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“I will, with God’s help”

As a member of The Episcopal Church and someone involved in their ecumenical and interreligious work on a national and global level, I have begun to delve deeper into my own tradition for sources that nurture our work to foster mutual understanding amongst our brothers and sisters of other faiths.

While The Episcopal Church has an important historical legacy for building interfaith understanding and relationships – one that I cannot fully go into here – I have found that one of the best places for Episcopalians to begin interfaith work is, you guessed it, our liturgy.

In the Anglican tradition we hold fervently to the motto “praying shapes believing”. It comes from the Latin: lex orandi lex credendi, which translates to “the law of praying is the law of believing.” It means that the words we utter together to God hold profound weight in our life. Verbal and communal markers, they carve deeper into the bedrock of our belief through repetition until our hands and feet respond to the flood.

Just as a stream wends its way through rock and soil to carve a path, gradually building its momentum and depth into a river, so also I believe our liturgy can embed itself in us, molding and moving us into action, directing and expanding our imaginations, hearts and wills towards a greater collective theological and social consciousness.

So if our prayers, beliefs and actions are so closely knit together, then what are we praying?

This is exactly where I, and many others past and present, have found the words of the Baptismal Covenant to be a deep well and foundation for enabling, fashioning, and sustaining our work to build bridges and mutual understanding amongst those of other faiths.

I was baptized as an infant so I do not recall the memory well (or at all). But I hold this liturgy dear today, knowing that my family and community prayed it over me all those years ago so that I can now claim it as my own, confirm the faith of my baptism, and strive to live out these promises moving forward.

The Baptismal Covenant is found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the hallmark resource which embodies the corporate, liturgical, sacramental and ordered Anglican moral vision (the 1979 version is distinctly Episcopal). It is comprised in true catechetical form: it begins with an affirmation of belief in the classical Christian doctrines of the Apostles’ Creed and then includes a question-and-answer format with five ethically-driven questions at the end.

It is this question-and-answer portion which I find particularly compelling, and offer it here as a guiding prayer, resource and resolve for crossing the borders of difference and ministering in interfaith contexts.

Celebrant    Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the
prayers?

People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant    Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant   Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?

People       I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?

People       I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
being?

People       I will, with God’s help.

(Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305)

As we continue to renew our faith this Easter season, it is my hope that Christians of all backgrounds would find the boldness to make these promises over and over again – only and always with God’s help – and let the praying shape the believing as we seek and serve Christ in all persons, even those most different from us.

Carrie Diaz-Littauer is a member of The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations. She is currently an editorial consultant for various international and ecumenical NGOs in Geneva, Switzerland. She holds an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary.

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No Benadryl Allowed

The Gospel reading for this week was a portion of the Sermon on the Mount that we all know: “you have heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”

Do not resist an evildoer? This verse about turning the other cheek is probably one of the most quoted New Testament passages—just after love your neighbor as yourself and John 3:16. But it’s troubling. Don’t even resist?

I looked up the Greek word here for resist, anthistemilike the word that we use for allergy medications—antihistamine. It means to set against, withstand, oppose. We use antihistamines to fight the chemicals in our bodies that are causing an allergic reaction and making us weak, tired, stuffy. If you’ve ever suffered from allergies, you are thankful for good medication that can resist these reactions. But, Jesus, it seems, would have told us to stock up on tissues and tea—no Benadryl allowed!

What’s hard for me about this verse is that resistance actually seems to be a major theme in Jesus’ teachings. Doesn’t the Gospel invite us to resist greed, to resist Empire, to resist the forces of evil in the world…Didn’t Jesus resist the men who wanted to stone the adulterous woman? Didn’t he resist the forces of death when he raised Lazarus to new life? Didn’t he resist Satan’s temptations of power and wealth while he was in the wilderness? Wasn’t Jesus, in his ministry, a resistor?

And it didn’t end there. Isn’t the Resurrection the ultimate act of resistance? In his resurrection, doesn’t Jesus say no to death, no to violence, no to sin, no to injustice?

So, what is going on in this passage? Should we resist as Jesus has modeled for us, or shouldn’t we, as he instructs us?

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference of Interfaith Youth Core Alumni in Atlanta, Georgia, and there was a young Muslim woman who was speaking on a panel about the work she is doing to build peace in the Middle East. Someone from the audience asked her which stories from her faith tradition have inspired her work and this is what she said:

It has been written that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), though he was beloved by many in his time, was not beloved by all. In fact, he had a neighbor who did not like him one bit. And this neighbor, because she didnt like him, would get up very early every morning and bring all of her garbage and rotten food, even the waste from her animalsand she would leave them in a pile on the doorstep of the Prophet. And every morning Muhammad would wake up, see the trash, quietly sweep it away and then go about his daily chores and activities.

