Back in February, I was invited to sit on a panel organized by the Pluralism Project and the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School as a part of Harvard’s 2012 Interfaith Awareness Week. The subject was conceptions of “common ground” in interfaith work.
When it was my turn to talk, I discussed how the idea that “common ground” might require ideological and theological consensus is often a stumbling block to bringing different voices into the interfaith movement (particularly atheist voices). To that end, I talked about how some language used in interfaith circles doesn’t make room for nonreligious people, and how interfaith worship or prayer breakfasts are inherently exclusive. I explained why we instead emphasize interfaith social action at the Humanist Chaplaincy, and offered my ideas about common ground as both a goal and a device for achieving other goals, and how we might go about locating it. Finally, I shared a couple of stories — one about finding common ground when it’s easy, and one about finding common ground when it’s difficult. The latter story explains how I responded when someone came to a speech I gave and told me I had a demon inside of me that was making me gay. Yep, that has happened! (More than once, in fact.)
I was lucky to sit on this panel alongside Jennifer Peace of Andover Newton Theological School, Latifa Ali of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries of Massachusetts, Whitney Barth of the Pluralism Project, and Francis X. Clooney, S.J. of the CSWR. Each had some great insights and stories to share. Click here to watch the video and let me know what you think about this elusive and often vague concept of “common ground,” how we might find it, and what we might do with it!