by Clare Stern
Below is a reflection Clare shared at the Interfaith Week Student Panel on March 3, 2014.
I am a Christian. I am an Episcopalian. I am an AmeriCorps volunteer. I am a citizen of the world.
Many people think that because I am a Christian that I am 100% comfortable with being labeled “Christian.” It wasn’t until I decided to dive further into interfaith work that I realized I have to become more comfortable with my identity as a Christian, not just an Episcopalian. For the longest time I would identify myself only as an Episcopalian because I didn’t want the stigma of being “a bible thumping” Christian. What made me want to only be an Episcopalian was the judgment of other’s thinking I was a radical person before they had even really gotten to know me. As I have grown into my spiritual self, I have also grown in my interfaith activism. While growing in my interfaith work, I once again realized that I needed to really accept myself for all my identities because being Episcopalian is only a fraction of who I am. If I am really going to dedicate myself to interfaith activism, I not only need to listen to others , but I also need to share my own story. My story of who I am as Christian.
My identity as a Christian-Episcopalian and Interfaith Activist have also caused internal conflict more often than not within me; not because I want to convert others or “bring people to Christ,” but because I often see what or who I think is GOD in other traditions, and not just my own – the concept of “righteousness” in Islam; the idea of “chesed” in Judaism; the practice of “Namaste.” In all of these I can see and even practice my Christianity in light of who I consider to be GOD. When I see people who are different from each other sharing smiles and laughter – that is MY God at work. C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Have I fully reconciled any of these internal conflicts? No, and maybe I never will, but I realize that my way of TRUTH, my idea of God, is a loving, merciful and accepting no matter what path of life you walk and that my relationship with GOD is an organic relationship – it’s constantly flowing just like an earthly relationship. I will never be perfect, but I know MY GOD is. His (or her, whichever) love is perfect and will be there for me even when I turn away from his love.