Life Classes for Christians

Three moments that instructed on engaging with other traditions.

Wouldn’t you like to take Peter Schuurman’s World Religions class? I would! The two goals of Christian education that he cites should be requisites for all of us post-graduation – for anyone living as an adult Christian in the world today. Rooted in faith and skeptical of our own virtue, engage with those from other traditions and cooperate for the common good. Amen? Amen!

Let me share three examples I’ve come across recently – living curricula. I’m certain you could help me find a few more! 


When Jessica Cohn of Vaughn, Ontario, wanted to expose her eight-year-old twins to new cultures, she posted a request on Facebook asking for wedding invitations from strangers. And it worked! The Cohn family was invited to nine local weddings that year, including Italian, Philippine, Jamaican and Orthodox Jewish. Each one was celebrated differently according to the family’s customs and traditions. Now it’s easier for the twins to “identify with the people around them,” Cohn told CBC News. She’s given them a beautiful gift through these new experiences. (No travel necessary! It was all free!) And it probably helped develop the same empathy that Peter’s students discovered. 


When Breanna Lathrop started working at a health care clinic for uninsured clients (as Eva Joosse wrote about on page 1), she quickly realized that poverty, stress, trauma and food insecurity were root causes that couldn’t be solved with a prescription. So the Good Sam Health Clinic developed a one-acre urban farm that now produces 13,000 lbs of produce nearly year-round, sold daily to patients and community members. “The farm,” Squires says, “is the solution to the health conditions we are treating inside.” 


Every year on Good Friday, Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber goes with members of her church to a site of recent violence in their city, bearing tulips and a cross. “We bring the holy things of the church onto the holy streets of the city because on some level, the violence and despair of Good Friday is still a human reality,” she says. And in believing that God was there during the crucifixion of his son, they affirm that he is also present when we suffer. They stand in the places where people have died in tragic and awful ways and sing an ancient chorus: “Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy upon us.” 


What do these three stories have in common? It has to do with movement. There’s a sense, in each one, that love has put something into motion. After describing the actions of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ advice for the law expert is to go and do likewise. 

And once we’re moving, God’s grace will pour down. Because we all take turns acting like the priest and like the Levite; and we all find ourselves as unexpectedly needy as the man who was robbed. 

“We never know when we experience Jesus in all of this,” Bolz-Weber says. “All that we have is a promise that Jesus is present in the meeting of needs and that his kingdom is here.”
Amen? Amen!  


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