As a sophomore English major at Loyola Marymount University, I enrolled in World Religions. Our professor was a Jesuit priest, and one day in the middle of a lecture, he paused and began speaking candidly about his experience with doubt. He revealed that he had often contemplated his choice to become a priest, while reflecting on all that he had given up in order to take that path.
Father James Fredericks went on to explain that when he felt those doubts, he would always reach for a certain scripture. This scripture was a passage by a woman who was a Buddhist monk, and it would always soothe him. It amazed me that a man who dedicated his whole life to God, would express, so openly, his doubt and his source for answers outside his own doctrine. I was moved by his open mind and his humility. My view of religion, and religious people, was forever changed. This was my introduction to the important practice of interfaith dialogue.In the Devotion video series we eliminated the stigma of doubt in faithful people. Instead, we celebrated it as an essential element of humility and authenticity. We created an interfaith dialogue between a Buddhist bishop, a Catholic priest, and a Muslim sheikh. We talked about the politics of fear and how a lack of knowledge and compassion causes a darkness that creates hate between people. We explored the role of religion in the modern world, the status of women in each doctrine, the importance of social justice, the existence of God and the afterlife, and confronted, head on, other dilemmas humans encounter as we navigate our complex lives. The three men offered guidance, comprehension, and, most importantly, an honest conversation.
I chose the word “devotion” for the project because of its beauty and mystery; it expressed both the certainty of choosing a direction in life, as well as the often intangible nature of spirituality. Throughout the episodes, one thing remained consistent across religious divides: these leaders practice their devotion through bold action, not sedentary belief. They embody their compassion through steps that affect other people.
In the United States, the concept of “God” comes up in various contexts. But, many Americans have not had the chance to truly understand other religions, or even their own. Our series proudly provides that service. We aimed to educate, not convert those watching.
All people are devout in one way or another, to someone or something. Devotion is not just for the religious or the faithful, it can apply to those living outside of constructed religion or spirituality, just the same. It is a human experience worth communicating, exploring, and celebrating, because it has the potential to unify.
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