I have a hunch that growing in consciousness or maturing in faith is going to involve deepening appreciation for the wisdom of mature adherents of every faith tradition. This brings me joy because it feels like a path beyond tolerance, beyond acceptance, to celebration and unity.
Last week Maggie Escobedo-Steele told me some wisdom she heard from a man who is a keeper of three thousand years of oral history. He said that we are the fifth race of humans, in which people of every culture can come into contact with each other. We’re the ones who will decide whether there will be a sixth race. I imagine the sixth race being characterized by mutual understanding, celebration and cooperation.
Wouldn’t that be awesome? In my life I’ve encountered what feels like two fundamental religious impulses: the desire for one’s faith to take over the world, believing it to be the only or best way, and the desire to simply maintain missional and doctrinal purity among a small group of like-minded people and call it good enough. While the latter approach feels more mature, neither have felt quite right to me. I desire something else: effort towards global unity by understanding and living the best of my own tradition while seeking to learn from and even incorporate the best of others. This necessitates friendship with people from other traditions, which is probably the effort that really matters. I’ve tried to live that wisdom from Chris Heuertz and local friends.
I take encouragement from Richard Rohr, who seems to be on the same search:
‘If there is indeed one God of all the earth, then it is this one God who is breaking through in every age and culture. Monotheists should be the first to recognize that truth is one (Ephesians 4:4-6) and that God is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). As Rumi said, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Different religions use different words to describe essentially the same change of consciousness that is necessary to see things in their fullness:
• Many writers in the early Christian era called the necessary perceptual shift away from the dualistic, judging, and separate self contemplation.
• Buddhists called it meditation, sitting, or practicing.
• Hesychastic Orthodoxy called it prayer of the heart.
• Sufi Islam called it ecstasy.
• Hasidic Judaism called it living from the divine spark within.
• Vedantic Hinduism spoke of it as non-dual knowing or simply breathing.
• Native religions found it in communion with nature itself or the Great Spirit through dance, ritual, and sexuality. Owen Barfield called this “original participation.”‘
I’ve focused here on bridging the gap between faith traditions since that’s on my mind right now, but I think friendship across other boundaries (racial, economic, cultural, sexual, etc.) is just as important.