This post is part of a synchoblog (synchronised blog) from people of different religious backgroounds on the topic of Interreligious Dialogue.
Like many others, I’ve blogged on this topic before, and so I won’t repeat everything I’ve said in previous posts here, but will rather provide links to the other posts, with some commentary, and apologies to those who have read them before, especially since two of them were posted as part of Christian synchroblogs.
Taken together, they are quite long, so I hope people won’t find them too boring.
In many ways they are a response to the views of some Christian theologians, whose views on interreligious dialogue I disagree with.
As far as I can see there are three ways in which one can approach interreligious dialogue.
- Finding common ground
- Discovering similarities and differences
There can be many reasons for avoiding interreligious dialogue, including the idea that since all others are wrong, dialogue is not needed. All that is needed is a monologue from us to tell “them” the error of their ways, because we have the truth.
The “finding common ground” approach is usually based on an attempt to find something that everyone can agree on, such as “tolerance”, and that the only thing we will not tolerate is intolerance. Unfortunately this means that we often overlook areas of real disagreement.
I’m an Orthodox Christian, and I believe what an Orthodox theologian, Fr Thomas Hopko, had to say about tolerance:
Tolerance is always in order when it means that we coexist peacefully with people whose ideas and manners differ from our own, even when to do so is to risk the impression that truth is relative and all customs and mores are equally acceptable (as happens in North America).
Tolerance is never in order when it means that we remain idle before wickedness which harms human beings and destroys God’s creation.
To be tolerant is to be neither indifferent nor relativistic. Neither is it to sanction injustice or to be permissive of evil. Injustice is intolerable and evil has no rights. But the only weapons which Christians may use against injustice and evil are personal persuasion and political legislation, both of which are to be enacted in an atmosphere of respect. While Christians are permitted under certain conditions to participate in police and military actions to enforce civil laws and to oppose criminality, we may not obey evil laws nor resort to evil actions in defence of the good. This means that Christians are inevitably called to suffer in this age, and perhaps even to die. This is our gospel, our witness and our defence.
To me tolerance means co-existing peacefully with people whose ideas and manners differ from my own. If it means no more than that, it means at least that.
If I discuss religion with people whose ideas differ from my own, then I want to be sure that if I disagree, then I disagree with their actual beliefs and not a caricature of them, and if I agree, then I agree with their actual beliefs, and not a caricature of them. This approach does sometimes, however, cause clashes with exponents of the Baha’i faith, who believe that all religions are fundamentally the same, and that theirs is a harmonisation of all of them. That can lead them to overlook areas of real disagreement.
In interreligious dialogue then, there are four elements:
- Your religion
- My religion
- Your interpretation of my religion
- My interpretation of your religion
Unless all four are present, we don’t have dialogue, but two monologues.
List of participants
Here are links to the other participants in this synchroblog
- J. R. Miller (Christian) of More Than Cake on A Christian Approach to Interfaith Dialogue”
- Liz Dyer (Christian) of Grace Rules on Interreligious Dialogue: Risky Business
- Matt Stone (Christian) of Glocal Christianity on Is
Interfaith Interfaith enough?
- Steve Hayes (Christian Orthodox) of Notes from underground on Interreligious dialogue
- K.W. Leslie (Christian / Pentecostal / Assemblies of God) of The Evening of Kent on Gathering with the pagans.
- Phil Wyman (Christian) of Square No More on A Christian Presenter at Pagan Pride!?
- Beth Patterson (Liberal Christian w/ Celtic undertones) of Virtual Tea House on Same Stove, Different Teapots
- Jarred Harris (Pagan/Vanic Witch) of The Musings of a Confused Man on Interfaith relationships
- Yvonne Aburrow (Wiccan Unitarian) of the dance of the elements on Only connect
- Andii Bowsher (Christian) of nouslife on More Tea Wicca?
And here’s a link for some matters arising from this synchroblog.