What a full year 2023 has been on the Living Our Beliefs podcast. Guests have shared their experience of faith through writing, teaching, business and law, peace-building, journalism, therapy, and music. Their stories offer ideas and new information, revealing how precepts are expressed personally, activating the guest’s life. Learning how other people live their beliefs enlivens our practice and helps us understand strangers, colleagues, and neighbors. We are all enriched.
Be curious about and respect other ways.
One way is not better or worse. Just because we don’t understand something or find it odd, does not make it wrong or evil. Remembering and appreciating the wide range of religious expression is key. Being curious about and respecting other ways, as long as they are not harmful, is the central tenet for me, and the guide I use in each conversation. Whether liberal, orthodox or something in between, each guest has shared ways they are living their religious beliefs. Practicing their religion is not just something that happens one day a week in the sanctuary but is something they live daily and that shapes or influences their lives.
What did this include in 2023?
I hosted and produced nearly 30 episodes, including four Bonus episodes – where I focus on a topic rather than a personal faith path. These encounters have yielded new connections and knowledge. For example, learning about Saiyyidah Zaidi’s scholarship in Practical Theology and her experience as a British Muslim and woman of color in that very white Christian field taught me about a particular experience and showed our shared experience as religious minorities. She expanded my understanding of Islamic communities and the struggles Muslims often experience as minorities in Christian majority countries. Whether it is dealing with people’s assumptions about a woman wearing a hijab, or a lack of consideration about food options at an event, these added stresses are dispiriting.
People can surprise you!
Other guests spoke of their own situations, of course. Mookie Manalili talked about the various “Catholicisms” he has lived among, from the pink-habited nuns in the Philippines of his youth, to the Hispanic community in California, and the more restrained Irish Catholics in Boston. Although I have known many Catholics, including in Boston, these stories added nuance to my notion of the global Church’s communities. Inviting him back to talk about his pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain and his traditional Filipino tattoos opened yet more windows into his embodied religious experience. The tattoos in particular are reminders of the norms and expectations we have – in this case what a college professor looks like!
Agreement is not required.
Speaking with Oliver Bradley was a third opportunity to hear stories of living one’s beliefs. A Jewish friend from my years in Berlin Germany, he shared his journey into Judaism in newly reunified Germany of the early 1990s. As with Saiyyidah’s story, there were points of connection, in this case being Jewish in Germany and taking on Judaism as an adult. Our different responses to Conservative and Orthodox services, however, reflected differing personal values and genders. Delving into his perception of the Orthodox approach was thought provoking and agreement was not required.
These examples of the many conversations show how we can grow through finding the similarities as well as the religious differences between us. The shared views or experiences highlight our shared humanity and dedication to following a religious path, while differences might be realities of denominational norms or individual values. Whatever the case, I feel enriched each time I get to know a guest’s lived religious experience.
As 2023 comes to a close, I wish you all joyous holidays and a bright start to the new year. Stay tuned for more stories among practicing Jews, Christians, and Muslims in 2024!
Click here to listen to Saiyyidah Zaidi’s episode (#31).
Click here to listen to Mookie Manalili’s episode on Catholicism (#44).
Click here to listen to Mookie Manalili’s episode on his pilgrimage and tattoos.
Click here to listen to Oliver Bradley’s episode.
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Thoughts? Send comments and questions to me at email@example.com or write a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you! Méli