
When I was a sophomore in high school, our basketball team was returning from a game we had played against a Native American team from Neah Bay, Wash. Gary Earl and I shared a seat. And after the bus got going, he pulled a small Bible out of his gym bag and said, "I think this is yours!"
I was embarrassed and did the opposite of what our pastor encouraged us to do. We were taught to carry our Bible with us and when someone asked us about it, we were to witness to them about Jesus and salvation from sin.
I stammered out the above explanation and said, "I brought a little Bible because I could hide it in my pocket, and I'm hoping Jesus and God understand."
I was sure our pastor would be disappointed in me and tell me that being disappointed in Jesus is not a good thing.
We rode in silence for a while, and then Gary said, "In our church, if you screw up, all you have to do is go to confession. I go once a week and I feel better. Our priest has me say a prayer to Mary and ask her to help me."
I responded by saying that when we accept Jesus as our savior, his blood takes care of our sins. Gary wondered what we did when we screwed up, and I told him that we didn't need a priest. We talked to Jesus ourselves.
Our next exchange still makes me laugh. Gary asked me if I wanted to know what his Catholic Church said about my Baptist Church. I told him when he got done, I would tell him what our church says about his. We both laughed when we discovered that both churches accused each other of the same thing - being the anti-Christ. Neither of us knew what that meant, but we agreed it sounded serious.
Eboo Patel, in an article titled "Dilemma of Religious Diversity," says, "The first time I heard my 3-year-old son say the Lord's Prayer, I felt like a fraud. We are, after all, Muslims." Eboo moved on from his fraudulent concerns to found the Interfaith Youth Core. He is the author of "Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America."
Some time ago, Dr. David Bohm, a quantum physicist, and Krishnamurti, an Indian mystic, began a dialogue about what they called the "Implicate Order." Their interaction eventually led them to the Middle East - a region populated by many diverse religious expressions that have battled with each other for centuries and are at it still.
They invited representatives from each of these faith groups to a two-day seminar.
The first day was spent talking, singing and sharing their experience of the supernatural, God, divine presence and the implicate order. They had a wonderful time. The next day the session lasted one hour - they were to discuss their beliefs and theology. They concluded that the presence of God was unifying; describing it was divisive.
"In a world of many different people," Eboo says, "the relevant message we can teach our children is this: A religiously diverse world makes your religion even more relevant; it marks your concern with and care for your friends from all religions."
In Luke 7:34, Jesus was criticized for being too friendly with the wrong sort of people, but I think he models for us behavior we need to emulate.
Chas Griffin lives in Seven Lakes.
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