I love learning about other religions, like to an intense amount. However, I think a lot of people, especially parents, are afraid of exposing their kids to other world views because they believe that they will leave their “home” religion and become a secular vagabond or something. As a world history teacher, I obviously disagree with this close-minded point-of-view and, as a life-long religious seeker, I have experienced the exact opposite.
By putting on a hijab to go to a New York mosque, I reawakened my deep-seated interest in the tradition of the chapel veil in Catholocism. I had been fearful of even considering wearing a veil to church because I’m “not all that churchy” but having to wear one to a mosque was kind of like a loophole that allowed me to test it out before actually taking the first step. So in this case, conforming to another religion’s guidelines gave me the freedom to go deeper with my own faith. It has been a few months that I veil regularly to mass and I have even been packing scarves or veils with me when I travel so as not to be caught off guard.
By spending the night at Shabbat dinner with a friend in New York, I piqued my interest, no my need, for a more observant Sabbath houseful but in a Catholic way. That glimpse into another rhythm of life helped me to explore ways that I wanted to reorganize my house for more peace and quiet. The Sabbath is more than a day of rest, it is a day of rejuvenation and refocus. That experience at her house, sans any electronics with melodic singing and rituals, is helping me to create my own Catholic version of the Shabbat dinner.
By inviting my neighborhood Mormons in to chat (shocking I know lol) and talking to them about their views of family life, I was inspired to read up on both secular and religious research into family life and happiness. I don’t have kids yet, but someday I would like to start a family, and I think before my husband and I get there I want to know what drives a healthy, happy family. The rates of divorce, abuse, and depression are incomprehensible to me. I don’t have to agree with my neighborhood Mormon’s views, I rarely do, but just being aware of another way of living has informed by decisions.
Read more: Travel Tips: Traveling with Family
By observing prayers and rituals at a Hindu temple, I started looking into the long-standing practice of Catholic veneration of the saints. While theologically different, the rituals, prayers and offerings make a connection between humanity and the infinite. The saints, and Hindu gods, provide a visual and physical connection to the rest of the universe or G-d, however you see it. I use to assume saint veneration was superstitious, only for those people who relied on miracles to get by but now I see it in a different light, ironically by spending time in a Hindu temple.
In the end, this long-winded post is meant to say that learning the way other people live, think, and believe does not have to mean the inevitable destruction of your way of life. It may strengthen it or it may change it; either way, I think it is important to not only read about other cultures but actually experience them.