Imagine a cosmic conscience. Call this conscience God, if you believe in God, and let us respect the fact that we have many, many different approaches and descriptions of God. Perhaps this cosmic conscience is but one aspect of an all-powerful God of creation. Perhaps it flows from a God of love who judges, but does not interfere with day to day life, or a God of love who does not judge. Or perhaps there is no God as we perceive of the word, and cosmic conscience flows from something else in the universe.
If we have learned anything from history, it is that we do not agree about God. Even those of us who believe in God will frequently disagree about the God we believe in. But one thing we do know, because we have seen it everywhere, is that the call to love, compassion and community is universal. We find it in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas as well as the Middle East. We see it in the multitude of forms that what has become known as the “Golden Rule” has taken. One of those forms comes from the Yoruba in Nigeria, whose tradition records that if we are thinking of poking a bird with a sharp stick we should first poke ourselves and see what it feels like. But whatever its form, the Golden Rule can be found on every continent, every community, throughout time.
So let’s return to that universal call of cosmic conscience – the call to love, compassion and community. Imagine, just for the fun of it, that this call is made to a group of tribes that has yet to coalesce into a coherent entity, let alone a nation, wandering in the desert. Perhaps this call will be made through a lawgiver, let’s call him Moses, and with the call comes a raft of rules, let’s call them commandments.
But over in China, where there’s a thriving civilization, perhaps cosmic conscience says, “Let me show you the way to love, compassion and community. In fact, let’s call it The Way. Or, for those of you who need it spelled out more concretely, listen to my friend Confucius.” Perhaps in India, having spoken first through the Hindu faith, cosmic conscience now says, “Ok. Some of you are having trouble grasping love, compassion and community. Here, listen to the Enlightened One. That may help you.”
Returning to those wandering tribes, perhaps after several centuries cosmic conscience concludes that this has worked for some in these tribes but not others. Imagine, “Ok, if commandments don’t work for you, try this. I give you Jesus. He will teach you to love each other.” And then, “If that hasn’t helped you, let me send you Muhammad. He can teach you to love as well.”
Imagine this being repeated, all over the Earth, over and over again. Imagine cosmic conscience, in whatever form we believe it to take, has given us a seemingly endless number of calls to love, compassion and community, and an equally endless number of paths to reach it. Imagine then, that those seemingly endless number of paths can all lead us up to the mountaintop of love, compassion and community. And then imagine that instead of walking these paths to love, we choose to stand at the foot of the mountain and throw rocks at each other over whose path is the “right” one.
Unfortunately, this requires little imagination. All we need do is look at our history, and how we much too often engage each other to this very day. We’d much rather argue, and even kill each other over whose path to love is “right” than actually walk the path of love. If you agree that it’s time to stop throwing rocks at each other, if you agree that respecting each other’s paths is far more likely to lead to the love, compassion and community we seek, then you are ready for Interfaith. Interfaith, as a faith, embraces all spiritual paths that will lead us to love, compassion and community, and embraces safe sacred space, where we can share who we are without prejudice or fear.
And if being ready for Interfaith you then ask, “But let’s be practical about this. Interfaith may be a great idea, but is there any way it could actually work?” If you’re asking “How can we actually practice Interfaith?” Practical Interfaith was written with you in mind.