The Common Ground of Spirituality
Both my husband and I were born and raised in Jewish families. The community, traditions, holidays, milestone events, and experiences of Judaism growing up made an important impression upon us. That impression influenced us to marry another Jewish person to carry on a similar life experience in a new family unit. Our son, who we adopted from birth, participated in a ceremony at four months old where he was dipped in a mikvah (a ritual bath of water) and upon exiting the water, he symbolically began his new life as a Jew.
Our family’s Jewish spirituality is mostly focused on experience-the social, communal, and relational aspects of Judaism. We feel a spiritual connection when we open our home to friends for Shabbat dinner on a Friday evening. I love knowing that when I’m making matzo ball soup, I’m making it the same way my mother taught me, and the way her mother taught her, and that’s spiritual to me. Tikkun Olam is a concept in Judaism of Social Justice. It means “repair the world”. Tikkun Olam is the idea that Jews bear responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare but also for the welfare of society at large. As a family, we tackle social justice issues through fundraising, protesting, raising awareness, and educating ourselves.
I’m someone who has “grown up in the church.” That means my parents are non-denominational Christians, and in my case, so were many grandparents and great-grandparents. I always had a second family within the church, a group of people who saw me throughout all my childhood milestones. There was a certainty and comfort that I would spend major holidays with this second family in addition to seeing them 3+ times a week at worship and Bible studies. Having my wedding and later baby shower at the same community building that was used for most church members’ events felt like a rite of passage.
Growing up in rural Appalachia influenced how I formed some beliefs when interpreting scriptures, but I believe now that a better interpretation can cross time and culture. One should not have to convert to local cultural traditions to know God, but one should be able to experience and show God’s love regardless of one’s time in history and global location. Christ’s church is not meant to be a political entity of this world, but a place of respite for those working towards the next. For one to become a Christian, New Testament examples show one must acknowledge Christ is God, repent of one’s sins, be physically baptized underwater to mirror the spiritual death of one’s sinful past, and work towards living a grace-filled life.
Christianity is a beautiful and truly universal practice: treating others with the same grace that God has given you. Christianity is a spiritual religion. A person’s heart and intentions matter-not what happens to their physical body. No person, animal, or other object can cause a Christian to be unclean and separated from God; furthermore, there is nothing I can do to make myself “more saved.” The good news is that God so loved the world Christ sacrificed himself allowing imperfect humanity to maintain an otherwise impossible relationship with a perfect God. A Christian can only be separated from God by willfully choosing to live a life that doesn’t exhibit the same love to others that God has shown us. Social justice is spoken about in many scriptures such as “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Furthermore, Jesus proclaims that undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans, and it’s not a far step to say it would be wrong to create widows and orphans through unjust laws and societal systems that force family separation. While it is true that practicing Christians would not participate in discriminatory practices, our legacy in America shows we have much to repent of. Jesus said the following to the religious leaders of his day:
For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!
We as Christians must work to not only “clean the outside” in presenting a good moral character, but also actively participate in the self-reflection required to identify how we may be benefitting from racist and classist systems that have formed in our society.
Islam is the final of the three Abrahamic faiths. Its primary text is the Quran, the literal word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who is a dependent of Abraham and the last Prophet in a line of prophets extending back to Jesus, Moses, Noah, and Adam. The focus of Islam is on building a personal relationship with the One God (Allah) through acts of ritual devotion, moral uprightness, service, and adherence to the Quranic code of what is allowed and not allowed. These four aspects cover all areas of human life so that your life is part of your relationship with God.
I enjoy being able to practice my religion in all my to-do lists. It is considered worship when I make the intention for these tasks for Allah, the God. Sleeping is worship. Shining my sink is worship. Playing with my kids is worship, and reading a book to learn something new is worship. I enjoy having the five daily prayers to restore my mental health and get a spiritual break from my monkey brain. I practice my faith by being part of my community and learning Arabic and Quran. These people are my family and these practices ground me in traditions that are bigger than myself and my immediate family. Every person I meet from my faith is part of my body and no matter what country they are from or how much they are a stranger to me I can embrace in the Islamic prayer with them and lay my forehead on any ground we stand on facing the Qilba to worship one God, Allah.
The Islamic faith gives my work for RDYD purpose and inspiration. I know how important it is to help teens boys, their parents, and their teachers/therapists for the sake of public health but also to help me grow in my spirituality. I know this work teaches me patience and humility. The world's problems are my problems. Standing up for good and social justice is part of my beliefs and values. We dress in an Islamic way in my family. I wear a hijab as my mom wears a hijab and millions of women do. We eat Pakistan and Arab foods especially during Ramadan and for Eid. I connect to American Muslims in the way I dress throughout the year but I am also bringing eastern elements to my everyday clothes. For example the fez along with my hijab and wearing abaya or long dresses with embroidery. My kids are 4 and 6 and are learning Arabic and Quran just like I did at their age in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and West Virginia, my homes.
Hinduism is one of the oldest religions. Hindus value many sacred writings as opposed to one holy book. It also includes the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, 18 Puranas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata. Hindus worship many gods and goddesses. Some of the prominent deities include:
Brahma : The god responsible for the creation of the world and all living things.
Vishnu : The god that protects and preserves the universe.
Shiva : The god that destroys the universe in order to recreate it.
Lakshmi : The goddess of wealth and purity and wife of Lord Vishnu.
Saraswati : The goddess of learning and wife of Lord Brahma.
Devi Shakti : The goddess responsible for creation and fights to restore dharma and wife of Lord Shiva.
In Hindu religion the gods and goddesses especially Lord Vishnu have taken different incarnations(avatar) to restore dharma( cosmic law underlying right behavior and social order). In Hinduism, we have 4 main castes and many sects with numerous sacred days, holidays, and festivals. It is a religion that relates to science and its explanations are found in Bhagavad Gita. I enjoy following my religion and take pride in being a Hindu.
I don’t view spirituality as a relationship with a higher power; I also don’t consider any religious texts when I think about spirituality. For me, spirituality is about being attuned to everything around me, accepting what cannot be changed or impacted, and finding a way to walk calmly and peacefully through life. It’s about leaving only a peaceful, kind wake in my footsteps instead of discord and hurt. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that is human and okay. But I strive to never hurt another, to help and bolster where and when I can, to never be a sore spot or painful memory for another.