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Interfaith Inform: February 22, 2022
Kaufman Interfaith Institute


Interfaith Insight
Doug Kindschi
Director, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, GVSU
Diversity that surprises us with wisdom
“God clearly loves diversity,” writes author and Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. “All we need to do is look at the animal world, or the world under the sea, or each human being: who of us looks exactly alike? We are always different. Is there any evidence to show where, in all creation, that God prefers uniformity?” Rohr continues by questioning why we so often seek uniformity while it appears that God likes radical diversity.  
We split into separate tribes around differences in belief, seeking uniformity rather than unity. It seems like we usually, if not always, seek comfort in being around people who look like us, dress like us, even think like us.  Look at our racial divisions, economic separations, religious divisions, and even political polarization. Our ego is more comfortable with uniformity. 
Bishop Tutu was a forceful voice in getting us to recognize that our worth is not from our race, economic standing, or our achievements, but from our very existence. “God has created us,” he writes, “providing us with our very existence … each one of us is of immense worth, of infinite value because God loved us.”  In conversation with Rohr reported in his book Falling Upwards, Tutu added, “We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!”
Brian McLaren, evangelical writer, former pastor, and now colleague with Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation, writes that his “Christian identity is both strong and kind. By strong I mean vigorous, vital, durable, motivating, faithful, attractive, and defining.  . . .  By kind I mean something far more robust than mere tolerance, political correctness, or coexistence: I mean benevolent, hospitable, accepting, interested, and loving, so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view.”
Could it be that God’s love for diversity could also mean that God loves the diversity of religious understanding?  Is God’s truth bigger than our finite human understanding? 
Jonathan Sacks, a Conservative rabbi and author of the Dignity of Difference, in an interview with Krista Tippett, recounts the passage in the Torah where Moses sees the burning bush and asks God, “Who are you?” He then translates the Hebrew word response as, “I will be who or how or where I will be.” Or, as Sacks writes, “Don’t think you can predict me. I am a God who is going to surprise you.”
Sacks continues, “One of the ways God surprises us is by letting a Jew or a Christian discover the trace of God’s presence in a Buddhist monk, or a Sikh tradition of hospitality, or the graciousness of Hindu life. Don’t think we can confine God into our categories. God is bigger than religion.”
“God is bigger than religion.”  Can we really believe that and then continue to divide over religious differences, or declare all beliefs different from our own as false?  
Last week I wrote about how truth can divide while wisdom can unite even over differences. Unity does not require uniformity. Diversity can not only enrich, but lead to further wisdom.
In the Hebrew Scriptures it was King Solomon who was famous for his wisdom.  He is reported to have asked God for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” God responds: “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart.” (I Kings 3:9-12)
Let us seek this gift of wisdom in our personal and communal life together.  It is found not in uniformity, but in the celebration of diversity and an even deeper unity. Let us be open to a God who can surprise us in ways “bigger than our religion.”
Religion and Racism Part 5: Indigenous People and the Land 

Monday, February 28, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM 
Join us for a Town Hall on Indigenous People and the Land! This is Part 5 of our Religion and Racism series, held in partnership with Momentum Center of Grand Haven
Faith Over Fear - Grand Rapids: Living Courageously Alongside Our Muslim Neighbors  

March 18 & 19, 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

This training, organized by Shoulder to Shoulder in partnership with the Kauffman Institute, Kuyper College, the Christian Reformed Church's Office of Social Justice, and the Reformed Church in America, is designed for faith leaders, lay leaders, and multifaith or faith-based organizational leaders (with a special focus on Christians*) who wish to counter anti-Muslim discrimination in their communities. 
2022 Interfaith Academic Consortium Conference 

April 6, 2:00 PM & 7:00 PM

This conference will feature Dr. David Nirenberg, Dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School. His leactures will explore the relationship between race and religion in history and today, as well as, the past and present landscape of anti-judaism.  

For an archive of previous articles
click here.
For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see this week's Ethics and Religion Talk column hosted on The Rapidian.