By Kyle Tubbs
“How did I get here?”
This is the question one of my fellow CBF participants asked me this morning at the Third National Baptist-Muslim Dialogue in Green Lake, Wisconsin. He wasn’t asking this in a rhetorical way; rather he was genuinely piecing together what actions he took throughout his life to put him in a room with Baptists and Muslims from all over the country who are trying to understand one another, discuss religious liberty, and figure out ways to partner in peacemaking endeavors.
I asked myself the same question, trying to retrace my steps on how I also arrived at this event.
I think back to my experiences in public school with friends of faiths different from my own. I wasn’t reared in a foreign country; rather, this was just a suburb of Dallas. I don’t think I can remember a time before knowing people of other faiths.
I then consider interfaith engagements in my education. My Old Testament professor in undergrad took our class to a Jewish synagogue, where I was welcomed. My world religions professor in seminary took our class to both Buddhist and Hindu temples, where I was welcomed. In my doctoral coursework, we took a travel course to Israel where I encountered Jews, Muslims, and Christians at a plethora of holy sites. Again, they welcomed me.
I reflect on these times where I was welcomed as a stranger; am I also this welcoming of others? Do I treat others with the graciousness I received?
Additionally, the global world has become more local. I don’t have to leave my neighborhood to encounter people who identify with different religions or no religion at all. My wife teaches with people from a diversity of faiths and her students have differing religious perspectives. Note: It doesn’t take an interfaith event to meet your inter-religious neighbors; you can probably meet someone of another faith by talking with those you encounter at your local grocery store.
Baptists have long committed themselves to religious freedom. Starting as a religious minority experiencing persecution in both England and then in America, Baptists knew what it was like to not be welcomed. Now that Baptists have become a majority in the United States, how can we continue to advocate for the religious rights of our inter-religious friends? How can Baptists remember what it was like to be a minority religion and then intentionally make choices to defend those who are the religious minorities of our day?
So, back to how I came to this particular Baptist-Muslim event this week. It is probably a combination of quite a few things: relationships, education, the changing world, a passion for religious liberty, and a desire to welcome strangers with the grace I have received. The world keeps getting smaller, and I want to figure out how to better love my [inter-religious] neighbor as myself.
Now, reader, I challenge you to also think about your own particular context. Who are your inter-religious neighbors in your community? How can you get to know them? How can you be an advocate for the Baptist distinctive of religious liberty? Have you thought much recently about your theological approach to other faiths? Like Jesus, how can you welcome strangers and love neighbors?
Rev. Kyle Lee Tubbs is the Lead Pastor and Church Planter of Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas and serves as a coach for CBF church starters.