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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Bruce, my friend, I am truly appreciating your energy and passion here, and am excited about what we might all do together.  

Love the synchronicity in your story of the Sacred Tree and Phil Lane.  I'm reminded of an image of the Tree of Life carved into a rotary saw blade (just now getting the power of that juxtaposition!) that used to hang in my office and now adorns the outside of our house.  Also the lyrics to The Dreaming Tree by the Dave Matthews Band, a song I love and hadn't heard for a year or more until it showed up rather randomly on my car's cd player a couple of days ago (see--I needed the time to pass for me to hear that before responding to you!).

Getting "the right people into the conversation" in this initial stage seems like the place to be at the moment.  And finding the right calling question.  Just to clarify, when you wrote "let's explore this question," were you referring to the one I posed: ""What question, if answered, could make the greatest difference to the future of interfaith initiatives?"  Or to Heckman's vision of the ships on the great seas (which isn't actually a question but rather a vision)?

The Dreaming Tree

Standing here
The old man said to me,
"Long before these crowded streets
Here stood my dreaming tree."
Below it he would sit
For hours at a time
Now progress takes away
What forever took to find
And now he's falling hard
He feels the falling dark
How he longs to be
Beneath his dreaming tree

Conquered fear to climb
A moment froze in time
When the girl who first he kissed
Promised him she'd be his
Remembered mother's words
There beneath the tree
"No matter what the world
You'll always be my baby."
"Mommy come quick,
The dreaming tree has died."
The air is growing thick
A fear he cannot hide
The dreaming tree has died

Oh, have you no pity?
This thing I do
I do not deny it
All through this smile
As crooked as danger
I do not deny
I know in my mind
I would leave you now
If I had the strength to
I would leave you up
To your own devices
Will you not talk?
Can you take pity?
I don't ask much
But won't you speak, please?

From the start
She knew she had it made
Easy up 'til then
For sure she'd make the grade
Adorers came in hordes
To lay down in her wake
Gave it all she had
But treasures slowly fade
Now she's falling hard
Feels the fall of dark
How did this fall apart?
She drinks to fill it up
A smile of sweetest flowers
Wilted so and soured
Black tears stain the cheeks
That once were so admired
She thinks when she was small
There on her father's knee
How he had promised her,
"You'll always be my baby."
"Daddy come quick,
The dreaming tree has died
I can't find my way home
There is no place to hide
The dreaming tree has died."

Oh, if I had the strength to
I would leave you up
To your own devices
Will you not talk?
Can you take pity?
I don't ask much
But won't you speak, please?

ok, i'll speak, i'll speak!!  :):):)


thanks for all of this.  plain truth is -- i got my hands full at the moment.

if you have a few minutes -- any of you -- check out this video on interfaith on social media.

this guy frank fredericks is hot

Speaking is not something I find myself needing to urge YOU to do, Bruce!  And I'm glad you're here to help us grow a Dreaming Tree.

Curious what among Frank Frederick's fairly technical advice on using social media to promote an initiative you thought might be most relevant here.  

Also struck by his "no politics rule."  Is that something you think we need to be wary of in the Interfaith context?  Can we Occupy Interfaith and not be political?  Pretty hard to imagine how, or even why we would go there.  That said, the political dimensions of this subject are challenging, are they not?  I belong to a "liberal" religious tradition (UU), which doesn't mean liberal politically per se, and yet it certainly attracts people of that persuasion.  Meanwhile, we have the Religious Right in this country and elsewhere that is on the opposite side of that divide.  Is one of our goals in this dialogue to transcend that, or to offer a more prominent platform for expressions of faith that are inclusive and are also embracing the prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power?


Well, let's see -- I'd say a lot of what he is talking about is politics. I'll be taking more time with this soon. Here's another major link that came through today -- on "interfaith politics" -- from a group of international religious leaders (I'm not yet sure exactly who they are) on the G8 Summit

Generally, for me -- and for many interfaith activists -- political impact and influence is very much the purpose of becoming involved.  The idea in simple terms is -- religions are supposed to be sources of community healing and wisdom -- even if that is often not the case -- but interfaith is -- in my opinion -- the attempt to draw all the best of religious ideas together -- and establish "common ground" -- and "common good"

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

Reading our thread here brought up a shard of an idea for a question.

"What in our faith traditions could we plumb more deeply to bring even deeper wisdom and more energy to addressing the issues of the world?"

Here's the shard: the interfaith communications that I've seen (and granted, I haven't followed many of them) cite a few abstract elements that most faiths have in common--commitments to justice, compassion, ecology--and put them side by side with today's issues, making a basic connection between the one and the other. This is certainly not a bad thing.

But I want that connection to go much deeper: to explore specific elements of other faiths, especially commonalities among most faiths, and see how they can inform our efforts on a deeper level. For instance, I've heard it said that a belief in life after death, particularly an apocalypse of some sort, leads people into apathy about this world and its issues. However, in my experience, it can work quite dramatically the opposite: a confidence in life after death allows one not to live for one's own personal gain, but to give oneself away extravagantly for a cause, etc.

If you think there's something in this, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The day after I created this thread to explore the idea of an Occupy Interfaith dialogue, I got an email from The Global Peace Initiative of Women asking if Jitendra or I were interested in being part of a rountable discussion they are convening in NYC on June 6 on the subject of "Re-Envisioning Prosperity."  This is part of work they are doing in a collaborative called "The Contemplative Alliance," which "was formed in 2008 in response to the need for a new multi-faith spiritual voice for the nation, one based on a vision of the unity of faiths, the sacredness of the natural world and the need to tap inner spiritual resources to achieve a more inclusive and balanced form of prosperity."

Interesting synchronicity, to be sure.  I have posted a description of the event as a page within this group here.

So it seems that both the Interfaith and "Occupy meets Transition, etc." (New Economies) conversations are possibly merging, or at least that there is considerable overlap.

Here's another fascinating things to check out

HeartMap - Compassionate Seattle -- a network of community organizations

Thanks, Bruce.  As you may know, this comes out of Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion initiative, which is rooted in Interfaith concepts--especially the universal embrace of the Golden Rule.  Jitendra and I know Jeff vanderClute, who is closely involved with Compassionate Cities, btw.

i'd like to do more of this in pdx and connect to larger efforts too...


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