One morning, Muhammad woke up and he opened his front door expecting to see the pile of trash as usual, but on this day, there was nothing there. No trash. Without hesitating the Prophet went to the pantry, collected some fruits and herbs and rushed next door to his neighbors home.  Sure enough, she was very sickso sick that she had not had enough strength to collect the garbage to leave at Muhammads front door. Muhammad offered her some food and stayed with her and prayed for her recovery.

This seems to me to be the kind of thing Jesus is talking about when he says: do not resist an evildoer.

Jesus is asking us to change the way we think about justice and injustice–to envision a larger picture. The Prophet Muhammad did not let the garbage pile up on his doorstep, but neither did he grow to hate the woman who seemed to hate him so much. He saw the woman for who she was—a human, broken, like the rest of us, who might fall sick one day and need to rely on the compassion of others.

Perhaps Jesus is saying, don’t set yourself in opposition to those who do evil to you, to those who do evil in the world; instead, imagine them as part of the larger picture of God’s salvation. Don’t build fences, build pathways. Don’t stand your ground, expand your ground. We are not called to be antihistamines that fight against the evils of the world: we are called to see those evils and envelop them. We are called to imagine that even those who seem to do the most harm, might also have a share in God’s kingdom.

We don’t need to tolerate injustice. We don’t need to let evildoers free.  We don’t need to sit idly while people step all over us; we do need to do the work we can to clean up the messes that people leave on the doorsteps of the world. We know that from Jesus’ own example. And we need to keep the resurrection in view.

I think that Jesus is inviting us to rethink our own stories. In what ways do we let ourselves get bogged down in the small battles of our daily lives? What “evils” do we resist that Jesus might actually nudge us to welcome as part of the larger vision of salvation? Do we resist difficult conversations with people whose political, social, or religious beliefs differ from ours? Do we resist wisdom from other faith traditions—like the story I just told you about the Prophet Muhammad—because we think that by appreciating what others have to offer we will somehow become less whole ourselves? Jesus says, don’t resist—embrace the coming of a new world and have faith that all of us will have a role to play in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Faith Line Protestants: Moving Forward

by Rachael K McNeal

Faith Line Protestants is in the process of doing some restructuring. It seems in the middle of our attending seminary, getting medical degrees, parenting children, working full-time jobs, pastoring churches, volunteering in our respective faith communities, living married life, preparing for married life (congrats to Greg who is now engaged),dealing with pregnancy, and so on – well it seems we’re all kind of busy. Unfortunately, all of these life things seem to keep us from consistently keeping original and relevant content up on the blog on a weekly basis. We’ve been testing the waters trying to figure out how to keep the blog going and we appreciate you bearing with us as we smooth out the wrinkles in this adventure we call “FLP.” Despite the challenges, one thing is for sure – we all think that what we’re writing about at FLP is important.

Please understand, I don’t tell you about all of our other commitments and the challenges we’re currently facing when it comes to running the blog in order to complain, or to make excuses for falling short of excellence when it comes to maintaining our content. No, I tell you all of this so that you understand – despite all of these other very important commitments we hold, we are committed to making Faith Line Protestants work. We are committed to continuing this conversation. It is worth adding a little extra chaos to our lives to make sure someone is discussing the issues related to being a Christian in a religiously diverse world.

The thing is, between having babies, getting medical degrees, attending seminary, working full-time, etc., we want to be sure that someone is engaging the question of how to engage a religiously diverse world as a Christian in a way that’s nuanced, personal, inquisitive, open and above all loving. How can we live as witnesses to Christ in this overwhelmingly diverse world in a way that’s honest? In a way that’s true to the Gospel? In a way that progresses God’s Kingdom? These are all questions we ask here and these are questions we want to keep asking. What is this beast called “interfaith”? How do we work together with people who believe different things than us to better our communities and world? We’re particularly interested in how we can hold an Evangelical Christian identity while engaging in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Does “interfaith” conflict with the theologies of an Evangelical identity?

We want to have these conversations, and we want to have them here at Faith Line Protestants. So we are committed to making it work and we hope that you will help us.

Please join our conversation. We want to hear from you! Comment on our posts – let us know if you agree with us, or disagree with us. Share our posts – like us on Facebook (www.facebok.com/faithlineprotestants), follow us on Twitter (@FLProtestants), tell your friends about Faith Line Protestants. Let us know if we’ve struck a chord with you. We want to know how you’re engaging with this religiously diverse world as a Christian. Or, if you’re not a Christian – we still want to know your thoughts. Maybe you’re even interested in writing a guest post – email us and let us take a look. The more voices we add to the conversation the better.

Recently a few of us Faith Line Protestants folks were at the Interfaith Youth Core’s Alumni Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. We were encouraged and energized by the support Faith Line Protestants received from colleagues in the Interfaith Movement – from Christians and non-Christians alike. This made us very excited and enthusiastic about the future of Faith Line Protestants, and we are very much looking forward to the new voices that will be added to the conversation.

