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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Interfaith barriers and interfaith marriages

Interfaith barriers and interfaith marriages   | InterfaithSpeaker.com 

By the end of 2020, there will not be a major city in America, and perhaps in the world, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, playing, marrying, and doing things together.

We need to prepare ourselves for those eventualities to prevent possible conflicts, and lay a good foundation for nurturing goodwill and effective functioning of the societies. Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past.  If you live amidst others, you must also respect the otherness of others, as you expect them to do the same for you.

An ideal society is where, no individual has to live in apprehension or fear of the other, live his or her own life and let others live theirs. If we can learn to accept the otherness of others, and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. 

Marriage is such a choice, it is between two individuals. I admire the interfaith couples who were raised with different values, different customs and traditions, but yet, willing to set the example by working, living and marrying together, and importantly living with their uniquness. 

It is disappointing to many a religiously oriented first-time marrying couples. Their clergy or a parent invariably insists that the other person to convert to their faith tradition, some do, and some fake it and some are not comfortable with the idea at all.

When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married any way but sorely miss out on the ceremony. Over the years, I have seen too many couples miss out on the joy of that additional sense of completeness that comes with a religious ceremony. Marriage is between two individuals, and their families and friends ought to be supporters and cheerleaders to celebrate and complete their joy.

As a Pluralist, I have chosen to officiate the weddings of such couples to reflect the essence of Bride and Groom's tradition. I laud such couples who embrace genuine humanity by respecting the otherness of other, and accepting each other's uniqueness. If the couple prefers to please the religiosity of their parents, relatives and friends, the sermon would include reflections and essence of the faith of the couple.

I am blessed to have performed some uniquely beautiful combination of weddings; Jewish Bride and a Christian groom; Muslim bride and Jain groom, Hindu Bride and Muslim groom, Christians Bride and Atheist groom..... it was such a joy to see their families cheer at the end.

I had a difficult father of a Christian groom who was vehemently against the Hindu girl marrying without conversion, he did not even want to be a part of the wedding, but I felt, a good heart to heart conversation will make a dent, and it did. The man who did not talk with his son for two months and did not want to be a part of the wedding was greatful for the semblance of Christian wedding and then hung out with the kids for celebrations. Oh, there are lots of good stories to share.

By the way, officiating wedding is not my business, I do it for the joy for fulfilling the religious needs of the couples. 

"We provide all people the ability to celebrate marriage and other religious functions according to their beliefs. We believe that this is an innate human right and is also protected by the 1st Amendment. Our values come from the understanding that all people, whether religious or not, have deep personal values and should be treated with respect, acceptance, and understanding."

Marriage is a celebration that brings people together, and we want to extend that ethos further by being a church comprised of a wide cross-section of people that have found common ground in the service of bringing people together.

I am comfortable with every one of God's creation, here is one such expression. 


You may be anxious to express the same sentiments that I have expressed here, and I hope this note assures you and I for who we are. A majority of us are moderates, meaning individuals who want to get along with others, mind our own business, not judge others until we have the first hand knowledge, respect the otherness of others and wish the very best for others. The moderates believe in the Golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated. Moderates is not a group of people, it is the attitude of individuals, you and I can be a moderate most of the times, all the times and a few times.

You will find me in the company of people who are on the extreme right, left and the center, liberals and conservatives,  progressives and regressives,  religious and atheists, gays and straight, republicans and democrats, communists and capitalists, and enemies and friends.

Mother Teresa is one of my ten mentors, and she had said something to the effect that, "If you want to make peace with those who differ, go talk with them, talking with friends will not change the equation." I strongly believe in it and am driven by it.

Please don’t fall in to the trap of judging me because who I am with, God has blessed me with the wisdom to have strong convictions, but be open to knowledge.  I remain who I am, and you are who you are,  and I will always make an effort to know the other. The more we know about the others, the fewer the conflicts we will have. We have to take the time to understand other’s fears and aspirations to find solutions.

A few people I knew did not want to invite me to speak in their gatherings,  because I was on Sean Hannity show, they did not even hear what I say on the show,  but drew their own conclusions. The other day I posted a picture with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and got some nasty e-mails for being with her. I was surprised even Katrina Lantos of US Human Rights agency is perceived negatively.  Once I defended Pamela Geller's right to speak in London that produced a lot of hate mail. On the other hand, I have vigorously defended CAIR on Hannity and other shows, and the right did not like that either.

