Potpourri in the Midst of Disruption
by Paul Chaffee
Potpourri? This month’s TIO, concluding our sixth year of publication, begins with a profile of Sri Aurobindo, an historic, pioneering religious thinker who helped open humankind to the possibility of a peaceful interfaith world. Then we attend to kids learning ancient stories about our origins and to a story about the growth of high school interfaith organizations.
An Australian priest reminds us how important friendship is in our quest, and then we have a profile of Rabbi David Rosen, surely one of the most friendly, effective interfaith voices of the past 50 years. A piece about interreligious communication and grassroots activism in Spokane, Washington follows, and then a survey of global interfaith humanitarian efforts, especially those sponsored by Rotary International, a thoroughly interfaith organization. Finally, we have an overview of of the word interfaith, where it came from, what it means today, and how you can participate in re-imagining what it might mean.
No way to capture these articles with a single theme, and that tells you something about the state of interfaith affairs in the world. The past 50 years represent a sea change. We have gone from a time when pundits were still predicting the end of religion, when the word interfaith drew a blank stare from most people, to the current proliferation of stories of about religion and interreligion. In the meantime interfaith has entered the common lexicon.
Today I found more than 60 stories on Google News when searching for interfaith, interreligious articles. A partial list of the subjects addressed in these stories includes social services, filmmaking, food, education, immigrants, festivals, camping, addiction, community dialogue, interfaith prayer meetings and protests, marriage, home ownership, hotel policy, wartime sexual violence, hate crimes, and refugees. No surprise, this month’s Interfaith News Roundup is one of the longest we’ve had in six years.
We will return to particular themes, of course, ones the TIO team feels are most important. TIO doesn’t publish in August, but in September we’ll be looking at climate warming and eco-justice from an interfaith perspective.
In a world as disrupted as ours is today, it can be hard to follow “Summertime...” with “when the living is easy.” But it is summertime (at least in this hemisphere), kids are out of school, many families get to take vacations, peaches are getting ripe (in my neck of the woods), and there is so much to still appreciate about life for most of us. Just as important, in the midst of all the disruption around us there are hundreds of thousands, even millions of people like you and me who are striving all year to keep the Earth habitable and supportive of all people.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s new science fiction novel, New York 2140, is about New York City following 50 feet of sea-level rising generated by climate warming. On National Public Radio this week Robinson said he’s a utopian, not a dystopian, which seemed to startle the interviewer. Humankind will survive, he claims, as it has through centuries of disasters, and he’s writing about the best of what might transpire for the good, in spite of the huge problems we’ll face. I’m planning to buy the book.
The articles this month also represent hope for our future. Happy reading!