How 9/11 Made Me Interdenominational
What does it mean to be interdenominational?
Why is it even important that I use this word to describe my religious beliefs? Couldn't I just say, "I believe in God." or something more generic?
Sure, I could, but it would be incorrect to. Why? Because there's something intentional behind this label.
To be interdenominational means that I subscribe to all denominations. I see something good in all of them and I want that good to be represented in my own belief system.
It also means that I strive to be one who embraces (not tolerates) denominational plurality. I am overjoyed to have people in my church who identify as Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, etc.
Being interdenominational means that everyone brings something good to the table because of their differences, not just their similarities. It means that I am always absorbing more information and evolving, cherishing the wisdom that I learn from another's experience.
As a pastor, I spend a great deal of time with the sick and the dying. As death approaches, many begin to sense that it is near.
There's a common behavior that I witness in people as I sit next to them in their final hours. They all have some final words that they want to share with those that they love.
Sometimes these words are apologies. They may want to bring some closure or healing to a relationship that's been strained or damaged during there lifetime.
Other times they speak words of admonition, encouraging those that they love to live life to its fullest.
Still, others' final words are words of regret- sorrow for how they've conducted their lives or how they've missed the true meaning of this thing we call "existence."
What's my point?
My point is that as we get close to the end of our lives, the dust settles and all that is blurry becomes clear. We get a glimpse of what this was really all about.
Like the many I have sat with in their final moments, Jesus also wanted to say something to those that he loved just prior to his death.
These were his parting words- a prayer that he prayed for all people.
"My prayer is not for my disciples alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the light that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-- I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought into complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
- John 17:20-23
Jesus didn't pray for uniformity. He prayed for unity, and there's a big difference between the two. Uniformity means that we all look the same, act the same, think the same, and are indistinguishable from one another.
Unity, on the other hand means that we retain who we are. We have the freedom to think and the freedom to make our own choices. We also strive to work in harmony with others, embracing what is unique and special about them, partnering with them in the making of a better world.
This is why I call myself "interdenominational." I don't need to check my denominational leanings at the door when I enter church on Sundays or when I gather outside of church with friends.
We are each something "original" because of our experiences, and we have a lot to learn from one another.
If you think about what really happened to our country on 9/11 in its crudest form, it was a lynching of people who believed in freedom and pluralism by those who didn't.
Our nation is built on the principles of freedom and plurality.
"E pluribus unum." Out of the many, one. It's on every dollar bill you've ever held in you life.
Fundamentalism, extremism, and absolutism spawn all manner of destruction in our world, and on September 11, 2001 that's exactly what happened.
9/11 happened because a small group of people truly believed that they were right and that everyone else was wrong. They believed it so deeply that they set out on a mission to put people to death who didn't believe the same things they did.
This is fundamentalism. This is extremism. This is empire.
Pluralism drives the fundamentalist absolutely crazy because it values the collective experience of people, instills freedom, and welcomes change.
Why does interdenominationlism matter? Because it has the ability to build bridges between different kinds of people. It breeds empathy, trust, and friendship.
I am so grateful to be a part of faith community that values this.
When I look out at the world and I see destruction and tragedy happening, I begin to feel despair. However, in the same moment I am also filled with hope because I know that I have allies all over the world in every culture, religion, and country who long for peace.
I will courageously continue to embrace more than one idea.
I will joyfully welcome those who are different into my life and my faith.
With firm love, I will reject any system of reasoning or belief that says, "This person isn't welcome to be a part of my life because of their economic status, their religious beliefs, the color of their skin, their cultural background, their sexual orientation, or any of the other things that make us different from one another."
I will love my enemies.
I will do good to those who curse me.
I will pray for those who use me.
I will continue to champion the belief in a God that longs for the many to be one.