Reverend Kris Ladusau – Smile

 

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As a teacher and practitioner of the Buddhist faith, I see the world through the lens of interconnectedness. From a practical standpoint, this view provides a reminder for me always to acknowledge and be grateful for those who grow the food I eat, who build the places I live, who create the art and music that I enjoy so much; the list goes on and on… From a spiritual standpoint, awareness of our interconnection prevents me from isolating myself in my thoughts. It continually reminds me that we are all connected in spirit, for that is our true essence. Interconnectedness is the natural state of being.

In Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhism, we deeply value our relationships with other spiritual Paths. We know if we connect and respect each other, we can work together to create a peaceful world. This has been my experience in interfaith work.

It starts with dialogue and getting to know each other. By developing genuine friendship, we then move into deeper discussions that provide education and understanding for all. Eventually, we seek to work together to benefit our families, communities, countries, and the world. This type of compassion through action is found in all major traditions.

I have sincerely benefited from my participation in interfaith work through the years. The friendships and joy that have come from supporting each other and working together have melted away any preconceived fears I may have held from my youth.

In the first half of my life, I noticed the differences between myself and others. In the last half of my life, I choose instead to put more focus on celebrating our similarities.

Reverend Kris Ladusau

Rissho Kosei-kai Dharma Center of Oklahoma

Nathaniel Batchelder – Prayers for Life

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I believe that God is manifest in all religious traditions and that all religions instruct humanity to be caretakers, stewards of nature, other species, and all life.

The website of Interfaith Power and Light lists “Religious Statements on Climate Change” for all major faith traditions and Christian denominations. These assert that global warming is real, is human-made, and that all humanity must participate in solutions.

Science informs us that our growing numbers, consumption rates, waste production, and contributions to global warming are devastating nature. Evidence suggests that, unless human behaviors change drastically, within 100 to 200 years, half of living species will likely go extinct, and human numbers may be cut in half.

Everyone’s participation in solutions is needed. Our purchases, lifestyles, transportation choices, and our votes all contribute toward sustaining nature and life as we know it, or accelerating the damage to the only planet we have.

Do your religious leaders speak about these issues? Is your house of worship doing what it can? Your prayers and words of encouragement can make a big difference.

Nathaniel Batchelder is a member of Church of the Open Arms, UCC, and a board member of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.

Introduction

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Oklahoma is an incredibly diverse place. Different people of various backgrounds, faiths, and ways of life populate this state from top to bottom. However, sometimes we have to take a step back and open our eyes to see the diversity that is all around us. The busyness of our everyday living makes it hard to appreciate the plurality of ways of life that can be found in Oklahoma. Hopefully this blog will serve as a means of taking that step back and observing the diversity of this state. From Muslim to Jew, Eastern Orthodox to Southern Baptist, Hindu to Buddhist, Oklahoma has it all and more.

My intention in starting this blog is for it to be a collaborative effort incorporating voices from various faith communities in Oklahoma; a place for them to share their stories, to give us a glimpse into what their life is like in this state. My hope is that we as readers will gain understanding, empathy, and compassion for our brothers and sisters of different faiths, and that steps towards tolerance and love will be fostered. I hope this blog will not only help us see and appreciate this diversity and pluralism, but also become a vehicle for seeing the commonality in the faiths of the world: that we are all pilgrims grasping for a greater truth, that we are all called to care for our neighbor, both friend and stranger.

In a time when politicians and pundits seek to divide us, to invoke hate and misunderstanding, this blog will hopefully serve as a way to encourage just the opposite. There is no better time than now to come to a place of unity though diversity, of strength through pluralism. By providing a platform for various faith communities to share their stories, I hope that we will all come to better appreciate diversity and pluralism, and ultimately come to find unity.

Some background about me: I’m a 21 year old college senior, finishing up a Religious Studies degree with a minor in Political Science. I’ve recently come to work for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches this summer, and I’ve been given the title “Interfaith and Social Justice Liaison”, which means I’m a glorified intern who does whatever needs doing. I spent the spring of 2015 interning with the OCC, helping to organize the Norman Interfaith Tour, and now I’m back. I was raised like a whole lot of people in Oklahoma: Christian. Born to two worship leaders, I spent several days a week at the church. I loved it. I absorbed everything there was to absorb, tried to learn everything there was to learn. Theologically speaking, my upbringing was largely evangelical, although my mother’s Jewish heritage exposed me to at least one different faith at an early age.

Perhaps it was that initial exposure to Judaism that sparked my interest in Religious Studies. I can’t say for sure, but by the time I got to college, I found myself wanting to broaden my horizons. Taking Religious Studies courses helped me gain an understanding of different faiths, but it wasn’t until I actually started to meet and forge relationships with adherents of different faiths that my worldview was altered. I grew up so sure I had all the right answers, that my particular set of lenses through which I viewed the world was the only valid set. The thing is, though, when different religions stop being just pages in a textbook and they become personified in your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, or your fellow students, all of a sudden your world gets rocked. When the realization that you don’t have all the answers hits you, it’s both humbling and exhilarating.

Getting involved in the interfaith movement has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The stories I’ve learned from other people have significantly altered the way I view the world, and you can’t put a price on the how much my capacity for empathy has increased. I hope the stories told in this blog have the same effect on the reader that they had, and continue to have, on me.

-Alex Davis

Alex Davis is the Interfaith and Social Justice Liaison for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches