"We are living in an age of so much division —religious, economic, racial and ethnic. The Interfaith Amigos’s message of inclusion, empathy for and understanding of “the other” struck a much-needed chord. It is this message that attempts to heal and provide a bridge back to civility." - Nicole Glass

Also known as the Interfaith Amigos – The interfaith Amigos do an inspiring presentation that offers a message of inclusion, empathy and hope. In their life work and in their interfaith presentations their message creates a bridge and opens the door to have to create conversation on religion and the interfaith experience.

Pastor Don Mackenzie, PhD, now living in Minneapolis, is devoting himself to interfaith work after retiring as Minister and Head of Staff at Seattle’s University Congregational United Church of Christ. Previously, he served congregations in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Princeton, New Jersey. Ordained in 1970, he is a graduate of Macalester College, Princeton Theological Seminary and New York University. His interest in interfaith work began while a student at Macalester and continued while living and teaching in Sidon, Lebanon, in the year prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. His country music band, Life’s Other Side, recorded the sound track for the documentary film Family Name, and has sung at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, spiritual guide, author, teacher and therapist, has taught Jewish traditions of Kabbalah, meditation and spirituality since the 1970s. Ordained in 1968 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, he served in Los Angeles as a congregational and then a campus rabbi. In 1975, he earned a doctorate in Professional Psychology and, in 1978, founded the first meditative Reform congregation. He moved to Seattle in 1993, where he also founded a meditative synagogue. He is the author of A Journey of Awakening: Kabbalistic Meditations on the Tree of Life and co-author, with David Blatner, of Judaism For Dummies. He served as Scholar-in-Residence at Unity of Bellevue for two years, and has a private spiritual counseling practice, seeing people in his Seattle office as well as via Skype. He is Chair of Interfaith at Unity in Lynnwood.

Imam Jamal Rahman is co-founder and Muslim Sufi Minister at Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. Originally from Bangladesh, he is a graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of California, Berkeley. He has a passion for interfaith work and travels often, teaching classes, workshops and retreats locally, nationally and internationally. He is available for interfaith weddings and ceremonies and, like Rabbi Ted, has a private spiritual counseling practice. His books include Sacred Laughter of the Sufis: Awakening the Soul with the Mulla’s Comic Teaching Stories and Other Islamic Wisdom; Spiritual Gems of Islam: Insights & Practices from the Qur'an, Hadith, Rumi & Muslim Teaching Stories to Enlighten the Heart & Mind;  The Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam and Out of Darkness into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Jewish and Christian Sources.

You can find links to their Ted Talks, published works, or their contact information here.

Emy diGrappa (00:00):

Hello. My name is Emy diGrappa. Each week we bring you stories asking our guests the question, why. We learn about passion, purpose and the human experience. Brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation, this is What's Your Why?

Emy diGrappa (00:36):

Today we are talking to Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, and Imam Jamal Rahman. They are also known as the Interfaith Amigos. The Interfaith Amigos do an inspiring presentation that offers a message of inclusion, empathy and hope. In their life work and in their interfaith presentations, their message creates a bridge and opens the door to have and create conversations on religion and the interfaith experience. Welcome.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (01:10):

Thank you. It's good to be here.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (01:12):

Thank you.

Imam Jamal Rahman (01:12):

Thank you.

Emy diGrappa (01:13):

Well, we want to get to know you a bit personally, and we want to talk about your journey into faith-based studies, your life commitment to interfaith ministry and teaching. And I'm gonna start with Pastor Don, and I want to know, when I was reading your bio, I understand you're a retired Church of Christ minister.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (01:35):

No, United Church of Christ.

Emy diGrappa (01:36):

United Church of Christ. Okay. Thank you for that- that correction. And that you also have a country music band, which I found very intriguing. (laughs) And so I wanted to know what was your, where did you grow up and what influenced you to study theology?

