Last night at the ecumenical Jewish worship session that marked the opening of the Progressive Faith Blog Con, an eclectic band of merry bloggers chanted a Hebrew text which translates “Behold how good & sweet it is when brothers & sisters dwell together in harmony.” If any text could be claimed as the motto of this weekend’s meet-up of spiritually minded, politically progressive bloggers, this would be it: here in one room in New Jersey, I’m sitting with 30-some Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Pagan sisters and brothers making the sort of conversational harmony a lot of doctrinallly rigid folks would suggest isn’t possible.

Who would have predicted, for instance, that the same interfaith crowd that chanted Jewish texts last night would have chanted Buddhist ones this morning? And yet, after sharing some 20 minutes of silent meditation upon our arrival at the conference center this morning, it seemed perfectly natural and unremarkable that we would begin a day of conversation by blending our voices. By the end of the weekend, we all will have experienced a smorgasbord of spiritual practice: Jewish on Friday night, Buddhist on Saturday morning, Muslim tonight, and Christian tomorrow morning.

A smorgasbord, though, isn’t the same as a stew. Two or three nourishing dishes might nicely complement one another, but stirring them in the same pot might result in disgustingly nauseating mush. The world’s various religions each offer a distinct “flavor” of spiritual truth, and these separate tastes should be respected rather than blandly blended. In this morning’s panel discussion of religious pluralism, someone compared religious diversity to the fact that a healthy body contains distinct but inter-connected organs. If your brain tries to become a spleen, you’ll end up dead…but if your brain insists on remaining separate from your spleen, you’ll be similarly in trouble.

So the body of humanity needs its Jews to remain Jewish, its Muslims to remain Muslim, its Buddhists to remain Buddhist…but that doesn’t mean these folks should remain isolated in their own homogenous communities. Perhaps the best visual representation of the sort of sister- and brotherhood we’re practicing this weekend is this image of one of several power-strips into which a gaggle of bloggers has plugged their laptop cords. Although the assembled group this weekend is using various brands of laptops, various operating systems, and various software tools to post to their various blogs, we all are plugged in, via our various cords, to the same Power Source. This tangled web might be unsightly, but it’s one way to visualize the invisible links between us all, online- and off-.

    If you want to keep up-to-date with various live-blogged and chat-transcript accounts of this weekend’s Progressive Faith Blog Con, check out the conference blog here.