Finally! I’m out of the thesis-cave.

For the past few months, my time has been engulfed by work, wedding planning, and thesis writing. But I am quite pleased to say that, though the wedding planning is still ongoing, the thesis is NOT. I have submitted it to the department for review, and can now breathe easy(er) and maybe–just maybe–get a bit of sleep.

What will I do with this new free time, you might ask? Do the things I love, of course. And that means more writing about the church, and developing new media content with Greg to provide even more resources on the intersection of evangelism and interfaith cooperation.

With the ICIC just behind us, there’s plenty to talk about! I look forward to getting back on top of things and stepping up to help poor Greg out, who has diligently maintained this site in my absence despite his own remarkably full schedule. (Sorry Greg!)

You will hear from me again soon…

-C.

 

Quick thoughts after ICIC12

Cameron and I just finished with a long and exhausting weekend organizing and participating in the Illinois Conference on Interfaith Collaboration. I really enjoyed the chance to chat with Jim Wallis of Sojourners on Friday night, run another interfaith meal packaging event, see Chris Stedman (although meal-packaging clean-up kept me from attending his talk), and hear from Valarie Kaur this morning. All had very different backgrounds and perspectives but stimulated a lot of great conversation. We’ll follow-up in the coming days with some reflects and content from ICIC12.

A spiritual calling to interfaith work

This piece was originally published on the Interfaith Youth Core blog at http://www.ifyc.org/content/spiritual-calling-interfaith-work.

Last Thursday night I found myself at the largest interfaith dialogue the University of Illinois has ever seen. Directly north of the iconic Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium on campus, 600 people packed into a multipurpose room at our beautiful Activities and Recreation Center – the same room where we’ll kick off the Illinois Conference on Interfaith Collaboration in just under a month.

The event, a Muslim-Christian dialogue between academics Zeki Saritoprak and Peter Kreeft, was well-attended by people from many traditions, but I’m willing to bet that just about every Christian fellowship on campus was represented. So while I stood in the back waiting to meet some friends from Interfaith in Action, the relatively high density of Cru, InterVarsity (IV) and Navigators shirts inspired some reflection.

As a Christian, I value the sort of community that a Christian fellowship provides. However, I also value the opportunity to share the message of my faith with others. In reflecting, I thought back to my days as a Bible study leader with IV – my struggle to balance over-commitment to academics and extracurricular activities and an evangelism seminar my junior year that convicted me not to renew my time-consuming commitments to leadership with IV.

Why? Because the take-home message of the seminar was simple: stop doing so many things with just Christians and start doing things with people from a different background. It’s through those relationships that you will show others who Jesus is.

That seminar confirmed my spiritual calling to interfaith work.

I thought about where I have come since then. One year after that retreat, I attended an IFYC conference at Northwestern University. Six months later, we organized more than 5,000 people in packaging 1,000,000 meals for earthquake victims in Haiti, Champaign-Urbana’s largest ever interfaith service project. Six months after that, I found myself in front of the White House with 200 other student leaders at the first ever Interfaith Leadership Institute.

As a student speaker in the opening session of that ILI, I remember the excitement of telling my parents – both of whom are Christians and great supporters of my involvement in interfaith work – about how I knew that I had heard God’s call correctly: I had been given the opportunity to go to the White House to tell 200 hundred other students about the ways that Jesus inspires me to serve others.

But I realize now that the real indicators of God’s desire come in less obvious, but more meaningful forms. Like those of the friends I was meeting at that dialogue last Thursday night.

They are people like Adam, an atheist and an inspiring leader with whom I get to work closely on a regular basis. Or Gautam, an old friend from my hometown with Jain and Hindu heritage – and now a colleague in interfaith work on our campus. Or Adham, an American Muslim of Syrian descent who is one of the University of Illinois’ emerging young interfaith leaders. But that’s just a few – there are innumerable others who I have met through interfaith work – some in just short conversations, others as collaborators and friends in long-term projects.

What I realized while waiting in the back of that multipurpose room last Thursday night was that these relationships are the real reason I know my spiritual calling to do interfaith work is true. Because I’m doing something that I wasn’t doing before, something that my faith was instructing me to do all along – I’m building inspiring relationships with people of different backgrounds.

Relationships like this are built at events like the IFYC’s Interfaith Leadership Institutes, which are this summer in Chicago (June 18-21, 2012) and Philadelphia (July 16-19). Also, consider joining us at the University of Illinois April 20th-22nd for the inaugural Illinois Conference on Interfaith Cooperation. We have some special guests including Eboo PatelJim WallisChris Stedman and Valarie Kaur.

And you might even get to meet Adam, Gautam or Adham…

Clooney, Kony and Why Interfaith Matters

The Kony 2012 video has now amassed more than 83 million views on YouTube and triggered a response with which Invisible Children can’t keep up. To make things worse, this viral phenomenon has triggered assertions that have called the non-profit’s integrity into question on multiple levels. It sounds like a mess. But at least a significantly larger portion of the world’s population knows something about the horrors taking place in Uganda, right?

While millions are getting behind the Kony 2012 movement, it has also garnered its fair share of critics. Included are those who have something to add to the discussion on western mentality in response to global crises. I’m referring to the superiority complex that tempts the well-resourced to see themselves as the rescuers of the under-resourced, saviors of the helpless, deliverers of the oppressed.

This mentality has been criticized — as it should — and this criticism often accompanies insults hurled at the sort of folks who use their celebrity to attract attention to humanitarian issues around the world, folks like Bono of U2 or innumerable Hollywood stars, including George Clooney. Clooney was arrested Friday outside of the Sudanese embassy in D.C. while trying to attract attention to another humanitarian crisis: the suffering of the Sudanese people living in the Nuba Mountains.