Pastor Don Mackenzie (01:56):

Well, I'm from Chicago, um, and my parents, eh, my brother and I grew up in a church-related family, you know. We went to church every Sunday. My parents were very active members of the church. Mother sang in the choir; my father was on the Board of Elders.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (02:12):

And I went to a Presbyterian-related college, Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, because they were flying the UN flag underneath the American flag. Literally, that's why I chose that. And I was lucky enough after my junior year to be selected for a program to work abroad, and I was a lifeguard at the Nile Hilton hotel in Cairo. And I got to know, um, many people there and began to understand the culture of the Middle East.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (02:43):

And after my senior year, uh, my, um, my wife, my- my- my friend Judy and I got married, my wife now. And, uh, went to Lebanon, south of Beirut to teach in a school for a year, and we were evacuated during the Six-Day War, and came ultimately to New Jersey.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (03:01):

I went to seminary in Princeton. Um, I worked at the seminary for 10 years, uh, while I was working on my PhD, and then worked in a church there. And as it happened, the minister of the church, my boss, uh, was in a country band that I was in, which is how I got the job. And we sang together in that band, Life's Other Side, for 39 years in various places, including the Grand Ole Opry.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (03:28):

And then I served in, uh, went to Hanover, New Hampshire, uh, and became ... I switched from the Presbyterian Church to the United Church of Christ, which is the new name for the Congregational tradition. From there to Seattle to University Congregational Church, which is where I met my beloved friends Ted and Jamal, and we started working right after 9/11, and here we are.

Emy diGrappa (03:53):

Wow. That- that is quite a journey. And what instrument did you play?

Pastor Don Mackenzie (03:57):

A guitar and bass.

Emy diGrappa (04:00):

Okay. I think it's interesting how there's- there's kind of a stereotype of a minister, that you don't have any other interest. (laughing) That that's what you do; that's all you do. But it's- it's good that you have a- another self expression.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (04:18):


Emy diGrappa (04:18):

So I- I think that's really interesting.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (04:20):

Yeah, thank you.

Emy diGrappa (04:21):

I also want to ask Rabbi Ted because, wow, what- what a journey you've taken because you're a spiritual guide, an author, a teacher and a therapist, and you founded the first meditative Reform congregation. So tell us where you grew up and what were the early influences in your life of spirituality?

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (04:48):

I appreciate the question, although I must say that it's getting to be a time in my life where it's harder and harder to remember that far back.

Male (04:55):


Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (04:56):

I grew up in a family that was very identified in a liberal tradition of Judaism. Uh, my uncle was a rabbi in Boston. His grandfather was a Orthodox rabbi in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm from Cleveland. It was always a part of my life.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (05:17):

The other thing that was always a part of my life was kind of this interest in consciousness. I got interested while I was in junior high in the process of hypnosis, which in those days I didn't know anything about meditation, but I was to learn later that there are many similarities between hypnotic trance and some of the processes of meditation.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (05:43):

When I was, uh, 14, my family move to, from a neighborhood that was, that had a significant mix of population. There, uh, certainly was a majority Jewish, but there were, I had friends who were Jewish and friends who were not.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (06:02):

We moved to a- a suburb where we were among the only Jewish family at the time, and it was my first encounter with antisemitism and the violence of antisemitism. My first day at a new school, somebody asked me in the boys' room whether I was a Jew. I said, "Yes," and the next thing I knew I was on the floor trying to, trying to breathe because, uh, in response to my "yes", uh, I got punched in the stomach.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (06:31):

I learned in very painful ways the people who, like, I identified as friendly just stood by and watched such events. I learned that a couple of people who, with whom I had, uh, played after school told me at a certain point they couldn't come to my house anymore 'cause their parents found out that I was Jewish.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (06:55):

Aside from having to deal with my personal issues, uh, relating to that, it became clearer and clearer to me that there are some serious problems. Uh, it's almost a cr- a built-in anti-Jewish in- into the, uh, Christian tradition, you know, where Jesus is somehow not recognized as a bonafide Jew, but somehow he's something else. Um, as if it's the Jewish community against Jesus rather than Jesus and all his followers are Jews.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (07:31):

Anyway, my interest in consciousness led me in, uh, undergraduate school to a Jewish philosopher named Martin Buber, who talked about the dimensions of what he called "the eternal Thou," awakening through radical encounter of person to person, uh, which kind of led me to my interest not only in spirituality but also in psychology.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (08:02):

I went to, uh, seminary thinking that I would be teaching Jewish philosophy. Never dawned on me that I would be leading a congregation. Lo and behold, my first job was in Los Angeles, California, which going from Ohio, uh, seminary was in Cincinnati, Ohio, going from Ohio to Los Angeles in the late 1960s was like going to another world. And for somebody interested in consciousness and spirituality, it offered opportunities that were extremely exciting and rare.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (08:43):

