Saturday, June 18, 2016

Making a distinction between interfaith worship and interfaith work—The next phase of my journey

My main subject matter these past five years has been interfaith relations—particularly, tying them in with the attempts of a variety of journalists and other communicators working to promote the “good” news we don’t hear much about in the crisis-and-entertainment-focused mainstream media. Their efforts are intended to be both informative and to inspire people to get involved.

We’re kind of like the Detroit Public TV show “Under the Radar Michigan”: If you know how to look for them, you’ll find all these amazing places and events celebrating our state’s rich heritage, as well as creating new cultural and spiritual wealth as the Metro Detroit area becomes increasingly more diverse.

The Detroit area has always been culturally and spiritually diverse, though for the past few decades people have tended to look at it primarily in black and white (pun intended). People are so used to writing off “Detroit” as a lost cause economically, politically, and culturally, that we’ve really got our work cut out for us to successfully promote reasons to feel hopeful about southeastern Michigan.

I assure you, everyone involved is up to the challenge.

Since 2011, the Web sites and e-newsletters of the larger interfaith organizations—the IFLC, WISDOM, and—have grown into reliable, comprehensive guides to news and events in the southeastern Michigan interfaith community. They also network with and promote smaller interfaith groups, both those with more specific organizational focus (such as fostering collaboration between religion and healthcare, education, and outreach in economically-disadvantaged areas), and those doing interfaith work contained within specific cities. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to refer you to these sources for your steady stream of interfaith news and updates.

I am immensely grateful to the people I’ve met in these groups, and in the MPC networking meetings, for the news and wisdom they have shared with me; it has greatly enriched my life to be able to support and contribute to their work, and I look forward to continuing to do so.

After several months of soul-searching regarding where I now see myself in the interfaith community, I found my answer in making a distinction between interfaith worship and interfaith work. Instead of continuing to experience these various religions first-hand, my focus is now on the individual friendships and working relationships I have with people of other faiths.

When I’m participating in an interfaith discussion and working group, such as the Michigan Professional Communicators, I’m interested in tapping our differences of perspectives and opinions to come up with well-rounded insights and solutions, rather than on agreeing with each other on everything because our faiths have core tenets in common. Group-think in interfaith relations would defeat the purpose of interfaith relations.

This is not to say I’ll never participate religiously with friends of other faiths; it simply means this isn’t a focus of my interfaith involvement anymore, since I have found my own spiritual home within Nichiren Buddhism as practiced by the Soka Gakkai International.

In my future posts, I will branch out in some different directions; interfaith relations will now be one of the threads in my posts rather than the primary focus. You’ll see a broader range of my ideas and observations about—to quote myself in my blog’s original intro paragraph—“Thinking spiritually outside the box, & anything else relating to the development of a more enlightened & humane citizenry, & about the restoration of the sacred to everyday life.”

Namaste, and thank you for reading.

Image: "Eye of an Enlightened One," by Karla Joy Huber, 1995; Chalk pastel on black construction paper

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