Imagine you’re working in a soup kitchen. Why are you there? Are you there because you want to be there for your fellow human beings? Are you there because Jesus said, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”? Are you there because Muhammad said, said, “Feed the hungry, visit the sick and set captives free”? Are you there because Buddha said, “If you do not tend to one another then who is there to tend to you? Whoever who would tend me, he should tend the sick”?
No matter who said it, the message is the same.
Interfaith work doesn’t mean that you have to let go of your beliefs. It doesn’t mean that you are giving up on your faith (or lack of so). Interfaith takes common goals of all people, and gives us the opportunity to work together to achieve them. You may be a Muslim. The girl next you may be a Hindu, or a Christian, but we’re all here working for something. When we fight over who is right and who is wrong, we hinder that goal.
Chris Stedman came to Simpson to speak on Monday night. Hannah and I met him at the Interfaith Youth Core last semester in Washington. He was our group leader and mentor, along with being a Humanist and a passionate interfaith activist. He spoke to 50-plus Simpson students about his role in interfaith, and trying to find an inclusive community. He spoke of his childhood fundamentalist church and their own self-assurance that they were right, that they had the answer. He spoke of a community of athiests, who felt sure that they were right, that they had the answer.
We all think we have the answer, and that’s not bad unless we are exclusive. When we refuse help because that other group was the one who offered, that is not beneficial. When we refuse help because we’re different, nothing gets accomplished. Interfaith means embracing these differences, learning from them, and being better Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, because of them. It’s cheesy, but remember when you were in 5th grade, and your teacher had a poster on the wall that said something like, “Two minds are better than one”? It’s corny, but true. We come from different backgrounds and faiths, but those differences can help to open our minds and see things that we might not have before. Maybe we see how much we have in common. Maybe we see that our faiths point us in the same direction. A lot can happen.
I love interfaith because it brings people together instead of leaving people out. It helps us all to be better than we were before, and do more than we could alone. If all the world’s people worked together to solve world hunger, or to end racism or sexism, think of what we could do. If we say, “We’re only going to work with other Christians,” we limit ourselves, as would we if “Christians” is exchanged for any other religious or nonreligious group. As Chris said Monday night, we limit ourselves when we put up walls, saying that there’s “us” and “them.” Why can’t there be an inclusive, “we”?
It’s by standing together and embracing our differences that we can accomplish what seems impossible, even if we start standing together at something as basic as a soup kitchen.
– Madie Fiedler [Intern of Interfaith]