It also, uh, offered an opportunity to do retreats at a Catholic priory called St. Andrew's Priory where I was able to enter into a kind of dialogue with the brothers and priests. That started a track of healing some of the wounds that I carried in terms of interaction with, uh, the Christian community so that my interest in interfaith activities kind of unfolded over the years from that, from there. The synagogue I started in Los Angeles-

Emy diGrappa (09:22):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (09:23):

... in 1978-

Emy diGrappa (09:24):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (09:25):

... I was interested in Jewish meditation. There was nowhere to do it, and so I wound up gathering a small group and for various reasons we became kind of official as a congregation. A significant portion of that congregation actually wa- was made up of non, people who were not Jewish, so there was always an interfaith context.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (09:50):

Um, I was one of the early Reform rabbis to feel very comfortable involving myself in interfaith marriages and even co-officiating with another clergy. I recognized that all authentic spiritual traditions are avenues to a shared universal. Because my passion is consciousness and spirituality, I am very aware, uh, of a focus on the universal aspects of my tradition and appreciating those aspects of other traditions as well.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (10:29):

And that is, has been a- a good deal of our focus in our work as Interfaith Amigos. Reclaiming the universal teachings, the essential spiritual teachings of each of our traditions, and at the same time being willing to identify some of the teachings in each of our traditions that are not universal and are not really so spiritual.

Emy diGrappa (10:57):

I can see how the three of you coming from such diverse backgrounds (laughs) really does make, um, a really interesting conversation. So I'm gonna ask Imam Jamal what your journey was from Bangladesh and as a Muslim Sufi minister, how did interfaith work become part of your passion? And you've also authored, you know, several books which talk about the interfaith between Christianity, Judaism and Muslim faith, and I think that's, I think that's a challenge, really, just coming from my own background and hearing each one of you talk. So tell us about your journey.

Imam Jamal Rahman (11:42):

Uh, thank you so much, Emy. Uh, I was born into a Muslim family in a country called Bangladesh. Very small in land size, it's about half the size of Oregon. Just to give you an idea-

Emy diGrappa (11:55):


Imam Jamal Rahman (11:56):

... Oregon has about six, seven million people. We have in- in half the size of Oregon the entire half of the US population, 170 million people. (laughs) So it's very crowded.

Imam Jamal Rahman (12:15):

My, um, grandparents and, of course, my parents also are very grounded and rooted in Islam. My paternal grandparents, particularly, uh, they come from a lineage of teacher and healers. But, uh, our Islam is, shall I say, fragrant or perfumed with Sufism, which is not a denomination. It's simply a heartfelt aspiration to live the spirit of the tradition, so it's a very heart- heart-based approach, uh, to the religion.

Imam Jamal Rahman (12:56):

It just so happened, uh, you know, destiny-wise and circumstantially, that my father became a diplomat, and so most of my life was spent outside of where I was born and where mostly in Middle Eastern countries and European countries. And my parents being very liberal, very open-minded, they encouraged myself and my siblings, I have a brother and my, and a sister, to visit all the different houses of worship.

Imam Jamal Rahman (13:26):

So at a very young age, I became, uh, very familiar and had a love for other traditions also and became very connected to what my brothers would call the "universal aspects" of one's holy book, the universal verses, the- the revealed verses, uh, in our scriptures.

Imam Jamal Rahman (13:46):

It also so happened that, uh, my, uh, parents were posted to Iran and to Turkey. And there, there's a wonderful, well, a lot of wonderful sages who are very, uh, loved, but particularly Hafez and Rumi. Eh, a 13- 13-century sage, Rumi who is very loud and studied with great devotion in those two countries. And he's a great scholar of Islam, so I learned the Qur'an through the lens of the poetry of Rumi.

Imam Jamal Rahman (14:16):

So Rumi, for example, says, "The Qur'an is like a shy bride. Don't approach her directly. Approach her through her friends." And who are the friends? Mostly these mystics who have done a deep study of the different traditions. So I became quite familiar with not only the Islamic tradition, the Islamic scripture, which is mostly the Qur'an, but also the Islamic mystics like Rumi, Havez, Ibn Arabi.

