12 Faith Friend

sharing the circle of belief

Questions for reflection

How can we balance respect for a different belief or faith whilst upholding differences?

It seems very popular for people to identify themselves as being ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘religious’. What do you think this signifies?

Do you agree that faith is first and foremost personal, or do you think it is more tribal or communitarian?

If you weren’t a member of the faith group that you identify with, what do you think you would ‘be’ instead?

Is it fair to claim (or proclaim) the uniqueness of Jesus without having investigated the lives, writings and teachings of other faith leaders such as Muhammad or Gautama?

How important is recognising and respecting people’s different world views when reflecting and dialoguing about different faiths and beliefs?

Further reading and further thoughts

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” – The Dalai Lama

“Compassion is the essence of Jesus’ teaching, and indeed of the teaching of all great spiritual figures from Mohammed to Isaiah, from Lao Tzu to Chief Seattle. Yet compassion has been sentimentalized and severed from its relationship to justice-making and celebration. Creation Spirituality links the struggle for justice with the yearning for mysticism.” – Matthew Fox

“Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Read: John 4:19-24; Revelation 7:9-10 *
* Notice how the innumerable people from all the cultures of the world proclaim, “Salvation is from our God …” They all see their understanding of God fulfilled in the final and shared understanding of God.

An interesting article about ‘choosing’ faith, Shopping in the Walmart of Belief by Dr. Richard Beck

Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not be a Christian Oneworld Publications 2009

Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? Hodder & Stoughton 2012

A peacemeal idea

Share a Peacemeal with friends and connections you have with people from different faith groups. Set the scene by welcoming everyone around the table as – first and foremost – a ‘spiritual person’ from whom we all have much to learn. Experiment with creating a completely inclusive liturgy that is able to celebrate diversity and respect difference. Ask everyone to share their experience of being a spiritual person within our contemporary society. What issues do they struggle with? What freedoms do they celebrate?

Living it out

While being confident in your unfolding understanding about what you believe, always speak and behave in a way that is both respectful and sensitive to other faiths and beliefs. Create time and space to learn from them – encouraging others to do so also. Always ask questions. Actively build trust, consciously explore the common ground you share, only then reflect on possible areas of difference. How many of those are cultural rather than spiritual?

Visit with a local community from a different faith group to your own and listen to the stories of faith that shape this culture that you haven’t experienced before. What did you learn? How might you further the relationship?

If possible find someone who once identified as a Christian but is now committed to another faith. Ask them to tell you the story about their spiritual journey and why they found the Christian faith did not meet their spiritual needs and how and why their new-found faith does? What can you learn from what they share with you?

A meditation

Read the translation of Acts 17:26-28 at the bottom of page 190. Beginning with the words, “God allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet they have not been left without a witness in doing good …”, consider the implications of this statement (and the words that follow) for our relationship towards people of other faiths and beliefs and our understanding of the possibilities of their spiritual journeys. What do these words say about your spiritual journey? What role might we see and understand Jesus playing in all this?