Our belief systems, particularly our spiritual beliefs and traditions, are increasingly important dimensions of culture. We must be able to bridge religious and spiritual differences if we are to live together in a collaborative, inclusive, respectful world. Yet this dimension is far too often overlooked and shortchanged in the intercultural literature.
Today, in this blog post, I offer up a few quotes that speak to me about this topic. It is my hope that taking a few moments to reflect might help each of us better do our part to promote inter-religious understanding.
We are fortunate that so many schools of divinity, congregations, spiritual communities and ecumenical groups use Cultural Detective to promote tolerance, understanding and respect. I’d welcome hearing from any of you about the efforts in which you’re engaged. Please, also, share with us quotes on this topic that speak to you.
“Impiety: Your irreverance toward my deity.”
“When political conflict is religionized, it is absolutized.”
“Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution.”
—William Butler Yeats
“So many Gods, so many creeds; so many paths that wind and wind; when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs.”
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The joke (instead of a proverb) in Cultural Detective Jewish Culture that illustrates the value of “group solidarity” (CLASSIC cross-cultural miscommunication; enjoy!):
Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He’d have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they’d have to convert or leave.
The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the Rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a ‘silent’ debate.
On the chosen day the Pope and Rabbi sat opposite each other.
The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.
The Rabbi looked back and raised one finger.
Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head.
The Rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.
The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine.
The Rabbi pulled out an apple.
With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten, saying that the Rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.
Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened. The Pope said, ‘First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only One God common to both our beliefs. Then I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move, and I could not continue.’
Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the Rabbi how he’d won. ’I haven’t a clue,’ the Rabbi said. ‘First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger. Then he told me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here.’
‘And then what?’ asked a woman.
‘Who knows?’ said the Rabbi. ‘He took out his lunch so I took out mine.”