by Jim Henderson and Cara Highsmith
At a small group meeting recently I told a group of people from our church about the imam, rabbi, and pastor from Peoria. “Sounds like a joke,” said one of our group members. It does sound like a joke!
But it’s not. These three men from Peoria are real, honest-to-goodness friends. And Jim Henderson is helping them take their wonderful story public. It’s a story we all need to hear because of the rancor, fear, and division we’ve all experienced in the past year.
No Joke is a story about friends whose friendship transcends huge differences of religion and culture. Through their friendship and this book, Jim Henderson and Cara Highsmith show us how false assumptions foster suspicion, even violence against those who are not like us.
Using two words, otherlyness and otherization, Jim describes the difference between approaching people not like us with respect and curiosity as opposed to treating others as “them” – “them” meaning alienated and judged.
The Peoria Three have not been afraid of difference and have actively sought to understand by attending each other’s worship, sampling religious festivals, and asking hard questions. This curiosity and trust is what they are modeling for leaders in Peoria, Illinois. They hope it will lead to a time when Peorians will quit judging and otherizing each other and will, instead, treat each other as friends.
My favorite passage in the book is a story handed down in Jewish history and told by Daniel Bogard, the rabbi in the Peoria Three.
A potential convert told Rabbi Hillel that if he could tell him, the potential convert, all of the Torah while standing on one foot he would convert to Judaism. While standing on one foot, Hillel said to him, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. All else is commentary.”
That, in one short parable is the story of No Joke.