Yesterday, Husbanks and I participated in music at the Austin-Area Interreligious Ministries (AAIM) Annual Thanksgiving Service at First Baptist Church.
I first became involved with AAIM two years ago when Saint John’s Tom Spencer became CEO. Then, I was a spectator, wondering how to get involved in interreligious dialogue, what it meant, and why it was important.
Since then, I met other members, went to fund-raisers with our ministers, attended Mosque, traveled far east and participated in worship in Tao and Hindi temples and shrines with my coworkers, and had more than my fair share of interreligious dialogue spurred by a favored professor. This Sunday, I realized how far ingrained this practice has become to my everyday philosophy and prayer life as I strive to be a Micah 6:8 woman. And what a blessing that is! If I were done learning, if God revealed everything to us all at once … what a dull life! I am glad Jesus lets many mysteries be.
First Baptist Senior Pastor Rev. Roger Paynter (Baylor grad!) began the AAIM service welcoming all faiths. He asked that people listen to each other and not only listen to stereotypes. We were then reminded of the real reason we gather together: because of events like Fort Hood. All too often, extreme actions are reduced to a person’s religion. Yes, the gunman was a Muslim. But he wasn’t all Muslims. Sunday, Imams stood next to Baptist clergy, Methodist clergy, and Rabbis ready to talk and learn and stand for peace. Not to withdraw in fear.
An Imam spoke at the event. He told the group that interfaith groups like AAIM are his strength when people make hateful comments to he and his family. I realized it is my strength too. When someone tells me “Christianity isn’t for me because Christians are …” I remember that there are groups having dialogue, ensuring misconceptions be cleared, generalizations removed, and relationships started anew.
The more I learn, the more loving I become. I hope I never stop learning!
At an AAIM function a few months ago, Dr. Betty Sue Flowers reminded us that “tolerance shouldn’t be the goal – tolerance isn’t enough. Love should be the goal.”
This Thanksgiving season, let’s learn and love! Thanks be to God.