Two mainline Christians, two Jews, two Unitarian/Universalists and a Muslim discovered all their congregations were involved in serving the needy and seeking social justice.
Last summer, my wife and I went to Niagara on the Lake for a few days. We stayed at a small bed and breakfast with two other couples and the hostess. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the other two cars in the driveway. One had an NRA sticker and the other one had one from the World Wildlife Federation. Actually, we all got along quite well, but I was nervous at first about how our conversations might go.
Our breakfast table group included two mainline Christians, two Jews, two Unitarian/Universalists, one of whom was an atheist, and a Muslim. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it was a great group of people to be with. We talked happily about our families, our various travels, the places and people we knew in common, and the plays we were seeing that week. We also shared a lot about the life of our congregations. While we were from different religions and traditions, we found that all our congregations were deeply involved in serving the needy and in seeking social justice. At one point I said, "Perhaps the one thing we all believe in is the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself." The atheist replied, "I absolutely agree."
Love your neighbor as yourself. It is one variation of the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Some version of this is found in nearly every religion as well as in nonreligious philosophies and moral systems. One could plausibly make the case that "love your neighbor as yourself" is the bedrock of morality, the foundation upon which life is built and without which life would ultimately self-destruct.
As a Christian, I unashamedly ground this in an understanding that God is love, that we are invited to trust that love and then to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Others may arrive at the principle in other ways, but putting it into practice is how we can live together in all our diversity and difference. In these difficult days, can we begin there?
Reflections is a column by religious leaders in the region. The Rev. John Downey is dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, 134 W. Seventh St.