A place for people of faith and no-faith to explore shared values, build respect and mutually inspiring relationships, and pursue common action for the common good

Archive for the ‘What If…?’ Category

Recognizing a Call to Yell: Sara

In Elmhurst College, Faith, Service, Social Justice, What If...? on November 23, 2010 at 6:00 am

Today’s guest post is by Sara Schroeder, an Elmhurst Senior studying Religious Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, and Art. Sara is president of Amnesty International at Elmhurst College, passionate about the environment as a human rights issue. In this post she calls us to step out of our comfort zones and speak out for respect of our global community.

‘Someone has to step up, otherwise no one will.’ The statement is hardly profound in itself, but undeniably true.

I live my life the way I do knowing that if I don’t wake up and do something about the news I hear or the things that upset me – no one else will. Waiting for someone else to call an ambulance for the pedestrian who just got hit by a car is dangerous: no one may call. If everyone assumes someone else is going to “handle” a situation, no one steps up. This phenomenon is more officially known as the bystander effect or Genovese syndrome. This is the problem with our privileged society.

I don’t consider myself solely capable to fight for human and environmental justice; I just can’t live my life without getting involved. I have too many resources and opportunities to either pretend that nothing is happening by not paying attention to world news, or knowing about these issues and thinking, “that’s too bad.” Read the rest of this entry »


Thinking About Faith: Reuben

In Better Together, Elmhurst College, Faith, Service, Social Justice, What If...? on November 16, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Today’s guest post comes from Reuben Metreger, an Elmhurst ’08 grad, now a Juris Doctor Candidate at Wayne State University Law School. Reuben is an activist with Amnesty International for human rights for all. In this post Reuben shares why he believes what he does and a bit about why he believes people need to come together from different faiths around human rights. Reuben blogs about human rights at http://human-rights-for-all.blogspot.com/.

I always knew that there was more than one right way to be good. I always believed that more than one religion could be correct. Being born to a Jewish father and a Christian mother I could not accept that half of my family was going to hell, or even that half was on the wrong path, while the other half was secured a place in paradise merely for picking the right faith.

Even as a child I knew that if Jesus is the son of GOD, and all that is right and good in the world, then he could not possibly condemn half of my family and all of my friends that were not born into the same religion that I was, to an afterlife of torture and misery.

If heaven is a paradise for the faithful, a reward for living a good life and helping others, then how could it be absent atheists, Muslims, Jewish, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans etc… Even when I was little I knew that this could not be correct, because heaven just could not be a real reward if it was absent the people that I loved and cared about.

This is when I developed my Jesus is a teddy-bear philosophy. I decided that if Jesus was really the son of GOD, full of love and everything good as I had been taught, then surely he would forgive everyone, and heaven would be filled with all people, not just Christians. I imagined that when a person died they would learn the truth about GOD and faith. I pictured people of all faiths, or even without faith, going to heaven to meet Jesus and learning the truth that there is more than one path to goodness. For me the path was through Jesus, but I imagined that Jesus would appear different to people that believed different things. To some I imagined Jesus would resemble a large fluffy teddy-bear that would merely hug them and offer love, comfort, and forgiveness.

After all, if you are dead and your life on Earth is over, then surely you no longer need to worry about who was right and who was wrong. Surely you would be forgiven your faults and shown a better way. The afterlife would surely be more than just the answer to questions of faith, but also the solution to all of our problems. There could be no conflicts in heaven. Surely Jesus did not need to prove to you that he was right by condemning you for being wrong. That would not be perfection, that would just be petty.

As an adult I found Unitarian Universalism. UU’s believe in:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
  • Belief that Jesus is a teddy-bear

OK I threw in the last line. UUs do not tell you what to believe, but you can see how it fits.

To me, heaven on Earth is working for justice and equality for everyone. It is what drives me and what I feel called to do. It is what led me to law school, Amnesty International, and social justice.

Reuben and fellow students at Elmhurst, protesting recent immigration laws

What IF Speak in: a picture is worth 1000 words

In Elmhurst College, hunger, Service, Uncategorized, What If...? on November 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

(Image: words “food” and “comfort” intersecting at the letter “O” to form a cross)


When I was cleaning after the What IF…? Speak in, last night, I found the above picture doodled on some of the butcher paper that covered the tables. I wish I could speak to the artist; I don’t know if he or she was intentional about the creation of a cross or if they were just playing Scrabble, but I choose to interpret it as a symbol of the artist’s faith.  This picture says more than I can about the speak in, it shows what we are working toward- people of faiths and traditions contributing to the common good of our global community by building a world in which both the hungry find comfort and are fed and through the relationships we build through this service we can feel comfortable to ask tough questions of our faith and of our community.

Why I do Interfaith: Rae

In Elmhurst College, Faith, What If...? on October 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I was 5, maybe 6, and asked my friend Claire, Claire Smith, if she wanted to play communion.

