BYU interfaith book club bridges differences, one page at a time

“My Neighbor’s Faith,” a compilation of interfaith stories and experiences. Katelyn Boyer, co-president of the Interfaith Student Association, said readers can learn much about interfaith theory from reading the experiences of others. (Emily May)

The Interfaith Student Association hosts weekly book club meetings, creating a safe space to discuss interfaith topics and build religious literacy among students.

The book club began during Fall Semester 2023 as a way to involve students in interfaith discussions. Students are not required to read from the books in advance. The club also covers civic engagement, discussing issues such as food scarcity and homelessness.

Michael MacKay, a BYU world religions professor and faculty advisor for the Interfaith Student Association, said the book club helps students understand others’ experiences, look at differences in a positive way and be respectful toward those with different opinions.

“I’ve never seen so much polarization ever, whether it’s political polarization or academic polarization,” MacKay said. “Division is defining our world, and a lot of that division is creating hate and violence and indifference.”

Katelyn Boyer is one of the Interfaith Student Association’s co-presidents. She organizes the book club meetings each week. Boyer said the Interfaith Leadership and Ethics course piqued her interest in interfaith.

“It was really engaging, it was really fascinating, it was everything I loved about my mission, talking to people of other faiths, learning about them and learning about God through the lens of other people,” Boyer said.

These meetings are meant to be low commitment and a way to create a space for interfaith discussion each week, Boyer said.

The books the club plans to read will pertain to religious literacy, MacKay said, which may include the topic of religion and violence. Possible books the club may read include “My Neighbor’s Faith,” a compilation of interfaith stories, and “Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others” by Barbara Brown Taylor, according to Boyer.

“There’s also things from the Harvard Pluralism Project that we could read, have different speakers come in if they can, things like that,” Boyer said.

Kiki Aldridge is a junior studying public health and is on the association’s committee. She said she goes to the book club almost every week for support.

According to Aldridge, the club discusses the book, but other important issues and discussions will often arise during the club’s meetings.

Because the point of the club is to get students involved in interfaith discussion, Boyer said the club may not even end up reading the book as planned.

“Whether that’s serving our neighbors by looking at food scarcity, whether that’s talking about complex topics that involve religion, looking at people, examining your own faith and what that means to you,” Boyer said.

February is Interfaith Month, MacKay said. The Interfaith Student Association will bring John Thatamanil, a theologian at Union Theological Seminary and author of “Circling the Elephant: A Comparative Theology of Religious Diversity,” as well as the head of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and others.

More information about the association’s book club meetings and events can be found on their Instagram page and the BYU religious outreach website.

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