My day was the beginning of a great joke: A rabbi, a priest, and a minister walked into a bar and ordered drinks … except it wasn’t a bar, we didn’t order drinks, and instead of just a rabbi, priest and minister, more than a dozen religious leaders gathered together.
I was attending my first-ever interfaith clergy association meeting. Assembling at Unity of the Oaks in Thousand Oaks, we sat together and broke bread (a meal that amazingly addressed the needs of everyone – carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-freers…). We updated each other on the happenings in our churches, temples, mosques, and meeting rooms. Theologically diverse, and in some cases holding diametrically opposed values, we rose above differences to embrace that which unified us: a desire to engage the sacred, to create a world filled with compassion and justice.
So many people complain that religion, the opiate of the masses, has been the cause of more warw and violence than anything else. History provides plenty of fodder for those arguments; the past is littered with crucifixions, crusades, inquisitions, and genocides, colonization, missionizing, and more. Most poignantly, this year we commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which was nothing if not a misappropriation of Islam for vile purposes.
Yet religion – most all of them – at its core pursues peace. So every instance of an individual or group, picking up a knife or gun and claiming that his “god has called him to slay the unbeliever,” should be recognized for what it is: the misuse, misappropriation, and desecration of the words and intent of the Divine.
Religion’s purpose is to uplift and to strengthen, to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. That’s why more social justice work is done by religious people than any other. And that’s why more joy and love emanated from that interfaith gathering, as Jew, Christian, Morman, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian Scientist (and others) came together to break bread and break the down barriers that attempt to divide us. It was an energizing experience, one I hope to enjoy again and again.
NOTE: I have begun writing for another blog in Calabasas Patch. Sometimes I will double post. Sometimes I will write content special to that readership. Either way, may my words bring wisdom and illuminate the intersection of spirituality, religion, and daily life. Check out my other blog on Calabasas Patch.