General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Crossing the Faith Border

General Assembly 2012 Event 205

Program Description

Speakers: Abhimanyu Janamanchi, Janice Marie Johnson, Jessica York

Our justice work takes us out into the world where we often are working with people of different faiths. How are we called, as Unitarian Universalists (UUs), to celebrate this religiously pluralistic world? How can we work interfaithfully more effectively? What tools do we possess for building interfaith leadership across the generations?

“What Have You Learned?”

During the workshop Crossing the Faith Border, participants completed index cards answering the question, “What have you learned from your own crossing of the faith border?” The anonymous answers are below. Please excuse any transcription errors.

During participation by our social concerns committee in a One Body Coalition to Help Prevent Homelessness, I learned how difficult it is for some UUs to work within an evangelical Christian group. But even more important it is for us and our faith to stay connected and grow together.

Check any preconceived notion at the door—when we have a preconception the level to which we understand what someone else believes to be truth is limited. Without understanding commonality cannot be found and it is from commonality that acceptance and respect are born.

By learning to approach conversations with my Muslim brother-in-law with love, instead of fear and anger, I have become enlightened by him (the “other”) instead of continuing the discord between us. It has brought peace to our family and allows me to teach peace to others.

Its deepened a sense that the base essence of where we’re coming from is the same and we can just enjoy the different expressions and cultural manifestations of it.

When people see and respond to human need, political and religious differences don’t matter so much.

Religion can unite us behind a common purpose of equity and justice, regardless of (and due to) our underlying differences.

I have many family members that are Christian and other religions. When we come together we make a web of many faiths. We share experiences and sorrows and respect each other’s beliefs even though they are different. I do though sometimes struggle too with differences but I am working on being more open but I fear and hate that others aren’t and won’t be open back.

How do we UUs establish relationships with those neighbors of the religious or Christian right—hearing their stories and beliefs and opening the dialogue to find common ground? i.e. reproductive justice

I discovered with discussions with those of other faiths (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i) that we all have a lot in common and that is as a good starting point for further discussions.

Interfaith service projects in the community can bring us in closer to the borders, like food closets and feeding the homeless.

Becoming a UU made it easier for me, an agnostic (maybe an atheist), to cross into a “faith”

I’ve learned to not assume that just because someone belongs to a conservative faith community that that person necessarily subscribes to all the conservative views (i.e. some Mormons support same-sex marriage)

There is a diversity of people within any faith and lots of open minded tolerant people willing to work with those from other faiths they disagree with theologically.

People of differing faith backgrounds are generally hungry to know how to get along and do not want to be offensive to others.

My UU church celebrates Thanksgiving every year with the Jewish temple in our town. It has fostered mutual respect and confidence in both organizations so that we know we can rely on one another.

Crossing the faith border for me is about respect. You must respect what you believe in as well as what others believe in.

Music bridges all faiths and people together. In our worship we have woven music of other cultures into the service with related thematic and religious readings to create a whole spiritual experience for folks who are unfamiliar with other faiths and who are well-versed in other traditions.

We are so alike. I am learning so much about myself that I didn’t know. I love our differences.

I have learned to not only respect and accept my beliefs but others beliefs.

Beginning a multicultural, multiethnic concert series celebrating the diversity of metro Detroiters and sharing it within our UU church and mingling after with wine and food.

We are all more alike than we give credit sometimes.

As a religious educator, part of my job is to ensure the most well rounded Coming of Age program I can. Our youth cross, learn, visit, glean from at least 13 different faiths. The thing that I have realized and endeavor for children to learn is that despite our differences and fundamental beliefs, everything has been done in love.

Though backgrounds are both important and diverse, there is always common ground to be discovered and appreciated.

We can find the project in common if nothing else. There is always more.

I was raised Methodist (my mom) with a Jewish dad, married a Catholic man and raised three kids as Catholics. I am now a UU and living and growing into liberal faith.

There is more than one way of looking at things.

Even traditional orthodox Christians do not all believe the same things about their own religion, so never make assumptions about the beliefs of others based on the name of their religion alone.

In Kansas City, MO, we have an Interfaith group that meets once every year for a Large Dinner gathering. However, we also have small dinners in homes where we can really get to know each other.

I’ve come to appreciate that even though the theology of another person may annoy me or leave me cold, their tradition and message can fire them up to impressive acts of mercy and social witness.

I decided to major in religious studies in college because I feel like I don’t know enough about what others believe and I found that this subject is the most interesting one I’ve ever explored and other faith traditions had already been a big part of my life (without my realizing!).

I am a relatively new UU who has been thinking of UUs as a group apart (and maybe superior) from other religions, but now I understand the importance of working with others who believe in love, acceptance, and kindness.

I learned that I need to do a better job explaining my own UU faith (individual beliefs and as a denomination).

People are hungry to know each other and build relationships across faith borders.

When we march in the Phoenix PRIDE Parade, we are not the only church there. I would like to learn more about our social justice allies.

I read about a Baptist who started a cross racial supper program where families of different races in South Africa ate dinner at each other’s home (illegally) and I swore I would never bad-mouth other Baptists again.

There have been times in my life when I’ve seen the faith border as not only a line, but a barrier, though crossable with effort. There’s still fear and vulnerability attached to it. In conquering these fears, embracing this vulnerability, the rewards to be reaped are much richer than what would be lost in remaining stationary.

Our congregation rotates with several others of different faiths to serve a community meal at another church. Sharing this service project unites the various congregations in expressing shared values.

