Monday, December 26, 2016

Why Rodney Reinhart's founding ideas for the World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation are more timely now than ever

Given our current religious and political climate, the 2017 World Sabbath of Religious Reconciliation may be the most significant since the one held after September 2001, which was arguably the last time something happened to our nation that brought out the worst in interfaith relations.

The World Sabbath was founded in 1999 by Reverend Rodney Reinhart, based on his desire to help bring out the best in interfaith relations.

In a 2014 meeting of the Michigan Professional Communicators with Interest in Religion and Cross-Cultural Issues, Reinhart stated that the World Sabbath was his response to the absurd and antithetical notion of God-sanctioned war, which has been declared by many governments and religious movements since time immemorial. Such declarations, he said, have always been merely a front for conquest initiated by greed—for power, money, land, oil, or other resources held by people of a religious or cultural group different from that of the group that wants the resources.

Reinhart was deeply disturbed to realize that a central notion in many people’s personal faith is hate, instead of love. Many people define their personal faith from an adversarial and defensive position, through the lens of how other people are wrong and they are right, rather than through the lens of how their religion’s founder instructed them regarding the right way to live their lives.

Shoghi Effendi of the Bahá’í Faith said, “We each plow our own row.” What he meant by that was we need to live our lives according to the morals and tenets of our belief systems, rather than burn up our energy on fussing about what other people are and aren’t doing right. We should reserve our judgment for ourselves, evaluate our own actions as contributing to or negating from the well-being of society, rather than ignore our own shortcomings and needs for improvement by pointing fingers at others.

Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith, said “Glory is not his who loves his own country, but glory is his who loves his kind”—kind meaning the human species, rather than one specific race within it. 

SGI president Daisaku Ikeda points out that “War normalizes insanity,” and that “The key to solving all our problems—whether it be building a secure and lasting peace, protecting our environment, or overcoming economic difficulties—is to cast off apathy and preconceived notions that lead us to view a situation as unsolvable or unavoidable. Problems caused by human beings can be solved by human beings.”

Reverend Reinhart also pointed out that our religions are very exclusive of each other, each with its own holy days that the other religions don’t celebrate. So, he decided to create “a holy day for everybody, an interfaith holy day for peace” that celebrates our differences while also showcasing our commonalities, such as the core belief in peace in each religion’s Scripture.

To demonstrate this central tenet of peace, the World Sabbath showcases children and youth from many different faith traditions saying a prayer of peace from their religion, and also includes traditional song and dance from those religions. Children who participate in the World Sabbath create a peace flag beforehand, and at the end of each World Sabbath those banners are collected and sewn into quilts which are part of a traveling interfaith peace exhibition that can be loaned to congregations in southeastern Michigan. (If you’d like information on how to arrange for the display to come to your house of worship, you can contact World Sabbath Chairperson Gail Katz.)

Nichiren Daishonin, founder of Nichiren Buddhism, said that “If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas if one in body but different in mind, they can achieve nothing remarkable.”

This spirit of many in body, one in mind does not have to apply only to people who all have the same religious mindset—We can be many in body, one in mind in our shared intentions and actions to create a more peaceful and humane world for people of all religious mindsets to live and thrive in.

The 18th Annual World Sabbath will be held March 5, 2017 at Temple Beth El in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Snowflake illustration by Karla Joy Huber, 2013; colored pencil, gel pen, silver gel pen

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