We have just returned from the California leg of my book tour. It was a great experience. On the way, we renewed friendships and were met with expressions of extraordinary generosity and hospitality (a special shout out to Kris and Eric Shafer, Jane Heckles, Paul Tellstrom and Steve Swope). We have now completed 20 events, ranging in size from 5 to 70 for a total participation of 500 (plus several hundred more in worship services that have accompanied some of the presentations).
While numbers are a helpful metric, they do not fully measure impact. I recently received the following tribute from long-time friend and colleague, Rev. Art Cribbs who organized one of the gatherings—not the largest turnout by far, but his eloquent words speak to my real motivation behind undertaking these events.
Art writes: “[W]e discovered it was not the number of faithful souls who gathered at the Los Angeles Filipino American United Church of Christ, but the depth of spirit and passion about topics covered in Bob Chase’s most timely book. We were a small and diverse group with people who have experienced unwelcome presence at the doors of churches. Some of us have been in countries where religious diversity creates hard barriers that lead to threats and even death. As Bob read from Beyond the Comma and recited his early childhood challenges and discoveries, reflections among our group moved from personal to community/congregation and into the deeper depths of global connections.
“On that Friday night, we sat with stories and memories as Filipinos, Whites, African American, women and men. Bob’s readings closed the gaps that cosmetically were evident, but when put into context of evolutionary encounters, we discovered and felt more commonality than distinction. The integrity of our journeys across religious differences was evident as we exchanged our own stories about where Muslims in the Philippines feel the fist of Christians who carry a tradition of converting others; while Christians in the United States have sharp impressions of Muslims as terrorists. Bob reminded us of a conversation that was an exact replica of such sentiment. While visiting Pakistan on one of his many trips to that country, a member of the hosting party expressed his impression of Americans as terrorists. More precisely, he said they are Christian terrorists.
Bob has written what is a mirror that reflects who we are and where we find ourselves in a moment when religion, politics, and personal experiences conflate to misinform and blind us to the numerous and various opportunities to listen and learn what is actually true and real in the presence of God’s rainbow community of multiple religious traditions and histories. We do not compromise or adjust the tenets of our faiths; instead, we boldly, openly, and generously share in a practice of receiving and explaining how we live to honor God’s intention for all people. We seek to create space where worship and conversations can occur inclusive of many different religious traditions and understandings. That gives us pause while moving us Beyond the Comma.”
Thanks, Art, for your extravagant welcome and your gracious words.