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body and we all belong to each other (Romans 12:4-5).” Faith Line Protestants has a special function. At least I think it does (and perhaps I’m biased). When Greg and Cameron (co-founders of Faith Line Protestants) asked me last February if I’d be interested in contributing to Faith Line Protestants (after I wrote this piece for Interfaith Youth Core) I jumped at the chance. I work full-time in Interfaith Work and as an Evangelical Christian that can be quite isolating. Isolating from my faith community because many within my various Christian circles don’t understand interfaith work or how it fits into my walk as a Christian; and isolating from others within the interfaith movement because sometimes it seems the Interfaith Movement is quite short on evangelicals. Faith Line Protestants provided me with a cohort of fellow evangelicals who are interested in achieving a religiously pluralistic society as a person who follows Christ. FLP has also given me a place to further explore and articulate my understanding of the world, my identity as a Christian, and how to engage with people of different religious and non-religious identities.

This is my motivation as I continue to help grow FLP, its readership and content. As the now editor of FLP, I am excited to see where we go from here. I’m looking forward to gaining more partnerships, reading more from current FLP contributors and authors, gaining more FLP contributors and authors, sharing some compelling guest blogs and hearing your thoughts. I hope you will look forward with me.

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Interfaith Youth Core Features Rachael McNeal in podcast

In the third episode of Interfaith Youth Core’s podcast Common Knowledge, Cassie Meyer and Carr Harkrader interview Faith Line Protestants Contributor Rachael McNeal. Rachael talks about how she was inspired to be a better Christian by a Reform Rabbi and about common stereotypes about Evangelicals. Take a listen at one of the following links:
www.ifyc.org/podcast
or on iTunes

(listen for the Faith Line Protestants shout-out at the end)

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Season after Epiphany, an Interfaith Meditation

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” Matthew 2:12 (NRSV)

I know not all Protestant traditions follow a liturgical calendar, but for those of us that do, we are currently in the aptly named Season after Epiphany.

Epiphany was celebrated by most Protestants on January 6th.  It is the time when we celebrate when God made flesh in Jesus Christ was visited by three wise people.  Before arriving to the birth place, the three wise ones visited Herod, Roman-appointed puppet governor of Judea.  To make a long story short, Herod was threatened by the small baby Jesus because people were referring to the child as the King of the Jews.  Herod killed many children in Judea in an effort to protect his power and the wise people decided to not revisit Herod, instead taking “another road.”

I think this is inherently a call from the Bible to be engaged in interfaith cooperation against the injustices of the world.  The wise men, sometimes referred to as astrologers, were from lands abroad.  Church tradition notes that they may have been from three different continents.  They were most-likely not Jewish.  It’s hard to say what tradition they practiced or why they came to the baby Jesus or why they listened to the dream that warned them about Herod.  Despite all these uncertainties, I have been dwelling continually on what that other road was like.

Sure, there are the geographical questions, but what about the life questions?  As someone who is both a religious leader and an interfaith leader, I feel like my ministry is filled with opportunities to take other roads.  Interfaith cooperation is not about doing the same old thing, it is doing an entirely new thing.  We encounter injustice and suffering in many different ways in the world in which we live.  Are there other roads that we can join people who might not think the same way we do, but surely are capable of loving in the same way?

My hope and prayer is that this post serves as a motivation to begin thinking outside the box.  Encourage your own faith community to reach out to other faith communities or non-religious groups to get involved in a larger issue.  I am making it a part of my ministry to intentionally work with other faith groups for service projects.  Sometimes it seems difficult to find the time to do such things, but when we think of it as taking another road it shifts our mode of thought.  Interfaith cooperation is not a simple action, but an entire paradigm shift in how we think about and engage in the world around us.  Let us reap the wisdom from these wise ones of ancient times and not be afraid to take another road to see what can be.

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Prophets, Questions, and a Dream

As we continue to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week, check out this Sojourners post by Joe Kay, “Prophets, Questions, and a Dream.”

Here’s a taste: “Prophets are always asking questions. Tough questions. Unsettling questions. Questions that they pose to themselves, then try to answer by how they live.”

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The Challenges of Interfaith Dialogue

Yes, we LOVE interfaith dialogue here at Faith Line Protestants, but it certainly has it’s challenges and it helps no one to overlook those challenges.
Read this insightful piece by Georgetown Student Aamir Hussain.

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Zach J. Hoag: What does this mean for you in your context?

Zach J. Hoag, Christian Blogger, shares some maps of the U.S. recently posted by the Washington Post which map out religion in the United States.

Zach asks, “What does this mean for your in your context?”

Take a look.

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