In some ways, when it comes to responding to humanitarian issues, ignorance and arrogance are the Scylla and Charybdis through which we must navigate. Some stick their heads in the sand while accusations of self-righteousness are dealt all too readily on those taking action to raise awareness, especially if it makes them look good in the process. If there is an approach immune to ridicule, it’s a delicate one.

But of all things, I think George Clooney might be on to something slightly more than commendable.

Continue reading at The Huffington Post.

Call for Contributions

Faith Line Protestants is growing, and we want to hear from you!

Are you interested in the intersection of Christianity and the interfaith movement? Are you an evangelical Christian with insight on communicating your faith to others with gentleness and respect in a religiously diverse world? Do you have something to share about an experience with an evangelical – positive or negative – that influenced your perspective on Christianity? Then we want to hear from you!

Submission categories

Inspiration. Perhaps you identify as a Christian and an interfaith activist. Tell us what motivates you to be involved in interfaith work. Dig in to the scriptures, your past experiences, or your personal outlook on life and tell us what inspires you to be a part of interfaith cooperation!

Stories. Perhaps you identify as a Christian and you’ve had a positive experience working alongside people of other faith traditions. Tell us your story! What did you learn? How did the opportunity help you to communicate your faith in a gentle and respectful way? Tell us about your current work in your community/college campus or tell us a story from your past.

Perspectives. Perhaps you identify with a non-Christian faith tradition but have something to say about the intersection of evangelicals and interfaith work. Tell us about a positive experience you’ve had with an evangelical OR tell us about a negative experience and tell us how it affected you.

OR

Submit an idea for anything you feel might fall within the purview of FLP’s mission and interests. We’d love to hear your suggestions!

Guidelines

  • A blog approximately 400-600 words, submit as a word document or in an e-mail to mail@faithlineprotestants.org.
  • Provide a fitting title for your piece.
  • Any relevant links in square brackets (ex: “[www.faithlineprotestants.org]”) following the text which you would like hyperlinked in your post.
  • A 1-3 sentence bio describing who you are, what you do, or what you’re passionate about.
  • Recommended: a photograph that illustrates or accompanies your post, minimum horizontal resolution 640 px, minimum vertical resolution 250 px.
  • Optional: your headshot.

Faith Line Protestants reserves the right to make final decisions on whether any material is posted to our site. Content deemed inconsistent with the FLP mission may be denied. Content deemed inspiring, insightful or respectfully challenging will be given priority!

Download a PDF of this information

Reflecting on Faith Line Protestants

Over a year ago now, Greg Damhorst and I met in a coffee shop on campus to talk about how few Christians (esp. evangelical Christians) seemed interested in interfaith cooperation. What came out of that conversation was Faith Line Protestants, and the hope that we could use it to grow a platform. We set our goals high, and with a post on the Washington Post’s “On Faith,” we launched just after New Year’s Day, 2011. Since then, we’ve written hundreds of posts, been involved in our first (and only) blog spat to date, and led a few discussions on college campuses about interfaith cooperation from a Christian perspective.

We’ve both been– and continue to be– rather busy. (Read Greg’s “State of FLP” address from last month here.)

I must admit my relationship with the interfaith movement has shifted over time, and I am not the same person I was when I first started writing posts for FLP. The sheen of idealism has faded a bit as I continue to shape my own theological persuasion and carve my own niche in the denomination which I recently aligned (the Episcopal Church). And as I step further and further along the path toward ordination, I begin to conceptualize interfaith cooperation in different ways through the lens of a minister. This process has changed in some ways the dynamics of the movement for me.

I still believe in the movement, and still believe it is important that the Christian community learn how to live alongside other religious groups without adopting the all-too-common “shore up our defenses and fight” mentality that has cropped up at various points throughout history. Yet I’ve also found that one has to be quite careful, or discussions of “shared values” can quickly degenerate into “shared theologies.” Or, on the opposite end, I’ve found many persons with sensibilities that find sharing your faith– in any capacity, no matter how gracefully or non-confrontational– as invasive and effrontery behavior, even at the interfaith table. I’ve found non-religious persons interested in the movement that still regard religion as ridiculous, marring many of the efforts with a mud of insincerity as they wink to their comrades in online circles, while treating faith with deference in public.

And most distressingly of all, I’ve found fellow self-proclaimed Christians who seem interested in fostering peace because, to them, the gospels present us with nothing more than good stories worth emulating, but not a real Christ worth following. Unfortunately, I think Greg and I get associated with this last camp, and it ends up hindering our efforts to reach more mainstream Christians.

Additionally, we’ve seen an explosion of discourse surrounding faith and its place in public life over the past year. Whether it be the cadre of GOP candidates winnowing down as we get closer to the 2012 election, or high-profile sports figures who wear their faith publicly with their success like Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin, it’s clear that interfaith discussions will continue to be important and that we still haven’t worked all the kinks out yet.

Despite these frustrations, however, we’ve seen some encouraging signs. More people than ever seem interested in interfaith cooperation and what it has to offer society. Even some members of Christian groups on campus– previously difficult for Greg and I to reach– have gotten involved of their own volition. We’re starting to see evangelical groups on campus expressing a genuine interest in and desire for interfaith cooperation, collaboration, and education.

As Greg and I look toward this next year, some big things lie ahead of us. There’s the ICIC (if you want to know what that means, click here), which will bring Eboo Patel, Jim Wallis, and our friend Chris Steadman to campus, and will provide an excellent opportunity for Greg and I to get campus Christian organizations even more interested in interfaith service and cooperation.

This year promises to be a good one.

We hope to refine our vision, to edit our pages, to expand our contributors, and provide more content more often. Join us as we look forward to another year!