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 ‘Faith’ Category

Welcome Back!

In Better Together, Elmhurst College, Faith, Interfaith on February 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm


From a long J-term away from campus programming, I hope you are revived and ready to show ourselves and the world that we are Better Together.

In the next few days I will be making sure this website is up to date for spring semester, including updating pages, adding links, and starting to post blogs that were written over break and J-term.

I have started posting more videos on the EC Interfaith youtube site, including the first in a series of interviews titled “Elmhurst on Being”. If you are interested in being interviewed for this series, let me know! Email me at nelsonr1128[at]net[dot]elmhurst[dot]edu or leave a comment below!

Remember, Elmhurst Interfaith is all over the web, not just here, but on:
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ECInterfaith
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elmhurst-College-Interfaith/161391713877881
this Blog: ecinterfaith.wordpress.com
and you can follow me, Rae, on Twitter at @PhosphrescntRae where I tweet about interfaith and social justice matters (as well as the odd goofy thing from the internet)

So, get ready, this is going to be a great semester of helping the hungry and exploring faith!



Reflection on Chicago Interfaith Leaders Prayer Breakfast

In Better Together, Elmhurst College, Faith, Interfaith on December 5, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Veronica Coriano is a senior at Elmhurst, she is an RA involved with intercultural studies and affairs on campus. She writes here her reflections on the 47th Annual Chicago Leadership Prayer Breakfast attended by a group of eight staff and students went to this event and were able to meet and engage with interfaith leaders of Chicagoland, as well has be present for a fabulous keynote address by Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy among other presenters.

The interfaith focus of this year’s prayer breakfast was impressive. It is rare that I attend an eventthat not only acknowledges diversity, but embraces it as well.

The keynote address by Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, was both sincere and uplifting. Noting the most recent backlash against Muslim’s in the United States, and comparing it to the resistance against other groups in our past, sheds light on the ways in which we are still struggling to overcome our prejudices. However, the spirit in the room was one of hope, encouragement, and purpose. As Dr. Gaddy stated, “it is not despite our differences, but because of them” that we gather not only to pray, but to fostercooperation, understanding, and appreciation of the beauty and knowledge that comes from difference. Read the rest of this entry »

Spiritual Life Council trip to the Baha’i House of Worship

In Elmhurst College, Faith, Interfaith on December 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

This guest post is written by Rachel Harley, Elmhurst College Sophomore and secretary of the Spiritual Life Council. She shares her comments about a November trip that Elmhurstians took to the North American Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette IL.

Elmhurst Students (and the Chaplain) at the Baha'i House of Worship

Recently the Elmhurst College Spiritual Life Council had the opportunity to visit America’s one and only Baha’i temple, conveniently located in Wilmette. Approaching the temple it was obvious that our group was in for something different. Located in a residential neighborhood, the giant white structure was hard to ignore. The temple itself looked like something that belonged in a fairy tale; the gardens and fountains that surrounded the nine-sided building and created an incredibly peaceful atmosphere for a Chicago suburb. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Why do I Love Interfaith?: Rachel

In Better Together, Elmhurst College, Faith, Interfaith on November 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Todays guest post is by Rachel Hartman, Student Government Association’s Vice President of Student Services. She gives a few thoughts about why her faith calls her to engage in interfaith work. Rachel will be gleefully joining us on November 11 for the What IF…? Speak in to learn about ways people from different backgrounds can work together to solve social issues.

Rachel at Spiritual Life Council's Earth Day Celebration last April!

I was raised in a way that taught very strongly that “this is the right way, the only way, and the best way”.  As I have progressed through my education, I’ve started thinking that if there is a God of love, He wouldn’t just love one group of people.

Why would He love Baptists more than He loves Catholics, more than He loves Hindus?

To me, a God of love loves everyone He has created and as long as you are actively pursuing a significant meaningful relationship, that should be enough!

To me, that is what Interfaith is about; acknowledging and celebrating the pursuit of a relationship.

The bigger picture

In Better Together, Faith, Interfaith on October 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Members of the 2010-2011 IFYC Fellows Alliance cohort explain why they care about Interfaith Cooperation.

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.

Should the non-religious support interfaith work?

In Better Together, Faith, Interfaith on September 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Mr Christopher Stedman, of Nonprophet Status, has an acute piece up on The New Humanism about his (non-religously-grounded) reasons for being an active advocate of interfaith cooperation. Stedman poses the question “How might secular individuals participate in a movement encouraging engaged religious pluralism that is rooted in particular religious identity? And why should we?”

