Monday, June 05, 2006

Talking Across the Fence in Six Dimensions

What do Jews and Baptists in the same room find to talk about? I have participated in an interfaith dialogue over the past year that has taught me things about both religions.

Our Rabbi Danny and his good friend Pastor Bledsoe came up with this idea last fall and 6 people from each congregation were invited to participate. ( The group represents a mix of races, as well as a mix of religions.) We spent an entire session talking about our personal views of holiness. We toured each other's sanctuary and talked about what things symbolized. We talked about baptism through immersion and the rite of bar mitzvah. We were surprised to find that we actually have more similarities than differences.

Tonight is our final meeting for this year. We have been asked to think about 6 "dimensions" that define a person's personal religion. Here are my short answers:

(1) Sacred narrative: The creation story and the giving of the Ten Commandments are two of my favorites.

(2) Doctrine: The doctrine of monotheism is important to me.

(3) Ritual: The bar/bat mitzvah ritual is significant because it serves as a rite of passage.

(4) Institutional expression: The Reform movement of Judaism is an institutional expression that defines what I practice.

(5) Experience: My conversion to Judaism greatly affected my religious evolution.

(6) Ethics: Social activism, a concern for all of humanity, is a necessity for me.

This first year we concentrated mostly on defining ourselves, taking extreme caution not to say anything that would offend. We steered clear of topics like chosenness, that often puts me off as a Jew even though theoretically I am chosen. Now that we have laid the groundwork and proven that we have respect for each other's religion, I hope we can really delve into the differences next year as we pursue this project that helps us better understand our community. I want to take on topics like our respective views of the afterlife, the concept of a messianic age, the revelation of the Bible, and many more controversial issues on which not even people in the same religion necessarily agree.


Blogger Mother of Invention said...

This sounds so interesting! I like all the points you have. Your experience may be what also shapes a person and leads them to join a certain relious faith. (works both ways)
I like the topic of afterlife you hope to discuss. Barbara Walters had a fascinating show on this (did you see it?) on which she interviewed top people from several faiths, including Dalai Lama, and it was interesting how different , and sometimes even childlike, images each had. Wish they'd re-broadcast that.

(By the way, I'm Capricorn too! Although, I'm barely into it, being born on the cusp, just after midnight on Dec. 22nd!)

8:20 AM  

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