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The Accidental Theist

A Challenge to Your Comfort Zone

Outlining the 2011 Go with Your Guts Challenge
A Challenge to Your Comfort Zone, photo by Tobias Leeger
Published on December 17, 2010

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Last night I received an email from one of the pastors at a local megachurch. The two of us struck up a friendship after meeting at a conference on social media last spring. Shortly after the conference, we got coffee together to share more about our work in the community and realized that we were working toward many of the same goals for our community. We both tweeted about this initial meeting and that’s when things got sticky. Some people at his church saw our tweets and took the fact that he had met with me, a Jewish woman who runs an interfaith organization, as a sign that he was having doubts about his faith and identity as a Christian.

Since our initial meeting, we have been getting together periodically for coffee. The conversations we have had have been some of the most thoughtful and illuminating ones I’ve had and have given me a better insight into the faith community of which he is a part. In his most recent email, he told me that he continued to receive strong pushback from some members at his church about our friendship and about his support for interfaith work.

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This article was featured on The Weekly Grind, Omaha’s young professional radio program, on December 18, 2010 - Listen to the show!

But despite the intense pressure he is receiving from some of his peers, he continues to attend our programs, meet with me, and be engaged. And I thought, “Wow—that takes some serious guts.” To risk your standing and credibility in your faith community and workplace to challenge the status quo—now that’s courageous.

And then I had to ask myself, “What am I doing to really challenge the status quo even at Project Interfaith?” It’s pretty easy to get into your comfort bubble no matter who you are or what you do, and interfaith work is no exception. I realize that if I am asking community members to step out of or at least stick a toe out of their comfort zones, I better be willing to do the same.

So, I am setting a challenge for myself—just in time for the upcoming secular New Year. I am challenging myself beginning this in January and through the rest of 2011 to each month meet with one person that I may have normally just assumed would be totally disinterested in interfaith work. This would include those I would conveniently label as “fundamentalists.” (Gasp! Yes, I’ll fess up—I, too, am guilty of labeling. Hi, my name is Beth and I am a human.) My goal is not to meet with these individuals to “convert” them to interfaith work. My goal is to meet with them to get to know them and to stretch my horizons—to really hear what makes them tick and to better understand their perspectives.

Naturally, to satisfy my dorkiness, I had to give this challenge a name. So I am calling it the “Go with Your GutsChallenge because, let’s face it, it is going to take guts for me to meet with people outside my comfort zone. I’ll be sharing what I take away from these experiences each month on the Project Interfaith blog so be sure to check it out.

I invite you to join me in the “Go with Your Guts” Challenge. Push yourself to meet with one person each month of 2011 who you might normally write off as having little or nothing in common with. And let me know how it goes. Who knows—if enough of us go with our guts, maybe we’ll find that the space beyond our comfort zones is actually a place worth spending some time in.

Who do you plan to meet in 2011?

photo by Tobias Leeger

bethkatzBeth Katz is founder and executive director of Project Interfaith and a self-professed interfaith junkie. You can reach her at, find her on Facebook or follower her Twitter: @bethkatz.