Beyond Interfaith

“The Three Interfaith Amigos,” perhaps best known for their radio program on NPR, have written a stunning exploration of the Abrahamic faiths in Getting to the Heart of Interfaith: The Eye-Opening, Hope-Filled Friendship of a Pastor, a Rabbi, and a Sheikh (Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, and Jamal Rahman.) They attempt to guide the reader down the dangerous rapids of interfaith dialogue, suggesting healing occurs when we focus on what unites rather than on what divides us. Constructive communication is possible when we let go of preconceptions and defensive posturing. We can remain secure in our own beliefs, while opening ourselves to new ideas and perspectives. As we learn to listen more deeply, we discover and are enriched by the unique insights of each tradition. The Amigos share the development of their friendship to demonstrate how they bridged their differences. Each recounts his personal religious journey. Each confides what he loves and objects to in his own faith. Each counters common misconceptions. These revealing stories capture the essence of spirituality – the wellspring of life from which humanity emerges, the face of God reflected in every person.

The Amigos take for granted that the reader doesn’t need to abandon her respective tradition. Here arises an all-too-familiar dilemma: boundaries. When we discover the universal, why keep the specific? If the goal is to move our religious brethren beyond mutual antagonism, why not learn from and embrace every spiritual tradition? If all paths lead to the same God, which road should we take? Why be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu? What makes a specific religion preferable to generalized spirituality? The answers to these questions may simply be a matter of roots. Does this mean no one religion carries greater cosmic significance than another? Yes, but so what? Most of us don’t choose a religious or spiritual path arbitrarily. We choose what works, what speaks to us personally and inspires us. Isn’t that the point?

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One response to “Beyond Interfaith

  1. In the inter-religious dialogue of “the three amigos,” their respective self-criticisms is particularly important because their act of doing so implicitly challenges the typical way religion is understood (see http://deligentia.wordpress.com on this), at least in the modern context. What if the practice were to spread?

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