Yes To Including Humanists In The Spiritual Dialogue. No To “Interfaitheism”.

Abigail Clauhs, an M. Div. student at Claremont School of Theology, has written a sharp and eloquent blog post earlier this week that deserves a look. In “Interfaitheism”, she suggests the need for greater inclusion of atheists in interfaith gatherings:

In a pluralistic world, we have to realize that we must co-exist not only with people who adhere to a label that can be found in a World Religions textbook, but also those who fit no label. The group I invited to the interfaith event was the secular humanists. I know many secular humanists, and if we are looking for faith, these are people who have faith in the human spirit. They run the gamut in terms of their cosmology—some believe in a higher spirit, some are agnostic, some are just plain atheist. As a Unitarian Universalist, I know many humanist UUs. Does that mean that my religion is invalid for participating in “interfaith” work?

We have to push our boundaries of acceptance, and not be bound by semantics. After this email, I found myself tempted to change the name of the event entirely. “Interfaith” apparently just wasn’t enough. Yet I determined that I would keep it.

I was reading Forrest Church, one of my favorite Unitarian Universalist theologians, the other day. He wrote about why he chooses to use the word “God,” even though many UUs prefer to use terms like “the divine” or “Spirit of Life.” Church (yes, it’s a fitting last name, isn’t it?) says that instead of abandoning the word “God” as something too limited and fleeing to something more open like “the divine,” he chooses to use “God” as a way to expand the boundaries of what the word can mean. If people see God as an old guy in the sky, he wants to open the possibilities of how much bigger and more infinite “God” can be, and can mean.

I think the same needs to be done with the word “interfaith.” Yes, right now it’s problematic. And limiting. But that doesn’t mean we should run away and leave this word that has already helped to effect to so much change. No, we need to push the boundaries. Widen the tent. Accept the great and beautiful diversity of human experience and the way it creates meaning and community and structure in this world.

We need to have interfaith gatherings where every single person is welcome, and where they actually want to come. We need—perhaps—interfaitheism.

Read the whole article by Clauhs.

Continue reading “Yes To Including Humanists In The Spiritual Dialogue. No To “Interfaitheism”.”

What Would Jeremiah Do?

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Featured today on BeliefNet is “Jeremiah: The Fate of a Prophet”, an excerpt from a book by Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau. Writing about Jeremiah, Lau says:

The words of the prophets have been preserved for us, their distant descendants, so that we may learn what is right in the eyes of God and man. But in their own days, in real time, there is hardly a prophet who has redressed the social, religious, or political wrongs of Israel; the prophets barked, but the caravan kept moving. Moreover, when a prophet dared to deviate from his usual message of morality and challenged the existing order, he was declared an enemy of the people. Thus, the prophet Amos was banished by the priest of Bethel, Amaziah, in the name of King Jeroboam: “Get thee out, seer!” (Amos 7:12).

Rabbi Lau encourages public critics today to see themselves not merely as commentators but as prophetic voices, even if it means paying a personal price for the vision. Jeremiah was one prophet who did, one about whom it could not be said that he told the people what they wanted to hear.

I’m not comparing myself to Jeremiah, but it is no revelation to my readers that I have been guided by angels and have taken the name (at least in spiritual matters not yet as a day-to-day appellation) Kalen O’Tolán, One Who is Buddha, Boson, and Book. I am a self-declared and Self-declared Prophet of God. And I have suffered the indignity of a few strange eye rolls from onlookers who heard me say that in person! Because that is just the sort of thing people today don’t want to hear and don’t expect to hear, not even from an Integral world spirituality blogger. Trust me the strange eye rolls weren’t all that bad.

We live a strange world. It is scandalous for a religion blogger to proclaim He is a Prophet of God, for surely that is a sign of insanity or at least mental instability. But in the world which I inhabit (I just call it reality), it is scandalous for a religion blogger to NOT be a prophet of the Sacred speaking out loud. What sort of insanity would it be to set one’s self on a soap box called a blog, write about the word of God, and yet to believe that one is NOT one’s self the Self speaking through the divine instrument?


Photo Credit: whatdomormonsbelieve.com