Imam Jamal Rahman (14:46):

And then to cut a long story short, I- I studied in America undergraduate and graduate studies in Oregon and California, and I happened to, uh, visit Seattle. I, in my mind, I thought, "If I ever get a chance, I would like to spend some time in Seattle." And I got that chance, and so Seattle became my home for creating community.

Imam Jamal Rahman (15:08):

And I think part of it is because my background. Uh, having connected with the communities of different, uh, traditions, I- I wanted to create an interfaith community. [inaudible 00:15:18], I started teaching classes in my house. I was surprised it attracted people of different faiths. And for seven years, we had a community called Circle of Love.

Emy diGrappa (15:28):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Imam Jamal Rahman (15:29):

And, again, a long story short, it led us to this place here. This is a church building, and this was given to us for free. And we were so surprised and so excited and so delighted that this small building, this church building, which is the oldest church building in Seattle, uh, 1890, we renamed it Interfaith Community Sanctuary.

Imam Jamal Rahman (15:57):

And here we- we aspire to foster a living, breathing interfaith community. We say, "What does it mean to not just talk about interfaith but to live interfaith?" and this is our, uh, our aspiration here.

Imam Jamal Rahman (16:12):

And we say that, you know, it- it is not only important to, uh, acknowledge the differences in different religions. You mentioned the monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, also Hinduism, Buddhism, the Pagan tradition, Sikhism, Jainism. Eh, not only to, not only to acknowledge the differences in different traditions or to, uh, honor them, tolerate them and honor them, but really to celebrate them. That's our goal.

Imam Jamal Rahman (16:44):

And so we have people of different religions and also people who say, "None of the above. Spiritual but not religious." And we find that the best way to overcome differences, theological differences, doesn't matter what your religion is, is just by becoming friends. Connecting on a human level, and not just meeting occasionally. Meeting frequently so there establish, there's established a genuine personal relationship.

Imam Jamal Rahman (17:15):

Then we find that no matter what that difference is, it now no longer looms as a threat, and it creates that space where we can actually join hands, regardless of our differences, in engaging in projects dear to all of our hearts. Like social justice issues, programs on environment issues.

Imam Jamal Rahman (17:37):

And of course, after 9/11, I met my- my brothers, Rabbi Ted Falcon, Don Mackenzie, so now I wear two hats. I'm the imam at this place here, Interfaith Community Sanctuary. I'm also one-third of the Interfaith Amigos.

Emy diGrappa (17:53):

How did you come up with the name Interfaith Amigos? Why Amigos? (laughs) Who thought of that name? (laughs)

Pastor Don Mackenzie (18:00):

An editor at The Christian Century magazine. Uh, we got featured in a cover story in August of '08, and the cover said Seattle's Three Amigos. And that's a movie that, uh, we're not particularly fond of, even though the people in it are funny. But it doesn't necessarily treat Hispanic people with respect, and so we changed it to Interfaith Amigos. And that's, that became our brand.

Emy diGrappa (18:26):

Okay. I was curious about that, how they, the Spanish word got in there, (laughs) and now I understand. (laughs) So, uh, what brought you all together? What- what was it? Was it just a coincidence that you all came together to have a conversation? And what was the beginning, that you created a dialogue and a presentation?

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (18:48):

Well, I knew Imam Jamal because we were on the board of a group that was trying to form a spiritual university called Tahoma. Tahoma's the native name for Mt. Rainier. And I was the identified spiritual rabbi in Seattle, and he was the identified spiritual imam. The university actually never happened.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (19:15):

But when 9/11 happened, Imam Jamal was the first person I called because I saw what was being broadcast about Islam. And I said, "People have to see a different face of Islam," and I invited him to join me for the Shabbat, the Friday night service that week at my congregation.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (19:39):

It was the first time that I'd heard him teach, and it was the first time he'd heard me teach. (laughs) And we knew right away that, uh, we wanted to work together, and we started, we- we just started doing it. You know, like there's this rabbi and this imam wandering through the streets and hallways of Seattle.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (20:01):

Don Mackenzie was part of an interfaith group that met once a month that I also was a part of. We even got assigned together at one point to have responsibility for a chapter, I think, in one of Karen Armstrong's books.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (20:20):


Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (20:20):

Several months into the year following 9/11, as we were starting to look at how to mark the first anniversary, we needed a larger sanctuary and we needed a Christian partner. And we came to Pastor Don. And I love the way he responds to the request that we have had him join us. (laughs)

Pastor Don Mackenzie (20:52):

Yeah. (laughs)

Emy diGrappa (20:53):

Tell us about that, Pastor Don.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (20:55):

Well, he called and said, he told me, you know, they were planning this event and did I want to be a part of it? And, by the way, could it be at my church? And I had two feelings simultaneously. I- I thought, "I can't do one more thing, and I cannot not do this. I just cannot not do it." So I said yes and we did it.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (21:14):

And afterwards, uh, as we were debriefing, this was, uh, after September 11th, 2002, we looked at each other and said, "We can't stop now." And so I think we realized very quickly that we shared an intuition that if we could get to know each other and penetrate the barriers that have separated our traditions, we could find ways to cooperate in addressing the moral issues that we are facing.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (21:42):

And that has been our- our mission, um, and we believe very strongly that unless the, there's a change of heart, uh, on the inside, so to speak, there will be nothing of substance that will last on the outside. And so our mission has been to talk about ways to, um, to speak to each other effectively about the differences and similarities in our traditions and to begin to find ways to, uh, cooperate using those things to address these issues.

Imam Jamal Rahman (22:15):

One [crosstalk 00:22:16] he is [crosstalk 00:22:16]-

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (22:17):

But I, but I neglected to mention was the, uh, what happened once Imam Jamal and I started together.

Imam Jamal Rahman (22:26):

Yes, and you know, uh, the- the key is this, uh, Emy, that we became friends.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (22:32):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Imam Jamal Rahman (22:33):

And that really is the critical work we all need to do, whether it's politics, whether it's race or culture or religion. Can we create the environment in a natural way where there is a human bonding?

Imam Jamal Rahman (22:50):

Uh, you see, what happens at Interfaith is people get together, maybe on radio show but mostly, you know, uh, through music, good food, during Christmas, during Ramadan, uh, during Seder, during, um, you know, Hindu, Buddhist, uh, festivals. And everybody is on their best behavior. The- the complaint is it's very infrequent they get together or when they do, everybody's behavior is absurdly nice.

Emy diGrappa (23:19):


Imam Jamal Rahman (23:19):

But when they go home, when they go home, you know, Muslims become terrorist, Christians become liars, uh, Jews become occupiers. Unless, and this is the key, unless some of them connect and meet more frequently and become friends. That is when the real work starts.

Emy diGrappa (23:43):

Are there certain lines you can't cross over because every faith, you know, has its tradition, has its core, let's say. And for like the Christian, the, it's the Bible, right? And- and every faith has a place where this is absolutely what I believe. Or does it become gray on what you believe? Or do you still hold to that tradition with the ability to accept someone who doesn't believe like you do?

Imam Jamal Rahman (24:17):

You know, uh, Emy, I'll- I'll just say one thing, and we can go over it together as three, um, interfaith brothers, is that w- we believe that you just don't talk about these things directly, these difficult issues. There are stages. We call it the "six stages of interfaith dialogue." Maybe brother Ted can start. Is it okay if we tell you the six, the six stages of the dialogue?

Emy diGrappa (24:40):

Yeah. Go ahead.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (24:43):

Um, we believe that effective dialogue actually begins not by getting together and talking about our similarities and certainly not by getting together and talking about our differences. But getting together and creating context in which we can meet each other as human beings.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (24:59):

So we work, we, in our own work, we work with a series of questions, uh, people sitting around tables, um, responding to questions about how their faith, how they experience their faith. Not their beliefs.

Emy diGrappa (25:13):


Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (25:14):

Um, but their life experiences, which we all can relate to. And it's on the basis of meeting each other as human beings, meeting each other as persons, that then we encourage the second stage where there's a second step in an effective interfaith dialogue, is looking to what we consider to be the core teaching in each tradition. Not the core belief but the core teaching.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (25:43):

If people don't have an affiliation to a, uh, tradition, what's the core teaching in their lives? What do you look toward when making significant choices and decisions in your life? What- what is most important? Um, we look at our traditions and, uh, have, uh, perceived that the core teaching in Judaism is oneness, you know, a belief that is only one.

