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Input and Feedback from the Interfaith Amigos

The Interfaith Amigos. Pastor Don Mackenzie (United Church of Christ, retired), Rabbi Ted Falcon (Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, retired), and Imam Jamal Rahman (Muslim Sufi Minister, Interfaith Community Sanctuary), have for almost 11 years engaged in a deeply personal interfaith exploration and healing through their collegial exploration of the deep spiritual roots of their respective faiths. They shared as a group their comments and insights into the deeper teachings of the Abrahamic Faiths.

 

Interfaith Amigo Pastor Don Mackenzie (July 31, 2012)

As you know, we applaud this important work and wish to have the piece you put out be in a place that will, as you say, continue the conversation. We feel there are three things that need to be included in your description of the cosmologies without which the conversation will not get the kind of traction that you and we are hoping for.

  • We want to press you on changing the order at the beginning. There is an evolution of thinking that begins to be sure in the midst of patriarchy but proceeds through Galileo and Copernicus and finds us now in a place where the polarizations of the past are increasingly destructive. The Patriarchal cosmology really does come first and not just because of chronology. The bigger story begins there. So it should be patriarchy, science and integral spirit.
  • It is also important to note that the Christian Church dismissed the claims of science early on fearing competition for authority on the meaning of life. Thus science became a separate cosmology.
  • Most importantly, we feel it is crucial to note that while the seeds of “The Cosmos is Ruled by a Distant Patriarch” are in our traditions, the prevalence of that superficial stereotype remained due to the general ignorance of the people, an ignorance that gave power and authority to the clergy (and does so to this day), and the suppression early on of mysticism by the orthodoxy of the church.

There is much more to be said but, as you said, it is important to be focused right now.

Interfaith Amigo Rabbi Ted Falcon (July 31, 2012)

Thank you for sending us this updated draft of your very important article. You are very right: It's time for a new story!

I do want to support the comments that Don has made, and encourage you to proceed historically and operationally with the Patriarchal Distant Creator first and then the "scientific" model second. I kept getting stuck in trying to figure how I could go from science back into the early stages of monotheistic religion, when there was no discipline of science apart from religion.

That said, I believe it's important to recognize that the Patriarchal Distant Creator God model, while certainly present in all three Abrahamic traditions, is hardly the whole of theological discourse represented by those traditions. I would encourage some kind of limiting statement, indicating that this model is present in all those traditions, and representative of much of their early thinking. But one cannot look at the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible and not note the closeness of God, and God's radical involvement with human beings, that does not conform to the distant God patriarchal model. And the literature of Psalms, as well, indicates a very personal deity involved and supportive of human drama. (While I have never believed in a Personal God of this type, such is a prevailing belief in the unfolding of Judaism.)

To write of this Patriarchal Distant God Model that it actually represents Abrahamic thinking misrepresents our traditions, and simply creates a "straw man" (another patriarchal model?) against which to contrast the Integral Creation Story. This, then, perpetuates the polarizations that are so wounding to our world culture today.

My suspicion is that the greater story that the Integral Model portrays is, for the first time, INCLUSIVE rather than exclusive. That is to say, it transcends and yet includes previous models and older stories. This is the way beyond polarization-- it's not that the old stories of Patriarchal Distant and Scientifically Mechanical need to be destroyed; they need to be understood as developmental stages in a greater story. As such, the development is never an even one; there are surprising insights that pop up at each level, hinting at something greater. And, if we are awake to see them, there will be elements of old stories that creep into the new.

Well, I don't want to ramble. I suppose my main points are simply to urge you to consider reordering the opening sequence, and inserting some kind of disclaimer that the Patriarchal Distant Creator is part of but does not really portray the developmental spiritual depths of the Abrahamic faiths. Think Jesus (The Kingdom is within), Hillel (Golden Rule as the foundation of Judaism), Muhammad (Everywhere we look is the face of Allah). The religion story is deeper and far more nuanced than simply the Distant Creator God. Your later reference to the mystics of all faiths lacks references to the spiritual wisdom teachings of Abrahamic traditions. We are among those who believe that the mystics came first, and seeded what later became the problematic institutionalized representatives of what they taught.

Congratulations to you for your willingness to work on this New Story. I am honored to be part of it.

Many blessings to you,

Rabbi Ted Falcon (Continued August 10, 2012)

What continually strikes me about the Torah, the most ancient literature by far of the three Abrahamic religions, are not the references to outdated and more primitive understandings of the world, but the surprisingly clear eruptions of a far greater story. For example:

A teaching ascribed to Moses that came to be known as the primary principle of Jewish tradition is called the "Sh'ma," (Deuteronomy 6:4) stating, "Listen, Israel, the Eternal One is our God (namely: the Absolute Transcendent awakens within each of us as our God), that Eternal is One (the Transcendent Presence and the Inner Presence are One).

Another verse (Deuteronomy 4:35): "You have already experienced the knowing that the Eternal One is the Inner Presence, nothing else exists but God."

Jesus, of course, taught as a Jewish teacher, and had no idea that a totally other religion would be founded after him. The Kingdom within is a clearly Jewish teaching, very much a reflection of the Transcendent (YHVH) and the Immanent (Elohim) aspects of the One that are in the verses above.

As far as the mystical origins of Judaism, how else is one to understand the "Call" to Abram in Genesis 12? The Call possesses the essentials of the spiritual quest: one must leave the known (our known "land," our identification with our ego ("the place of our birth"), and our acceptance of rules given by others (leaving our "father's house"), and set out for a place as yet unknown. What is fascinating to me is that the Jewish mystics translate the Hebrew "Lech l'cha" with which that Call begins and is usually translated "get you out" as "Go to your self," which actually is the literal meaning of the words. It is an inner journey right from the beginning. But most were not able to understand that then (and perhaps even now), so the distant God became more popular.

In the initial Call of Moses, from the Burning Bush, Moses learns the Name of God. It's the only time in the Bible that anyone asked God "His" name. The response Moses heard: Eheyeh asher eheyeh" -- "I AM as I AM." God's "name" is absolutely unlimited Identity. The Universe is alive outside and inside ourselves.

I am limiting these examples to biblical references in the Hebrew Bible. There are writings that expanded from that text and continue today. I am attaching one of my favorites from an early 20th century teacher. I know that this is way more than you can use in your piece, but hope that there is something that will be helpful.

Interfaith Amigo Imam Jamal Rahman (August 10, 2012 )

I am grateful to Ted for his quote of the Quran. It is a beautiful testimony to what can happen when friendship and collaboration leads to expanded awareness of the other. We actually joke in public that Ted and Don sometimes have to correct my Quranic verses and Mulla stories when I get them wrong!

I want to comment on some of the facets of the verse: "Wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah." The verse is from the Quran ( 2:115)

Among the many meanings to this popular Quranic verse, three stand out:

  • We are all unimaginably interconnected.
  • In dealing with someone difficult, it is helpful not to confuse behavior with being. One's behavior might be evil but one's essence is sacred.
  • If the Face of Allah is everywhere, it behooves us to spend less time and energy on trying to "understand" God and more time living in a way that expands our awareness of God in every face we meet.

Many Blessings and In Friendship,

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