Posted on March 13th, 2013 | Filed under Community, Featured, Interfaith, Leadership, Learning, Theology
Tagged with Christianity, community, Dialogue, Interfaith, Islam, Judaism, pluralism, questioning, Religion, Scripture, She Answers Abraham, women
My Christian friend LeeAnne got the conversation about Faithful Advocacy started by reflecting on a passage from the Gospel of John: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth...” (14:16-17a).
In LeeAnne’s reflection, she explains that advocacy—“speaking up for the powerless and working for justice”—is a Christian call. In other words, engaging in advocacy is one of the things Christian believers are supposed to do. She notes, though, that “taking action can be frightening.” Lifting up teachings from her tradition, LeeAnne encourages believers to take action anyway. “As we open our hearts and accept Jesus’ invitation to join him in advocating for a better world,” she writes, “we hear his comforting words: ‘Do not be afraid.’”
The following week, my Muslim friend Amanda picked up the conversation, noting that the prophet Muhammad (“peace be upon him,” my friend Amanda would say) was unable to read or write. “I often reflect on our prophet in my own activism,” she writes, “remembering that by most worldly standards, his contemporaries considered him ‘unqualified’ to lead.”
She goes on to say that Muhammad’s “humility and willingness to submit to God allowed him to spread the word and advocate on behalf of the disadvantaged… inspiring us to do the same today.”
This week it was my turn.
She Answers Abraham is a blog written by three women—one Jewish, one Christian, and one Muslim—each offering short reflections on a sacred text from one of their traditions, and in conversation with each other. LeeAnne, Amanda, and I are occasional guest writers for the site.
While the three of us are from different religious traditions, we share some things in common. First, we are all converts; none of us was born into the religious tradition that we now claim as our own. Next, we each work for non-profit organizations that are dedicated to social and/or environmental justice: LeeAnne at Earth Ministry; Amanda at Mobile Loaves & Fishes; and me at the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy. Third, we are dedicated in both our professional and our personal lives to positive interfaith engagement.
The project was a natural fit for us. The act of carefully considering a sacred text and formulating a response rooted in our own personal and religious truths, in respectful dialogue with other people and other traditions, pushes each of us to learn and grow. At the same time, it brings us closer together in friendship and understanding.
The She Answers Abraham blog offers by way of example some things that the world really needs. It offers thoughtful reflection on sacred scripture by women—some clergy, some not. It offers an example of interfaith cooperation and shared effort toward a common goal. Perhaps most importantly, it offers an example of everyday people—first, just three women, now six women (maybe soon more?)—doing what they can to build bridges and strengthen partnerships within their own communities. That kind of healing, connective work is part of what in the Jewish tradition is called tikkun, or "repair" work. Even if some tikkun efforts seem small and insignificant, Jewish tradition holds that they absolutely matter.
This week in my part of the Faithful Advocacy conversation, I readily admit to feeling afraid and under-qualified, and I write about how the story of Moses, the quintessential ‘reluctant prophet,’ is a source of strength for me:
When God called Moses to lead, Moses was afraid and doubted himself. But God promised to be with him and guide him. Moreover, God sent someone—Moses’ brother, Aaron—to help him. In my own life, every time I have left my comfort zone, I have found unexpected friends and helpers along the way. My tradition demands that I do what I can to bend the world toward justice—but it doesn’t want or expect me to do it alone.
It might be a few months before LeeAnne, Amanda, and I contribute another round of writing. Right now I couldn’t tell you which sacred text we’ll consider or in what direction the conversation will go, but I can tell you that I look forward to it. In interfaith work, as in advocacy, one should not travel alone.
(Many thanks to the founders of She Answers Abraham for their good work—and for encouraging us to contribute! The project is interested in having more circles of women contribute as guest writers; e-mail the site administrator for more information.)
Yaira is Jewish, married, and mother to two boys who make her laugh every day. As Associate Director of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, she works with Texas religious communities to promote social and environmental justice. She recently completed her Master's of Theological Studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Yaira is fueled by gratitude, laughter, and sometimes unhealthy amounts of coffee.