Interfaith Insight - 2023

Permanent link for "Honoring Differences While Finding Common Values" by Doug Kindschi on April 11, 2023

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute has emphasized “thick dialogue” where we encourage participants to bring the thickness of their faith to the discussion. This contrasts with a “thin dialogue” approach that tries to water down one’s beliefs to the point where we can all agree. We have tried to honor the different narratives and beliefs that each tradition holds sacred, while being open to and learning from different traditions and their narratives and beliefs. In this way we honor the insights of others and become open to learning and growth.

Understanding the narratives and beliefs of the various religious and sacred holidays is one way to engage in thick dialogue. This is especially useful when they occur at the same time in the calendar year. It is also a time to look for similarities. 

As was noted in last week’s Interfaith Inform, this year is a time when the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim calendars coincide. This year the major holidays of Passover for Jews, Holy Week for Christians, and Ramadan for Muslims overlap. Last week was the beginning of Passover or Pesach and continues to sundown this Thursday. For Christians in the Western tradition, Holy Week culminated last Sunday with Easter, while the Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate this week with Easter on Sunday, April 16.  Ramadan this year began at sundown on March 22 and ends at sundown April 21.

Because of the different calendars in these three traditions, this confluence of holidays does not often occur. It will be another 30 years before this calendar combination will occur again. So, in this year of celebrating this common calendar occurrence, it might be good to look at some of the values our various traditions have in common.

Nearly all religious traditions teach love of neighbor or some form of the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Various formulations go back to early Confucian times and are also reflected in the Jewish teaching to love your neighbor and to love the stranger.

Another common teaching of nearly all religious traditions is the importance to care for the earth and the environment as God’s creation to be preserved and maintained by our human efforts of stewardship. 

A recent event sponsored by the Aspen Institute focused on the important role faith traditions play in motivating understanding and action with an ethics of care for the climate and the environment. Led by Simran Jeet Singh, the executive director of the Aspen Institute Religion & Society Program, it included leaders from the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths, as well as a prominent voice from the indigenous community of the Potawatomi Nation. 

All panelists affirmed the importance of climate care from the standpoint of their faith tradition and values. I was particularly impressed by Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, who related the concern to the season of Passover and the practice of singing the song “Dayenu” at the Seder meal marking the beginning of the weeklong celebration. 

Of note is that Grand Rapids’ Temple Emanuel again this year offered an Interfaith Seder that involved over 90 people attending. As is often the case it ended with the catchy singing of Dayenu. The title can be translated, “it would have been enough” and the 15 verses recount the many things the Hebrew people experienced in the exodus, any one of which would have been sufficient, but God did more. The escape from slavery, or providing manna in the desert, or giving the Sabbath or the law, or the Torah: In each case it would have been enough. Each verse is followed by the refrain, 

Da, da-ye-nu,  

Da, da-ye-nu,

Da, da-ye-nu, 

Da-ye-nu, da-ye-nu! 

It would have been enough. 

Rabbi Rosenn uses this word Dayenu or “enough” as the title of her organization, Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action. In the Aspen panel discussion, she emphasized that “we have had enough” of polluting our air and water, of climate destruction, of putting company profits over human life, of letting the impact fall disproportionately on indigenous communities and on people of color. “Dayenu! Enough! We’ve had enough.”

Rabbi Rosenn continued, “But, it also means, we have enough. We have the policies, we have the technologies, we have the resources, so that everyone can have enough.” Holding both meanings is where religious power can have an impact. She also referred to the hope and agency held by religious communities that can motivate “hopeful action.”

Yes, we celebrate our differences, our special narratives, and deeply held beliefs. But as we find values in common with other traditions, it is equally important to work together for the common good, to support love against hate, and to preserve our environment and heal the earth. 

Posted on Permanent link for "Honoring Differences While Finding Common Values" by Doug Kindschi on April 11, 2023.

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