Personally, I look to Jesus Christ for direction, and there I find over and over again, an engagement with people and an ethic of love based on the paradigm of peace. It’s a peace that culminates holistic well-being. That is, consciously choosing to live a quality life based on physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Obviously, those needs are different for every individual person. Therefore, we aren’t going to get anywhere by forcing our own agendas upon someone else. Think about it… take two people and instantly there are two different brain functions, experiences, and genetic make-ups. What is good for one is not necessarily good for the other. And thus, we have a myriad of spiritual and religious avenues. What fascinates me is that every major religion (which feeds spirituality) has the same focus: How might we know peace? There are, of course, distortions in every religion. The individual plight for power and control wreaks havoc upon our well-being. But where we can find true spiritual peace is in the genuine— and for me, Christ-centered—care and concern with human relationships.
Is it even possible this peace for which we pray? How do we obtain true peace when everyone believes different things and goes off in different directions? Well, to be blunt, I think we first need to shed the grave ideology of perfection and chosenness. When those blinders are removed, we can more effectively attend to our deepest desires, challenges, and needs… and when we attend to those, we’ll likely discover that people who exist outside our personal protective bubbles, actually offer great potential and resource. Therefore, interfaith relations matter. As Leah Dawn Bueckert encourages in her essay included in Interfaith Spiritual Care; Understandings and practices (edited by my professor, Daniel Schipani, 2009, page 48) it’s about a willingness to “open ourselves to the discomfort of interacting with people who present much to us that is unfamiliar. It means that we take the time to listen long and deeply. If appropriate or solicited, we may share about our own faith. If there is disagreement, we continue to maintain positive regard for the other person.” Sounds a lot like a utopia? Yes, it sure seems like it sometimes. But every single human being needs peace, and just because we have different ways of getting there, doesn’t mean we can’t all end up in the same place. I personally condemn any form of oppression because it takes us further and further away from universal peace. So, as difficult as it may sometimes be, I set my sights on the celebration and practice of love, respect, and equality—because true peace is what every spirit craves.