The Interfaith theme has been showing up in a number of places for me lately, and I have become inspired to convene a conversation on the subject, and perhaps even a deep inquiry if the collective juice is there for it.  Initially, I'm gathering a "design team" to put together a Vital Conversation call on this subject for a Monday in the not too distant future.

Anyone who wants to participate in that design process is welcome to post here.  We might start by discussing the purpose and intentions for such a conversation.  Here are a few items that come to mind for me right off the bat:

  • share one or two really inspiring stories about our ability to use interfaith approaches to bring people together, as an antidote to the divisive role that religion often plays in our society.  If the stories are Occupy related, so much the better, although that might not be necessary.
  • give people a sense of all the things that are currently in motion in the interfaith space.
  • address a core question that we feel is at our growth edge in bringing interfaith ideas and practices more powerfully into the Occupy movement and society at large (please offer some suggestions below!).
  • create an experience within the conversation of connectedness and the power of spirit.

I would also LOVE to see us figure out a simple way for this conversation to have a face-to-face component, and to make use of our OC forum as well.  Perhaps we come up with one or two questions for people to discuss in face-to-face conversations (as dyads or small groups) in advance of the call to help build energy, interest and a starting point for our group dialogue that feels highly relevant.  Any insights that emerge could be posted to the Forum and that content could inform the conversation we have together on the Cafe Call.

What questions might we invite people to pose in these preliminary "living room conversations?"  My first thought is this question for all seasons: "what question, if answered, could make the greatest difference to the future of Interfaith initiatives?"  Perhaps an Occupy spin/context could be added to that formulation as well.  Or another Occupy related question could be asked in conjunction.  Thoughts???

Join the design conversation and come play!



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I should add that part of my inspiration to move on this came from Occupy Cafe's newest member, John Backman, who also sent out this email the other day:

This October, SkyLight Paths Publishing will release my new book on dialogue. Why Can’t We Talk? Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart uses a spiritual perspective—particularly the ancient practices of Christian monasticism—to help readers reorient their deepest selves toward engaging in dialogue with curiosity, civility, and compassion. Starting long before actual dialogue or deliberation occurs, the book is about making dialogue who we are as well as what we do.

An informal announcement and excerpt from the book are available on my website. As much as anything else, I see Why Can’t We Talk? as the kickoff to a larger dialogue with anyone who’s interested, so please feel free to email me with questions, insights, feedback, etc. And of course, you’re welcome to forward this announcement anywhere you see fit. Thank you!

John Backman

The Dialogue Venture

Hi, Ben! Thanks for the shout-out AND the invitation. I'd love to help as much as I can.

Great!  You could start by answering the same questions I posed to Kelly below.   Except for the Portland part!

Bruce has already done some terrific work here, and I like a lot of where he's going. Here is another ingredient for the stew, based on your original question.

At the intersection of interfaith and Occupy, I hear two distinct "languages": the language of dialogue and the language of justice. The impulses behind these two languages can sometimes clash: dialogue tends toward affirmation of the other and assumption of good intent, while justice acknowledges evil and power inequities and the need for struggle to rectify that. Can dialogue and justice work together? In terms of Occupy, can we learn to engage everyone in appreciative dialogue--even the 1%--while working to correct the inequities of the system?

Perhaps this is too esoterically worded (I'm certainly capable of that!), so if you want clarification, by all means ask.

No, not esoteric at all.  Of course, there is also the idea of restorative justice, which eschews punishment and the demonizing of those who commit offenses.  The idea that we must embrace the 1% as well has been part of the conversation within the movement and here at the Cafe since the beginning.  We did a call on it last Friday for our Occupy Heart Series, in fact.

Ah, I wish I could have made the call--but that pesky paying job kept me away.

I like your introduction of restorative justice into this conversation. It occurs to me, though, that even when justice is restorative, it will still be a challenge to draw into conversation those whose self-interest clashes with the ends of justice. This may be one place where a faith perspective can open doors to the conversation. Undoubtedly, many people in the 1% are people of faith; that faith can give us a common language from which to dialogue--particularly about the need to look beyond self-interest to the greater good

I work in Interfaith Volunteering  (not super political) and this topic interests me professionally and as an activist.

Awesome, Kelly!  And great to hear from you again.  How are things in Portland, Occupy and otherwise?

What do you think of the musings on a possible purpose and set of intentions for this conversation I offered above? Is there a core question that you feel is at our growth edge in bringing interfaith ideas and practices more powerfully into the Occupy movement and society at large?

