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Holy Envy

In 1985, Krister Stendahl defined three rules for interreligious dialogue: (1) If you want to understand another religion, ask its adherents, not its enemies. (2) Don’t compare your best to their worst. (3) Leave room for “holy envy”.

I left room for “holy envy,” and the space is overflowing.

To my Baptist friend,

Thanks for arm-linked, hand-holding, totally touchy prayers. How can I ever be satisfied with the solitude of crossed arms after that?

If great music is a religious contest, you win! Thanks for introducing guitar and drums to church services.

Thanks for insisting that you don’t need “Jesus-plus.” I’ve been trying to have more Jesus—and fewer extras—because of you.

To my Catholic friend,

Thank you for “God wrapped in flesh.” The grandeur of Jesus made little sense to me until I heard it from a Catholic.

To my Buddhist friend,

You’ve given me a new language and understanding. Karma adds richness to agency and accountability. The eightfold path taught me what Biblical temperance looks like. And ahimsa challenges my sense of morality every time I squish household bugs.

Thanks for teaching old truths in novel ways. Today I’m enamored by your three universal truths and four noble truths.

To my Muslim friend,

Thank you for calling me to pray five times a day from your minarets. I love the sound, and I accept the call.

Thanks for your take on modesty. When you wore long-sleeve shirts to gym class in ninth grade, I was surprised. You didn’t seem to mind. Very cool.

When we mapped out our notions of God’s plans, they were similar. But while mine was linear, yours was circular—a needful addition.

To my Jehovah’s Witness friend,

You win the neighborhood proselyting award!! Thanks for your courage and consistence.

Please keep coming to my door. I will always listen to your message.

To my Jewish friend,

I envy your order, your family-centric celebrations, and your total devotion to God. I’ll never host a passable Seder supper, but I am trying to be more like you.

Thank you for commemorating lost temples. “Lest we forget,” you say. It helps me remember and revere my own temples.

Also, your challah is better than my packaged white-fluff sacrament bread. (Nooooot that religion is a baking contest. I’m just saying it’s delicious).

To my Pagan friend,

To your notion of female Diety: Agreed. Mystical, unutterable, and certainly true.

Moon and stars and mountains are temples of themselves. So to every hunter, hiker, cowboy church attendee, spiritualist, and nature enthusiast…I get it.

To my searching friend,

Me too. Journey together?

* * *

About the author: Jenny Harris is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with serious admiration for her friends of other faiths.

*If your faith wasn’t mentioned, please share your beliefs in the comments below! We so want to learn from you.

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Jenny Harris
Jenny is a star-gazing, book-clubbing mother of two. She has a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, which is mildly comical (but also a boon in parenting and relationships). Her kids will attest that she’s crazy about reading aloud, time out of doors, and creative play. Her family’s goal is the “abundant life,” as prescribed by Jesus. You can read more posts by Jenny here.

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