Every January the Multi-Cultural Alliance (www.mcatexas.com) sponsors an interfaith retreat that invites Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students into conversations. This year’s retreat met at the Prothro Center, Lake Texoma, Texas. Two GST students and one faculty person attended the retreat. Below is a reflection from MA student, Joshua Gorenflo.
Interfaith Retreat Reflection
There is a verse in the Quran which reads, ‘Whichever way you turn, there is the Face of God.’ (2:115) Beautiful words by any sacred standard. But there is an added weight to them as I look around this room at the 45 seminary students of varying Jewish, Muslim, and Christian stripes, intermingled in laughter and conversation and respect. The skirt has been lifted on my innocuous practice of segregating those who are categorically ‘other’ and I’ve been found wanting.
I want to expose all the areas of my heart that insist on de-humanizing those whom my God calls his children. That they believe differently than I is no longer a compelling reason to perpetuate hatred under the guise of being obedient to the God who created us diverse and called it very good.
I want to be formed by the words ‘love thy neighbor,’ not conform them to my own weak standard. Distancing myself from injustice to keep my hands clean, to not rock the boat, is not love. Love is investment. Love is when tears are shed and hearts pound with audible anxiety and mercy bleeds from open wounds while voices crackle out insistently that there is no ‘them,’ only ‘us’ and the Divine tenderly holding us together.
I want more safe spaces to have these conversations with one another not simply about one another. I can’t imagine what the practice of coming together and sharing ourselves with any sort of regularity would do to form us into a people who listen, really listen, to one another. It might just allow for the possibility of hearing our own hurts and hopes in voices of a different accent.
Mostly, I want this to have been more than just a nice four-day retreat where I did the bare minimum of showing kindness to a few people outside my normal circle. I’d prefer it to be a catalyst for a more aware, engaged, and courageous version of myself as I align with God’s reign in this world given us to share. In the meantime, I’m finding it difficult to shake God’s face from my sight, no matter where I choose to turn. Right now, it is the truest prayer I know to pray.