Tuesday, December 16, 2014

written by guest blogger, Kerri Dietz Pillen
Everything I have ever witnessed or participated in that involved Project Interfaith was done with an uncanny amount of thorough professional care.  I will never forget how we live interviewing teams for the first phase of RaveUnravel submitted interest forms, then had an information/training meeting, then had regular talk-about-it meetings, then had a lunch meeting, a personal response to the experience meeting...and I know there were other ones that I am not recalling just now.

On the other hand, every time I have written something for Project Interfaith it has been to meet a quickly arriving deadline, and done with more haste and less care than I would wish.  This letter is no exception.
Last week I was quite surprised to learn that Beth Katz will no longer be leading Project Interfaith.  How we will miss her, and how lucky we were to have her!

Beth has accomplishments and relationships that are well known around the world.  What I have  meant to say to Beth for years, and am hurrying to say now, is that for me the PROJECT in Project Interfaith has always been both a noun and also a verb, just like Beth herself.  Regarding this verb, to project, I know no one who projects more hospitality, appreciation, knowledge, the building of relationships or caring than our Beth.  And because of the noun, the interfaith project, which she so wisely named Project Interfaith --  everyone and everything touched by it/her has been enlightened and empowered to become another ripple projecting hospitality, appreciation, knowledge, caring and the building of relationships across the world... to become another spark of light projecting into one heart at a time.

I said once in something else that I wrote for PI that I have come to weigh many of my personal involvements with people and entities with standards that I first heard expressed so well by Project Interfaith:  being sure that everyone is included, protected, and valued.  It made me think of people or organizations in my life that fulfilled one or two of these attributes but was missing at least one.  I KNOW that because we have been touched by Beth, we can all personify all three of these concepts and --in our own smaller personal ways -- we can do what Beth personifies:  we also can project an attitude that leads to a local community and eventually to a world community where everyone is valued, included, and protected.  And wherever Beth may be, we will never stop.

Au revoir, Beth.  You, PI, and all of us who have been touched by PI are forever bound (also both an adjective :-)  and a verb)

Kerri Dietz Pillen Bio: I am a cradle Catholic and one who questions institutions for as long as I can remember. I was born in Omaha, raised from 4 years old in Bellevue through St Marys Bellevue grammar school and Daniel Gross Catholic high school.  In undergraduate work at Iowa State I taught children's classes, attended retreats  and was an altar server.  In optometry school at Ohio State University I was in the artisans, was a Eucharistic minister and lectored and attended retreats.  I returned to practice optometry with my father (since deceased) and rejoined my home parish of St Marys Bellevue along with my husband and mother, where I continue to lector and have been a CCD teacher, Eucharistic minister, and member of the liturgy planning committee.
I am a cradle Catholic and have been a person who questions social behavior/attitudes and institutions for as long as I can remember, and I like bridges between people more than divisions.  While the name Catholic means universal, I am better able to build relationships outside my faith and to pursue universal respect and understanding of non Catholics via Project Interfaith.  I loved the concept of an interfaith organization when I first heard of PI, and my participation has included attending several interfaith architecture tours, submitting photos that were used for the art works project showing how our local worship experience religious nourishes us, attending lectures sponsored by PI and others publicized by PI, volunteering to help at some PI events, spreading the word of their existence, and I was an in person interviewer for the RavelUnravel project.  I have two children.  They are generous people who accept and support people of all types and organization, they give service to their communities, and are not religiously affiliated.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Letting Go of Truth and Justice

written by guest blogger, Andrew Zurbrugg
I've always had an interest in knowledge, specifically knowing capital 'T' Truth(s). And I've always had a desire to understand the nature of all the injustices in the world. These two topics are often addressed directly by religion. Despite my agnosticism, I've always had a fascination with religion and spirituality. But it was generally through the lenses of these two topics, and mostly an abstract or academic interest. So a lot of what I read about religion, philosophy, and spirituality was concerned with trying to understand how different belief systems dealt with Truth and explained injustice.

