Posted by: smstrouse | January 26, 2013

Zoroastrians at the Manger

Some years ago, when I was an intern at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, I was part of a group planning a conference called ‘Healing the World.’  My title at ICP (at least it said so on my  business cards) was Community and Congregations Liaison, which meant that I was supposed to make contact with all the religious traditions in the Bay area and find someone from each who would promote the conference. Interns get assigned such fun – and overwhelming – tasks!  The planning committee was made up of people from ICP, but also from an ecumenical Christian organization. For some if these folks, this was the first foray into interfaith cooperation and their definition of interfaith was not as broad as ICP’s.  So, for instance, inviting a Wiccan priest to offer a blessing caused some initial consternation. Another incident stands out in my mind as I think about my ongoing fascination with the Magi of Matthew’s Nativity story. I was reporting on my progress in finding representation from the Bay area’s diverse traditions. When I mentioned that I  was still pursuing a lead in the Zoroastrian community, someone exclaimed, “I don’t think there’s any need to include them!” Needless to say, I continued. For heaven’s sake, didn’t he know that Freddie Mercury’s funeral was conducted by a Zoroastrian priest?!

More and more I have become enchanted with the idea of the Magi being Zoroastrians.  So when Brian Arthur Brown
, in his new book, Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran puts forth the idea that Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, has had a great influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, I was sold. In what he calls the ‘Z’ factor, Brown identifies the common background of our sacred texts. What fun!  This opens up new vistas for how we think about creation, sacrifice, Satan, judgment, resurrection, paradise, and even our concepts of God and of a Messiah or Savior of the world. It encourages us to learn about one another and find out where our traditions overlap and where they diverge.  At the very least, it commands respect for those we consider to be ‘other,’ to lift up our heads to acknowledge their presence and their value.

And since next week is World Interfaith Harmony Week, what better way to observe it than to reach out to our neighbors, who just may turn into friends. ‘Tis the gift of the Magi.

http://worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com

Interfaith Harmony Week

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