Embracing the Unknown
In the course of my Christian life, I have met many Christians who fear immersing themselves in other religions. They often say that they fear losing their faith, or feel no need to study other religions when they know that Christ is the Way. I do not understand the mentality of these "prophets of doom" who feel their faith threatened by the presence of those who believe differently. But for me, embracing the unknown is a crucial part of being Christian, especially in our interreligious world.
My religious formation has always been interreligious. When I was 20 and in RCIA, I began meditating at a local zendo, immersing myself in the apophatic mystery. Around the same time, a chance encounter with an acquaintance converting to Judaism led to my taking Biblical Hebrew lessons from the local rabbi. More recently, I spent last summer at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, a Buddhist Studies program attached to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu. As part of this program, we had a 10-day meditation retreat after the course was over. On the eighth day of the retreat, a group of students and I hiked up a nearby hill to a Hindu shrine to Shiva. Here we were, at ten at night at the top of a hill in a Hindu and Buddhist country studying Tibetan Buddhism - yet the conversation turned to Christ. This and other profoundly shaping experiences in my Buddhist Studies program did not diminish, but strengthen my faith. I empathize with Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Corps, when he said that serious encounter with members of other faiths actually clarified and strengthened his religious identity as a Muslim. Most importantly, I feel blessed that I have always been welcomed as guests in these other traditions.
So for me, the experience of God in my life is not what some would consider "Catholic." I am not an avid prayer of the rosary. I do not go to confession as often as I should. I do not have any special devotions to saints. As a practitioner of an "interfaith faith," I seek to be both at the center of the Christian tradition and on the fringes, finding God in Zen meditation or rabbinic exegesis of the Bible. I find God in study, in encounters with others, in those moments in conversations where ideas I didn't even know I had are being challenged and overturned. All of these are graced moments, moments in which I feel Ignatian consolation of God's presence.
Jonathan Homrighausen is a junior double major in religious studies and classics. For the 2013-2014 school year he will be the Campus Ministry Interfaith Intern. Lately for fun he has been reading H.P. Lovecraft and parsing Hebrew verbs.