I grew up spending up in a devoutly Christian home- my mom is now a pastor, to give you an idea of how active we were in the Church. So, as a 5 year old- that age when kids play mirrors the jobs they see around them- I asked Claire to play communion. But her answer caught me off guard: Claire asked me “what’s communion?” when I told her it was part of church she surprised me more by saying she didn’t go to church. I was confounded, I don’t think I’d ever had a friend who didn’t know what communion was!

I don’t remember the rest of my interaction with Claire, but I do remember asking my mom why, Claire didn’t want to play communion, why she didn’t know what it was, and why Claire didn’t go to church. My mom answered my questions respectfully, explaining concepts of paganism at a 5 year old level, but then, I remember, my mom said we should invite Claire’s family to dinner some night.

At dinner with the Smiths I was able to ask all my questions about what they believed and Claire was able to ask my family her questions about what we believed- all these questions, and beliefs being shared in a safe space.

Engaging in conversations like the one I had as a 5 year old with Claire and her family…that’s why I care about interfaith cooperation- because when we come together with different stories and different beliefs around the things we hold true- service, justice, care for creation- we can then get past what we’ve been told about people of other faiths, and we can recognize them over dinner as people with stories and valuable beliefs.

Coming to college I began to engage people of traditions different than my own on a regular basis- in conversation, service, class, fellowship, and activism. Through this, I have experienced the many values people live out on the Elmhurst College campus. I am daily inspired by the work that happens here- through the LENS walk, our orientation service project, Habitat for Humanity’s work, our dedication to service-learning and the many many many many service projects our students engage in each year with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement as well as student organizations like Spiritual Life Council and APO Service Fraternity. We are a campus that exhibits we care- but what if the many groups of people who care- Catholic Students, Muslim Students, Campus Crusade, Secular Students, UCC Students…any student organization or identity group (that may or may not be organized)- came together around a shared value and worked toward the common good?

If this happens, I see relationships being built, questions being asked (“why doesn’t s/he believe what I do?” “what does s/he believe?” why does s/he believe that?” “Why haven’t we been able to come together before?” “what if we continue to work on projects together, even though our belief traditions conflict?”), and real social change occurring.

A letter to the Elmhurst College Community

In Better Together, Elmhurst College, Social Justice, What If...? on October 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Notes: a version of this letter has been written as a letter to the editor of The Leader. Also, please feel free to comment and answer the questions I pose.

An Open Letter To The Campus Community:

This letter is a response to the religiously motivated graffiti found on October 8 in a Daniels Hall bathroom stall. Last week, the campus received an email from Campus Security reporting that a staff member found a threatening message directed toward Muslims.

Upon hearing about this incident, I was hurt- not just that another act of hate has been committed against our Elmhurst College community- but that there has been no reaction on campus. No buzz in the library café, no mention in around the fireplace, no talk among friends about our reactions. I fear our campus is becoming apathetic to hate. Each time someone attacks a part of our community we rise up with support and push back against ignorance and hate.

But I fear we are losing energy. How does this happen? How can we cease standing up for our values- as individuals and as a community?

We all have the power to affect the social climate of our community. It may feel sometimes as though the haters hold all the power, but let us remember that those of us who see power in respect and affirmation are greater in number and have just as much passion for our convictions. It is the responsibility of us all to continue to condemn incidents such as these and to fight every day to educate each other about the importance of community and respect for diversity and pluralism.

I have seen our community come together for positive social change: I had the great honor this year of working with more than 540 first year students during orientation to pack nearly 120,000 meals to provide nutrition and hope to people around the world who are suffer from malnutrition. While packing these meals, I had a wonderful conversation with a fellow student, Savannah. Savannah shared her incredible dream of returning to a community like the one in which she grew up and making it a safer place for all of the people who live there. Savannah showed me that day, in her each word and the passion in her voice, that safe community and acceptance of all people is something she values. And I do not think Savannah is the only one in our community who shares this value.

So, I ask you, fellow members of the Elmhurst College community: what do we value and how do we communicate that? Are we a community which values ignorance and hate? Or are we a community which values affirmation of plural identities and respect? What if we act on our values in our daily lives? What would our community look like then?

Better Together

In Better Together, What If...? on September 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Hi, I’m Rae.

I just returned from the Interfaith Youth Core Fellows fall training. Thus begins not only a year of hard work around interfaith activism for me, but a world movement for religious pluralism.

In a world that paints religion as a negative force, young people must come together for the common good as people from different religious backgrounds  to demonstrate that our community is better when we work together for mutual understanding and respect. In the coming year, youth on 20 campuses around the United States, from Boston to LA, are organizing our campuses to work for social justice. We will be asking “What IF?”

What IF we band together around sharedvalues and decided to take action to improve the world we live in?

This blog will be chronically the  journey of the movement for religious pluralism as seen from Elmhurst College, a small Liberal Arts college of the United Church of Christ in Elmhurst Il. Welcome!