Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith by Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman, Sky Light Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT, 2011;  170 pages, ISBN 978-1-59473-317-8, paperback $16.99.

Seattle's Interfaith Amigos, brought together after 9/11, explore four of the difficult subjects in their Abrahamic faiths that are often raised by people who come to their presentations: exclusivity or staking claim to the one and only truth; violence or justifying brutality in the name of faith; inequality of men and women or the patriarchal stranglehold on power; and homophobia or a denial of legitimacy.  The authors addresses the issue honestly in turn, each from within his own faith, and then together they offer concluding thoughts on it and provide questions for people to ponder or to share in a discussion group. 

These and other controversial issues are far from tangential.  They are in the sacred texts, in the traditions that have grown up around the religions, and also have been absorbed from the cultures which the religions are practiced in.  In the authors' view religious institutions like individuals can go astray from the deep spiritual values religion seeks to awaken in people and become caught up in power and control. Interfaith dialogue can help individuals and groups return to their spiritual purpose and meaning.  "The healing that we need as a society requires us to meet each other as full human beings.  The healing we seek opens us up to collaborate more honestly in confronting the major issues that impact us all.  Such healing does not deny the problems we find in our traditions, but utilizes them in the service of becoming whole.  Healing allows us to appreciate our own traditions and those of others more profoundly." (p. x)

There are some pearls of wisdom here.  For example, Rabbi Ted Falcon says when discussing the Jewish view of God: "That name-which-is-not-pronounced consists of the four Hebrew letters yod-hay-vav-hay and is a form of the three-letter verb root hay-yod-hay, which means 'to be.'  The unspoken name, comprising these four letters, can best be translated 'That which is.'  The name refers to Being without limitation of time or space."  He brings out that because "Hebrew has no neuter, everything spoken is either masculine or feminine.  God, like everything else, can be a 'He' or a She,' but not an 'It.'" (pp. 141-2).  His discussion of "I AM as I AM" is also illuminating.

Particularly recommended for those from the Abrahamic faiths or who are dealing with people from those faiths. – Sarah Belle Dougherty

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