The full piece can be found here, but below are some excerpts I see as key and my own thoughts on the matter.

My name is Chris Stedman. I have an indiscriminate love of tattoos, a couple degrees in religious studies, and don’t believe in God. I am also an ardent advocate of interfaith cooperation.

The idea that interfaith cooperation is necessary to advance social progress was not a conclusion I came to overnight. In fact, after I stopped believing in God, I spent some time walking about decrying the “evils of religion” to anyone who would listen. I wanted nothing to do with the religious, and was sure they wanted nothing to do with me.

After reflecting…[I realized] I was treating “religion” as a concept instead of talking to people who actually lived religious lives…It was only once I observed the actual practices of religious communities—and, more importantly, engaged with religious people and their stories—that I was able to see the benefits of collaborating across lines of ideology and identity differences.

Now I see interfaith cooperation as the key to resolving the world’s great religious problems. All the more, I want my secular community to join me, to share their stories and learn from those of the religious. And, more importantly, I want us to join with the religious in working to resolve the problems that afflict our world. Together, we will accomplish so much more.

Stedman goes on to explore the atheist community, writing of the many points of view in the non-religious community (in this section Stedman quotes Hemant Mehta, who spoke at Elmhurst  several years ago).

Most self-declared nonreligious people have little in common, save one thing–that we do not believe in God.

It is clear when reading contemporary secular writing on religion…that engagement with the religious in interfaith work is a highly contentious issue for many in our community…This has understandably created some division among Humanists, with labels of “Angry Atheist” and “Accomodationist” bandied between camps.

On the topic of a secular community in transition, Stedman writes:

There will continue to be disagreement about the benefits and limitations of both the “Angry Atheist” and “Accomodationist” approaches, but in a time of transition among those who do not identify with traditional religious identities, Humanism provides an alternative identity marker for those who wish to define nonreligious ethics. It may also be an especially fertile ground for those who wish to prioritize pragmatic approaches to interfaith engagement instead of confrontation.

on pluralism

…engaged religious pluralism will make some people very uncomfortable…Greg Epstein acknowledges that secular expression “can make some theists feel that their humanity…is called into question.” The growing secular narratives understandably make some religious individuals uncomfortable—and this has been used by “New Atheist” narratives to advantage their claims that the nonreligious are the lepers of a primarily religious society. But by asserting our own Humanist ethics and narratives, we will find ourselves well equipped to engage in interfaith efforts. The best way to assert these ethics and narratives is by embodying them.

He lays out reasons secularists should be engaged in interfaith pluralism:

  • “Like Humanism, religious pluralism widens and opens the canon of acceptable ideas to suggest that what is authoritative for one may not be for another.”
  • “One common goal shared by the interfaith cooperation movement and the secular movement is a proactive aim to end religious extremism.”
  • “In allying our efforts to combat religious extremism with like-minded campaigns occurring within religious communities, our efforts will be more effective.”
  • “…many religions are whistleblowers to injustice and we will benefit if we pay attention. Many of history’s greatest advocates for the disenfranchised—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Msr. Oscar Romero, and many others—cited their religious convictions as the primary impetus for their social justice work and launched their efforts in interfaith coalitions. And though many secular individuals cast religion as an inherently bad thing, it is not difficult to make a case that aspects of religion are a force for good in the world.”
  • “…all people’s rights must be protected. Through relationships, we learn that another has value, worth, and the right to dignity.”
  • “We will also have an easier time defending our own rights if we align ourselves with other maligned communities. We have already done this with the queer community, and can do this with other religious minority communities.”

On why religious communities should welcome secularists to the table for interfaith cooperation:

we exist, they want to end religious extremism and other forms of oppression and suffering, we have a lot to teach, and we’re a religious minority that experiences discrimination.

As America is indeed becoming more secularly-rooted, narratives of pluralism will allow secular-minded individuals to establish relationships that do not dismiss the religious stories of their peers outright. A more empathic articulation of nonreligiosity can consolidate the encounter between religious and secular narratives and hold the two in a tension that does not elicit anxiety but allows them to cohabitate a shared space. One that the religious might even term a “sacred space,” if we’ll allow it.

I fully encourage you to read the whole article. It contains many significant points and examples that I was unable to summarize in this short piece. Stedman successfully supports but full-on secularism and the non-need for religion/faith and the need for religious pluralism and interfaith cooperation. He supports pluralism and cooperation without condoning religion, something many atheists I have spoken with feel strongly about.