Interfaith Inspiration

Painting the Middle

By Nathan "Bam" Stanton 
Photo of a lily signifying life in the midst of the unknown. Photo courtesy of Stanton

Photo of a lily signifying life in the midst of the unknown. Photo courtesy of Stanton

Around and around, I would walk through the courtyard space in my middle school in Southridge, California, conversing with kids whom I could identify neatly into categories like stoners, rebels, jocks, Black kids, and white kids. 

The neighborhood surrounding us made the world as a 12-year-old feel as homogenous as it looked. The pastel-colored stucco buildings blended into one visual whole. Even the strip mall and stores had the same design; it could be the flavor of the future with no variation to speak of.  

However, Southridge Middle School was the opposite, with students from all ethnicities further categorized by music, clothes, and cultural adherence.  

As a child who found himself over the poverty line but without parental resources to eat lunch each weekday, I spent a lot of time going around to these groups, developing friendships, and asking for money so I would be able to eat. This became my first cross-cultural experience learning to relate to kids with different worldviews under the watchful eye of the administrators. One day, an administrator pulled me aside and asked me why I went from group to group, to which I replied, “Because I know people in every group.” I think about that moment often; what I thought was natural felt foreign to this grown-up tasked with teaching me the way of the world.  

Fast forward to a recent dream I had of a building with smaller buildings at each corner. There were separate houses of worship, and they were vibrant and accessible. As I walked through one, I found myself in a wide-open space in the middle that was ten times the size of the separate houses of worship on either side. This space felt similar to the courtyard from my middle school. 

Illustration by Nathan "Bam" Stanton of his recent dream.

Just as that administrator had no words for my process of going from group to group in that sunny courtyard, we also need a new language for our interfaith connection, which is vital to our nation’s future.  

That courtyard taught me the importance of traveling between and seeing the beauty of all cultures. The beauty of this space is a vacuum that can be filled by articulation through creativity from artists, poets, musicians, filmmakers, and many more. A vacuum of promise that this is an interfaith space to be faithfully cultivated by organizations such as Interfaith America.  

May we be unable to feed our societal need for community in closed groups anymore. May we continue to grow with creativity and a vision for the future. May the unity through collaboration send us into the beauty of freedom together.  

A void exists that contains the possibility of potential in its emptiness. A space pioneered by musicians and creatives, often risking vulnerability to express what has not been before. The unseen is ready to be articulated by the creatives of all faiths that will provide the bridge in the future. May we all create, in our ways, a new reality for us all to live in unity.  


Nathan “Bam” Stanton has been an artist working in mediums that include painting, writing and speaking for over 20 years. His most recent journey included working as a pastor in Chicago for 13 years and founding a not-for-profit, Forgive.Us., an organization dedicated to encouraging artists to speak out about injustice. It’s founding was followed by a 20,000 mile RV trip around the country to host Forgive Us events. His heart is to build a bridge on which division in America can heal. Bam is now embarking on his next mission, to motivate and inspire businesses, organizations and schools into forgiveness, resilience and creativity. His work has been also been featured in WBBM ChicagoRV Today, Rootless and Rova Magazines. He currently resides in Oak Park, Illinois with his wife and 5 children.