Saturday, February 20, 2016

Some hope, but no faith, in "interfaith" dialogue

I was moved last summer when elected Republican legislators in my neighboring state of South Carolina furled the confederate "battle flag" in response to the Charleston church massacre, but my hopes were quickly diminished by the sudden appearance of the "conquered banner" on some of my neighbors' Facebook pages, lawns, vehicles (typically pickup tricks), and even in the tops of some trees in my own home town! And yet these daily reminders of our dark past are punctuated by tonight's South Carolina GOP primary victory by a ring-wing populist demagogue with a counter-terrorism message that now involves pigs blood-dipped bullets. It's enough to cause a "crisis of hope" in the most faithful - and in the faithless.

Yet at the same time I am encouraged by - and have been honored to participate in - some recent local interfaith efforts that have allowed me to continue dreaming. I don't know if interfaith dialogue is what created the Religious Right or not, but I have noticed that they are typically not found at local interfaith activities in my area (except as occasional protestors). So I'm not too optimistic about the ability of interfaith dialogue or religious literacy to bring us all together. That said, my own recent involvement in several local interfaith groups has been a rewarding experience. And I think it is important for secular people of all types to participate in interfaith dialogue to better understand the diverse perspectives of religious people of different faiths and to expose them to some of the diversity in our own "community."

This is my hope, and I have a lot of dreams of what secular and progressive religious people can accomplish together if we have the will and the leadership and the understanding. We don't all sing Kumbaya, but that doesn't mean the answer is still blowing in the wind. We share a dream of creating a world for our kids that is hopeful, and we believe in extending the circle of - and being good to our - friends. So geht los.

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