Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Today I Read, The Dilemma of Diversity

"Parents worry that their kids' beliefs will be influenced by exposure to other faiths. They needn't be." Sacred Ground by Eboo Patel

Today I read something really remarkable, an essay written by Eboo Patel, educated at the University of Illinois and Oxford, England, whose book is Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America. In his essay he describes an American scene: A woman goes into an American hospital to deliver a baby. She enters an institution founded by Jewish philanthropy, with a Muslim physician attending her, while a Hindu physician administers anesthesia, and a Catholic Christian woman is assigned her nurse. Think about that a moment.

What joins all these persons together is their commitment to care, to care for persons who have  medical, physical needs, and possibly to attend to other emotional or spiritual needs as well. In America this scene is real and many of us have already experienced such compassionate care by those persons of faith who minister as doctors and other medical professionals. Because America is a Pluralistic nation as founded and announced by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We may really be more defined by Pluralism than by Democracy.

In his book, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America, Patel poses a simple question, "am I just preaching to the choir?" While he initially interpreted this as some sort of rebuke, further reflection has led him to a different thought. Embodying the Social Change Theory, he writes that the issue is: less defining the problem and more identifying those who hold solutions, and assisting them in promoting those methods and ideas for social change.

He continues his thoughts by relating his impressions of a visit to Chicago by the 14th Dalai Lama. He was definitely "preaching to the choir. The Dalai Lama can obviously assemble a pretty large choir, but still he was strategic about how he went about it." He assembled a group of interfaith leaders in Chicago for a panel discussion; in other words "he had created a religiously diverse choir." The Dalai Lama, as some may know, has become active in the teaching of interfaith literacy. His recent book is titled, Towards a True Kinship of Faith: How the World's Religions Can Come Together. He emphasizes the ability of building relationships across differences. He inspires others to do the same.

Patel also tells a bit of the history of Cordoba, Spain during the Early-Medieval period of the Moorish Invasion, a time when Muslim people of North Africa came onto the Iberian Continent and successfully colonized it. In the ultimately peacefully co-existence of people of different faiths, Spain carved out regions where Moors predominated and intermarried with the native population, thus a peace established itself. Today the Moors are recognized for their genius and inspiration that energized Spanish society at large.
It was this attitude, Patel writes, which transplanted easily to the American shores, brought first by the Conquistadors and their colonies along the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida to California. He writes how he realized that because of active cooperation these communities did thrive, rather than a modern attitude of oh, so politically correct 'co-existence of lukewarm tolerance.' Finally he concludes that Cordoba predicted America.

So it is indeed Pluralism, the active cooperation and participation in the affairs of American society which defines this nation, concludes Patel. Reading his book in its entirety sets one to thinking about  just how.

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