For example, being raised with Christian dualism, I was quite interested in theodicy. Despite the paradox of a benevolent God, countless people throughout history have believed in the tenants of Christianity.  And at least some of them had to be reasonable, rational people. So I learned about it.
To skip over all the messy details, there is no explanation for the suffering and injustice in the world that will satisfy the skeptics. There is no perfect defense of God, Christian or otherwise, hence the consistent and infuriating chorus of “God works in mysterious ways.” And even if you assume this to be true, it still doesn't answer or resolve anything.

As I began to develop a deeper, more direct interest in spirituality, questions of injustice and Truth kept coming up. Why should I put faith in a God who is quite content to let me suffer?  I’m perfectly capable of suffering all on my own without God in my life.  And unless God would grant me Truth through divine revelation, welcoming God into my life will get me no closer to that goal either.
After quite a while of struggling with these dilemmas, I decided to let go of my pursuit of Truth.  And I decided to choose a spiritual path despite the injustice that may occur in my life and the lives of those around me. Letting go of these pursuits opened the door to spirituality for me. Once I did this, I was able to begin my journey.  I started finding synchronicities and developing my chakras.

I've experienced so much growth and learning over the past few months that would not have been possible if I had not let go of these questions. When I say I let them go, it doesn't mean I’m no longer interested or that I don’t still ask the questions. It means I accept the reality that I’m not likely to get answers. With this acceptance, I've found it’s possible to travel a spiritual path while still being perfectly grounded and still maintaining a healthy sense of doubt and skepticism.

Andrew Zurbrugg is a writer and seeker of wisdom from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  In his blog, The Spiritual Journey of a Skeptic, he describes his experiences trying to unify spiritual practice with rationality.  He graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in Communication and a B.S. in Information Systems. Andrew practices Theravada Buddhism and hopes to contribute positively to interfaith dialogue.

Check out RavelUnravel.com to learn more about Agnosticism, Buddhism,
and many other religious and spiritual identities.

Interested in blogging for us? Submit a guest blog any time!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It is only through your generous contribution that
Project Interfaith is able to combat the growing tension
between people of various spiritual and cultural identities.
Click here to donate to our fall appeal for financial support.
  The world is experiencing increased conflict among people of different faiths and beliefs. Countries having a “high or very high level of social hostility involving religion” has reached a six-year peak. Out of 198 countries studied (accounting for 99.5% of the world’s population), 47% had incidents of hostility or abuse targeting religious minorities (Pew Research, 2012).
The United States
is not immune to such conflict. The third leading motivator for hate crimes committed in the United States is religious bias (FBI, 2012).
The solution
to this problem is education, understanding, and familiarity. “Knowing someone from a religious group is linked with having relatively more positive views of that group,” (Pew Research, 2014).
There is a clear need for a resource that promotes open, respectful learning and conversation about the world’s spiritual and religious identities. A resource that confronts religious marginalization and conflict head on. A resource that addresses religious ignorance, dispels religious stereotypes, and eliminates the fears that can lead to discrimination and violence.
Project Interfaith is that resource.
Project Interfaith offers programs, products, and services that build awareness, knowledge, and skills among the public; enabling community members of diverse religious, spiritual, and cultural identities to more effectively live, work, and engage with one another.

But don’t just take our word for it. Hear from individuals who have used Project Interfaith’s educational products and resources in their communities . . .
Project Interfaith’s educational programs and products foster critical thinking, conversation skills, and objective learning about religious and cultural diversity. They enhance the inclusive atmosphere in the communities in which they are used. However, we can only continue to offer these tools with your help.

Your support today will help to ensure that Project Interfaith’s programs and products remain accessible to the public for years to come.  Click here.

There are many ways to give:
1) You can securely donate online
    through the Project Interfaith
    Click here.
2) You can donate via phone by
    contacting our offices:
3) Or you can donate via mail to:
    Project Interfaith
    P.O. Box 6037
    Omaha, NE 68106