Friday, January 23, 2015

Religious Tolerance

University of Evansville faculty and students share a Middle Eastern meal with Imam Morgra as part of the university's Interfaith Pilgrimage Project. Photo by Tamara Gieselman. (Giesleman is the university chaplain and dir. of religious life:
Religious tolerance is much more than just putting up with other people.  It is a confident recognition that our faith journeys are converging, regardless of where they have started. When taken as a promise instead of a threat, the words of Jesus in John 14:6[1] invite us to accept and walk respectfully with people of all different beliefs, trusting that Christ Himself is bringing us together. Interfaith friendships empower us to share as equals our understandings of the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Many teachings and practices are shared among adherents of various religions and their denominations, with the same goals for this life and for that of the world to come.  People of differing faith experiences share common concerns in matters of civil society, justice issues, and spiritual ministries.  If our true motive is love, then we should have no problem at all working together on providing social services for those in need.  If our true desire is for people to follow the teachings of Christ, then we should have no problem sharing religious education facilities and resources, especially at points of overlapping instruction.  If we indeed are truly interested in worshiping our Creator “in spirit and in truth”[2] then we should have no problem sharing hymns, prayers, liturgies, Scriptures and sermons with others whose intentions are the same.  However, if our motive is anything less than love, if our desire is to manipulate the thinking of others, or if our interest is to control how others experience spirituality for our own advantage, then our tolerance will certainly be diluted accordingly.

[1] John 14:6 -- Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
[2] John 4:23 -- But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Barriers Into Bridges

The Rev. David Foray crosses a bridge into Moyollo, Sierra Leone, to help provide education and relief in the fight against Ebola. Foray is superintendent of the Moyamba District of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.
The diversity addressed by Paul in Galatians 3:28 encompasses every aspect of our humanity.  Our differences are meant to unite us, not divide us.  All cultural, social, and gender related issues should be seen as opportunities for us to support, encourage, and learn from each other, especially in matters of faith and ministry. Those areas where we are most unlike each other, even at points of strongest disagreement, are particularly well suited for mutual understanding and growth.  None should be treated as excuses to undermine the rights, privileges, or ministries of others. Christian faith challenges us to be intentional about transforming every barrier into a bridge.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hello World!

Called to preach as a child, my life has been spent both embracing and resisting spirituality.  Though silence is often my preference, my spirit is driven to expression.  The Church has provided wonderful opportunities for preaching, learning and service.  Now, the other end of my life is starting to come into view. My experiences have shaped my perspectives, and I want to share my feelings. I hope my thoughts will inspire you in your faith journey, whether you support or oppose my viewpoints. I don’t want to write about things that don’t matter, but about significant topics of consequence and even controversy.  The cutting edge of my relationship with God has always been at the points of conversion. Your responses are solicited.  I hope you will change me, Dear Reader, or be changed by me.