Earlier this month, a couple of my housemates and I had the privilege to attend Montreat’s annual College Conference. It’s a Thursday-Sunday morning conference targeted at young adults in college. Lucky for us NOLA YAVs, there were a few extra spots in a group from Baton Rouge that needed filled, and three of us had the opportunity to go.
The conference’s theme was “At the Well.” The worship services focused on Jesus and the woman at the well and what that pericope can teach us about interfaith dialogue. The keynotes discussed the idea of interfaith dialogue and how amazing it is when interfaith groups work together to help their neighbors. There were examples of faith communities forming a wall around a mosque Muslims could worship after 9/11 and stories about sitting shiva. I assure you, I believe that interfaith dialogue and cooperation certainly needs to happen if we ever want to achieve “world peace” and care for our neighbors. However, at a conference about interfaith dialogue, there was ONE Muslim woman that spoke to the group of college students. Where were the other faith traditions? It is a topic that does indeed puzzle me. But there’s one that puzzles me more.
How can we talk about coexisting and working with other faiths when we don’t tolerate, dialogue or interact with other Christians? I recently spoke to a pastor who admitted that neither his church nor the other couple of churches within a few blocks interact with each other. They just don’t have time and they do things differently and have a different mission(my words, not his).
Even when churches work together the politics and power struggles keep churches from connecting in a manner that is foundational for the church.
I think it goes deeper than that though. Even within a church building the community is separated and not working together toward feeding His sheep. In secular culture, we are frequently told that we’re individuals, that we should focus on ourselves, we’re all snowflakes, unique, and we all fall to the ground separately, apart from each other. I read an article today from Relevant Magazine that elaborates on this idea. You can read it here. We’re so focused on being individuals that we forget that we’re individuals making up the Body of Christ.
Yes, while it’s important that I develop my faith and my being, it’s also important for me to recognize that I am part of a larger community. I am part of a church community, and that church is part of the church universal, the Body of Christ that includes not only people I like, but people that I disagree with, argue with, desire to be as far away from as possible…
My point is that we shouldn’t let our differences divert us from the task at hand: feeding Christ’s sheep. That’s really what that conference that I mentioned at the beginning was about. Just because we believe, look, speak, learn, think, worship differently does not mean we cannot work together to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow; fight for justice where there is injustice.
While we’re working on coexisting with those of different faiths, perhaps we can work to coexist within ourselves, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s live in peace together whether Christian, Taoist, or Islamic. Let’s strive toward peace together whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Jewish.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom.