Commonality over insecurity

I appreciate the ongoing conversation regarding the interfaith conversation our church participated in. (Nov. 1 article, “3 men, 3 religions: Community discussion planned on faiths’ shared values.”) One of the most central challenges facing human beings and our future on this planet is: How can we live together given our cultural differences?

I felt I had to respond to one letter writer (“Respect good, but beliefs differ”) who wrote that my Muslim friend, Jeff Siddiqui, was wrong to say we have “one God.” I agree with Siddiqui. We are not saying that we all have the same conception, understanding or traditions about God. There are differences between the different religious traditions. We can learn from some of these differences. Other differences we can vigorously debate and respectfully disagree about.

In the ancient Middle East the idea was that each tribe or nation had its own god. When they had armed conflict they assumed that their gods were fighting too. The people who won the war would claim that their god won the war. The Jewish people, however, began to understand that there was only one God and that all human beings are God’s children. This was a way of saying that we are all sisters and brothers and therefore we ought not to kill each other but learn to live together.

When we say that we all have one God, this is what we mean. We do not mean there are no differences among faith traditions. We mean that in the end we are all children of God — no matter what we believe or what we do not believe.

I fear that many Christians feel that to be Christian is to claim a higher status than others; to claim that we are more loved by God than others. This claim to privilege and fear of those who are different is a seed of violence. To be a Christian, I feel, is to join God in loving all people and the planet that is in our care. The point of the Christian faith is not that we are more loved, but that we are called to love.

I long for the day when Christians, atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and those of all perspectives and traditions can set aside our defensive and insecure claims to privilege and join God in recognizing our sisters and brothers. I recognize that I have my own work to do to better participate in that a conversation.

The Rev. Terry Kyllo

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church


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