This article however looks at context, namely the broader world of human relations where interfaith efforts
happen. There are many arenas where we have to learn to cooperate and overcome our differences, interfaith activity is only one.
We constantly are faced with personal and cultural differences
in life, from the smallest (inside a family) to the greatest (worldwide). The simple fact is that people differ, and we have no other choice but to relate even when it’s hard.
And we do. We find ways to rise above differences and work together. We do this in business, politics, economics, arts, science, and all else. And we do it also in religion. The mom’s a Christian, her son in law is a Buddhist. My building has elevators
that spend all Saturday stopping on every single floor on the way up, and every one on the way down. Put quite simply the world abounds with successful interfaith achievements.
In every corner of life people are quite sure that “we” do things right, and “they” do them wrong. This is true in business and commerce, in how you sit, in what makes for beauty and so on. In short differences are everywhere, and go on without cease. But somehow, in almost all cases people find a way work out their differences and manage, sometimes even flourish. On the larger scale people with strong, even irreconcilable differences find a way to cooperate when they can see clear benefit and gain from doing so.
People cooperate when the benefits from doing so are clear. The teen puts on his Skull Candy
ear-buds to listen to Asphyx, smiling at his folks across the living room listening to Bach, and everybody’s happy. The Chinese find a way to do business with Americans, both full of distrust for one another, and everybody gets rich. When people see clear gain and benefit from cooperation, they find a way to transcend deep differences, and even dislike. This is not to say cooperating is easy. Inscrutable and difficult things have to be worked out. It constantly is a work in progress.
People understand that life and efforts for good are a work in progress. We understand that cooperation has its ups and downs, that things go well sometimes and poorly at others. But so long as both parties are interested in making effort we struggle through good times and bad, at times rejoicing, at times pulling out our hair?
Why then is religion seen so differently from other parts of life, parts that also have natural difficulties and challenges to get along? Why is the condition of religions struggling to cooperate condemned, but the same religion-despisers simply shrug when one rapper murders another? Why is the time religions need to grow and learn, and work together for progress seen as an embarrassment, when states and nations shift allies almost daily, and perpetrate some form of war and aggression constantly, while people presume this is a natural state of affairs.
There are several reasons for why religion and interfaith are viewed differently, which I will take up in subsequent essays. Briefly, some of these reasons include the fact that all religions call for love, sacrifice, and understanding
, a call and expectation not presumed as guiding principles for bankers, TV executives, university professors, or any other vested profession or calling. A second reason is that the other-worldly subtext in many faiths occlude the lure of gain and mutual benefit that help people transcend difference for the sake of the greater gain to be had through collaboration.
These and other elements are vital to examine, understand, and address if true and sustained progress in the world of interfaith is to obtain.