That first field trip opened a whole new folder of questions for me, both as a person and as a teacher of young persons. Is it better to read about a religion in a textbook than to risk actual contact with it? How would I feel if a group of students visited my church and treated the holiest things inside it like oddities? Can anyone who visits a sacred space remain an observer, or does one become a participant simply by entering in? Does taking part in the ritual of another faith automatically make you a traitor to your own?
The most troubling question of all was why my religion seemed so much less gracious than Dr. Acharya’s religion did. She seemed to be an exemplar of it, and her hospitality was impeccable. She welcomed all of us to join her at the high altar in her temple without asking what we believed. She enlisted the priest to offer special prayers for us. She did not distance herself from those who snickered. She did not take anyone to task for refusing the prasad. She opened her arms to us from beginning to end. If there were any problems with the visit, they came from the religious worldview of her guests, who had been taught to be very careful about who and what they embraced. I stewed about it all the way home in the van. Why was my crowd so defensive? Who had convinced us that faith was a competitive sport and that only one team could win for all eternity? With an attitude like that, who could blame a neighbor for sensing that Christian love was mostly charitable condescension?
– from “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor – HarperOne