Emy diGrappa (26:11):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (26:12):

You know, this is ethical monotheism, that which sprang from Jewish tradition.

Emy diGrappa (26:16):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (26:17):

Uh, just an awareness of- of this one that connects everybody and that in fact informs an ethic, uh, whether it's called The Golden Rule or, you know, however it's called.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (26:30):

If we believe that the core teaching in Christianity is unconditional love, that's not that that doesn't exist in Judaism and Islam, it's just that's, um, that's a core focus in the teachings of Jesus. That's a universal: unconditional love. We believe that the core teaching in Islam is compassion.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (26:54):

You know, in- in our programs each of us describe why we've, why we see that as our core teaching, and how that impacts not only our own lives but our interfaith life together. And that raises it ... We're- we're not talking about "I believe this." We're talking about, uh, a reality, a spiritual reality that transcends, that connects. Because oneness and unconditional love and compassion in fact connect us all.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (27:29):

[inaudible 00:27:29] then, um, the third stage, and you'll- you'll see, Emy, that these are sequential, um, is the opportunity we see as an invitation to, um, to look at the verses and practices in our traditions and say, "Which are consistent with our core teachings and which are inconsistent, which are inconsistent?"

Pastor Don Mackenzie (27:53):

And underneath that, of course, is the assumption that we make that some of those things are the consequence of spiritual wisdom and some are simply the consequence of egocentrism. And so we encourage people to think critically, using the core teachings to examine those things and really try to understand which are the most useful in terms of, uh, in terms of spirituality and so forth, a spiritual path, something that provides purpose and meaning and seeks to contribute to the common good.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (28:28):

The fourth stage, having done that, having done those three things, then we find there's an opportunity having developed a- a certain amount of trust. An opportunity to then get into some of the areas that have been very hard to talk about.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (28:45):

And just, for example, two of those areas in our three traditions. One, of course, um, the conflict between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine.

Emy diGrappa (28:54):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pastor Don Mackenzie (28:56):

And the other is the question of, uh, of conversion, um, not so much for Jews but for Christians and- and Muslims. Uh, well, it's con- it's a concern for Jews because they get assaulted by Muslims and Christians, (laughs) um, with the idea that, um, Christian is superior or that Islam is superior, which we believe is, one, those are among the biggest stumbling blocks to, um, to, uh, those important conversations. So the-

Emy diGrappa (29:34):


Imam Jamal Rahman (29:34):

And the fifth stage that we ... Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Emy diGrappa (29:35):

Well, I, I'm just curious when- when I'm hearing this. Um, because there's, I did travel to Israel, and I saw all the different Jewish sects, you know, just like in this country the different Christian churches are, you know, many, many and different. And- and I, and I can't, um, speak to the, um, Muslim tradition on how many different kinds of, except, you know, the radical, um, Islam, you know, groups. But that's, you know, the extreme.

Emy diGrappa (30:12):

So you have people that come from all, even in their own faith, they are different. Even in their own belief systems, they are (laughs) all different in how they believe and how they practice. So how do you address, you know, just in, do you run into that where you're having conversations and you have, let's say, two Christians. Um, one believes in singing and the other one doesn't, right?

Male (30:40):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa (30:42):

Just in that conversation alone, how do you deal with that?

Male (30:47):

Well, you know, uh, uh, this can sort of, tallies with the fifth stage where we, you know, if we have, if we have established a friendship. That's the key [inaudible 00:30:57], a connection. The, and the missing link is there is no human connection.

Male (31:03):

When there's a human connection, when there is friendship, whether it's people of the same religion who vary in the degrees of devotion or understanding or different religions, we begin to realize at a certain point, that if you're willing to be vulnerable, that all religions or different kinds of seeking of the same religion are really paths to a shared universal. And that comes only when you get to know the other, again, on a personal level.

Male (31:33):

And so, for example, I'm a Muslim. I study the Qur'an. If I look at the Qur'an from different angles, I have a better understanding of the Qur'an. Which is why we say interfaith is not about conversion; it's about completion.