I guided youth to think of their visit to another church as a visit to another country where differences were met with respect and dignity.

Never discount the ability of someone to shift and align themselves with an encompassing love.

People want the same things—happiness, love, hope (in addition to food, shelter, security) no matter what religious philosophy they follow.

I have learned that just like the intolerance of an ex-smoker, it is often hardest for us as UUs to recross the faith border to where we started our journey and create dialogue with those we left behind.

My UU congregation invites speakers from a variety of faiths to speak each year to fill our pulpit. It opens up lines of communication and fosters respect for one another’s religions.

Each person is an individual, no matter which groups they are allied with, and their values arose from their own experiences.

I have found that many faiths share a desire for peace and nonviolence that comes from a love and respect for all humanity, despite disagreeing on the definition of god.

I have a good friend who is Catholic (though currently questioning some parts of her faith) whom I collaborated with on a project on birth control and women’s rights for our history class. I learned that though we have very different beliefs and religious backgrounds we both cared a lot about the same ideals (such as the wonderful sex ed programs—which greatly resemble Our Whole Lives—in Holland!!)

People of faith have similar values and when united in a common goal have power to implement change for the common good of all.

Members of creedal faiths struggle to understand UUs non-creedal beliefs/ethics.

“Namaste” be myself share love and kindness

“You do not need to think alike to love alike.”

Mormon bishop explaining the sacred covenant of marriage between man and woman. Having children together brings them closer to their heavenly father.

We are more alike than different.

Regardless of theology people of conscience can work together.

When we enter into work in interfaith settings with assumptions and preconceptions, we create adversarial relationships, often entirely made from our own prejudices.

Our biggest problem is many Christians feel there’s no real religion except theirs. This is a faith wall. How do we cross that border?

My experience in interfaith work is planning a vigil at a local ICE detention center. Our Immigration Ministry grappled with the issue of “language” during the vigil. I learned that being open to using the word “god” as part of our spiritual practice helped us to be open to the interfaith community attending the vigil.

My good friend who was raised UU turned to the Catholic faith as a young adult. It was hard to understand, but in the end I realized she had done what all UU youth are asked to do—find the Faith of your heart. I learned Faith is a heart issue like “True Love!”

I had an interfaith experience in a boarding school I went to in North Carolina. I had the experience with an Arab man who taught history at the school. He was telling me about his faith and the difficulties that were involved. I immediately knew what he was talking about. People racially profiling him and he got stopped in airports all the time when he traveled.

I have learned that I and many members of our church, have difficulty listening and tolerating Christian prayers and stories of our community based organization.

I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn.

I braced for rejection from a person of my former faith tradition and was received in love. It’s not about changing them—it’s about changing me.

I discovered that my severely fundamentalist Christian brother is an avid democrat/liberal. This helped me to see his faith in a more positive light.

Interfaith starts with building relationships. Without relationships we deny our membership within the interdependent web of which we are a part.

Covenants of right relations are not see by otherr faith communities as something their faith allows them to engage in.

Everyone has their own truth which rings true to them.

Respect will help cross many borders.

Experiencing a very jumpy, loud and loving Christian church with a friend. It was fun!

After 10 days of being hosted by a Turkish Sunni Muslim group, I realized we UUs are so much the same at heart and emphasis on love and compassion, and was the recipient of unconditional love and hospitality.

I have learned from our monthly Interfaith Forum group that people understand each other better when specific stories are told.

I loved finding out my Roman Catholic friend shares the same views as me on gay marriage, acceptance and the role of religion in society.

Alone, we are one small UU church; together with other Industrial Areas Foundation members we have the power to change injustice in Austin, TX.

We have more impact together.

We’re more alike than we are different and we are all searching for truth and comfort in a sometimes painful world.

My fundamentalist neighbors are as dedicated to genuine social action, lovingly accepting, as I or my UU friends

Working with the Interfaith Disability Network helped me to experience the power of coming to together to work for a common cause.

Crossing the faith border starts in my own family—it means listening more than speaking, not challenging and being willing to move out of my comfort zone.

I’ve learned to challenge my own assumptions about other people based on their religion.

Faith means that we believe in something outside of ourselves that connects us—no matter how that truth manifests.

Coming together as people of faith after a tragedy helps us heal by realizing that we share a common humanity and a common hope.

I have had the privilege of being part of an interfaith women’s group that has met monthly since 2008. The best part of our experience comes when a member expresses joy that one of her negative assumptions about someone else faith tradition proves false. (And the food isn’t bad either!)

The ritual of sharing bread and wine can be a powerful way to break down barriers when we all leave the individual meanings our faiths have attached to this and focus on our common basic human needs. It’s very important to avoid “UU exceptionalism” and truly be open and affirm what you can with integrity about the other faith tradition.

As a religious education teacher who teaches the Neighboring Faiths curriculum, I am constantly amazed by how easily our youth accept and mesh with other cultures as compared to our adult congregation.

In doing interfaith work and interacting with those of other faiths, no one has ever put me on the spot or made me feel uncomfortable because my beliefs are different from theirs.

I am Catholic but I work at a UU church of southeastern AZ and I’ve learned to be open and accepting of others faiths.

Crossing the faith border is something my faith calls me to do and something that we as UUs are uniquely positioned to do. Interfaith work should not be an afterthought for UUs. It’s deeply embedded in our identities and history in addition to upholding the interdependent web that we hold dearly in our principles. Interfaith work helps us to form the beloved community with other faith groups but it has helped me to strengthen my beliefs through the process of religious coalition—being a beacon for Unitarian Universalism.