Friday, October 24, 2008

Interfaith Dialogue

I’ve just got back from watching my little daughter Callie’s assembly on Diwali. Being such a multi-cultural school means that many different festivals are celebrated. When we were praying together Callie recently asked if I would pray that she will remember to talk to people about Jesus – which I did. But also I reminded her to listen to other people and ask them what they believe.

Interfaith dialogue is a major theme in the Awareness Course that a small group of us are still working through in our church. We would not identify with fundamentalist Christians who see evangelism as a monologue, yet we do believe that that our message is of vitally importance. Topics we have looked at recently - the incarnation, Christ’s mission to preach good news to the poor and the sending out of seventy in Luke 10 – all show that we do have a vital message.

An arrogant fundamentalism can be very dangerous and often gives a very wrong impression of religion. I’ve just been reading in Erling Thu’s blog about his visit to Orissa and accounts of the Christian’s being violently persecuted by fundemetalist Hindus. Yes, I heard about battles in the story of Rama and Sita this morning but I know that fighting is not what the Hindu faith stands for. These accounts need to be understood in their cultural context in the same way that the battles in the Old Testament do.

Surely true religion involves humble conversations about our faith without hurting one another, even though we are fervently convinced of its truth? Unfortunately, the term 'interfaith dialogue' has become associated with ideas such as 'all roads lead to God' and 'you tell me your truth and I'll tell you mine'. Is it possible to rescue this term and learn from it the idea of listening to others ideas and beliefs with interest as part of a more humble way of doing personal evangelism? What do you think?

Update: See this related post by Daniel Story on respecting those who don't believe.

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