Sunday, March 09, 2008

Unifying faith

I grew up thinking that my faith...er...excuse me...my religion...was the only "right" religion.

I knew I was a Christian because I went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I had all of my dogma down. As a teenager, I argued with friends over the fact that God created the earth in seven, 24-hour days and I argued that evolution was wrong and didn't exist. I was a good, moral person and very adamant about my beliefs.

Then I went off to college.

I began seeing the world.

I was thrown for a loop when I took communion at a church in Italy and they had wine instead of grape juice! (I had always been taught that any kind of alcohol was sinful!)

When I did an internship in Chicago, I was dumbfounded at the faith of recovering alcoholics who followed the 12-step program better than I followed my Bible...and who truly believed in a "Power greater than themselves."

When I went to Africa, I was taken aback when members of the church walked in, kneeled at the front, and made a "sign of the cross" just like Catholics.

When I moved to Boston, I had to re-evaluate my beliefs as women played important roles in the church.

Yet, no matter who they were, or how they worshipped, I began to see that people had a deep faith. I came to the conclusion that faith was more about actions and interactions than it was about dogma. I recognized that their faith may not be the way I profess my faith and that they may not call their "higher power" God like I do, but we all believe in something greater than ourselves...and what we believe in impacts the way we live.

I came to the conclusion that "different" didn't mean "wrong."

It's exciting to me to think that we can unite knowing that we all have "faith" in common...no matter how we choose to celebrate that faith. Faith that drives a people leads to good things--whether Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, etc. We are not that different.

The Baha'i faith has recognized this and has begun sponsoring Sunday School classes that do just that...bring people of different religions together to learn from each other and learn with each other about virtues. You can read/listen to the segment here: Class Teaches Virtues to Children of Many Faiths.

So many times, I think we bring up economic, racial, religious differences and we talk about "tolerance." I think we need to do more than "tolerate" one another. I have hope that classes like these would take people from "tolerance" and move us toward appreciation and acceptance.
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