I’ve been an Interfaith minister for over five years. I’ve been asked many questions about Interfaith, particularly as I see Interfaith as a faith. But by far the question that is asked the most often, and with the most anguish is: “Does Interfaith require me to leave the faith of my heritage behind?”
The short answer is, “No!” The long answer may be found in my book The Interfaith Alternative (www.InterfaithAlternative.com) . But after being asked that question yet again last Friday, when I was giving a reading for my book, I thought I’d try a blog-sized answer.
I see Interfaith as a faith. Interfaith acknowledges that we each encounter the sacred in our own way. Interfaith also acknowledges that all of our faiths, all of them, have taught us that we are to act with compassion, love and in community. Interfaith also acknowledges that our faith-paths are different. Christianity is different from Islam, Buddhism is different from Judaism, Humanism is different from Baha’ism, and so on.
What Interfaith also teaches is that while how we encounter the sacred is important in making us who we are, it is what we do with that encounter that truly counts. If our encounter with the sacred makes us a more compassionate, loving, community-oriented person, then whether that encounter be through Christianity, Islam, another spiritual path, or a life-changing walk in nature, it’s a good encounter. And if our encounter with the sacred makes us more selfish, more hateful and more “me” oriented, then whether that encounter be through Christianity, Islam, another spiritual path, or a life-changing walk in nature, it’s not a good encounter.
So if, as example, you have encountered the sacred through Jesus as Christ and it has helped to make you more loving and compassionate, then why on earth would you want to leave your faith in the dustbin in order to embrace Interfaith? What Interfaith asks of you is NOT to leave your spiritual path, but rather to broaden it. Interfaith does NOT ask you to cut your spiritual roots, but rather asks you to plant a few new roots as well.
At my church (Living Interfaith), Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’i, Buddhists and Humanist all come together to worship together. We meet twice a month, on the second and fourth Sundays. A part of the rationale for this is so that a person may be “bi-churched” and nurture the roots of her/his heritage twice a month, and nurture some new Interfaith roots twice a month. Indeed, our Bylaws include the explicit provision that a person does NOT need to (and indeed is not asked to) severe his/her ties with a spiritual path in order to become a member.
Our welcome to Living Interfaith sermon says,
“To you who would join us: we do not insist, we do not expect, and we do not encourage you to put aside the truths that have brought you to our spiritual community. For without them, you would not be here.”
And the welcome with which we begin every service states,
“You are not asked to leave who you are at the door. Bring who you are in with you. What you are asked to remember is that the people sitting around you have brought who they are in through the door as well. And all, all of good will are welcome.”
That is the Interfaith alternative.