Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Thought About Interfaith Work

Just a quick thought about Interfaith work...

For the first time, and more and more, I'm having some success building Interfaith relationships here in Tampa. That's how I found myself having an early lunch today with Fr. Stephan Brown of St. Paul's church, and then attending the afternoon mass he celebrated with his congregation.

While he and I were talking, I remembered a metaphor for interfaith work, which really stuck with me while sitting in the congregation during mass. I can't say that I'm always good about using this framework, but I'm trying to! Here goes...

When I hear someone talking about their spouse in a loving way, I never get jealous, or defensive. If someone tells me that they're married to the best woman in the world, I don't feel the need to argue that, no, in fact I am! When someone tells me about how they met their partner, I don't think, "That's not the right way to meet someone." And, no matter how much someone extols the virtue of the person they love, I never find myself loving that person, or wishing I was married to them. But, what does happen is that it makes me think about my wife, and about our stories. And, that makes me happy. And, much of the time, hearing someone else wax rhapsodic about their partner makes me want to be a better partner myself--to make sure that my wife knows that I love her. Your stories of love aren't a challenge to my relationship; if anything, they're an aid to it, because your stories get me to focus on my own.

Ideally, it's the same with religion. Sitting in church today, I had no desire to be Catholic. I didn't want to accept Jesus as my savior, and I didn't wish that I had been brought up in the church. But, watching Fr. Stephan preach, and watching the faithful approach for the eucharist, did make me stop and think about my own religious life in a slightly different way from how I normally do.

The mass and the words of my new friend weren't my religion, and they didn't make me want to give up my religion, and they didn't feel like a challenge in need of a defense from to my religion. They were someone else's religion, and a beautiful example of that. And they made me love being Jewish, watching someone else loving being Catholic.

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