I had the wonderful honor of being invited to sit on a discussion panel last Thursday at Wichita State University. The title of the gathering was “Faith in the Spotlight!” It was a privilege to be included on the panel made up of myself, a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, an Atheist, and a Jewish Rabbi.
We each took a few moments to speak of our own tradition, beliefs, and understandings around God, world view, and practice. The session then was opened up for questions from the audience. It was a great experience and I have made some new acquaintances as a result and I look forward to those becoming friends.
The questions were good and thought provoking even “ponder” provoking for me. And I have done much in the way of pondering since last Thursday. I have for a long time been interested in interreligious relations and conversations and it was good to be in that venue. It was also enriching for me to encounter those outside a religious viewpoint and that continues to open and broaden how I look at the world and the importance of nurturing relationships with those with whom I differ.
My pondering has led me to this point and I know my faith and understanding will continue to evolve as I learn and study more. The Rabbi at the event Thursday shared a story I appreciated very much, and to some degree summarizes my pondering that follows. “A stranger who came to two teachers of the first century, Hillel and Shammai, with an odd request; ‘Teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot.’ First, he came to the sage, Shammai and he makes his request, “Teach me the Torah, Rabbi, as I stand upon one foot.” The Talmud teaches that Shammai picked up a builders rule, a piece of a two by four, and smacks him along side of the head, and the man left him. Then he came to Hillel and made the request, ‘Teach me the Torah as I stand on one foot.’ So Hillel taught him: ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”
My presence in the midst of other religious and non-religious persons does not necessitate my concluding they are wrong. Rather, a posture of learning, understanding, and respect is much more beneficial to relationships with Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Atheist, etc., friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. Coming to the table with an earnest quest to learn what they each hold and for what might deepen my own journey of Christianity enriches all of our journeys though they may differ in path and focus. I can respect and honor the beliefs of many with whom I may disagree without abandoning my own belief by seeking those things we hold in common and can practice together rather than focusing on how we differ and what separates us.
It is a faith open to learning and change rather than a faith closed in and unwilling to find the truth of other persons who are of different understandings. It would seem to me, Loving God, Loving Others, Loving Self would suffice. Also, from John Wesley’s thoughts, “Do no harm, do good, love God,” seems the same thing only different as my father was fond of saying. I pray I might, we all might learn to walk this journey of life together as friends in kindness, justice, humility, and love. It can be so.