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Exploring Humanity's Biggest Questions: An Exclusive Interview with Morgan Freeman

2. Before critiquing someone's beliefs as different from your own, spend time learning from them rather than about them.

I am a huge proponent of listening to and learning from those who view God and the world differently than I do. For me, I don't find this threatening to my faith, but enlivening. In fact, I would argue that moving toward those of different faiths doesn't compromise my faith; it reflects the very best of it. Again, as a follower of Jesus, I'm seeking to live in the way of One who was deeply rooted in his tradition and convictions in such a way that he was free to interact, walk with, and move toward those of very different persuasions. For Jesus, this wasn't an act of compromise, it was an action of faithfulness. A mentor of mine once told me, "The deeper our roots, the wider our branches can extend."

Over and over throughout my conversation with Morgan, he was affirming this posture toward those of different faiths and traditions, "We are going to listen, not teach." While laughing, "We aren't going to go up to people of different traditions and say, 'You really believe that?!?!' We have to go into these conversations with total acceptance. This is who you are, what you are doing, why you are doing it, how you feel about it. Our job is to simply put that into its own light."

In a culture taken captive by growing fear and Islamophobia, I recently had the chance to meet with a leading Muslim Sheik in Jerusalem who said, "Please take time to hear from us rather than about us."

This is the posture and nuance that Morgan and his new show are inviting us into. Before drawing conclusions and dividing lines, let's listen longer than feels comfortable and seek to understand rather than be understood. It is only there, in relationship, that we can truly understand.

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Story Of God With Morgan Freeman Image 3

3. Question your inherited narrative(s) and the sources they are built upon

At one point in our conversation, Morgan cited an experience in Istanbul, Turkey as one of the core motivators for his global search for the story of God being told through humanity. He and his colleagues were at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and noticed that it was filled with art depicting Jesus and the history of the Church. Because Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam, rather than destroy the art when the ancient church became a mosque under the Ottomans, the Muslim community chose to retain it as part of its shared story. Morgan then went on to say that he had often been taught that Christianity and Islam were inherently at odds, but in this mosque "…we see the synergy between these two major religions. It's not there to show conflict, but similarity. They both have focused in the same direction."

This realization led him to ask the question, "Why don't more people know this generous, collaborative space and shared story?" It was with this question that he challenged himself to question the narratives of conflict and disintegration he had been taught about different religions and to study the living traditions and the way they impact human relationship.

Another narrative he had grown up with was one that said science and religion are mutually exclusive. Through his experience in Rome with the Catholic community, he was given a much different perspective, "We want to accept the notion that the two [science and religion] can't exist together. Science and religion can't see eye to eye…it's quite the contrary!"

I can remember multiple times in my faith journey where a human encounter in a global classroom forced me to question my inherited narrative(s) about the world. At times they ended up affirming what I believed and at other times they led me to reconsider, test and, at times, repent of false narratives I had inherited that actually inhibited my ability to love God and neighbor. As I reflect, these were the moments my faith moved from a convenient experience in intellectual assent to a lived expression of the One I follow in every day life. They were, in a sense, "conversion" moments.

No matter where you land in regard to spirituality or religion, Morgan, and his quest in The Story of God, is inviting us into an opportunity to learn; an opportunity to ask questions and not only hear about people of different faiths, but hear from them. In today's globalized world that is often described in agenda-fueled sound bites, there are few greater gifts we can be given. May it lead to growing curiosity and conviction, while equipping you with understanding and insight into how to better engage those who may see the world and God differently than you. In the end, we all may have something to learn from the people and places we least expected.

4/1/2016 4:00:00 AM
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