Losing my religion

We had another GREAT time having a booth at Summertime, by George this week.

When we are out in the community, the overwhelming majority of people are very kind. Even when they may disagree with us, the conversations are still calm and full of maturity.

This week we had conversations about religion, #blacklivesmatter, our criminal justice system, and religion. We had folks put pins in our world map, again, to show where they are from or where their ancestors were from. I loved to hear from a couple of women about their Native American ancestors and from a young man describing the beaches in Somalia.

At times, we had a line of people waiting to talk to us and learn more about the map. I noticed a man standing towards the back for the crowd and as he moved forward, he looked quite angry.

When he got to the front of the line, I noticed that, besides his anger, he was sporting an NRA shirt. Ok, then….de-escalation mode it is!

I started to introduce myself and he interrupted me to say, “Yeah, I know who you are, Natalie. I found out that you were going to be here so I decided to come here and tell you that you’ve lost your way.”

He went on to explain that he was at the library talk with U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger and that he heard one of the panelists say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

“So, what that person believes means that I’ve lost my way?” I exclaimed.

“Well, the statement was just said, unchecked.” he said.

“You know, this is America, sir. Anyone gets to believe whatever they want.” I countered.

This launched us into a discussion about religion….Islam and Christianity, specifically. He said that no Christian believes that Muslims and Christians worship the same God and I said that I have met many around the St. Cloud area that believe that and many that don’t. I talked about how Christianity has a wide spectrum of beliefs, just like Islam does.

He ended up handing me something from his church bulletin, outlining his church’s belief that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God. He said I would do good to really take that to heart before I fall any further from the true faith.

I then told him the same thing I have told many people about #unitecloud’s philosophy. We are not an interfaith organization. Why? Because #unitecloud leadership (which consists of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Secular Humanists) doesn’t find that religion is something that unites us. Do we have conversations about religion? For sure! Do we always agree? Obviously not, since we each walk in a different faith structure.

As I looked at the cut out piece from the gentleman’s bulletin later on that night, I happened to turn it over to find that the Gospel reading for that day was the story of Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the parable (found in Luke 10:25-37) because someone was trying to find a loophole in the command to “love your neighbor as well as you do yourself” by asking “Well, who IS my neighbor?” The parable is told to the Jews, a people group who thought they had the upper hand in every dealing in that time and place. It was a slap in the face, pointing out how the upper hand they thought they had was based in self-righteousness.

Oh, how we need this parable today. And how DESPERATELY we need to ask ourselves and each other: “Just who is my neighbor?”