Several things have recently been on my mind, as I wondered about the state of Illinois this past weekend. I was able to go to Chicago with my friend and former professor R, who was gracious enough to let me tromp to the windy city with about 40 college sophomores. That in itself is proof of a tiring weekend, but throw in a trip to a Catholic Cathedral, an Orthodox Church a Synagogue, a Mosque, an Episcopal cathedral and a Mennonite commune and you have a glimpse of my weekend of questions and reflection.
Going on this trip for the 3rd time, it provided me a great awareness of my own personal change and progression in my religious thought over the past few years. Moving from what one might call a modern view to a more and ever increasing postmodern view of Christianity and religion as a whole. One of the ideas that stands out to me the most from this past weekend is the easiness with which I was able, in my mind, to accept each of the different views on God, worship, and salvation. I was able to understand, on a better level than before, what each was trying to achieve and how the faith they practice helps them reach for their oneness with God. It was great to be able to see the three major monotheistic religions in a new light: Christianity (Catholic, Episcopal, Mennonite, Orthodox), Judaism and Islam. Three from one is what I like to think, and as I mentioned before, it was much easier this time for me to understand. I learned that there are just as many different Islamic groups as there are Christian. I learned that Islam grants women more rights than other religions and that it is through cultural differences in various countries that we get our distorted view of the oppression of women, not from Islam itself. An idea that was reinforced was that there will be radicals in every religion. Radicalism can be positive and negative. It can force us to think about the status quo or it can force us further into a negative conception of what it represents. Overall, grace and respect is what drives each of the religious leaders that we met with. Respect for not only other religions, other faith and practices, but for integration and dialogue between themselves. Respect for the person that rejects and for the person that accepts and for all in between. Grace and respect lead them to peace, which in my view, is what we all seek in this walk.