As the Kansas City area this week marks another annual observation of SevenDays events, including some interfaith gatherings, it's good to know that other communities around the country also are engaging in celebrating the reality of religious pluralism.
Atlanta is an example, as this Atlanta Journal-Constitution article notes.
As the story reports, the city "held its first Day of Religious Pluralism on Thursday, marking the 51st anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a continued mission to deepen Atlantans’ understanding of one another, and to promote a safe, respectful and inclusive city."
Over this past weekend, someone in a group to whom I was speaking asked me whether engaging in inter-religious activities and discussion was just another way of saying that all religions are essentially alike.
Not at all, I responded.
As a matter of fact, every religion makes exclusivist claims that followers of other religions reject. What's important is for adherents of every tradition to understand their own religion well enough to be able to discuss it intelligently and to learn more about the beliefs and practices of other traditions so that they can remove ignorance, which can lead to fear, which can lead to bigotry and even violence.
One of the things that almost always happens when people from different faith traditions learn about one another is that they deepen their commitment to their own religion. Conversion is not the goal of interfaith dialogue and it's almost never the result.
The Atlanta story indicates some local pride in the effort to honor the growing religious pluralism there. I'm frankly not terribly familiar with that city's history of interfaith efforts. What I do know is that Kansas City has been an early leader in this field, but the move to appreciate religious pluralism here still isn't reaching as many people as it should.
Perhaps if you are a member of a congregation you can talk to your leaders about ways that they can offer instruction in interfaith matters. The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council has people who can help you. Go for it.
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IN RED AND BLUE AMERICA, THIS CHURCH IS PURPLE
I enjoyed hearing this NPR report over the weekend about a "purple" church in Raleigh, N.C., which is to say one made up of red Republicans and blue Democrats. If you missed it, here's a chance to catch up on it. My own congregation is kind of that way, too. The pastoral and lay leadership has to learn how to respect all people and their opinions about a range of issues. Civility. What a concept.