Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What's the Point of an Interfaith Council?

Posted by: Pamela Urfer

That’s a question I get asked all the time.

The speaker usually goes on to say, “What good does it do us (fill in the name of your faith group) to associate with Catholics, Jews, American Indians, Evangelicals or Buddhists?” Some even add, “The disgusting, heretical (any name here) are all of the devil anyway! Why do you bother?”

To this, my reply is - “Collective Bargaining!” Yes, it’s true. That’s our main purpose in life.

The best way for any of us on the council to deal with the university is collectively. It would be easy for the U. to dismiss any one of us as nobodies and nuisances. But together we have POWER!

Look at the room reservation situation. Before the U. gave us a way of renting rooms legitimately, we had to slink around outside the SOAR offices trying communicate with students inside through mental telepathy, bribe them into taking onerous classes in bank accounting, and lie through our teeth. Now we are free, out of the closet, and orphans no more! Thank you, Dean Sifuentes!

Strangely, that doesn’t seem to impress my interlocutors. “Who cares about room rentals? These people (fill in name),” they say, “are disgusting! They believe in (demons, no demons, God, no God, sinning.) They have (oppressed us, resisted our oppression, told us off, seduced our children, violated our holy sites.) Therefore, we need to (kill them, expel them, ride them out of town on a rail, take them off our mailing lists.)”

Well, let’s all just calm down a minute! I know some of these horrible people and they’re not so bad.

“That proves it! They’ve seduced you!”

OK. So much for calming down.

Fortunately, not everyone feels this way. As president, I’m operating on the assumption that all members of the UIC are acting in good faith, trying to follow the Supreme Being’s direction as best they can. I’m applying the Buddhist concept of “critical tolerance,” where other people are given the benefit of the doubt. If the Supreme Being doesn’t like what they’re doing, it’s his/her job to tell them so. Right? Not mine. (Wouldn’t do much good, anyway.)

Very few of us believe all religions are fundamentally the same, or lead to the same end. We’re all firmly rooted in our own religious traditions, not agitating for the triumph of the One World Religion or for reducing faith to its lowest common denominator. I’m sure each of us believes that our own religion is the best for pleasing the Supreme Being. Why else would we bother to hold those beliefs?

Nor do we need to prove to each other (or to ourselves) which religion is rightest or wrongest, not for collective bargaining purposes, anyway. The truth is that that sort of attitude doesn’t get anyone closer to God. And that’s what we’re all after, isn’t it? (Remember, we’re the UIC.)

And having another warm body to help us schlepp our tri-fold to the Orientations plaza? Priceless!

No comments:

Post a Comment