Beyond the question of context, another issue that is essential to be aware of when participating in the act of translation is seen in the difference between uniformity and friendship. When I think about translating theological language between groups, the primary task isn’t to find uniformity. I have the hardest time accepting another person’s beliefs when either I feel like in order for me to be in relationship with them I must believe what they believe, or when my view is the right one and therefore the other person - if they want to be in relationship with me - should ultimately move towards my view. But we know this cannot be true.
Given what we’ve just said about context (See ), we now know that this is not only an impossible task and a lot to ask of someone whose story is completely different from ours, it stands in the way of authentic community which is best when it is diverse, inclusive of many experiences, and rejects homogeneity.
Every movement for social justice throughout human society has found ways to weave together a tapestry of different human experiences. King talked about the Beloved Community. Early Quakers talked about Gospel Order. Jesus talked about the "Kingdom of God." The book of Revelation calls the radically inclusive community: the multitude. If uniformity – enlightening others that my view is right, or at the least, their view is wrong before we might come to some standard agreement – is at the center of our work, there will be unnecessarily high stakes and stress involved in the process. And I do not think we can or will achieve authentic spiritual community.
So if that isn’t it, what is our primary task?
It is to create a space that is safe enough that each person’s soul can show up, and is allowed to just be present. With the work that has done, and Multwood, and other “inter-faith” groups, the goal has never been bringing people to some kind of decision point, as though we wanted them to write a statement about this or that topic. (See also #4)
When we tell our stories within a space that is safe and honors one another’s souls, then we are doing work that is not only very powerful, but very countercultural to what often happens in our society.
I think most people find it very challenging to be in places where their soul is welcome, rather than being forced to conform. To be in a group where we can stand on our own two feet and say, “This is what I believe.” Or “This is who I am and I don’t need you to agree with everything you say, I just need you to accept that this is who I am.” Or even, “I disagree and here’s why, here is how I have experienced that for myself.” To be able to do this kind of work within community is a gift to everyone involved.