As I write this morning, I’m also watching the Wold Cup match between Japan and Cameroon. I was living in West Africa in 1990 when Cameroon emerged as the first African team to make it to the quarter-finals. I became a lifelong soccer fan in those moments when the entire continent would go silent, huddled around televisions powered by car batteries, and then cheer in unison at each goal.
Why am I writing about soccer? Because no matter what I’m doing, I seem to be inadvertently tuned in to a frequency broadcasting the growing “bothness” of our world. Just now, I heard the announcers mention that one of the Ghanaian players is half-German. He’s both. And one of the Japanese players was born in the soccer-obsessed nation of Brazil. He’s both too. Increasingly, we’re all on the bothness spectrum, whether through intermarriage, immigration, adoption or simply through choosing to ally ourselves in new ways, through purposeful. global recombination.
Also this week, I tuned in to the “bothness frequency” when Diane Ives and Jon Lickerman, my fellow members of the Interfaith Families Project, got a letter published in the Washington Post testifying to the strength of interfaith marriages and families supported by our community and to the exuberant “bothness” of their son.
And also this week, I attended the Network of Spiritual Progressives conference in Washington, and tuned in to the bothness frequency as I heard speaker after speaker testify to the importance of “breaking down boundaries,” “crossing borders” and “embracing the other.” While not everyone engaged in interfaith dialogue likes to acknowledge this, interfaith families walk this walk every day. The proliferation of official interfaith conferences and organizations creates a constant hum on the bothness frequency, even though many do not (want to) understand what they hear this way.
Earlier this month, the bothness frequency came in loud and clear as I read the bewildered response of a Jewish blogger to Orthodox Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld’s realistic and open-hearted acknowledgement of families raising their children with both religions. The blogger notes with discomfort the Rabbi’s “relaxed attitude towards syncretism,” as if all religions were not, by nature and throughout history, inherently syncretic. The fact is that more and more members of the clergy are beginning to understand that interfaith communities are not going away, and may even have some merit.
Finally, one of my favorite bloggers, MaNishtana, wrote a powerful post this week about his own bothness: he is an African-American, and a Jew. His words reflect and amplify and resonate for all of us who are both, in all of our many ways of being both. He’s broadcasting loud and clear on the bothness frequency. Check it out.