Thursday, November 04, 2010

Forgetting Your Religion


The Deming Ministerial Outreach is seeking more participants, to bring different churches or smaller religious groups together to talk about local issues and to provide human services to local people. Membership is, shall we say, restricted:

As this campaign season graciously ended, the Deming Ministerial Alliance thought it only appropriate to campaign for greater participation in its effects by local pastors or their designated representatives in local Christian churches (Churches affirming the Apostles' Creed are considered Christian.).

In Deming, interfaith means different Christian churches working together.

Last weekend, my wife and I were present at a party here in town where there were muslims present, with the women wearing headscarves. It was a large party and I didn't get to meet them or get a chance to learn where they worship around here. Running a Zen group here for almost three years now, I've learned that this little city is more diverse and eclectic than some think.

My interest in interfaith conversation started a decade ago, while working alongside my old friend Ji Hyang Padma at Cambridge Zen Center. It was she who introduced me to faith leaders there, as she was very active herself in doing together-action with other clergy. This continued even after an evangelical group that was also a participant began agitating against inviting us because, they said, Buddhism was a "bad religion" that taught "humanism" and might actually be Satanic.

In Los Angeles, amidst the turmoil that followed the September 11 attacks, the need for interfaith dialogue seemed even more obvious, and I got involved there as well, working with ICUJP and doing some together-action with other ministers at UCLA. A big part of this work was engaging with muslims along with a host of other social problems that touched the people of our congregations during that decade.

It taught me a great deal. It was like getting a free seminar in American religion. It was also an opportunity to talk about Zen practice and Buddhism, as these remain by turns greatly misunderstood, highly romanticized, and orientalized. It's an environment I often miss, but for the moment the doors are not open.

That's okay. True interfaith work happens between human beings all the time when they aren't thinking about "my religion" or "that religion." When our minds are enthralled by our differences, then our minds are different; when we aren't thinking about that stuff -- like when you're helping me cross the street, or I'm picking something up that you dropped, or I'm holding your crying baby for a minute because you need to do something, or in a million other situations, then for an instant our divisions are at rest and we are the same.

That's true interfaith work, moment to moment. It happens when we just-about, almost, forget who "I" am because we're too busy being human.



[Photo: stations of the cross at Rancho de la Paz, Luna County]

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Nice post, Algernon.