The Pacific Northwest Interfaith Amigos, from left, Imam Jamal Rahman, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Pastor Dave Brown, speak about the similarities of their respective religions during a presentation on Saturday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The Pacific Northwest Interfaith Amigos, from left, Imam Jamal Rahman, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Pastor Dave Brown, speak about the similarities of their respective religions during a presentation on Saturday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Pastor, rabbi, imam speak of interfaith spirituality in ‘Amigos’ presentation

PORT ANGELES — An imam, a pastor and a rabbi walked into a church.

“We Jews are the chosen people,” the rabbi, Ted Falcon, of Seattle told 332 listeners Saturday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the way to truth and the life, no one comes to God but by me,’ ” Pastor Dave Brown of Tacoma retorted.

“Here is the real truth,” Sufi Imam Jamal Rahman of Seattle responded. “The Koran said whoever chooses a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted of him, and he will be one of the losers in the hereafter.”

Falcon, Brown and Rahman collectively embraced their differences in a traveling, humorous, heartfelt lecture as the Pacific Northwest Interfaith Amigos.

They were scheduled to give presentations Sunday at the Port Townsend High School auditorium and at two services at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend.

Rahman, Falcon and Pastor Don Mackenzie wrote “Finding Peace Through Spiritual Practice: The Interfaith Amigos’ Guide to Personal, Social and Environmental Healing,” a book that sparked reading groups all over the Peninsula.

The Rev. Barb Laski said that 15 organizations sponsored study groups in East Jefferson County. Following Laski’s lead, Marilyn Eash of the Interfaith Community of Clallam County reported 19 study groups formed in Clallam County.

The spiritual study will close in Port Townsend with a Celebration of Our Journey at 2 p.m. March 5 at Unity Spiritual Enrichment Center, 3918 San Juan Ave.

Interfaith Community of Clallam County will host a Celebration of Our Journey at 2 p.m. March 18 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 510 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles.

Since Mackenzie has moved to Minneapolis, Brown of Tacoma’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church has stepped in for him — creating the Pacific Northwest Interfaith Amigos, who give presentations all over the Northwest.

In their seamless, sometimes scripted repartee, they drew who-has-the-best-religion dividing lines to teach a larger lesson about the importance of inclusivity over exclusivity.

They gave a connected, holistic and historic context to faith as presented in the scriptures of three of the world’s major religions.

“Jews were chosen for the way of the Torah,” Falcon explained. “More than that, each and every one of us is chosen. We are chosen to be the ones we are. All authentic paths are chosen for the integrity of their paths.”

Brown said Jesus was not saying he is the way in an egotistical sense.

“He was not speaking about himself, he was speaking about the wisdom that goes beyond ego,” Brown said.

At a time of political and religious upheaval, Jesus was saying his way is nonviolence and unconditional love, Brown said.

Rahman said that at Islam’s core is surrendering to God in peace and a respect for Abraham and Moses.

It does not matter, in the Koran, if you do not practice Islam, he said.

“We make no distinction among the prophets,” he said.

Islam means surrendering to God in peace, Rahman said.

“The critical question is, what am I surrendering? The Koran says your attachment to your ego.”

The Interfaith Amigos formed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Their lesson is about the links that can grow between people of different faiths when they lead spiritual lives, drawing from the best of their faiths rather than a path of exclusivity that, as Falcon said, can lead to violence.

The bond grows when people eschew ego and embrace compassion, as taught by Islam, Rahman said.

It blossoms when people show unconditional love to others, as taught by Christianity, Brown said.

“After doing presentation after presentation, I understand my own journey as a Christian in a new way because of being open to my brothers,” he added.

The trio that appeared Saturday did so at a time of political discord in the U.S. that was alluded to by the participants.

“I can think of no time as important as it is at this time” to have an interfaith dialogue, Brown said.

Rahman noted that after 9/11, most of those who objected to having a mosque built at Ground Zero did not personally know a Muslim in stark contrast to the majority of those who favored building a mosque, who did know a Muslim.

Falcon said those of different faiths and politics need to create a context for meeting each other as human beings without shouting, name-calling and demonizing each other.

He said people 0f all three faiths go astray from their core teachings when they support exclusivity, violence in the name of that exclusivity, inequality of men and women, homophobia, economic and racial injustice, policies that keep large segments of populations in poverty and the degradation of the environment.

“If we talk about where we stray from our core teachings, it gives us a chance to grow and to deepen our faith, our self-understanding and our mutual understanding,” Brown said.

A woman during a brief question-and-answer session told Rahman that friends of hers were very concerned and scared about Sharia law.

He urged her to read the writings of “Bloomberg View” columnist and Harvard law Professor Noah Feldman.

There is no “fiqh,” or body of Islamic law, that can be introduced into the U.S. that can go against the Constitution, Rahman said.

For Muslims, Sharia means “the way to the spring,” Rahman said.

“To them, Sharia is the overall guidance and justice and love,” he said.

He noted how every holy book contains what he called “particular” verses that have a historical context and “universal” verses “that are timeless and filled with wisdom.”

“The problem is when you take a particular verse and advocate it as a universal verse,” Rahman said.

For example, the Koran contains a verse imploring Muslims to not be friends with Jews and Christians. That was from a time when Muslims were being attacked on all sides.

Some Christian and Jewish tribes had reneged on treaties, hence the distrust, Rahman said.

Eighteen verses down from the warning, the Koran says that having faith in God is what matters beyond a particular religion, and “in particular doing righteous deeds,” Rahman said.

“This is repeated again and again and again and again,” he said.

The Amigos ended their presentation with the common thread of spirituality, reminding all of the interconnectedness, as Falcon said, with all humans.

“It’s all one, and I am as I am,” Falcon, Rahman and Brown sang, linking arms.

For more information in East Jefferson County, see www.spiritualread.org or call Laski at 360-301-1855.

For more information in Clallam County, email interfaithclallamcounty@gmail.com or call Eash at 360-477-0681.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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