The Lutheran majority our student body consists of does not undermine the dire importance of implementing interfaith work on our campus. Though you may not know or see it, Luther has religious and spiritual diversities that are showcased through various mediums. Every Tuesday there is a zen meditation in the CFL, a student-led Eid prayer was recently held, and college ministries, in conjunction with Interfaith in Action, a recently rebooted student organization, are starting up an "interfaith storytelling series" a few times a semester during chapel.
I am a firm believer that storytelling is the foundation for building peace, relationship and understanding. All people have a story that helps explain who they are, what they believe and why they believe it. I, along with Asha Aden, were fortunate enough to kick off this series recently, on Sept. 11, where we spoke about the need for interfaith dialogue and peace during times of unrest and political strife. Two women, from different faith backgrounds, speaking together about the importance of working together and respecting the humanities of all, and lifting up those who have been traditionally marginalized and unrepresented in the religious sphere.
Our goal was to draw attention to the fact that no person's humanity or livelihood should be attacked due to the religion they practice or the color of their skin. But, I suppose you could say our talk was of a political nature, since issues of Islamophobia and racism are highly debated amongst our politicians and in our various communities. I appreciate the MWF chapel talks because they showcase the diversity in talent and opinion of our campus, where speakers from all across faculty, staff and student groups come to share the word of God, or the word of their personal faith and morals, and lead us in critical thought and deep reflection about pertinent issues today, such as the nature of our talk.
It is important to feel safe and affirmed in one's holy space(s). Yet, I wonder about the equal merits of challenging oneself and one's faith to seek out a society which is life affirming to all people, even those who believe differently than you. In the Christian context, Jesus's ministry, in my opinion, was in no way about passivity and comfort—it was extremely active and uncomfortable. We must ask ourselves, what are our ethical baselines for being a college of the church, and how we treat our neighbors? More so, who are we helping when we engage in acquiescent theology which harms the marginalized and unrepresented? If it is only ourself, for the sake of our own comfort, faith has failed.
The politicization of human rights has always been a strategy for gaining political capital across the ideological spectrum. There is always an "other" which poses a "threat" to a cohesive society, where the value of this "other's" very existence is debated for a national vote. It has become taboo to speak on matters of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other aspects of the human identity in some Christian circles. However, if the Christian faith is concerned with loving and serving others, especially the marginalized, but this is considered a political issue, well, it's about time we get political. If we do not give a voice to the voiceless, or use privilege and power to help raise up others, because it is not supported by one's theology, then we need to change the theology.
As an interfaith leader on campus, I envision a Luther College where all our community members feel safe and welcome to practice their faiths in their sacred spaces. Yet, this does not mean I am comfortable with a passive student body. We should seek out dialogues and opportunities to talk about such matters, about what faith means, doesn't mean, and seek to embrace, "diversity and challenge one another to live in community," and "serve with distinction for the common good," to allow all our community to reach their highest good.