An Interfaith Experience
Saturday was quite the day for me, given my tendency to be overly concerned with what folk think of me. I awoke early to the criticism of my “Correspondent of the Week” article posted in the Journal West on July 22. A resident of my community apparently misunderstood or perhaps failed to read for clarity?
Given that one can never please all and hold firm any personal convictions, I moved on, after posting a brief statement on Facebook! Again, perhaps the residual wounding of six years in politics, but I am sensitive to what folk think of me, and more so what they think of the Christ whom I follow.
That criticism created some pause in my plans to attend the Puja scheduled for that morning on the site of the soon to be constructed Hindu Temple. A Puja is not a ground-breaking or ribbon cutting, just a time of offering prayers in response to what had been an awkward moment in their plans to build in Clemmons.
My faith was on the line, and I was not without reservations as I headed out to welcome these citizens as a Christ-follower, lest they misunderstand my actions as endorsing their beliefs. If you are familiar with the Pentateuch you would know from the Book of Deuteronomy, that Moses was very opposed to any engagement with those who worship different gods. Yet, I felt compelled to follow through with my convictions, reaching out in love on behalf of the One whom I have come to know, as the Lover of all mankind!
I called a dear friend and Bishop in the faith, and to my delight, he asked if he might go along. I assured him that I would be glad to have him accompany me; in fact I was somewhat relieved.
We both dressed appropriately without appearing too official. Our intent was to respect these gentle people, yet, best represent the community given that I am a former mayor.
We arrived at the site a few minutes early and noticed two sheriff deputies parked nearby, apparently warding off any further harassment, given that someone had earlier used their sign for target practice.
We took our place in a field of some ten or so cars and followed others toward a plastic tent, under which two Hindu Priests wrapped in ceremonial dress sat alongside a small band of followers. We learned that they were chanting in Sanskrit with incense being offered. Some canned goods and fruit had been set out, perhaps symbolic of an offering? Here we were, two ordained ministers, just outside the tent, standing amidst an assortment of shoes and sandals, belonging to those gathered under the tent. We kept our shoes on!
We were immediately greeted by a very kind man, wearing an off-white linen Hindu robe. He walked barefoot to the edge of the tent along with his wife and daughter, bowing and greeting us graciously. We explained why we were there and quickly felt welcomed. We asked questions about their belief and were surprised by the commonality of their position regarding the deity, creation, and the fall of mankind. It almost seemed as if the “Our” God and His creation had already somehow leaked many Christian beliefs, though expressed quite differently in language and titles.
I know I will sound gullible, especially to the one so quick to criticize my previous Journal submission. However, many of my fears were quickly eroded as I got to know this gentleman, not as a Hindu but as a fellow citizen. By the way, he and in fact both of the priests, were local fulltime IT professionals!
Though we did not stay for the entire two hours, we came away strangely warmed by our experience, and at a nearby Panera debriefed, as to how we might be more effective at loving people, with the same love we have experienced in Christ.
I stand by my quote from the earlier article: “As a Christ follower, the rules are simple for me: Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Not the neighbor that thinks like you, worships like you, or looks like you … just love your neighbor.”