Male (31:47):

The last point or a very critical point is, whether you have a religion, don't have a religion, different degrees in your belief system, the most, a very critical part is am I doing the work of spiritual practices of becoming more Christ-like, more Buddha-like, more Allah-like, more Elohim-like? If I'm not doing that work, none of this matters, really. It's all talk.

Male (32:13):

So, for example, if you're talking about social justice. You know what the most, eh, critical work is besides legislation, education, just talking? It's about overcoming my biases about Hispanics, about African Americans, about Asians, about Blacks, about whites. Uh, how do I overcome my conditioned prejudices? It requires spiritual practices.

Male (32:40):

Our biggest problem today is environmental degradation. You know, there's a wonderful, uh, saying by, I was reading about the same book, this, uh, con- in my mental he was saying, "Taking care of the river is not about the river. It is about the heart." That is whether you are a, uh, uh, liberal Christian, a conservative Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, if I don't do the work of opening up my heart, nothing is going to change in a structural way. We want structural changes.

Emy diGrappa (33:15):

Well, you all definitely (laughs) on a life-long journey. I think all these things are so deep. And, you know, growing up in a family, uh, a big Hispanic family, and you're unraveling that all the time. Aren't you? Don't you think you're- you're constantly, even in your own heart, you're constantly unraveling, you know, different- different ways that you think?

Emy diGrappa (33:45):

Or, you know, you, or maybe you don't, um, think about something intentionally until you have to think about it intentionally. And then you realize how you really feel about a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim. Does that make sense?

Pastor Don Mackenzie (34:07):

I think "unraveling" is a very good word. I mean, I think we have, in our weekly meetings for 20 years, have committed ourselves to being open to the new, to finding ways to, as we say, penetrate these barriers, and to helping each other see our own traditions from other perspectives. And then see other traditions ourselves, as Jamal said, as a way to, um, deepen our appreciation for those things and also at the same time, shine more light on our own tradition. What's important about Christianity? What's important about Judaism? What's important about Islam?

Pastor Don Mackenzie (34:46):

They all bring messages, all, each one. Um, and this is just our three, but others too, that are crucial and could contribute to the healing of the earth and- and the social fabric. Um, but- but religion, as long as it insists on being separate and superior, can't do it.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (35:09):

We believe that deep in the human heart is a conviction we're all part of the same thing: the interconnectedness of all being. But it's a hard place to get to because of egocentrism, preoccupation, prejudice. Music can do it, eloquent speech, uh, the preciousness of relationships, spiritual practices.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (35:29):

But, as I say, religion can't do it unless it is able to let go of the conviction that it is the only way, that it's better than the others, and that it must remain separate. And we are here on the earth, the three of us right now to work on that (laughs) and, um, find it very, uh, very fulfilling.

Emy diGrappa (35:52):

Yes. I- I imagine you do, and I have one last question for you all. All I know, uh, how people can find you, um, how they can watch your Interfaith Amigos presentation. And- and if you have one last thing, each of you, to say, that if you could wave a magic wand, what would that one thing happen in the world that would mean so much to you?

Pastor Don Mackenzie (36:25):

Magic wand.

Emy diGrappa (36:26):

You only get one. (laughs)

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (36:29):

I think the, uh, you know, if people want to get an idea of our teachings, if- if they, uh, go to YouTube, for example, and put in "Interfaith Amigos," um, it'll start leading to various things because we've been videoed a lot. We've done a lot of presentations. They all exist somewhere.

Male (36:53):


Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (36:53):

In the vast territory of the internet. Um, you're asking a- a- a very difficult, easy question. Um, you know, if I had one wish, it would be that more and more of us could wake up, and by that, I mean wake up to the essential nature of our own being.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (37:24):

Wake up out of the ego trance that keeps us separate, that keeps us defensive, that keeps us on guard, that keeps us competitive with one another, that keeps us always judging one another. That keeps us feeling like we are not enough or we are not deserving or we need more or we don't have enough.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (37:45):

You know, I'm, I would wish that increasingly enough of us awaken to the- the deep, essential nature of our being that, in fact, is a shared being. It's a shared consciousness, a shared awareness, a shared presence.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (38:07):

And I often say, "The one looking at you through my eyes and the one looking at me through your eyes is the same one." And I see through the mask of my own history and my own experiences and my own culture, and you see through the mask of your own. That the one who sees is the, is that one awareness.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (38:32):

And to the extent we can become awake to that, um, in a very natural way, we will stop bringing pain to each other, and we will be seeking ways to heal and to support, to love and to express compassion.

