Over the course of reading the book “The Faith Club” many things resonated with me but one statement from Ranya, the Muslim woman, sums things up. “Once you can see things from both sides you’re on the side of compassion and humanity.” Another thing that impressed me was a bit of wisdom from my friend, Cheryl, during a walk last weekend. “Don’t judge a religion by the people who practice it.” How simple, yet how profound, these statements are. Cheryl’s remarks reminded me why I strayed from religion in the first place and Ranya’s thoughts reminded me why I came back.
As a high school student, attending Episcopal School and singing in a Catholic choir I often asked myself if there was room in Christianity for a more open minded view. Surely there was more than one path to God. I struggled with the notion of a God who condemns those who don’t accept him or causes good people to suffer. I recall when I was producing television at KAKE TV in Wichita, Kansas, we had a family with many children appear one day on our noon talk show. There was love and joy all around. A short time later we were shocked to learn that a fire had swept through their home and taken the lives of several of their children. One of my colleagues remarked that God must have been punishing them. I shut her out. God reveals himself in many ways but he doesn’t kill babies. I’ll never believe in a God of vengeance. To me that notion belongs to fundamentalists and extremists who monopolize the dialogue and make the possibility of understanding impossible.
But by closing my mind at that moment wasn’t I disrespectful of her ideas, however farfetched? Could we have possibly understood each other better if we had dialogued on the subject rather than agreed to disagree? That’s what is so impressive about the women in “The Faith Club.” Over time they realized that there were more things that united them than divided them. They were able to embrace the faiths of each other, put it out on the table and recognize a God of all humanity. Suzanne, the Christian woman, described religion like college degrees. “One person might earn a BA in literature while another earns one in history. They’re equally educated, though differently educated. The real test is how they apply that knowledge in their lives.” I’ve finished reading “The Faith Club” and as I come to the end of this high holiday journey of faith I’m committed to going out in the new year with my mind more open. There are connections and contradictions in all faiths and I must not only listen but also hear.
And I must remember that if I am open, God shows up in the most unexpected places. The truth doesn’t only reveal itself in church or temple but sometimes under the stars at night. During my high school years I sang in a choir called Na Kani Pela which performed every Sunday at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in downtown Honolulu. During the summer before I went to college we went to Makawao, Maui for a concert. It was one of the last times we would all be together as a group and as we had done so many times before, we sang. The song that night was a Latin hymn called “O Magnum Mysterium.” As we began our harmonies a silver rainbow appeared in the sky and when we finished it slowly faded away. It was quite miraculous. I will always believe God was there that night reminding me to recognize the beauty in all faiths and remember the universal truths that connect us to one another and our humanity.
For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.