Observant reader(s) of our blog may have recently noticed a seemingly subtle change to our site. No, not the new logo: that is anything but subtle (and thanks, by the way, to our friend Ilsa Loeser and her talented crew at Letterpress Communications for the logo *shameless plug*). I am referring to the subtitle of our blog. We are no longer an interfaith blog; we are now an “interfaithED” blog. This may seem an almost insignificant change, the addition of two letters, but it represents a new perspective we are taking on just what exactly we are doing.
Over the last eight to nine months, Chris and I have become less enthusiastic with the description of our blog, our podcast, and even our relationship as “interfaith.” We are, to be clear, technically interfaith: I am a Jew, and he is a Christian, but the term “interfaith” does not fully describe who we are or what we are trying to do. Usually, when people colloquially throw out the term “interfaith,” they mean one of four scenarios: 1) some combination of Christians, Jews, and Muslims getting together to discuss, “Why can’t we all just get along?” 2) some combination of Christians, Jews, and Muslims getting together to discuss all the things we have in common, so we should really all just get along, 3) a religious observance to which members of other faith communities have been invited to attend proving that we can all just get along, or 4) some combination of the above for the purpose of converting the Others, thus eliminating the need to try to all just get along. Not one of these even remotely describes anything Chris and I have done with our discussions, blog posts, podcasts, or Bible studies.
So what do we mean when we use the term “interfaithed” instead? To begin with, an interfaithed discussion seeks to explore the areas of difference between faiths. If all we ever talk about are the things we already know and agree on, we would never learn anything new! Where our faiths differ is what is interesting. Not just that there are places we differ, but why we differ is instructive. What do these differences teach us about each Other? If we truly want to understand what, why, and how Others believe without trying to prove their belief wrong, incomplete, or somehow inferior to our own, then it is our differences which are instructive.
A focus on differences is important for another reason as well. Our differences are what makes us useful to each other. To learn is to grow, but I can only learn new things. If I am exposed to only sameness, there is nothing new to learn, and I cannot grow. Learning new things about my own faith does create growth, but that growth is limited by what my own faith can teach me. If I am to expand my potential for growth, I must engage with ideas, people, and faiths different than my own. In other words, what Chris has taught ne about his Christianity has expanded my view of Judaism. And I believe he would say the same about me and his view of his Christian faith.
We found ourselves constricted by the term “interfaith” and so created a new moniker for what we do. We wanted to make it clear that we are not “just trying to get along.” We want anyone wishing to join in our discussions to understand our goal, to share our respect for each other and The Other. We wanted to acknowledge that in order to learn grow, and expand our view requires we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, that we expose ourselves to “dangerous” ideas, but that learning only happens when we are uncomfortable, and ideas only seem dangerous because they come from The Other.
Words matter. What we name something matters. It is not just semantics because semantics is everything. Language creates reality. Sometimes a little ED is a good thing.