Sun, sand and ocean waves: The foundation of an interfaith dialogue

Representatives of various faiths and surfers gathered on Huntington Beach for an afternoon of learning and surfing for the fifth annual Blessing of the Waves service held on Oct. 14.


The first Blessing of the Waves interfaith service took place in 2008 with 400 people, and according to the Orange County Register, there was a total of 3,000 people present at this year’s service.


Every religion has its own beliefs and values by which its members operate. The eight most widely practiced world religions are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and Yoruba religion. It is safe to say that between those eight, the traditions and principles have a wide range of differences.


Comparative Religions is an APU course that examines the different theories of how religion is approached as well as the tenants of different world religions with the end goal being to do justice to each of them.


According to Comparative Religions professor Stephen Parise, the eight main religions are not compatible theologically and philosophically, but they are compatible in other ways, although the level of compatibility varies as some religions resemble each other more than others.


“Worshipping together assumes you are worshipping with shared values and beliefs,” Parise said. “However, all of the religions have vastly different beliefs and traditions. It becomes more difficult to be unified religiously.”


The Merriam-Webster’s definition of “interfaith” says it is something “of, relating to, or between different religions or members of different religions.” During the gathering at Huntington Beach, there were prayers as well as teachings and music from representatives of the Islam, Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian religions. The event concluded with everyone surfing and boogie boarding in the waves of the ocean.


The idea of the event was to gather people of other religions together to interact peacefully while learning about the various faiths that many people represent across the world.


“You understand different religions best when you interact with other people from these other religions,” Parise said.


Sophomore graphic design major Cameron Agnew has been surfing for most of his life and sees surfing as a great way to bring people together.


“As a surfer, it doesn’t really matter what background or religion you have,” Agnew said. “Surfing breaks down the barriers of what separates people on a day-to-day basis; you become one with the ocean and everyone you’re surfing with.”


According to Agnew, surfing could possibly be one of the best ways Christians can get to know other people of different religions.


Not only is surfing an effective way of bringing people of various faiths together, but the environment in which is takes place — the waves, the ocean, the water — has significant meaning.


“The ocean is the greatest symbol of God we have in nature,” Agnew said. “It can be cooling, it can be refreshing, it can be cleansing and healing. But at the same time, it can be very powerful.”


Sophomore communications major Kyle Harwick believes the interfaith service event on the beach to be an innovative idea.


“As Christians, we need to find ways to bridge the gap not only between people who don’t believe, but people of other religions,” Harwick said. “It is great that people can all get together and surf without letting different beliefs cause conflict.”


According to Parise, students at APU will interact with and encounter other students and staff who maintain beliefs different from their own and because of that it is important to recognize and respect everyone on or off campus.


Parise said a large part of respecting others’ beliefs is being well informed, lest you commit the straw man fallacy — misinterpreting what somebody believes and proceeding to understand them based on the misinterpretation.


Junior political science and philosophy double major Zach Mendoza is in Parise’s Comparative Religions class and finds it interesting to learn about different religions and theories.


“It’s always a good idea to be informed, especially from an evangelical standpoint,” Mendoza said. “It’s good to know where other people are coming from and not be ignorant when you are defending your beliefs.”


Blindly defending beliefs based on fallacies and a lack of information is a mistake Christians can make when faced with others who view God differently and disagree with Christian views.


“As Christians we are called to love everybody whether or not they practice our same traditions and beliefs,” Mendoza said. “Loving other people does not mean you always have to agree with them.”


However, it does mean you must respect them.