The speaker was an eloquent, young defender of the poor, who would become one of Dallas’ most revered figures and a champion of religious liberty: Is it not now time to build a great humanitarian hospital, one to which those of all faiths and those of none may come with equal confidence?
George W. Truett, the legendary pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, issued that challenge with characteristic grace and generosity. He actually used older words like “men of all creeds,” but the point is that Dallas should care for the sick and dying without religious prejudice.
A few weeks ago the Bradley Wayne Interfaith Garden of Prayer was dedicated, just steps from the original site of the Texas Baptist memorial Sanitarium that sprang from Truett’s vision and later became Baylor University Medical Center. This non-sectarian sanctuary in the cathedral of creation invites people of all faiths or none to find spiritual respite. A lovely labyrinth provides peace seekers a path of prayer.
It all began when a Jewish physician, Dr. Robert Fine, stumbled upon Muslim hospital employees praying in a stairwell. The existing hospital chapel is ill equipped for the prayer practices of Muslims, let alone the growing needs of other non-Christians. He knew Baylor employs, respects and welcomes people of all religions, and that it should want to do more to accommodate diverse spiritual practices. The gorgeous garden, funded entirely by donors, fulfills the dream of Truett in a good way and demonstrates to the good will of the hospital community.
Baptists championed religious liberty in Colonial times when they were a persecuted minority. No other religious body carried the weight of Baptists in the creation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees freedom, not just toleration, of religious exercise.
The recent record of Baptists is spotty. Hats off to the health care Baptists for getting it right. Yet some majority-spirited Baptists (and other Christians) resent minority faiths that demand their constitutional rights be respected in school and civic events. We forget we were once in their place.
People of any faith can make room for people of other faiths without compromising their own faith.
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