By Ramona Siddoway
This was a phrase my dad always used. The saying comes from the idea that food is often more palatable with a pinch of salt. Figuratively the phrase refers to not taking things too seriously, that some experiences or comments should be accepted with a bit of skepticism - and a healthy sense of humor.
A few years back a friend confided in me that she heard that, as part of a ceremony, Mormons danced naked and threw leaves in the air. I looked at her, took her comment with a grain of salt, and responded with, “Sweetie, don’t you think if that were true we’d have a lot more converts?” And then we had a good laugh together. I wasn’t offended and I knew that she was going off of false information. I was happy she came to me to clarify.
More recently I attended an interfaith panel of religious leaders. Among the leaders that included our own President Brent Rawson was a Hindu practitioner - a respected doctor - who shared an incident of a nurse who approached him in the hospital. Upon confirming that he was not a Christian she promptly sentenced him to Hell. Nonplussed he simply replied, “Oh. Okay,” then calmly walked away. “I didn’t understand her,” he shared with us. “What is hell?” We couldn’t help but laugh. He took her comment with a grain of salt and did not get angry or offended with her.
We have to be careful with each other and recognize first and foremost that all of us - because of our culture, family backgrounds, and nationalities - view things through our own unique lens. Hell to a Hindu is not the same as hell to a Christian (and, frankly, “hell” to many parents could simply refer to raising a teenager). Stereotypes are birthed and fed within families and communities. We are quick to try to make sense about the unknown, as it is usually the unknown that frightens us the most. The problem is that we tend to be hasty - and lazy - when we listen and internalize a judgment from someone else. There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) What “judgment” really means is passing sentence on someone else. We hear or assume something and then filter it through our own cultural, familial, racial, and faith-based lens. We avoid taking into account the other person’s own faith and sincerity in striving to deepen a relationship with God - their Higher Being. Our sentencing cannot possibly be fair as we are holding someone else to our rules, our standards, our way of life and our expectations. Not only that but we don’t have any authority to pass sentence.
What I love most about an interfaith community is the focus on faith - not necessarily in the sense of a particular religion or belief structure but in a trust and loyalty to a spiritual path. When we focus on that common goal of devotion we realize that we can become part of a larger group, that we are already part of a larger family. This is one way where we progress in our own journey. I became close friends with a Kundalini practitioner. What drew me to her was her deep spirituality. I was already very comfortable with my own beliefs and religion, but through conversations with her - as well as through her example - I realized that I wanted to focus more on my own communication with the Divine. It was more than just the act of prayer itself but I knew I needed to deepen the practice. I needed to engage in more conversations with God and I needed to focus on listening as well. I knew all of those basic tenets from my own faith and religion but she allowed me to view these tenets through her lens, and suddenly the old became new and fresh. I became excited again about my own spiritual journey. She never converted to my religion nor did I to hers, but we grew in our own faith through our association - and our friendship - with each other. We progressed on our individual spiritual paths.
Being part of an interfaith community often takes:
- patience - with ourselves as well as with others;
- love - a basic tenet of humanity;
- humor - being willing to laugh at ourselves and the stereotypes people may have for us; and
- energy - to step outside of one’s comfort zone and navigate our way through this lovely community.
Most of all it takes faith—faith in our neighbor, in the interfaith community, and faith in ourselves that we can contribute something of worth. But don’t forget to bring the salt . . .
Ramona Siddoway is a freelance writer and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons) where she volunteers in the Public Affairs department. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Interfaith Houston.