Monday, November 9, 2009

In Praise of Eboo

Dr. Eboo Patel is an impressive young man. (I say young, for he was born in 1975 and that makes him seem quite young to me.)

Eboo is the Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). He is also a member of the President's White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and last month he was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the twenty-three "Best Leaders" in the United States.

Tomorrow, November 10, Eboo will be the speaker at the Festival of Faiths gathering in Kansas City. I very much would like to attend that meeting and hear him speak. Unfortunately, that is the same night Dr. James Cone speaks in Gano Chapel on the campus of William Jewell College, and I feel a greater need to attend that lecture. (Dr. Cone's talks at 7:30 Tuesday evening and 10:15 on Wednesday morning are open to the public, and I would encourage those in the area to attend, if possible.)

I am especially appreciative of Eboo's work because of what I read in his book, Acts of Faith (2007), the book we will be discussing at the Vital Conversations meeting this week: Wednesday, Nov. 11, at Antioch Library. (Those living in the North Kansas City area are heartily invited to attend this meeting.)

In his book, Eboo tells about April Kunze, an evangelical Christian, becoming IFYC's first full-time staff member. In the hiring process, he said to her, "We can both believe our religions are true, we can even privately hope the other converts, and we can work together in this organization to serve others. In that way, we, an Evangelical Christian and a devoted Muslim, can model what we say this organization is about: people from very different faith backgrounds finding common purpose in helping others" (p. 163).

That is the kind of pluralism Eboo propounds, and that is the kind of "pluralism" I applaud. Even though he calls his position pluralism, I think it is more an attitude of accepting and respecting plurality. As I have written before, I am generally opposed to any ism, so I am wary of talk about pluralism. But I think that understanding, respecting, and working with people of other religious traditions or expressions of faith is very important.

Thus, I praise Eboo for the significant interfaith work he is doing. He is an excellent example how one can be a dedicated believer of a particular faith tradition and also respectful of other traditions. And his call for working with people of other religious beliefs for the betterment of society is one I pray will be heard and heeded by more and more people.


  1. I agree. He has a nice piece in "On Faith", which is linked on my Facebook page. I envy your opportunity to hear him this week.

  2. I just posted as "Anonymous." Is there a way I could use my own name?

  3. I guess I did it, though it was a bit circuitous.

  4. Michael, glad to hear from you -- and glad you persevered to get signed up with your own name.

    I assume you were referring to Eboo, although Dr. Cone is more closely related to where you are teaching. Has he been to your campus recently?

  5. There is only one 'ism I devoutly believe in, and that is not the subject here.
    Jesus Christ mandated 5 specific loves. Some require deep commitment. But one of can roughly be translated "friendliness". This is often missing in homes, neighborhood, work, and passers-by. By just grasping this one concept and going out of our way with it, the world would be such a better place and tolerance would not be an issue. There are those, like yourself, who live this well, but we probably need a "prophet" in each generation to remind us.