Our Place in Desperate Times: 8 Months Later

Is there hope in desperate times?

At the beginning of this pandemic, I wanted to highlight the particular importance of Tri-Faith Initiative’s work in times that feel desperate. When I wrote the series on Desperate Times, Nebraska had fewer than 100 cases of COVID-19. Since then, we have experienced firsthand how plagues spread. There have now been nearly 50,000 cases in Nebraska, spreading among those who take all the necessary precautions, and those who take none.

And as COVID has spread, longstanding cultural plagues have also re-emerged with a vengeance. Bigotry grows as ultranationalist, neofascist, and white supremacist organizations have become more visible, more active, and more popular.

So much of the world seems so disappointing right now, from lack of socialization to the frustration of videoconferencing/We can easily become paralyzed by our sense of failure ineffectively combating the parallel plagues of a public health crisis and a social justice crisis.

I promise you, there is hope.

There is a global push for a COVID-19 vaccine, better testing, and a continuous improvement in using best practices. Additionally, in just a few months, we have witnessed Black Lives Matter become one of the most powerful civil rights movements in American history. The work is not complete, but changes are already visible.

This moment is an opportunity for connection. From the founding of Tri-Faith Initiative, we’ve always sought to be a Beacon of Hope — hope that intentional relationship-building and mutual understanding can create a better future for all people. Now is a time when we see the widest-ranging implications of this work.

At Tri-Faith, we recognize that our identities are interwoven, within ourselves and with each other. The Tri-Faith Center, which completes the Tri-Faith Commons, symbolizes the importance of both being our truest selves and accepting others as their truest selves.

Tri-Faith’s co-located synagogue, church, mosque, and interfaith center intentionally facilitate relationship-building and understanding. This place is so special because it’s an unprecedented model for goodwill among all people, and a challenge to rethink how religious diversity makes all our lives better.

Last week, I taught a program called Abraham’s Whiteboard: Evolutionary Psychology of Religion.ne particular message stuck with me: Humans have a particularly powerful and beautiful capacity to create communities.

We can envision the concept of a global humanity.

We can empathize with people we haven’t even met.

We can understand those who seem easy to misunderstand.

Science shows that humans have a natural capacity to empathize, to understand that community matters, to give our love, lives, and treasure for those we perceive as part of our community. This remains a central component in all religious traditions.

The commitment to community-making and goodwill is the cornerstone of positive interfaith relationships. We must be willing to see our communities as part of greater, wider circles of connection that ultimately encompass all humanity. Without this consciousness, we seek perceived safety and become easy prey for fundamentalism, xenophobia, and racism.

The Tri-Faith Center embodies a wider connection outside our familiar comfort zones, welcoming all. This space says: we can be ourselves and accept others in their similarities and their differences.

Together, we’re shining a beacon of hope. And we’re weaving a grand tapestry, re-defining community. We invite and welcome you.

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