The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Kimball inspires work at San Antonio peaceCENTER

Confession. Community. Transformation. These are the major results of Charles Kimball's book When Religion Becomes Evil and his visit to the San Antonio peaceCENTER. He intended the book to be read and discussed in churches and communities. That's exactly what happened before, during and after his May 9-11 visit.

Dozens of interfaith professional and lay leaders had already read his book together. Throughout his visit, more than 250 leaders — Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and more — gathered to hear Kimball's words and respond.

The experience was confessional. We explored the histories of all our faith traditions and the five signs of when religion became violent throughout the centuries. We realized and admitted that no faith tradition and history is exempt from this violent potential. We've all suffered from one end of violence or the results of a particular religion claiming to hold the absolute truth, or followers following in blind obedience. These bold truth claims and obedience within all faith traditions led to the establishment of ideal times and the use of any means, even holy wars, to reach our fervent and many times destructive ends. These realizations and confessions brought us together into a deeper relationship.

The experience created community. During the last decade or more, leaders throughout San Antonio intentionally developed relationships, dialogues and activities across faith lines. That helped us not only to survive 9/11 but also to grow into an interfaith community committed to the concept that it takes all of us to make peace in this world. We act locally yet are deeply connected to global concerns. Via Kimball's words and his comparative religion viewpoint we are living in a new commitment.

The experience transformed us. We now live in deeper relationships, in more open dialogue and are expanding our actions. We'll build an interfaith Habitat for Humanity house this fall. Peace prayer vigils are held in churches, temples and mosques citywide. Book study groups meet in places of worship. Conversations are held around the just peacemaking model. Weekly articles about these local and global concerns appear in the San Antonio newspaper. Dialogues continue, especially among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

All 17 school districts received information to alleviate racial and religious tensions between students. An interactive study on nonviolence is available at www.salsa.net/peace. A mayor's commission, formed to develop unity in the city, is planning a peace park in front of the Alamo. Peace cafes are cropping up all over the city where artists encourage and celebrate deep conversation.

Faith. Hope. Love. These are the core principles found in the last chapter of Kimball's book, which points out that these principles act as a "compass " in our journeys ahead: Faith that is "richer and deeper" than belief; hope that is "forward looking;" and love of God, neighbor and enemy. It's the very living out of the Golden Rule that is found in all the major faith traditions. What we are living out as community in San Antonio confirms this, and at the same time affirms what is and could be happening in any faith community, anywhere on the planet


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February issue


Embracing diversity