The real truth about conversion
As it approached, I had my enthusiasm under control about Tuesday night's Interfaith Community Thanksgiving Service. We have been a part of this coming together the week of Thanksgiving with our neighbors of all faiths for eight decades. This and other interfaith activities have had a sort of "check this off" quality to them, as in, "well, of course, we support interfaith activities because that is who we are."
Admitting that I am slow to make claims, certainly with much clarity and even less specificity about what pleases God, as I looked out at a good sized group of people from various houses of worship last night, I allowed as to how the mutual gathering of God's people from all kinds of traditions in at least one act of common worship a year -- one rooted in thanksgiving -- must surely please God. Much less importantly, I found myself pleased, not exactly with a strange warming in my heart -- reminiscent of John Wesley, but close enough!
This week at St. Bart's has been a wonderfully uplifting and ecumenical one for me. On one evening Richard Rohr spoke to a spellbound crowd of 200 people for over an hour on his take about the benefits of living long enough to be in the "second half of life."Check out his talk here. On Sunday Samir Selmanovic, author of It's Really All About God, (check out his talk here) continued with a conversation about real ecumenism -- how real interfaith life involves wanting more of the "other, not less," wanting to truly learn from the other rather than magnanimously tolerate him/her. And then last night the Senior Pastor at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church claimed that such gatherings are important if for no other reason to practice what it looks and feels like to know our truth -- even as we accept and learn from another's.
It occurred to me during the week that when we faith leaders are on our best game, we are interested in conversion much more than growth. Religious folk stand in need of conversion just as surely as do our "less religious" brothers and sisters. What converts us matters less than that we are.
Christianity is my story; it is the one in which I am so immersed it is only with effort that I not only know that other traditions exist but also that I stand to learn from them. Knowing about other faiths helps me know mine better, converts me in fact into a deeper living of the tradition I treasure. I guess I could convert to Judaism or Islam or something else, and I think God would be fine with it, though I suspect that God might think, "Hmm, wonder why Buddy needed to do that; there was still so much converting to be done within his own faith."
My point of course is that God wants us to know God; how we authentically get there probably doesn't matter much.
On another note, during this week of Thanksgiving I am particularly thankful for all of you, St. Bart's folks and beyond, who read and respond to these weekly ponderings of mine. You enrich my life with your comments, particularly with the tidbits you sometimes share about your own journeys and even on occasion when some of you tell me how desperately wrong I am on this or that. Hey, I am in the process of being converted, and I hope you are too.