I used to view people who had different spiritual beliefs with skepticism and fear.
I kept to my own kind—because I thought everyone else was going to hell. Then a realization occurred to me: I recognized my behavior as bigotry. And, it startled me.
That was in 1989 while I was on a safari in Kenya. I met the quietest couple in our noisy, excited group: the Selos. I physically recoiled from them and kept my distance. As I became aware of and repulsed by my behavior, I set out to better understand the Selos.
Wael Selo, a Muslim, and I became pen pals, writing each other long letters explaining our religions. His missives enlightened me: he respected Jesus as a great prophet, even though he didn’t see him as the son of God, and the Koran taught him to love and respect his Christian brothers and sisters.
Frankly, the strength of Wael’s convictions surprised me. How could he be just as convicted about his faith as I am of mine?
Wael never tried to convert me. He never belittled my beliefs. Through our correspondence and subsequent encounters with friends of other religions I learned three important lessons:
- I am confident enough in my Christianity that I’m not threatened by someone who believes differently.
- It’s monumentally more difficult to hate a group once we’ve connected with one of its members.
- I have more in common with people of other faiths, than differences. While their religions’ messengers are different, they all reach the importance of love, respect and kindness.
As the manager of the Nevada Ghost and Paranormal Series, I’ve found myself in the company of people from diverse belief systems, including two I’d always found particularly worrisome: Wiccans and Spiritualists. Instead of distancing myself, though, I engaged them and learned about their religions. Once again, I found the reasoning behind our guiding principles wasn’t so different. Wiccans, like Native Americans, find nature holy and celebrate their own connection to creation—similar to the sacredness I feel outdoors. And, Spiritualists view God as the ultimate loving energy, one wanting us to commune with the divine for guidance.
By seeking others’ views, I developed a stronger understanding of my own. Hearing their different approaches to concepts similar to Christianity gave me another way to look at my own beliefs.
The support I’ve received across the religious spectrum has been heartwarming. Regardless of what we believe about the afterlife or who the greatest spiritual teacher is, we hold a commonality in seeking answers about our roles on earth and how to live a meaningful life.
Nothing pushes out the darkness of ignorance like open discourse and honest curiosity. May we all choose to live in the light.
My Dear Kathleen, I do enjoy your newsletters, but I think I must disagree with you on the point that Islam is a peaceful religion. While I respect their right to practice their religion, I do not trust their religion. The Koran teaches them they cannot be our friends, and that they can practice deception if it furthers Islam and disarms those who they want to submit to them. They are taught to murder all others who do not submit, which is what the word, Islam, means, to submit. Their religious leaders can issue general orders to kill. If if war they capture people, they are permitted to use those people for any purpose they wish, including as a profit by selling them into slavery, including sexual slavery. Islam disrespects women. ISIL has CRUCIFIED Christian women. Do the homework, Kathleen. You will read that I am correct about t his last one. I am so sorry, Kathleen, I respect you, but I no longer trust Islam. I know y ou will probably not permit this to be published, but I just wanted to disabuse you of that deception. I will understand if you delete my address from you mailing list. If you wish, I will continue to receive them, but I will always reserve the right to disagreet.
Thanks for writing in, Bernadette. I approve all comments–people don’t have to agree with me as I see this blog as a forum for discussion. I appreciate your views, but I sincerely feel that you are describing extremists, not the majority of Muslims. The Koran does teach to respect Christans as “brothers and sisters (I’ve read this passage). I have a friend who recently believed as you, then her coworker’s husband was in the hospital dying of cancer. He was a Shiite imam. Her coworker asked her to go to the hospital to see him. When he saw her, he said, “You are my Christian sister, will you pray with me?” She told me that experience changed the perception she’d gained from watching the nightly news.
I feel the extremists–who I believe are evil–have hijacked Islam. I will say that moderate Muslims need to be more vocal in the media and protest those who are creating such hatred worldwide. Bernadette–I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this topic.
With that being said, this post is as much about my friends who are Jewish, Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, Universalist, Spiritualist and Wicca as Muslim. I wrote this before the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which is an act I condemn and am alarmed by.
Hi dear cousin,
It is important to love everyone as Christ does, but we can’t condone false religions because that’s the same as saying they can get to heaven any way their religion teaches them, but the Bible is clear that there is only one God and only one way to heaven and that’s through his son Jesus Christ- Acts 4:11-12, Jude 1:25, John 1:1-13, 1 Thes. 1:9-10, John 3:16-18, Romans 10:10, Romans 3:21-25, 1 Timothy 2:1-6 etc… “Do not believe every spirit but test them, …If it’s not from God it’s of anti-Christ…” 1 John 4:1-3 In love, Sincerely, Karyn
Love you, Karyn. Thanks for commenting. I believe that everyone’s views have worth and the last thing we should do is judge others because of their beliefs. My Christianity has been strengthened by those who are willing to share their religions with me, as inevitably, they come up with a different take on something I believe as a Christian, that gives added dimension and strength to my beliefs. Wishing you the best. BTW, 1John 4:1-3 is one of my favorite verses.
A couple more thoughts. To me, it is incompatible to love someone and judge them at the same time. I also treasure that verse by John in that I interpret it as testing what is inside us and what is directly affecting us. I don’t interpret it as testing other people–it is their job to test what affects them. Just wanted to clarify. All my best to you, cousin.