Panel Discussion: interView with Dr. Lucinda Mosher

Posted on March 14th, 2010 | Filed under Best Practices/Non-Profit, Faith and Politics, InterViews, Video

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interView with Dr. Lucinda Mosher

Response by Stephanie Lin

Stephanie LinThe words “faith in the neighborhood” conjure up images of my childhood as a shy Chinese girl born to immigrant parents, living in a largely Italian and Irish neighborhood on Staten Island. From a young age I was curious about what exists beyond the physical realm, what forces are at work in the world and in our daily lives, but for years “religion” confused and intimidated me. I remember being one of the few children in elementary school who didn’t go to what was called “Religion,” one afternoon per week. To this day I don’t know where those kids went or what they did when they left. The handful of us left behind (the Jews, the Indians, the Chinese) didn’t mind their absence; “Religion” for them was “playtime” for us. But the meaning of those days was always a question mark in my mind. Eleven years old: I’m invited to church by my Italian best friend, at her father’s suggestion. I sit with the family quietly, listening, watching, not understanding. Thirteen years old: I pass by a Catholic priest while playing on the sidewalk. He asks me something - something about God or what church I belong to - and I’m taken aback, embarrassed. I don’t know what to say. During those adolescent years I remember constantly asking my mother what to say when people ask me what religion I am. For a while I even say that I’m Protestant, simply to avoid feeling inexplicably guilty for not having a religious identity (yet). It takes me years of maturing, learning, thinking, before I come to see that the dominant faith of my neighborhood need not be my own, nor is it inevitable that it come to be.

Response by C Nikole Saulsberry

scan0002-1“What does faith in the neighborhood mean to you?

Lucinda Mosher’s Faith in the Neighborhood highlights the reason why I engage in interfaith dialogue. The entire series pivots around lived faith in America. It is not about theology or exegesis, but about the axiology the two produce. Faith in the neighborhood, to me, is the integral part of spirituality.

Growing up in church I often heard sermons about the “band-aid” Christian, or the “Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter (CME)” church member. Both type of sermons hint at the fact that a significant portion of the congregation’s faith resides within the confines of the sanctuary and is only exercised on holidays or in times of distress. But that is not every person of faith. Which is why I believe interfaith work is so important. For some, faith transcends boundaries. It does not just take place on the Sabbath. It does, as Mosher says, “take place at the water cooler.” It takes place when friends get together for dinner and kosher, vegetarian or halal meals are prepared. It takes place when tragic news is shared and prayer is offered as a comfort and condolence. It matters not how little the presence, faith is all around the neighborhood and therefore so is inter-religious dialogue.

Mosher’s question is actually rather poetic. Faith being in the neighborhood validates the need for interfaith work. We must engage in inter-religious dialogue to truly understand our neighbors and to be able to work with them to affect change for the better.

Response by Hafsa Kanjwal

Hafsa KanjwalBeing involved in inter-religious work for the past few years, it is not too often that I come across people who, for lack of a better phrase, “just don’t get it.” I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by people who are committed to a vision of a just, pluralistic world order or, even if they are skeptical of the nature or impact of inter-religious dialogue, can still understand the underlying need for it. Last week, I attended a lecture on Islam at a local college, and was a bit taken aback by the response of the audience, which was combative and adhered to the typical “us” vs. “them” mentality. Lucinda Mosher’s question “What does faith in the neighborhood mean to you?” struck me as highly relevant to this disappointing experience.  There is still such widespread fear, ignorance, and hostility when it comes to the issue of religious diversity, and I’m interested in trying to figure out how to really make an impact on a local level.

Although in some ways inter-religious dialogue has gained traction in certain circles nationally and internationally, I believe a lot more work needs to be done in our local communities—in the neighborhoods—schools, local businesses, civic groups, etc. How are our neighborhoods creating spaces for people to interface at the level needed to really develop an understanding of diverse religious traditions and engage in dialogue? I enjoyed the part where Lucinda made reference to the 9th Commandment and asked how we can bear truthful witness to our neighbors if we don’t really know anything about them. The onus inevitably falls upon those who feel the most misunderstood/marginalized to reach out and make themselves known. This is why I think “faith in the neighborhood” is challenging. How do we “know” our neighbor, and where do we start?

Response by Jennifer Bailey

Jen BaileyWhen I hear the phrase “faith in the neighborhood”, it immediately evokes images from my church’s annual picnic growing up.  The smell of barbeque ribs wafting through the air and sticky consistency of snow cone residue on my hands are memories I will never forget. Above all else, what stands out is the sense of community that I felt sharing that space with the people who knew me better than I knew myself.

This concept of community is as personal as it is deeply theological. As Dr. Mosher mentions, the notion community is consistent theme throughout the Christian practice from the ninth commandment to church liturgies. In the church of youth, we weekly quoted the book of Mark where Christ calls believers to love their neighbors as themselves. As the one of the greatest commandments, it calls for compassionate concern for others regardless of what they look like, sound like, or pray to at night. As a member of the Christian majority in this country, I recognize the special responsibility I have to extend that right hand of fellowship to members of different faith communities. When you are in the majority, it is easy to walk through life blind to the rich diversity that surrounds you and it is in that blindness that injustice and intolerance flourish.

4 Responses to “Panel Discussion: interView with Dr. Lucinda Mosher”

  1. Eric Butler says:

    The question, “What does faith in the neighborhood mean to me?” causes me to consider that one action that all faiths seem to agree upon. That one action is more important than any other single action toward ones neighbor. That action is aid. Be it helping to uproot a tree, plant a garden, fix a car, float a loan, etc. And on a global ‘neighborhood’ basis: Feed the poor. This one single action seem to be a universal thread that all faiths in every neighborhood considers a ‘right action’, which if acted upon is more important than prayer, more important that belief and more important than doctrine because it seems that the fundamental mandate of the Bible and Quran is by definition: Feed the poor. (James 1:27 Al Baqarah 2:148)

  2. Eric Butler says:

    For me, being an existentialist, my commentary about interfaith is much like saying, “The sky is blue.” Others might then say, “The sky is more turquoise.” Or it’s more light blue, has shades of gray, seems blue-gray, is a dark blue, deep blue, ocean blue, bluish-green… and this could go on and on as many opinions as there are people or groups. Thus my existentialism simply says, “The sky is.” Meaning that the agreement is that a sky exist. That sky however has little to do with whether a person is having a good day or bad, is happy or sad. In the Bible, God first described himself simply as ‘I AM’. (Exodus 3: 14And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.) For me, I consider this true existentialism.

    So for me, the Bible is, the Quran is, Buddhism is, etc… and a person is made happy, sad or otherwise by their thoughts and thinking about these things. Accepting or rejecting information without examination accomplishes little. Thus the reading of each others books helps us understand each other. This is in my opinion true interfaith.

  3. Eric Butler says:

    I’m on FaceBook and busily creating

  4. Bill Nazworth says:

    This is not of God, Yahweh. Through the Bible Yahweh tells us not to get involved with other people and their gods. As Yahweh says in His Bible:
    Exodus 20:3
    “You shall have no other gods before me.
    Deuteronomy 5:7
    “You shall have no other gods before me.
    Galatians 1:8
    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

    Luke 16:15
    He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.