Friday, February 10, 2017

Answering the call to "meet resistance with resiliency" as we "build the Beloved Community each day"

After over fifteen years of interfaith participation, I’ve found that the best uses of interfaith dialogue are not comparative-religion discussions or reinforcement of what we have in common as human beings with a spiritual nature. While our similarities as members of the same species are important, placing the emphasis on relying on our spiritual commonalities to validate our connection lacks imagination and doesn’t develop any listening or adaptation skills we need to survive and thrive in an ever-changing world.

If everyone is busy thinking or saying, “Oh, me too!” when hearing people describe their religion, that tends to stunt our ability to really listen to what they are saying or respect their unique perspective and what they have to offer to help broaden our horizons.

The truth behind the idea that “opposites attract” is not that the opposite parties eventually find out what they actually have in common and that’s why they work well together; it’s because each contributes something that the others don’t have, and they build and strengthen their bond through pooling their different perspectives, talents, and energies.

The best and most productive interfaith experiences I’ve had, as I said last week, are those which transcend religion rather than focus on finding the ideological overlaps, or the opposite extreme of disregarding religious differences as irrelevant.

This transcendence of religion takes us a lot closer to true humanism, which breaks us out of the model of over-reliance on God as our unifying force, and also out of the risk of using God as a reason, crutch, excuse, or weapon. That being said, transcending religion or God does not have to mean the invalidation of religion or God; people can strike a middle way between being humanistic and still being God-centered.

One of the most marvelous examples of this middle way is the newest initiative of Michigan’s interfaith community called the “Commitment to be Resilient.” Presented by Interfaith Leadership Council (IFLC) Chairman Bob Bruttell at the January 27th Michigan Professional Communicators with interest in religion and cross-cultural issues meeting, this initiative represents a collaboration of the IFLC, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, Jewish Community Relations Council, Michigan Muslim Community Council, Interfaith Center for Racial Justice (ICRJ), and many other faith organizations in the Metro Detroit Area.

The Commitment to be Resilient is both an affirmation and a prayer, and it is the first interfaith prayer statement that I’ve seen that is truly 100% all-inclusive—because it doesn’t actually mention God.

“I believe 
that we are called to lift each other up,
that we are stronger standing together,
that our differences are a blessing,
that empathy and love reveal the path to peace,
and that justice will prevail,
because each of us is Beloved.

Therefore, I commit to
answer intolerance with goodwill,
live by faith and hope, not fear,
seek understanding and friendship whenever I can,
stand with those facing prejudice and injustice,
meet resistance with resiliency as I build the Beloved Community each day.”

Bruttell, who is Christian, said that someone did ask him, “Where is God in this?” His response was, “everywhere!” and in all of it. Coming from a Buddhist perspective, that was music to my ears, because it shows an acknowledgment by God-centered people that what they call “God” is not limited to anyone’s creator-deity personification or creation theology, and truly is everything and everywhere.

I placed the beautiful prayer-card Bruttell handed out on my altar, so that I see it and say it in my heart while I chant to the Gohonzon during morning and evening gongyo.

To read about the “Commitment to be Resilient” on the IFLC Web site, click here. To sign the Resiliency Commitment online, click here. For a downloadable copy of the Resiliency Commitment that you can print copies of to share with friends, family, co-workers, and fellow members of your faith community, please click here.

Bruttell also made the point that the Commitment to be Resilient is not the intellectual property of any of the participating organizations, nor has it been branded by any of them individually. The point was not to “create another acronym,” as Bruttell put it, and found a new coalition around it. He encouraged everyone to take ownership of it, share it, and live by it to the best of our ability.

I’m blessed to be surrounded every day by people who do already, both inside and outside the interfaith community and my SGI Nichiren Buddhist community; I look forward to us continuing to attract more and more like-minded souls to work together with us to “build the Beloved Community each day.”

(This concludes my five-post series of highlights and insights from the January 27th MPC meeting. To read the other posts, please click here, here, here, and here.)

Image: "Dove Ascending" by Karla Joy Huber, 2007; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker

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