Relationship, Integrity, and the Religious Other

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.

As far back as I can remember, I have been curious about the beliefs of the religious Other. I can recall instances at age 7 or 8 in grocery stores asking men wearing a kippah what they believed happened to them when they died. Not out of morbidity, but a genuine sense of curiosity and wonder. I have no clear memory of their answers, ironically enough. Perhaps owing to the fact that these are challenging answers to articulate even in adult terms. But I remember their kind indulgence toward my questioning of them. It has always been my assumption that their generosity in answering my queries laid the foundation for the belief that it was safe to ask questions of the religious Other; that they would be happy to answer and not at all insulted by my lack of knowledge. In these moments I began a deep and trusting curiosity of other faiths. I learned that their beliefs and customs differed from one another—though rarely as much as they themselves seemed to think. And that people fought greatly over these semantic differences, which made me even more curious.

I saw areas where it looked like religions were using different languages to describe the exact same emotional feelings, belief systems, and festival cycles. I began to actively look for the parallels in world religious—decades before I ever considered entering the seminary—assuming that wherever beliefs and rituals overlap, truths of the ineffable would emerge as an image materializes from a puzzle. It is from these explorations that I have arrived at a personal faith system that defines Love as the only true authority in the Universe and that Relationship is the prime intent of God. Relationship is the key. Celebration of one another. Eradicating the word tolerance from our social progress lexicon in favor of acceptance. For no one wants to be merely tolerated. We want to be accepted. We want to be validated.

I believe the world is on a continuum of progress and awakening. This is a contrary message from the media’s, which (like all product for market) has it’s own agenda. That agenda won’t change, of course. But the philosophies behind how they are run and the degree to which they incorporate Integrity into their business models will. We expect change to come from without. We expect it to come from destruction of the old ways. But destruction is no longer required for new birth. We can reinvent and re-purpose and redefine who we are from within by exemplifying the business and spiritual model of Beings in Relationship. We are the teachers of that new business model. It is one that is required for not only business to thrive in the new age, but also for the continuation of religion on this planet. The world is no longer blind to one another. We must stop behaving as if it is.

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2 thoughts on “Relationship, Integrity, and the Religious Other

  1. Your line about tolerance and acceptance really hit me: “For no one wants to be merely tolerated. We weant to be accepted. We want to be validated.” As you imply, tolerance includes an innate sense of negativity. It’s as if to say, “I REALLY don’t like what you have to offer/say, but I guess I have to tolerate it.” Though tolerance may be a first step to eventual peace and acceptance, it allows us to remain at odds and at a distance while trying to not to offend the other. This can only go so far before we realize that they’re just trying to keep their distance and don’t really care that much for our viewpoint. As you say, what we really need is acceptance, that sense that our existence must be affirmed. We cannot remain at a distance. We must be embraced.

    1. Ari,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. To be honest, that realization (acceptance vs. tolerance) was a powerful one for me, too. I have always been interested by the specificity of our language, specifically when a word is somewhat ambiguously used as in the case of the word ‘tolerance.’ I understand the intent of the use of the word, but as we agree, it is an incomplete aspiration.

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