After Valarie Kaur’s powerful address at the Montreat College Conference in January, more than one participant said on his way out, “We’re all Sikh now.” Actually those participants still identify as followers of Jesus rather than Guru Granth Sahib, but their point was that they were profoundly inspired by Valarie’s message. They resonated with her call to embrace revolutionary love. They recognized similar themes between Sikhism and Christianity. The two faiths are different but they inform each other.
Eboo Patel was raised Muslim and was influenced by Roman Catholic and Buddhist theology before founding Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago. As we’ve particularly observed over the past month, many see other religions as a threat or a barrier to peace. Eboo and IFYC believe that religion can actually be a bridge that bolsters peace. As some wish to ban Muslims from our country, it’s essential to note that 3.3 million Muslims already live in the United States, most of which were born here.
Eboo was born in Illinois. Valarie was born in California. I was born in North Carolina. Our faiths are not the same. But we are all Americans and our faiths can inspire and inform each other.
I am a better Christian for reading Eboo’s books and hearing Valarie’s stories. I am a better Christian when I embrace the Jewishness of Jesus and when I treasure the faith of my Jewish friends. I have learned from practicing Buddhists and followers of Bahai. I am not afraid that being with people of other faiths will diminish my faith in Jesus. In fact, I’ve found that it enhances my faith in Jesus.
Our model for interfaith relationships comes from Jesus who befriended women from Samaria and Tyre/Sidon. (Note: They were not Jews and he did not force them to become Jews.) He shared stories which made the Samaritan the hero and the Roman centurion a saint. Jesus expects us to learn from each other and minister among each other. It’s part of our calling.
Next steps: Start a Daughters of Abraham book group. Take this IFYC Interfaith Literacy Quiz. Attend an interfaith rally to support immigrants or refugees. Visit a mosque or a synagogue or a temple. (Call first. And take cookies.)
Your faith will expand and your circle will widen. And don’t we need this more than ever?