By Britt Luby, 2018 BJC Fellow
Bound by my Catholic faith to recognize and to honor the dignity every person with a particular interest in interfaith collaboration and meeting the needs of those on the margins, I was drawn the work of the Baptist Joint Committee and the effort they pour into protecting religious liberty for all. I work on a college campus where, recent survey results have shown us, students state that they think more favorably of people from different religious traditions if they know someone from that tradition. My role as a chaplain on a college campus allows me to create spaces for interreligious dialogue and advocacy, but I have been itching for ways to take this advocacy to the next level.
The first day of our training, Charles Watson pleaded with us not to be combative with the Thomas Jefferson impersonator. Throughout the course of the seminar, I kept wondering, “What happened last year?” And despite not having the answer, I know this plea is reflective of the enormous amount of intelligence and activism in the room. BJC Fellows are curious. We ask questions, we crave facts, and we advocate for all. It is a privilege for me to be counted in the Baptist Joint Committee family.
Unfamiliar with the tenets of Baptist theology and the core values of Baptist communities before the seminar, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about my Christian brothers and sisters. I had some baseline assumptions of what Baptists were like based on my limited interactions at home, but the people I met blew my assumptions away. Just as within the Catholic Church, Baptists are diverse and complicated. Like me, Baptists navigate a church that is both beautiful and broken. We share a commitment to the dignity of each person, and having that foundation makes collaboration natural and easy. In addition, the voices of other non-Baptists at the seminar made our conversations richer. Each participant brought their full, authentic (and quirky!) self to the table, and we listened to each other with genuine curiosity and respect. I do not know if I have ever learned more from a relatively small group of people.
Using what I learned at the BJC Fellows Seminar, I will be reframing the why of interfaith work on the Texas Christian University campus. I serve as a staff advisor for TCU Better Together, our campus interfaith club that works closely with Interfaith Youth Core. This diverse club meets weekly to engage in activities like interfaith dialogue, community service, and visits to local areas of worship. While facilitating a student club that centers on free food and conversation is both fun and meaningful, I now have the knowledge I need to inject a more intentional why into the organization. Our student organization matters because we are learning about our neighbors. Learning about our neighbors matters because we are called, as people of faith, to love our neighbors. And loving our neighbors requires us to advocate for our neighbors. In continued collaboration with the BJC, I know I can empower these students to be advocates for all.
Britt Luby is the Associate Chaplain at Texas Christian University’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, in Fort Worth, Texas.