Category Archives: interfaith

We Cannot Capture The Wind

This post is part of the June Synchroblog: Faith, Feasts and Foreshadowing in which we were invited to reflect on Shavuot and Pentecost and what we might learn from the similarities or differences in the two religious feasts.  I will post the links of all the participants at the end of this post when they are available.  To learn more about the synchroblog please visit the Synchroblog site.

The Spirit is like the wind.  The wind often arises unexpectedly, and blows with such force that everything in its path is toppled over and displaced.  If we are honest, this is the challenging aspect of this metaphor concerning the Spirit.  We cannot capture the wind. In this way, Pentecost serves as a reminder that the Spirit blows through all of our categories and continues to do the unexpected.  We may think we have grasped the wind, only to find that it has blown in a different direction.  In the face of such a wonderful mystery, we can either shield ourselves from its power, or revel in the wind that eludes our grasp.  – Margaret Manning

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This month Jews and Christians will each celebrate a spring festival.  Jews will celebrate Shavuot on June 8 and Christians will celebrate Pentecost on June 12.  The two spring festivals have some remarkable similarities: 

Shavuot is 50 days after Passover.  Pentecost is 50 days after the resurrection. 

Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah at Mt.Sinai.  Pentecost marks the giving of the Holy Spirit. 

At Shavuot the law of Yahweh was written on stone.  At Pentecost the law of Yahweh was written on hearts. 

During Shavuot about 3,000 were slain.  During Pentecost about 3,000 received salvation. 

Shavuot represents the founding day of Judaism.  Pentecost represents the founding day of the Christian church. 

During Shavuot the spirit of God descends in a fiery cloud.  During Pentecost the spirit of God descends as tongues of fire. 

In both stories, the divine word comes down from heaven and is spoken to God’s people. 

However, there is one distinct difference between Shavuot and Pentecost that I find particularly interesting and insightful.

According to the book of Acts Jesus’ disciples were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot when the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they begin “to speak in other tongues as the spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4b)  As this happened a diverse crowd gathered and was amazed that each one heard what was being said in their own language.  The sign that they were surely hearing from God lay in the miracle that each one heard the same message but in the language they needed to hear it in.

In contrast, the event at Mt.Sinai is described by Rabbis as each person receiving the teaching that he or she most needed to hear.  An older person would have heard something different than a younger person.  A sick person would have received a lesson that was different from the one a healthy person received.  A child would have heard what he or she needed to hear.  A person with much would not hear the same thing as a person who had little. Men and women would have heard according to their own needs.  The content of God’s message was different depending upon who was receiving it.  The sign that they were surely hearing the voice of God was not that one message went out to all, but that each person heard what they needed to hear.  In other words, an infinite God spoke in infinite ways and what he said depended upon who he was speaking to.

Although I don’t believe that these two experiences “have” to be pitted against one another; I do find it interesting that most Christians today will insist that there is only one correct interpretation of scripture (what that interpretation is depends on the Christian you are speaking with) while the Judaic tradition still believes that there are many different interpretations of the Torah and that people typically “hear” the lessons they most need in their life.

An infinite God who speaks in infinite ways and what he says depends on who he is speaking to … that is what God sounds like to me. But many Christians would find the idea that there are numerous interpretations of scripture to be dangerous.  They would worry that someone would abuse the scriptures if we took that approach. (As if the abuse doesn’t already take place as people have used scripture to justify slavery and war, the oppression of women, racism and the unjust treatment of LGBT people)!  They insist that God must sound the same to everyone, everytime.  IMO that is making God much smaller than he is – that is like trying to “capture the wind.”

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Be sure and check out the other synchroblog posts:

Kerri at Earth’s Crammed With Heaven… – Transformation

Sarita Brown at Gypsy Queen Journals – Pentecost: A Poem

Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes – The Incarnation of the Temple, Torah, and Land

Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved – Random Biblical Calendar Thoughts, Unity & Love

K. W. Leslie at More Christ – Pentecost

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – We Cannot Capture The Wind

Emma Nadine at Life by List – An Outpouring of the Spirit

Marta Layton at Marta’s Mathoms – Shadow of Things to Come?

Abbie Waters at No Longer “Not Your Grandfather’s CPA” – Spiritual Gifts

Bill Sahlman at Creative Reflections – A “Wild Goose” Festival at Pentecost

Kathy Escobar at kathy escobar. – more than the leftovers

John O’Keefe at john c. o’keefe – What’s With This

 

Does Interfaith Dialogue Lead To Syncretism?

119927522_729802e22eLast year I attended a women’s bible study for a short period of time.  We met on Monday evenings for a couple of hours.  We prayed together, studied scripture together and socialized.  We are new in the community and I was hoping to make some new friends.  It didn’t turn out that way.

One evening, a few weeks into the study, I shared with a few of the women that I had been participating in an interfaith dialogue and that I was really enjoying it.  They had never heard of such a thing and wanted to know more.  They were uncomfortable with the idea that an interfaith dialogue is not focused on trying to convert others to Christianity.  They could not grasp that we, as Christians, could learn anything of value from someone outside of our faith.  They thought it was probably a sin to be willing to take the position that we might discover that we are wrong about something we believe.  In the end they believed that there was some sort of evil involved in the idea of interfaith dialogues and that there was probably a hidden agenda of syncretism.  The result for me was that I became someone they, at least, were worried about or, at worst, suspicious about.  Needless to say, I didn’t keep attending the Bible study for long after that.

My understanding and experience has been that interfaith dialogue does not require one to give up or hide one’s own beliefs.  It is true that it is not a dialogue that is focused on validating one’s own religious conviction but at the same time there is a need for one to be rooted in their own tradition in order to have a meaningful dialogue.  I believe that the dialogue not only offers us the opportunity to learn about the faith of others but to also discover dimensions of our own faith that may have been unknown or forgotten by us.  In addition, I believe that interfaith dialogue opens up the possibility of people of different faiths working together for the common good.

Still, there are many who believe that it is not worth the risk of our faith becoming polluted with what they would consider false ideas and beliefs and that the most probable outcome is a blended belief system.

What do you think?  Is interfaith dialogue a slippery slope that leads to syncretism that will just end up dilluting and harming Christianity?  Or is interfaith dialogue a worthy endeavor that will heal divides, make the world a better place and lead to Christians becoming better followers of Christ because of our encounter with others?

This month a group of us have decided to synchroblog on syncretism. The synchrobloggers so far:

How To Cook Up A Personal Jesus by Matt Stone

How to be a Syncretist by Ellen Haroutunian

Our Uncomfortable God by Susan Barnes

Synching on Syncing by Phil Wyman

The Man In The Moss by Steve Hayes

Synchroblog

  

There will be two synchroblogs in the month of January.

Everyone is invited to get involved.

There will be an interfaith synchroblog on the general theme of “Religion and Science” on 8 January 2008.

 AND

The original synchroblog group will be having a synchroblog on January 14 on the general theme of “Faith and Ethnicity”. The original group was Christian, though others are welcome to join it.

For more information see www.synchroblog.com, or contact Phil Wyman at pastorphil@salemgathering.com.

The Dialogue Begins

If you are interested in the dialogue that has been sparked by the “Interreligious Dialogue Synchroblog” (that is a mouth full) then hop on over to Khanya  or More Than Cake where there are ongoing dialogues about the difference in evangelizing and proselytizing (if there is a difference), what is permissable or at least, preferable, in an interreligious dialogue and truth.

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?