February 27, 2011
I’ve heard Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps, speak in the past. This week I heard him at the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes (CEEP). I heard, as if for the first time, his point about ‘finding our own interfaith theology’. For him that means finding the stories in our own traditions that encourage us to stand with and for people of other and different faiths than our own as a matter of faith for us. In particular he opened the idea of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, told, of course, to a Jewish audience, as one that shows standing with and for a person of another faith.
In the same week I had picked up and read Sarah’s Key, a novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, the interweaving of the story Jewish girl rounded up in the infamous Vel’ d’Hiv round up of Jews by Vichy police in Paris in 1942, with that of a modern American journalist who had married a Frenchman and settled in Paris. The girl was saved and raised by an elderly French couple who wondered and worried about what was happening in and to their beloved country. Fictional though they are, they stand for the many ‘righteous gentiles’ who put their lives on the line for the Jews.
De Rosnay does an excellent job of capturing the need for willful ignorance among the French who were even tangentially involved in this atrocity and the havoc such willful ignorance with all its subsequent secrets wrought in the lives of so many people. I find myself wondering what compromises I make and where I ‘turn a blind eye’ to the injustices of today. Eboo Patel says he understands fear of Muslims when all we hear about Islam is the equivalent of the first two minutes of the local television news, and asks whether a religion more than 1400 years old can be “all bad”? I wonder where all the voices are that say loud and clear that “those people do not represent us” and realize how difficult that must be in a world where being different in a way perceived as negative only brings heartache and pain.
When Christians speak and act in ways that are vile, virulent and hateful how easy is it for us to get media attention for another point of view that says “those people do not represent our faith”? My experience is that news outlets, presumably seeking to be ‘objective’ would rather report on our internecine struggles and that standing against bigotry associated with any faith is much more difficult than it ought to be. I hope I can find ways to speak up about whatever it is that challenges us long before others have to die from my silence or my ‘blind eye’.