Three Faiths, Three Friends
The Three Amigos' experience is emblematic of a larger reality in the U.S. today, says Haim Beliak, a Reform rabbi who is a member of several interfaith associations and a board member for the Progressive Jewish Alliance in the Los Angeles area. Because Christians and Jews in particular have been in conversation now for many decades, a level of trust has been built. Serious conversations about Israel and Palestine can take place between them because they have a history that is distinct from the tradition of Christian anti-Semitism. The challenge now is to include Muslims in such discussions and thereby resist what Beliak sees as a tendency in some quarters for Jews and Christians to pit themselves against Muslims by emphasizing a "Judeo-Christian" tradition. "When I hear that phrase," Beliak says, "I feel as if I were being speared by the hyphen."
Recently, Mackenzie, Falcon, and Rahman reflected on who was showing up at interfaith events and who wasn't. They acknowledged that it is often easier to communicate across the lines of faith than to communicate with members of their own traditions who are suspicious of interfaith work. Falcon is ordained in the Reform tradition, but his synagogue is unaffiliated; he invented the term "meditative Reform" to describe the kind of Judaism he practices. Rahman designates himself a Sufi teacher, which places him to a certain degree outside conventional Muslim structures -- though those structures are comparatively loose.
On the Christian side, the three acknowledged that they have their own biases against conservative Christians, whom they tend to see as narrow-minded and prejudiced against Muslims. In response, the Amigos decided to attend together a service at Christian Faith Center, a megachurch with two campuses in Seattle, led by pastor Casey Treat.
During his sermon on the day the Three Amigos visited, Treat remarked that "Christians and Jews share the same God, but Allah is a different matter." Mackenzie and Falcon both gasped. After the service, Rahman, Mackenzie, and Falcon were invited to Treat's office. Rahman used the occasion to say to him, "I don't think Jesus would have said what you did about Muslims."
Rahman, Falcon, and Mackenzie later worked with members of Treat's congregation on a Habitat for Humanity project for a local Muslim family. One important lesson from the experience, Rahman says, was the recognition that while he, as a Muslim, feels wounded by the behavior of many Americans, he is not alone in that feeling: many Christians also carry wounds. By understanding this mutual woundedness, the Three Amigos say, they have become much more patient when they confront people who disagree with their interfaith work. Instead of responding with anger or accusation, they try to ask more questions.
They used this insight when Rahman was asked by the director of Camp Brotherhood, an interfaith retreat center with a long history in Seattle, to donate a copy of the Qur'an that would be placed in the center's chapel alongside the Bible and the Torah. The proposal turned out to be controversial among the camp's board members, so the idea was dropped -- and the board ended up removing all holy books from the chapel, something the three were not happy about. But instead of responding angrily and forgoing their association with Camp Brotherhood, the three have continued to try to meet with the board members to find a mutually agreeable solution.