My Neighbor's Faith

My first struggle with Scripture came early. The Sister who taught second grade made it a practice to read bible stories to us as part of our daily recess period. I went to school every day barely able to wait for the moment to come. I love the telling of them. I loved the surprises in every single one of them. But one day one of them threatened my faith in ways no child can plumb. If truth were told, the story of the Tower of Babel plagued me with troubling questions for years.

The story tells of a group of people who decided to build a ziggurat all the way up to heaven. They were in search of God. They were giving their lives to the process of finding the Divine. They were good people.

But, the story goes on, when God discovered the plan, God was not pleased. Instead, it seems, of being happy to see such living faith, such thirst for the Divine, such driving commitment to seek the living God, God deliberately interfered with the project. Dashed the whole endeavor, in fact. “I will confuse their language,” God says.

What kind of a God was this, I thought, that would make it impossible for people to find the God they seek, as we are all meant to do.

It took me a lot of thinking to understand the situation. The arrogance of it, I began to understand as the years went by, for any one group to think that they can achieve a monopoly on God. Instead, God explains in the story, “I will confuse their language so that they can come to know one another.”

Suddenly I understood: We are not meant to go to God alone, no matter who we are. We are meant to go together, enriched by one another’s faith and wisdom and insights into the ways of God.

The truth is that at its roots all religion speaks of the Mystery of Life that seeded all of us into life, that holds the cosmos in Being, that is the ultimate End of all our hope, It is the Unity for which we seek, the Oneness of Life that has many faces and speaks in many tongues.

This is an excerpt from the Forward that Joan Chittister wrote to My Neighbor's Faith: stories of interreligiious encounter, growth and transformation. Jennifer Howe Peace, Or N. Rose and Gregory Mobley, editors. Orbis 2012