Monday, December 07, 2009

Building bridges of spilled hot chocolate

The four of us participated in Cornell's annual "I Believe In..." dinner last night. It's put on by the Interfaith Council, and is intended to be an activity where people of many different faiths (or no faith, as the case may be) can sit down together and talk about their differences, or maybe even similarities. Last night, we mingled with a Buddhist monk, a Swedenborgian, a Unificationist, a Unitarian/agnostic, Muslims, some fellow Mormons (but not really since we were confined to separate tables), Catholics, and some regular old Christians, plus a whole bunch of other people whose religions I didn't catch.

The best part of the evening was that the whole point was to ask all those questions that are usually taboo in our society. You have to admit, Americans don't often converse openly about religion, at least not in a safe, casual environment that is not emotionally charged. To help us along in our quest for mutual understanding and common ground, there were little question cards on all the tables that we could pick up at any time to start a discussion, such as, "What aspects of your faith do you think get more attention than they should, and which get less?" and "At what point in your life did you become an adherent of your religion?"

They were all interesting questions. And you should have seen everyone's jaws drop when Jeremy picked up a card and (pretended to) read, "Which is the one true religion?" Ha ha.

The other highlight of the evening was when Magdalena dumped a cup full of hot chocolate all over my lap. And I do mean that it was FULL of HOT chocolate and she dumped it ALL OVER my lap. I had already endured the indignity of having her shred my dinner roll to pieces and sprinkle the crumbs all over the tablecloth and ground, but I didn't even see the hot chocolate mess coming. At least it spilled on me and not anyone sitting next to me, because what an introduction to Mormons (and their kids) THAT would have been. I sat there for the rest of the dinner with my skirt soaking wet. Fortunately, our table mates were good sports about it (and just FYI, we had cleared bringing our kids with the event organizers, and we weren't the only ones there with kids. Lest you think we are one of those people).

But really, I did enjoy being able to ask all those dumb questions you sometimes have about other people's religions but are afraid to ask. We certainly fielded quite a few as the representative Mormons at our table. I think we can consider the I Believe In dinner to have been a great success. Except for that part with the spilled hot chocolate.


Jeremy Palmer said...

I admit to premeditated mischievousness concerning that question. Fortunately, they all realized it was jest and it actually broke the proverbial ice, as it were.

Aimee said...

Sounds like a fun dinner, hot chocolate and all. I have been in the same place with an active baby.

Although I wouldn't necessarily call an agnostic or atheist someone with "no faith." Perhaps no religion or maybe no religious affiliation? I don't know.

Some of the questions would be really interesting to hear, because it is such an emotionally charged topic for most people.

Bridget said...

I guess I was using "faith" to mean "religious persuasion," not literal faith as a belief in things hoped for but unseen.

Liz Johnson said...

I had an awesome conversation like this with one of my Catholic friends the other day. It was a completely open and honest discussion about each of our faiths, the similarities, differences, etc. And it was so refreshing for each of us! We each got to ask things like, "So... what is up with (insert "weird" religious issue here, like polygamy or Opus Dei)?" I really wish I could have more religious conversations like that.

Crys said...

Oh "Those People" :) We are definitely those people. My high anxiety level and the fact that Dr. J often doesn't tell me about work parties until the day of (usually like an hour before) means we are often "those people". Because of that I only go to a few things a year. I told Dr. J I don't want to bring the kids to graduation. He wants them there...of course he isn't the one that will be stuck entertaining them. Shesh :)

Susanne said...

How fun! I would have loved attending an event like that. Why IS it that Americans shy away from discussing religion in such ways? I find it exciting! Wish I could have heard the questions you asked and ones asked to you and the others at your table. :)

Sorry about your wet lap. I hope you didn't get burned. :-/

Aimee said...

I know you weren't meaning to use "no faith" like that, and perhaps that is why I pointed it out. Maybe that is rude. Sorry to get nit-picky.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I miss talking to my Catholic nun/ cousin Maureen about religion--sometimes we'd talk all day about Catholics & Mormons w/out being competitive or trying to prove one right; it was just an exchange of ideas. Now I have a friend Joanne who is Protestant & we can talk about Protestant thought & Mormons, strictly to exchange info & ideas. It's great.

I think too often people get defensive & think if you don't believe the same as they do that it must be because you think their ways are inferior, when the truth is, people just believe different from others, no judgement intended.

Nancy said...

That's awesome, Jeremy.

Not so awesome about the hot chocolate--good luck getting that out of your skirt!

I hear you about the baby thing. I take the kids everywhere--it's like I have 12 limbs and can only control 4 of them. I'm constantly apologizing. :) And actually was dreaming up a blog post of sorts about that since I've been so sheltered (ie: lucky) having lived my entire motherhood between Utah and the Middle East (both extremely baby-friendly places).


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