Ben, I like your question, let's think about this....

"What question, if answered, could make the greatest difference to the future of interfaith initiatives?"

I am one of the advisers/participants for an Interfaith Journal called "The Interfaith Observer" -- that is coordinated by Paul Chaffee, in the San Francisco Bay area

Their April 2012 issue featured an article by interfaith organizer Rev. Bud Heckman, to which my project Circle2012 is in part a response.  Bud Heckman is a senior interfaith activist who has been Executive Director for major national and international interfaith organizations, and his article can be read here:

In his article, Bud writes:

As a concluding word, I urge that we start a conversation to get a clearer, shared definition for the teeming sea of things that advance ‘interfaith’ or ‘religious pluralism.’ If we seek to rally ourselves behind such a focus, we might get to where we all want to go much faster or directly. It would be like all the ships on the great seas agreeing on similar terms, instruments, and standards for navigation and etiquette. Eboo Patel recently shared that we should all be working on “effective approaches to reducing prejudice and increasing pluralism.” That would be a good start. Could we agree? What is your suggestion?

My thought would be -- let's explore this question -- and let's present our interest to Bud Heckman and The Interfaith Observer -- with the idea that this is indeed a significant and widely shared concern.  We need a big framework for this conversation, and we need the right people in the conversation....

I have briefly mentioned to Paul Chaffee that we have been exploring "Appreciative Interviews".  Paul is well-aware of "Appreciative Inquiry", and has been doing it, and writing about it, for years.  Our Appreciative Interview framework might be a starting point for Bud's call -- and other possibilities -- such as linking to Occupy -- or to Interfaith/Occupy activists -- might also emerge....

As a PS, let me note that TIO published a letter from me in their current issue, which refers to this call from Bud Heckman, and also to an article by Chief Phil Lane, also in TIO, calling for ways to overcome the fragmentation of this world...

"Protecting the Sacred in a Shattered World" - "Unified Spiritual Action Required"

Great stuff, Bruce.  Thank you!  I sense that this conversation is gathering momentum and that the universe wants it to happen...

In an interesting conjunction, today I was doing a search on the theme "Sacred Tree" -- because the sacred tree image is basic to the vision that is guiding me.  I found a link to an article by Chief Phil Lane, commenting on the movie Avatar -- which he sees as centering on this same theme of sacred tree.

It turns out -- that I have a book here, that I've had for years -- with the title The Sacred Tree -- and the author -- is none other than Canadian First Nations Chief Phil Lane.

So, I wrote to him on that theme.

I am doing what I can to begin weaving these connections.  It's rather awesome, actually -- but it's coming along.  I put the Sacred Tree vision into my statement on Circle2012

Plus, I jazzed up the portal page just a bit -- hoping that women will feel a little more at home

Here's the wording from Phil Lane.  Isn't this a primal vision of what we want to do?




The Story of the Sacred Tree

“For all the people of the earth, the Creator has planted a Sacred Tree under which they may gather, and there find healing, power, wisdom and security. The roots of this tree spread deep into the body of Mother Earth. Its branches reach upward like hands praying to Father Sky. The fruits of this tree are the good things the Creator has given to the people: Teachings that show the path to love, compassion, generosity, patience, wisdom, justice, courage, respect, humility and many other wonderful gifts.

The Ancient Ones taught us that the life of the Tree is the life of the people. If the people wander far away from the protective shadow of the Tree, if they forget to seek the nourishment of its fruit or they should turn against the Tree and attempt to destroy it, great sorrow will fall upon the people. Many will become sick at heart. The people will lose their power. They will cease to dream dreams and see visions. They will begin to quarrel among themselves over worthless trifles. They will become unable to tell the truth and to deal with each other honestly. They will forget how to survive in their own land. Their lives will become filled with anger and gloom. Little by little, they will poison themselves and all they touch.

It was foretold that these things would come to pass, but that the Tree would never die. And as long as the Tree lives, the people live. It was also foretold that the day would come when the people would awaken, as if from a long, drugged sleep; that they would begin, timidly at first but then with great urgency, to search again for the Sacred Tree.

The knowledge of its whereabouts and of the fruits that adorn its branches have always been carefully guarded and preserved within the minds and hearts of our wise elders and leaders. These humble, loving and dedicated souls will guide anyone who is honestly and sincerely seeking along the path leading to the protecting shadow of the Sacred Tree."

Ben, when you get a chance, take a look at this.  I wrote a comment on The Interfaith Observer that mentions what we are doing here


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Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

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