A month ago, I was standing with a man who wore a hateful T-shirt against LGBT community, a few people chewed me out for merely standing with him, and of course, I speak out.  A few months ago, I was with a Bicyclist who made from San Francisco to Washington defending the rights of the Unificationist church members who are being persecuted, I was called names for associating with the ministry of Rev. Sung Myung Moon, what do they know about him?   Just a week ago, some one wrote 'ugly' emails for standing up for the rights of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.  One of these day, if I live on, I will chronicle these incidents. Don't laugh, every groups has men and women who are sadly misinformed. There is one from every faith group from Atheist to Zoroastrians and every one in between, and there is from every race and ethnicity as well.  No one can cast the first stone, Jesus was right!

Some of us will always be searching (consciously and subconsciously) and working to free ourselves from malice and prejudice, indeed,  it is liberating and brings genuine peace of mind.

We held symposiums about the Genocides around the world, as many as we can, the Indians were ticked off because we talked about Sikh Genocide and the Gujarat Massacre which happened in India, but the Pakistanis were happy about it.  When we talked about the Bangladesh Genocides, the Indians were happy as it reflected badly on Pakistan, and when we talked about the harassment of Hindu minorities in Bangladesh, a few Muslims were ticked off, and when we talked about the plight of Kashmiri Pundits, there was no appreciation from a few Hindu friends.  Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said, standing up for Justice is one of the most important values and the right thing to do,  if you cannot stop it, the least you can do is speak up, the Prophet was right! 

I have stood up with the Jewish community at three Synagogues, Jewish Post, Jewish Schools and Holocaust Museum when Pastor Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church held his hateful rallies in Dallas, and within a few months I stood up with the people of Gaza in a rally in downtown Dallas. Was I against Jews or in support of Jews?  Neither, I was there for the human rights of individuals regardless of who they were.  (Google search for articles and pictures).  Can I stop people from misunderstanding me?  Check outwww.HolocaustandGenocides.com  and www.Standingupforothers.com

Do all Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others act that way? Hell no! Only those who have not understood the value the human rights of others act like that.  They have also not outgrown out of the selfishness they are obsessed with. While we talk about the Genocides of one, they scream out loud, what about me without even taking the time to see if they were included or not.

We did a skit in one of the programs where the (actor) son screams 'what about me and my problems?' He continues to whine about being ignored…. Then the father (actor) walks up and slaps him and tells him, I did not teach you to be that selfish to the point of not seeing others difficulties and quit screaming about your own, quit the me-me-and-the-me attitude.  Lord Krishna had said in Bhagvad Gita, finding the truth is your own responsibility, and truth shall set you free. Krishna was right!

I played the son, and it was difficult for me to find anyone to play father or mother and slap the son on the stage. Americans just don't do that, it is our culture. I talked to Rev. Petra Weldes, my sister in spirituality, she said, she would have loved to slap me. Petra, you will get that opportunity, LOL!
   
Our communities and the world would be a better place to live if we value our rights as humans first. Let’s look at each other as fellow beings, which we are, and not look down upon what they eat, drink, wear and believe or how they appear.  

We have crystallized the definition of pluralism to mean, “Respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the uniqueness of each one of us”. Pluralism is nothing but an attitude of live and let live, and it is applicable in every aspect of life including culture, society, religion, politics, gender, food, ethnicity, race and other uniqueness’s.

You are who you are, and I am who I am. As long as we don't mess with each other’s space, sustenance and nurturence, and mind our own business, we all will do well.  If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. 

Every religion is beautiful and is committed to teach us all to learn to live with each other with least conflicts. A majority of the followers of each religion get that right, a few don't. It is our responsibility to reach them out, the allay their fears about others. The Torah says, don't look down on strangers, for once we were strangers too, indeed Torah is right!
Pluralism is not a set of rules, it is simply the attitude of live and let live religiously, politically, culturally and socially.  We are committed to building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of a fellow being.
I am blessed to be a pluralist with zero bias towards my fellow humans, and
 urge you to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You do your part and let others do theirs.  
http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

Please don't judge me for who I am with, as I plan to be with every one of God's creation.


Mike Ghouse
Text or Talk at (214) 325-1916

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, news maker, and a speaker on PluralismInterfaithIslampolitics, terrorismhuman rightsIndiaIsrael-Palestine and foreign policy. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Visit him in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net for his writings at TheGhousediary.com and several blogs listed there in.