Eboo Patel

“My purpose here is to encourage you to internalize ‘interfaith leader’ as an identity, just as others have adopted ‘human rights activist,’ ‘environmentalist,’ or ‘civil rights worker’ (you can be more than one, by the way). When something becomes part of your identity, you commit to it for the long haul, you begin to see the world through that lens, and you seek to constantly improve your knowledge base, skill set, and craft. It becomes a way of being in the world.”

Eboo Patel, Interfaith Leadership: A Primer (Boston: Beacon Press, 2016), 27.

“Here are the five key skills for interfaith leadership:

1. Building a radar screen for religious diversity

2. Developing a public narrative of interfaith cooperation

3. Building relationships and mobilizing religiously diverse constituencies

4. Creating activities that bring together people who orient around religion differently

5. Facilitating interfaith conversations with a religiously diverse group”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 135.

“Here are five types of personal experiences that I think are important to reflect upon and narrate to yourself as you consider the identity category ‘interfaith leader.’
– Moments of inspiration or enrichment from people or ideas of other traditions
– Moments of connection or relationship with people or ideas of other traditions
– Moments of prejudice or conflict with people or ideas of other traditions
– Moments of action or cooperation with people or ideas of other traditions
– Moment of recognizing difference with other religious people or ideas, yet feeling admiration”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 29.

“Diversity, according to Eck, ought to be understood as a neutral term with a range of possible consequences, everything from conflict to cooperation. When diversity is proactively engaged for positive ends, Eck calls it ‘pluralism.’ Simply put, diversity is a fact; pluralism is an achievement, one that must be worked at.”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 54.

“The character sketches that I provided illustrate the four most common ways of proactively responding to diversity: by building barriers or bunkers, by wielding bludgeons, or by carefully constructing bridges. … People who build barriers are interested in proudly proclaiming the righteousness of their identity and loudly denouncing other identities. … People who build bunkers want to seal themselves off from a world of diversity. … Those whose response to diversity is the bludgeon are violently antagonistic toward people who are different. … There are several characters whose instincts are to respond to diversity by seeking to build bridges of understanding and cooperation. They experience various levels of frustration, opposition, and success.”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 63-64.

“Perhaps the best known contemporary advocate for the view that religions are basically the same is the prolific author Karen Armstrong. … For Armstrong, this is most clearly illustrated in the fact that all the major religious systems have some version of what is generally known as the Golden Rule. The most commonly expressed version of this in the West is the Christian version: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ … Armstrong highlights that Confucius articulated a version of the Golden Rule five centuries before Christ, telling his followers that the practice of ‘human-heartedness’ would bring them to the transcendent experience of ren. Other articulations of the Golden Rule include: ‘None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants from himself,’ a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, and ‘That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor,’ a teaching of Rabbi Hillel.”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 73.

“The question boils down to this: when it comes to religious diversity, what patterns of identity and interaction should interfaith leaders pay attention to? I want to suggest four:
1. The first pattern to pay attention to is the world religious category. …
2. The second pattern is intrafaith diversity, the doctrinal variety within every tradition and community. …
3. The third pattern is intersectional identities. Nobody is defined entirely by his or her religious identity. …
4. The fourth distinct pattern I want to highlight are the religious nones. Twenty percent of Americans check ‘none’ on religious identity surveys, and among millennials, the number is 33 percent and seems to be rising.”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 79-81.

“Why should interfaith leaders emphasize tradition at all, religious or otherwise? … If they want to connect themselves to a tradition, fine. If not, that’s fine too. Why be forward about the system? … Mary Jo Bane, Brent Coffin, and Richard Higgins offer six ways in the introduction to their book, Taking Faith Seriously (they use the terms ‘faith’ and ‘religion’ interchangeably, which would have given Wilfred Cantwell Smith heartburn):
– Fostering expression
– Forming identities
– Creating social bonds
– Shaping moral discourse
– Enabling participation
– Proving social services”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 82-83.

“The various definitions of the term “interfaith” highlight the diversity gathered, including the divergent and incompatible views people within the group held. For this diversity to achieve pluralism, an interfaith leader has to engage the group in a manner that accommodates the deeply held identity differences and the inevitable conflicts these differences imply, while at the same time building agreement, consensus, and general participation in the oneness of the community.”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 92.

“How does an interfaith leader know that she is building the bridge in the right direction, toward the destination of pluralism? This question brings up the thorny issue of how interfaith leaders measure their effectiveness at the same time they are running their programs. … Social scientists measure America’s religious diversity in three basic ways. The first and most common category is attitudes. This is a broad category, and there are many ways to ask questions about attitudes, but it generally comes down to a pretty basic sentiment: ‘Do you feel warmly toward Muslims, Jews, evangelical, or humanists?’ The second category is relationships. These are the ‘Do you know, work with, or have a friend from a different religion?’ questions. The final category is knowledge. These are the ‘What religion is Shabbat associated with? In what faith do adherents fast from dawn to dusk for one month of the year?’ types of questions.”

Patel, Interfaith Leadership, 100-101.