Interfaith Insight - 2023
Permanent link for "The Power Of Stories From All Our Various Faith Communities" by Doug Kindschi on January 17, 2023
In October of last year, a group of scientists, scholars
and religious contemplatives
traveled to Dharamshala, a city in India at the foothills of the Himalayas. They
came to meet with the Dalai Lama, who had lived there for over fifty years after
fleeing his homeland of Tibet. Among those attending was a neuroscientist from
Princeton University, Dr. Molly Crockett, who came to share her belief in the
power of moral stories to impact human action.
Her research brought her to the conclusion that while such stories
can lead to
increased selfishness, they can also reinforce our basic capacity for compassion.
Current social media algorithms reward people for expressing outrage and
perpetuate a collective harmful spirit of anger. But her research also shows the
power of stories that build on the human experience of compassion, which begins
with the young child’s early survival built on the mother’s compassion and caring.
In response, the Dalai Lama affirmed the impact of compassion that can even be
extended to opponents who disrupt or even cause injury to others. We can
understand them as wounded people acting out of their own suffering.
In the United States we have a powerful example of such compassion
“revolutionary love” in the stories of Valarie Kaur. She was raised by Sikh
immigrants from India who for over 100 years have been farmers in California.
Kaur tells stories of violence against her community which have been met with the
kind of rage that can understand and forgive, but not forget the task ahead to seek
change and justice.
She was a student at Stanford University during the 9/11 tragedy that
revenge against many people of color, especially in the Sikh community. Just four
days after 9/11, the first crime of hate against a Sikh took place in Mesa, AZ.
Valarie was informed of the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi by a friend who called
her the same day. Balbir, an immigrant from India, was a computer engineer who
worked for HP until he had saved enough to buy a gas station. He was known and
respected by the community as a kind and generous man. As a custom in the Sikh
community, the men do not cut their beards and wear turbans. His killer boasted
that he was going to go out and kill some “towel-heads.” The memorial that was
set up at his gas stations states, “He was killed simply because of the way he
Valarie changed her senior project at Stanford and began a tour
video places where violence and hate crimes against Sikhs and Muslims had taken
place. Her efforts culminated in the award-winning documentary film, Divided We
Fall: Americans in the Aftermath. It has been shown on over 300 campuses and
houses of worship and inspired discussions of the resurgence of hate and violence,
as well as ways to respond with what she calls “revolutionary love.”
Valarie continued her efforts to fight for justice by getting a law
degree from Yale
University and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School,
where she said she received the theological foundation for her life’s work. Stories
of her social justice efforts, as well as many very personal stories of health and
other challenges in her personal life, comprise her best-selling book, See No
Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love.
Valarie continues her campaign for justice and love as a public
civil rights warrior and promoter of revolutionary love, and her videos have
exceeded 60 million views. The Kaufman Institute book group has been reading
her book the past few months in preparation for her visit to Grand Rapids on Feb.
23 at 6:30 in the Eberhard Center, 301 Fulton St. W, on GVSU downtown campus.
See the event below for further details.
As a Christian, I am influenced and moved by the teachings of Jesus
to love your
neighbor and even your enemy. Building on his own Jewish scriptures, Jesus
affirmed the greatest commandment to love God and love your neighbor. His
stories of compassion, such as the Good Samaritan, illustrate the power of loving
even when it extends to persons from a different ethnic or religious community.
When I observe the lives and stories of people like the Dalai Lama
Kaur, I am profoundly moved by the ways in which a Buddhist and a Sikh can
articulate and live out these teachings of my own Christian story in ways that have
profound impact. Can we each see truth, not so much in statements or creeds, but
in lives lived with compassion and love?