Interfaith Friendships: Becoming Fully Human
“Interfaith is not about conversion, it’s about completion—becoming a more complete, fully human being.” –Imam Jamal Rahman, TEDxDU talk, May 26, 2011
Do interfaith friendships enhance our own faith journeys?
Because of my enthusiasm for Fred’s tradition, I’m often asked by Christians and Hindus, “Are you converting to Hinduism?”
My answer: “No. Being married to Fred actually makes me a better Christian.”
I’ve found that engaging in another tradition awakens a hunger for my own faith journey that had otherwise become stale. It’s easy to fall into faith inertia when you gather week after week with a worshipping community where everyone believes what you do (with some variations, of course).
When Fred and I began dating, we had many difficult theological conversations that propelled me into a new, fresh, study of basic Christian theological principles and Scriptural evidence for my beliefs. I had taken it for granted that everyone believed what I believe and that I didn’t need to explain myself. In my new interfaith relationship, I was forced to return to a posture of asking myself why I believe what I believe.
As a continued testimony to the value of interfaith conversations, Fred and I joined a local interfaith dialogue group. This gathering includes Buddhist monks, Buddhist laypersons, as well as practitioners from the Ba’hai, Baptist, Jewish, Mennonite, Muslim, and United Church of Christ communities. In a few weeks, our group is attending a Ramadan Iftar hosted by our Muslim friends. Our group has also hosted an ecumenical prayer service and gathered for an interfaith community panel at the Dhammikarama Buddhist Temple in Chapel Hill.
After only gathering with this group for a few months, I’m convinced of Imam Jamal Rahman’s notion that interfaith friendships can make us more complete humans. When we walk with others whose spiritual journeys are different from our own, we are invited into a sacred space where we become the loving individuals God intended us to be.