Interreligious Dialogue: Risky Business

I am writing this post in collaboration with other bloggers participating in an Interfaith Synchroblog.
For more information on the Interfaith Synchroblog go here.  Links to the other posts are listed at the end of this post.
 
Some people believe that interreligious dialogue is risky business and fear that it will lead to syncretism or relativism or to people being misled or losing their faith. I don’t share these fears but I do believe that interreligious dialogue is risky business.
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I believe that it is risky business because it isn’t easy and we will probably fail as much as we succeed. We will probably find ourselves often debating instead of dialoguing, coming to the conversation with preconceived ideas about points of disagreement and failing to be as humble and patient as we desire.
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I believe that it is risky business because successful dialogue requires that we come to the conversation honestly, sincerely and vulnerable, willing to be self critical of ourselves and our own religious or ideological traditions and beliefs, willing to be open to being wrong and open to change.
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I believe that it is risky business because the very ideals of interreligious dialogue demand that we are willing to embark upon a personal journey that has no clear destination in mind. A journey that may lead us to an internal debate about our own beliefs and traditions.
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I believe that it is risky business because dialogue changes those who risk it. The aim is not to change the other, but to risk being changed. As much as interreligious dialogue tears down stereotypes and preconceptions about the other, it transforms the way we understand our own beliefs and, as a result, the way we live out our beliefs.
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Yes, I believe that interreligious dialogue is risky business. It is risky like love and forgiveness and mercy and grace are risky. It is risky but I believe it is worth the risk.
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“At the first level inter-religious dialogue is a dialogue, that is, a conversation on a common subject between two or more persons with differing views, the primary purpose of which is for each participant to learn from the other so that he or she can change. In dialogue each partner must listen to the other as openly and sympathetically as he or she can in an attempt to understand the other’s position as precisely and, as it were, as much from within, as possible. Such an attitude automatically includes the assumption that at any point we might find the partner’s position so persuasive that we would act with integrity, we would have to change our own position accordingly. That means that there is a risk in dialogue: we might have to change, and change can be disturbing.”
From Leonard Swidler’s foreword to Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine: A Dialogue by Pinchas Lapide and Juergen Moltmann; Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1981.)
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Here are the 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 The Underground on “Interreligious Dialogue”

K. W. Leslie (Christian/Pentecostal/Assemblies of God) of 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”

Yvonne Aburrow (Wiccan Unitarian) of the dance of the elements on “Only Connect”

Jarred (Pagan/Vanic Witch) of The Musings of a Confused Man on Interfaith relationships

Andii Bowsher (Christian) of Nouslife on More tea Wicca?

Mahud (Pagan) of Between Old and New Moons on What Does Interfaith Dialogue Have To Do With Me?

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13 thoughts on “Interreligious Dialogue: Risky Business

  1. Beth Patterson

    Liz–
    I really like this post (mainly because it agrees with how I look at this ‘business’–aaargh, does it never stop?) It’s hard to allow ourselves the security and honesty to risk knowing that some idea or belief held dear could be forced, or gently pried, from our grasp.

    This fear is at the core of most of our wars. And our preoccupations with being right, rather than happy!

    Thanks for the loving tone of this post.
    Beth

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Matters arising « Khanya

  3. Pingback: Beth Patterson : Same stove, different teapots

  4. Jarred

    It sounds like the biggest risk in interfaith dialogue is the risk of facing the unknown. But then, isn’t that the biggest risk in most areas of life?

    Reply

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