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Interfaith Action for Greater St. Paul
St. Paul Interfaith Network invites the reasoning theists, atheists, liberals, & conservatives of Secular Bible Study, Circle of Ijtihad, & First Minneapolis Circle of Reason to jointly dialogue with SPIN's Inter-Belief Conversation Cafe: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” So said Robert Frost in his poem, “The Death of the Hired Man.” What is home to us? Is it enough to be our local community, or does community mean something more? Is it our neighborhood? Our city? Our state? Our country? Our whole world? Is it our like-minded friends? Our Meetup group? Our place of worship? Our whole religion or political belief system? Do communities thrive from divisions, because we can then easily define who is excluded? Or do communities thrive from alliances, because we can then easily define who is included? Can we only have a community through exclusion vs. inclusion? Must community always be “us and them”? How can one have a community with those who have strange or even opposite beliefs? Is such a community even possible? America now appears polarized into antagonistic communities. Such discord goes far back into our history. But weren’t there moments of unity after Peal Harbor and 9/11, when we all came together? Or was this unity an illusion of forgetting how it arose from hating a shared enemy, and forgetting our consequent attacks on Muslims and Sikhs, and our internment of our own American citizens of Japanese descent? What would it take for a Trump supporter and a fan of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to be part of one community? Can we watch both Fox News and MSNBC without smashing the TV set -- or talk to those who watch only “the opposed” network without wanting to smash their face? If we can lose even our family ties and close friendships over our political differences, how could a broader “community” possibly transcend such disagreements? Or is it possible that such differences are ephemeral in light of what truly binds us together? And what is it that truly binds us all together -- and in what light can we see it? Just as a window-frame defines where the world ends and the wall begins, don’t we need boundaries to our community? Is it really true that the Earth is one community and all humankind its citizens? Is this not hopelessly naïve and a recipe for chaos? How big can a community be and still cohere? Are we not members of many communities, our very existence a juggling act? To create community do we not first have to know who we are? How easily can we even say, “This is my community”? Can we truly welcome other people, or is there always the dark undertow of fear and isolation? Are communities now only communities of “common purpose”? Can Planned Parenthood and Minnesota Family Council work together to find parents for abandoned children? Can U.S. taxpayers agree to help wounded veterans even if we opposed the wars they fought, or even if we want to cut taxes and spending? Should those who leave water in the desert for illegal immigrants be hindered, or assisted, by the U.S. Border Patrol? Should theists and atheists both feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the afflicted, and visit the imprisoned? If corporations are legally people too, shouldn’t they likewise join in community and be their brothers’ keeper? Who exactly are our neighbors, and do we really have to love all of them as if they were ourselves? Aren’t some of them too flawed to love? On Monday, May 20, we'll "try to create community and avoid division." Our interbelief reasoning dialogue’s agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality will seek to bind us together. But even if it all falls to pieces, we will have treats!