Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hospitality and interreligious Cooperation

If you know someone they no longer will be a stranger to you. Hospitality is a strongly held value in most religious traditions. Hebrews 13:2 is one of those texts that reflects this often forgotten tradition:
2 Don't forget to welcome strangers. By doing that, some people have welcomed angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2 -- New International Reader's Version)
The other evening when we gathered at the IAGD Mosque for a Thanksgiving service we enjoyed their hospitality. By doing so, we began to bridge the gap between us. We become less than strangers. It doesn't mean that we are giving up that which makes us who we are. I'm not planning on becoming a Muslim or a Hindu (to quote Seinfeld -- "not that there's anything wrong with that). But, in coming together we build understanding and with understanding comes respect.

Having read Eboo Patel's wonderful Acts of Faith, I'm now reading Gustav Niebuhr's Beyond Tolerance (Niebuhr is H. Richard's grandson). In a chapter on hospitality, Niebuhr notes an interesting sea change that has happened since 2001. In a 2000 survey done by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, it was found that about 7% of American congregations had worshiped together across faith lines. Slightly more than that, 8% had worked together on a community service project. Niebuhr notes that while the numbers are small, this still is substantial in pure numbers. But, since 2001, in a 2005 survey it was discovered that the number of congregations of various traditions that had worshiped together had tripled to 21%. More impressively, the number that had crossed these lines to work together on a community service project rose to 38%. Now, there's plenty of room to improve, but that is remarkable for a 5 year period. What is more interesting is that while more Mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics than Evangelicals were involved in these efforts, Niebuhr notes that "the greatest participation of all came from among non-Christian congregations, nearly two thirds of whom said they had joined with Christians in social service projects" (pp. 89-90).

If you work together, you discover that we share a common humanity that is inspired by our faith commitments to acts of service. We are different and there is reason for these differences. We need not sacrifice these differences to embrace each other for the good of humanity.

1 comment:

Paul Maurice Martin said...

"We are different and there is reason for these differences."

Sounds a bit like the thesis behind the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is uncannily accurate going by my experience in grad school for counseling. They see personality differences as important and necessary to human society.