We’re All God’s Children

Managing Editor’s note: all Contributing Scholars begin writing by answering the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions? Their answer to this question is below.

Before coming to college, I knew I was called to love my neighbors and create community between the children of God. However, at that point in my life, I believed my neighbors and children of God were those who identified as Christians.

In college, I began taking religion classes, spending time with the faith communities in Franklin, and interacting with amazing individuals such as Eboo Patel and Marcus Borg on their visits to campus. I began to understand that my neighbors and the children of God were all of the people on this earth, not just my Christian brothers and sisters.

During my freshman year, I attended a lecture by my religion professor, Dr. David Carlson, and one of his Muslim colleagues. At the end of the lecture, I remember Dr. Carlson was teary-eyed as he told his colleague, “I need this friendship with you as a Muslim in order for me to be a better Christian.” This relationship strengthened rather than weakened Dr. Carlson’s Christianity. The deep bond between two friends of different religions struck a deep chord in me.
At this point, I realized interfaith work was not just essential for building community but was part of my Christian call. I started working with Interfaith Youth Core to establish an interfaith organization at my college. I also traveled to the Middle East with an interfaith peace delegation and participated in national interfaith conferences. Like Dr. Carlson, relationships I built through interfaith work strengthened my own faith.

Throughout college, I took part in interfaith gatherings called Shoulder to Shoulder events, organized by Dr. Carlson. People from different faith and non-faith backgrounds gathered and stood shoulder to shoulder in a public place after an event where religious violence occurred. We read an interfaith litany in which we denounced the use of religion for violence and prayed for peace. For me, this has always been a beautiful picture of how our future could be.

Gatherings like these helped me realize I needed to grow in what Brian McLaren terms “a strong, benevolent Christianity.” This is a view of Christianity in which we take our world community seriously, and we passionately push for peace and understanding between all people of all faiths.

More recently, I have traveled to, researched, and written about places where dialogue and understanding are urgently needed. As the world becomes more connected and our nations become more diverse, people of all faiths must see differences as strengths rather than causes for conflict. It is my hope to be a Christian leader who will continue building bridges of understanding between faiths.

We are all God’s children and our futures are wrapped up in each other’s futures. My freedom is tied to my Muslim friend’s freedom, my welfare is tied to my Buddhist friend’s welfare, and my peace is tied to my secular humanist friend’s peace. I am called to act as the hands and feet of Christ, and that does not end at the door of the church.

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7 thoughts on “We’re All God’s Children

  1. I never felt that there are different religions out of which I belonged to only one. I was convinced from the beginning that religion was created by God as a means to reach Him and so it was one only; it could not be many. Only the different named religions express it in different ways. Teachings of all prophets of different religions are same – it is spirituality which is THE ONLY PURE RELIGION. What differences we see among different communities are either due to distortion of this pure religion or the outer rituals, not the core. I felt the differences in the cultures only, not in religions. So I always meet people as belonging to one community. Those who are honest, sincere and spiritual, I feel that they are religious, and those who are orthodox and divisive I feel them to be misguided. But all the same, all children of God, yes.

    1. Dr. Prabuddha Ghanshyam,

      Thanks for your comment! I think you are expressing a belief that many hold to be true, the idea that all religious are simply part of a larger spiritual stream so to speak of. I Also think that your points on honesty, sincerity vs religion and orthodox (using those terms in a ridged way) touch on key truths that many across all kinds of beliefs would agree on.

      However, I do believe it is important in an interfaith environment to allow others to define their own religious identity. I am absolutely free to believe that I and my Muslim and Buddhist friends are all just part of a larger spirituality but I can not dictate for them what their beliefs are. They must be free to say, my being Buddhist is distinct from your being Christian, otherwise I am dictating their beliefs for them.

      Thank you for explaining where you personally stand in understudying the worlds diversity of beliefs, it sounds like you have a beautiful and deep spirituality!

      1. If religion was in reality based on belief, diversity would have a place there. But it is a superstition that religions are beliefs; though unfortunately they have become so. Prophets have not taught beliefs, they all taught the same truth and same path. but people don’t understand the core and they stick to shells and think that diversity is welcome. I am sorry to say this, but religion has no place for diversity and it is diversity that is giving rise to all complications. we cannot remove these complications by any amount of interfaith dialogue. Best would be to explain and convince people that religions are not based on beliefs or faiths but on simple rules made by God Himself. Religion cannot be different for different people and it is not. However this is also an almost impossible task to explain it to people with vested interests, but intelligent people with open mind should have no difficulty in understanding this. I do not say that one will dictate others what is their religion. I say that religion is one. I know that given the place and time, I can at least explain it to people like you.

        1. In this regard — “religion is not a belief” — I love the quote from the Vedanta Society commentary on the 38th Yoga Aphorism of Patanjali: “True religion is not taught like history or mathematics. It is transmitted, like light or heat.”

  2. David, I resonate with much of your story, and I also appreciated your McLaren reference. A strong, benevolent Christianity has become key to my personal understanding of Christian identity (and especially ministry) in a pluralist world. His book, Why Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Muhammed Cross the Road?, is very important to me, which is what I assume you were referencing. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lauren,

      Thank you! Yes I was referring to “Why did Jesus, Buddah, Moses, and Muhammed Cross the Road” a link to this book may be good for any interested in this wonderful resource

      http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Moses-Buddha-Mohammed-Cross-ebook/dp/B007BGQ9OW

      Another book you may have already heard of or be interested in that has also helped me think about my own christian faith and how that interacts with interfaith is Jeannine Hill Fletcher’s book “Monopoly on Salvation?” She has a similar but different way of looking at the topic

      http://www.amazon.com/Monopoly-Salvation-Feminist-Religious-Pluralism/dp/0826417221

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