I was deeply moved the first time I heard singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco’s song Overlap as she describes a relationship. And it was much later that I realized how clearly this can speak to my experiences within interfaith communities, and in particular, for the areas of diversity and inclusion.
Ms. DiFranco wrote a phrase that you may have heard before, that “I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort in where we overlap.” For many of us involved with ministry, that comfort is a special place, and oftentimes has been hard won.
The existentialist philosopher Martin Buber (1957) describes a community marked by inclusion as an “overcoming of otherness in living unity” (p. 102). However, he is careful to note that this does not mean that we form a “union of the like-minded.” Rather, in my experience, a diverse and inclusive community arises when we live meaningfully together in the midst of different opinions and perspectives.
One of the benefits of having an interfaith or inter-tradition identity is that we presume we are a part of something larger than our own cultural, religious, or spiritual traditions, which is a good place to begin. We collaborate rather than compete. We venture into each other’s areas and let our encounters change us. We become aware of our own ignorance, fear, and prejudice, and this serves as fuel for our personal growth as well as a means of critiquing and thereby strengthening or evolving our own traditions.
And it is this that I see as important for Madonna Interfaith Community to never forget. That diversity and inclusion are strengths and, most certainly, a diverse and inclusive interfaith community is to be celebrated and cherished and nurtured.
Buber, M. (1957). Pointing the way. (M. Friedman, Trans.) New York: Harper and Brothers.