The nonreligious and compassion

From God’s Politics:

“At the same time, Willer said, the view of nonreligious people as cold and amoral needs adjustment. “We find that nonreligious people do feel compassion for others, and that those feelings are strongly related to whether they choose to help others or not.”

I’m not surprised, as I know many nonreligious folks who show compassion and dedication to service. My question for believers: how does this inform and influence the way we engage our nonreligious friends?

Atheists, Believers Both Do Good But for Different Reasons, Studies Say

Standing with Nuns, Standing for Compassion

This piece was originally posted on God’s Politics.
Read the full post here.

The reprimand that came out of the Vatican last month has familiar echoes.

The statement addressing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 80 percent of nuns in the United States, accuses the organization of “serious doctrinal problems” regarding the focus of religious practice, among them, a concern that the Catholic Sisters are too focused on social justice and not enough on voicing the Church’s views on homosexuality or abortion.

For me, the reprimand carries reverberations of similar friction from my undergrad…

Continue reading at Sojourners

President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge announced for second year

You are probably aware that both Cameron and I have been active with Illinois Interfaith Service, the initiative our campus started in response to the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge this past year which organized  the first ever Illinois Conference on Interfaith Collaboration. The White House Office on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently announced the second year of the challenge, and we are excited to see where this year takes us.

Check out the announcement on ED.gov: http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/list/fbci/campus-challenge.html

Greg’s article re-published in May issue of The Interfaith Observer

You can (re)read my article, which originally appeared on the Huffington Post, here: http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2012/5/15/clooney-kony-and-why-interfaith-matters.html

The Interfaith Observer is a monthly electronic journal that explores the interfaith movement. Many of our friends have contributed writing to this journal over the years.

Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America

We are excited to see Eboo Patel’s new book go up on Amazon for pre-order: Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.

From Amazon.com:

An inspiring call for Americans to defend the values of inclusiveness and pluralism by one of our best-known American Muslim leaders

In the decade following the attacks of 9/11, suspicion and animosity toward American Muslims has increased rather than subsided. Alarmist, hateful rhetoric once relegated to the fringes of political discourse has now become frighteningly mainstream, with pundits and politicians routinely invoking the specter of Islam as a menacing, deeply anti-American force. In this timely new book, author, activist, and presidential advisor Eboo Patel says this prejudice is not just a problem for Muslims but also a challenge to the very idea of America. Sacred Groundshows us that Americans from George Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. have been “interfaith leaders,” and it illustrates how the forces of pluralism in America have time and again defeated the forces of prejudice. Now a new generation needs to rise up and confront the anti-Muslim prejudice of our era. To this end, Patel offers a primer in the art and science of interfaith work, bringing to life the growing body of research on how faith can be a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division and sharing stories from the frontlines of interfaith activism. Pluralism, Patel boldly argues, is at the heart of the American project. It is a responsibility we all must share, and Patel’s visionary book will inspire Americans of all faiths to make this country a place where diverse traditions can thrive side by side.

Jim Wallis on responding to religious intolerance

From the Huffington Post:

“I do not advocate a religious pluralism that blurs the significant differences between religions, but I do believe that my religious tradition calls me to be a peacemaker and to love my neighbors, especially when I do not agree with them.”

Read the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/a-test-of-character_b_1501616.html.

Feeding the Trolls, or Feeding Ourselves?: Thoughts on Disagreement.

The trolls. (Har-har.)

While the internet is a wonderful thing, I’ve realized that it often brings me much more grief than it does pleasant experiences. Much of the grief comes from the absolute cacophony that such an open forum as the internet invites. Sometimes, even seemingly innocuous things provoke endless comment streams that run on and on and quickly devolve into topics that don’t have anything to do with the original post (which could be anything from a news story to a Facebook status lauding one’s favorite sports team).

It all feels like lots of yelling and talking past one another.

This kind of interaction has given rise to an entirely new ignoble class of person: the troll. And sometimes, we can become unintentional trolls, simply because, I think, we aren’t all that skilled at disagreeing with one another, but we are taught from an early age how to criticize.

Moreover, disagreement has the interesting ability to imply aggression, which can lead to barbed responses. Example: “I’m a vegetarian” does not have to imply that “I judge you for eating meat and want to make sure you never eat meat again.” It simply stands on its own. Yet so often I think we tend to see disagreement as carrying with it some sort of nefarious intention to undermine our own stance, when this isn’t always the case.

Thus whenever engaging in any debate or discussion, online or otherwise, I try to remember these three things about those with whom I may disagree:

  1. Be generous. Always give others the benefit of the doubt. Assume they have the best intentions in mind, and remember that they are a fellow human being with real convictions, emotions, and ideas.
  2. Be gracious. Don’t immediately dismiss another’s claims as unreasonable; assume they have reason for believing what they do (even if it is misguided). Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand where they are coming from. This allows one to be kind and understanding, and, hopefully, to come away from the conversation having learned something new. Forgive others if they accidentally step on your toes.
  3. Be humble. Surprisingly, you might not know everything. Always keep this in mind when talking with someone else. Remain aware of your own potential faults and whether or not you may be letting a perceived aggression sour your ability to engage with the other person.

Sometimes disagreements are had where none initially exist, and all because either party was not willing to slow down and engage with the other side with empathy and patience. Don’t get me wrong– it is certainly permissible (and even right) to disagree at times. But if we (myself included) don’t keep these three things in mind, then we won’t be disagreeing about the right issues.

My experiences in formal (and informal) interfaith discussions have helped show me not only that adopting these three precepts can benefit both sides, but that they also simply work. Have any other things to add to this list? I’d love to hear them. Want to expound on one of the three points already listed? Take issue with one (or more)? I’d love to hear that, too!

Weigh in below!