February 18, 2015

Inter-faith Friendships

I found my soul at Inter-faith.  For the past year I have been a part of an Inter-faith dialogue planning committee and I can't tell you how at home I feel with these beautiful people of many different cultures and faith traditions.  I love these people.  I want to walk behind them and see how they do what they do.  These people know how to love others in word and in deed.  I love them.

Peace in the world will only come as we learn to love people who are different from us.  We can be absolutely devout in our own faith and absolutely loving of those of different or similar cultures who believe differently.  I know it.

This is possible even as it is difficult.

Do you love people who believe differently than you do?  Not just love in a general sense, but are you REALLY friends with those who look, act, worship, or live lives and cultures different from your own?  I think this is one of the hardest, most vulnerable things we can learn to do in this life.

It is easy to be friends with people who think and act and look like you do.  It is harder to really help people feel loved when you live different lives.  How do you do that?

One of my dear friends asked me this weekend, "Jen, do you want to be invited to parties where there is drinking?"  I smiled and answered naturally, "Of course."  She said, "Will you think we're all sinners?"  I laughed out loud and said, "I love sinners!"

This conversation plays over and over in my mind.  I'm not sure I answered well.  

I have made covenants not to drink alcohol.  Because of these covenants, I do think it would be a sin for me to drink alcohol.  I have many friends of other or no religion, I honestly don't think they are evil for drinking.  There are many who drink responsibly in this world, and I think everyone would agree that there are those who drink too much.  I actually don't believe that alcohol is inherently evil (Christ drank wine).  The Word of Wisdom was written "for the weakest Saint".  I love that.  

We could talk for hours about the definition of SIN.  My view of sin might be a bit more universal and gentle than your idea of sin.  I actually find grace and unity in sin where others might feel judgement or pride as we discuss this concept.  I'm not sure that I rate sins for severity, your beer drinking vs my cussing at cookie dough theft.  Sin is a really interesting topic of discussion.  One of my favorite bumper stickers says- Don't judge me because I sin differently than you.  Amen.

But this isn't really about alcohol or sin definitions, it's about inter-faith.  

Inter-faith friendships, inter-faith families, inter-faith parties... how do you do this without offense?

How do you develop friendships and bonds that are deep enough to cover the defensiveness that is natural in these situations?

In this day and age, we almost believe that we can't love unless we have no differences.  We are taught that tolerance trumps and that any difference of belief equals intolerance.  That is hogwash.

You do not have to believe what I believe to be my friend.  Be loyal to me.  Don't talk bad about me or my religion behind my back or in front of me.  Look for the good.  Ask me what I believe so you understand things that seem odd.  Give me the space NOT to drink just as I give you the space to drink.  I will be loyal to you.  Relationships are gifts.  We CAN be different and still absolutely bless each other's lives.  I know it.

The more I think about it, the more my heart swells with the certainty that our similarities far outweigh our differences.  I cherish the differences like I cherish the similarities.

Do not think for a moment that I'm good at this inter-faith stuff.  I'm still learning.  Inter-faith relationships in my own family are still shaky.  I'm a devout Mormon girl, raising eight devout Mormon children and we're weird.  (Sometimes it's hard to get past the Good Little Mormon Girl tattooed across my forehead.)

A man I love and admire was talking about how to measure actual changes made from inter-racial efforts.  He said it's easy to SAY you have inter-racial relationships but when was the last time you actually had someone of another race in your home for a meal?

So true!!  I can SAY I love you, but my actions show I love those who look and act like me.  Ugh.  

I am actually pretty good at opening my home to many different kinds of people.  I want to be better at this.  My life is enriched because of the diversity in my relationships.  With that diversity comes vulnerability.  Comments made by those close to my heart hurt so much more than comments made by strangers.  And so, inter-faith relationships require trust, communication, and love.

Yes, my friend, please invite me to your home where you drink alcohol and I will invite you to my home where we don't.  Tell me about your life and I'll tell you about mine.  We'll laugh about silly children and swap recipes.  I'll make you bread, you pull me out of my house, and we will find that place where we are as different and as similar as sisters.

Because I believe that we are all family and that families (and differences) are beautifully eternal.
I love that.
Life is good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this post, and the wonderful woman who wrote it. Aunt Sandra

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