We have wrapped up our summer series on Interfaith Misunderstandings and are now entering into the fall season. This week, we hear from Dialogue member Sarah Shannon-Wildt. She describes what motivates her to participate in Dialogue and what she takes back out into the world. Enjoy!
Sarah has been a part of TCL for over 2 years, regularly attending dialogues and Christian discipleship groups. She has her MDiv from APTS, and is currently working on her second master’s in counseling. She works for UT in administration and as a part time pastor at Church of the Savior.
Interfaith Dialogue has been something that I’ve valued and wanted to participate in for years. In college I took a class called “Dialogue,” and in that class I read an article by Diana Eck. She says that “dialogue” and “relationship” are synonymous--that dialogue is relationship. This concept has stuck with me ever since. When I learned about The Church Lab, I was so moved that Rev. Carrie was doing exactly this--creating dialogical relationships by having us participate in Interfaith Dialogue on a regular basis. The premise that deep systemic change occurs on the relational level--a friendship level, building bridges with people who believe differently than me, spoke to me so deeply. I knew that I had to be a part of this bridge-building.
Before my regular involvement with TCL, I would get stuck in the “us vs. them” phenomenon. My “them” tended to be Conservatives because I struggled to understand where they were coming from. Thanks to TCL, I can genuinely say that I have built friendships with people who identify as Conservative, and because of this, I have been able to humanize my “other”. This deep humanization has shifted the way I interact with people who I disagree with in my regular world. Though I still disagree, I can disagree in love rather than in hate. The way I speak about others has morphed from a place of anger and frustration, to a place of seeking to understand and discovering their humanity.
Our society today is becoming more and more and more polarized, and this polarization is only creating more hatred and discomfort, rather than unity and understanding. When I would approach conversations about those who identify as Conservative with the same hostility that so many people I know do, I was contributing to the problem, rather than the solution. I can still be angry with political decisions that negatively impact those I care about, but that doesn’t mean I need to demonize those who agree with those same decisions. There is a difference between fighting power structures and systems and hating people. Hating people does not change the systems--loving people is how we can change our world. This is why I come to TCL and why I continue to come back. As a Progressive Christian, I believe that goodness will always overcome, and I believe that the only way to create true goodness is through seeing the goodness in all people.