Richness of interfaith work

When my Christian Science branch church received an invitation from the mayor of our town inviting faith groups to the formation of an “interfaith alliance,” it seemed like a great opportunity. I went to the first meeting as one of two representatives from our church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Richardson, Texas. There were 18 different faith communities at this meeting, and by the end of the meeting I was the chairman of this new group. I’ve been involved ever since.

The purpose of the Richardson (Texas) Interfaith Alliance is to increase tolerance of all faiths through education and increased awareness, and to coordinate and enhance faith-based services for the betterment of the Richardson community. We were busy our first year: from holding meetings at different houses of worship on a rotating basis—meetings where we learned about each faith—to volunteering together to bless Richardson. At an interfaith event I attended last winter, the keynote speaker was Dr. John L. Esposito, a Catholic, who is Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. Within the framework of social justice, he spoke of pluralism and inclusion. Webster’s dictionary defines pluralism as “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization.” Dr. Esposito said that tolerance is thought of in conjunction with the topic of pluralism. He brought out that centuries ago tolerance basically meant “I will not kill you.” But pluralism has to do with respect, and can be stronger than just tolerance.

As I thought more about mere tolerance, it does still have a sense of “I’m better than you.” I feel “respect” is a much better word and, to me, “pluralism” requires action. Pluralism involves seeking understanding. It has to do with inclusion and integrating yourself in this diverse world. Pluralism isn’t just a nice idea. It requires engagement with diverse groups and the creation of relationships.

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My grandsons' 'church work'
December 2, 2013

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