People often associate religion as being a source of irrational beliefs that lead to division and, ultimately, war. They hold that religions promote a triumphalist mindset that say, "I am right and you are wrong. Someday you will see the light, and if that day doesn't come soon we may just force you to see it." What then is the point of dialogue with people who can't listen to one another? The conversation ends here and all religions suffer. What many religious people do in response is remove their religious identity from the public sphere. Others simply throw out religion altogether, saying, "Let's ignore our differences and convictions or simply abandon them so we can build a world united in our common love for humanity." These two poor choices between an isolationist absolutism and a watered-down universalism are the primary extremes people draw from when building a religious or non-religious identity in our complex diverse society.
In this sermon, I present a third option. One in which we proudly affirm our unique religious traditions, but we do so with a spiritual humility that acknowledges, in Heschel's words, "God is greater than religion." I articulate this vision of interfaith dialogue drawing heavily upon Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's essay, "No Religion is an Island." (You can read his essay here). When we develop such a pluralistic mindset, religions serve as a source of common values that bind us together even as we celebrate our differences. This has been my experience of interacting as a Jew with Muslims and Christians that I share and promote here. This deeply religious viewpoint encourages one to build his or her particular faith identity while honoring and lifting up other peoples' faith identities at the same time. I welcome your comments and experience in response. The future of our world depends on it.