Emy diGrappa (38:53):

Now we can ... I- I was thinking that was a beautiful answer and, you know, being awake. And then it- it started to make me think. ... Well, um, Pastor Don, I'm gonna ask you this: How do we get awake? Is it nature versus nurture? How do we get awake? Because it's one thing to say, "I hope people get there." I do too. But is it upbringing? Is, what is it? What do you think young peo- you could tell someone who's young how they get awake?

Pastor Don Mackenzie (39:32):

Certainly lots of, uh, patterns of experiences, uh, lead us to a place where we, uh, recognize that spiritual practices, regular spiritual practices can help us wake up. Um, but it's, you know, everyone has a different, uh, set of experiences, different DNA, but it does take that desire to wake up.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (39:59):

I mean, I think we'd all say what Ted said, you know, this is. Um, because if- if we could wake up, we could see the other not as color of skin, ethnicity, success, money, whatever. We would be able to say, "Namaste. The divine in me greets the divine in you," which bypasses everything superficial and greets the core of our each being in a way that is not only healing but helpful and hopeful.

Emy diGrappa (40:36):

So, Imam Jamal, I wanna ask you just to tie this all together because we wanna be awake, and then the question is how do we wake up? How- how do we encourage people to wake up? What- what is the action? In your community outside of attending an interfaith meeting, how do you influence people every day?

Imam Jamal Rahman (41:09):

I think it's, it is very critical in our times, like Thich Nhat Hanh, what wonderful Zu- um, Buddhist master said that what'll save us is not a messiah or a prophet or a prophetess. What'll save us is creating authentic communities, circles of love. Jamal, do you have a circle with you that loves you, you trust, and who loves the truth? With whom you can do spiritual practices to raise your consciousness? With whom you can join hands and do some projects together?

Imam Jamal Rahman (41:54):

The, it is these grassroots circles that we create in our lives, authentic circles that'll save us, that'll, uh, enhance us, that'll awaken us and, particularly as we interact with the others. Just remaining within my tradition can be the worst form of tribalism, no matter how good I am.

Imam Jamal Rahman (42:25):

We're finding this, for example, in France. There's a lot of multiculturalism. It has caused the worst disaster just by saying we- we love multiculturalism. It is only going to work if the differents begin to interact, interconnect, inter-cooperate, inter-collaborate with the other.

Imam Jamal Rahman (42:47):

So my prayer is that young or middle-age or old, we have our little circles of love, of trust, of loving the truth in our lives, and we interact with the others at a grassroots level. That will bring peace.

Imam Jamal Rahman (43:04):

I would say this model we have, Interfaith Amigos, is not just a clerical model. It's a model for people of all ages, or all different kinds of orientation, not just religious. Could be, [inaudible 00:43:15] could be just as human beings getting together and doing things together. Those grassroots circles will just change the world ..

Emy diGrappa (43:26):

Well, I'm gonna end on that note because I think that that is a really good point, that it is grassroots, it is community, and it isn't just the Interfaith Amigos. And it would be great if each of you had a mentor (laughs) to replace you and- and speak that same message, um, that you've been putting out there in the world in- in a, in a new way with a, with a, with the younger generation. So that's just what I think would be great.

Emy diGrappa (43:55):

Thank you so much for joining me today, and have a good evening.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (44:04):

Thank you.

Imam Jamal Rahman (44:05):

Emy, wanna say one more thing. We must all get together and laugh a lot. We-

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (44:05):

Not forget that. Laughs.

Emy diGrappa (44:05):

(laughs) yep. You gotta laugh. That's true. All right. You all take care.

Rabbi Ted Falcon, PhD, (44:08):

You too.

Imam Jamal Rahman (44:08):

[crosstalk 00:44:08].

Emy diGrappa (44:08):

Thank you.

Pastor Don Mackenzie (44:09):

[crosstalk 00:44:09].

Emy diGrappa (44:09):

Thank you.

Emy diGrappa (44:24):

Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with support from Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you. To learn more, go to thinkwy.org, subscribe and never miss a show.