Interreligious Dialogue, take 2

Why did an individual who has never blogged, tweeted, or facebooked (is this the term?) decide to apply to a new interreligious initiative that will exist almost exclusively in the online world? Great question.

Admittedly, I am this individual who, until 2 weeks ago, never did anything online. But, when I received an email (ok, so I did email…) from a friend about the soon to be launched “State of Formation,” I eagerly jumped in. I guess the attraction to what could be happening here was simply too great to resist. I believe that we, those who are a part of this ever growing community, are truly embarking on something unique. As we get to know each other over the next few months I believe we will be, in many ways, defining what “interreligious dialogue 2.0” will look like in the future. For what it’s worth, here’s my top 2 wish list (1,000 word limits are tough!) on where I hope we will be going.

1. Interreligious dialogue 2.0 won’t be done exclusively by the established religious professionals nor will it be done only by the up-and-coming thinkers. Interreligious dialogue 2.0 will be a collaborative and meaningful process of learning by both sides. In other words, I think that we, those who are a part of State of Formation, have something valuable to offer as we reflect with our fresh eyes (rookie eyes?) on how our learning can be applied to interreligious issues. But, I also think that those who have gone ahead of us are ahead of us for good reasons, and I am just as excited to see what the established leaders will learn from us as I am about what we will learn from them.

2. Interreligious dialogue 2.0 will take seriously both the intra and inter religious elements of dialogue. I currently would describe myself as a progressive Protestant who works at a conservative Baptist church when I am not attending the nation’s flagship Catholic school…in other words, I often get confused of “who” I am representing when I come to the interreligious table! Despite such confusion, however, I can’t help but believe that whenever you or I sit at the table of interreligious dialogue we are all a part of rich and varied traditions that are at times interested and, more often than you or I would wish, at times uninterested in what is occurring at the table. With the risk of being overly simplistic: if the 60 or so of us make great interreligious advancements together but are routinely ignored by the 6 billion we represent…can we still call what we have accomplished “advancements”? After all, what good is accomplished if interreligious dialogue is done by religious/academic professionals in a language not understood by religious laity/non-academics? Advancements must be translatable to be effective.

Several years ago, after a phenomenal time of dialogue in a classroom with several Islamic, Christian, and Jewish classmates I attempted to share (perhaps “recreate” is a more apt term) what we had accomplished with members of my church. Although I was somewhat prepared for their response, I was taken by surprise by the overwhelming “why should we waste our time doing that?” sentiments that I encountered. To return to my original point, the language of the classroom became distorted and unrecognizable when it was translated to the Church. Clearly- as the “bridge” between the two worlds, I had my work cut out for me! I am hopeful that those of us within the interreligious dialogue 2.0 landscape would each work as fervently to bring our reluctant friends within our tradition to the table as we will be working to bridge the divide with our interreligious other. After all- the more at the table, the better!

So…what do you think? What are your secret wishes and desires about what the 2.0 landscape will look like? What needs to change, and what needs to remain?

(Kudos to Chris and his team for getting the ball rolling. I can’t wait to see where we all will wind up!)

Share this!
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Twitter

4 thoughts on “Interreligious Dialogue, take 2

  1. Brandon – everything here resonates with both my personal and professional experience within the inter-religious movement. A movement that sprung almost entirely within an academic context but now must somehow undergo a transition into much wider communities. My hope is that we can appriciate and learn imperatives identified by those who have gone before us while making them realities on a wider scale. I think this is much of what you get at in your post.

    My hope for ID2.0, as you term it, is that it will exist vibrantly outside of the academic arena. I think if one must receive a certain high level of education to participate in inter-religious dialogue, or benefit from it, than it is almost entirely unhelpful to society. Recently I have begun to question modern interfaith organizing techniques – they seem to easily exclude large segments of the population. But that is another story for another time. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Thanks, Honna, for your thoughts. I’d love to hear more about your views on modern interfaith techniques- I’d imagine that we probably have the same concerns! In regards to your wish about a vibrant non-academic dialogue: I think this is already happening on a wide scale (two neighbors asking questions about each other’s tradition, a nervous future son-in-law explaining what he believes in, two roommates talking late into the night, etc.)…the challenge is how can we get them into the larger IRD circle! Thanks again for your comments.

  3. Religion is a belief system of one’s very own. Everyone, in my estimation, is religious. Even the atheist has its own version of religion. The State of Formation could be a new beginning and exciting one at that but it should go beyond religion. It should go into figuring out what ticks a human in his or her day to day life, how they are coping with their own issues individually and collectively. Interfaith dialogue comparing and contrasting various religions, even under a new platform is going to be more of the same. It is the people’s aspirations and their difficulties we have to look into and how they are turning to religion to seek divine assistance to fulfill their own dreams and aspirations. We are also to see why the society, even though its rhetoric to help and aid is convincing, is leaving them high and dry. In fact exploiting them more often than not. After life long search, I have come to only one conclusion; it is the state of our educational institutions which are now doing more research than teaching and knowledge which each person seeks is now becoming an endangered species.
    For my own efforts in this regard see: Also see:

    Via efforts like these and making it possible for people to really learn and thereby get educated as opposed to mere schooling, people will be thanking the Lord, Allah or Jehovah instead of complaining to HIM for having abandoned them.

    So far my experience has been that people of religious fervor have been converting people or rather enticing people to convert via food, money, shelter, jobs, or schooling as well as via psychological manipulation by indicating “look what they are doing to you”. The British found the “untouchables” of India an easy target for that but even after converting and becoming Christians, their status and station in life did not change until the Government, especially the British Government, had to intervene to create a new class of people called “the unscheduled” who could be given certain rights within the Indian sub-continent but they were still not good
    enough to go to England and hob-knob with the gentry there.

    Human prejudice takes many guises; in fact it is a chameleon changing colors to merge with the terrain. It is the terrain we need to change and there the answer and the only answer is to improve the quality of education.

    Also keep in mind that our present socio-economic system is based on “managing the public” that is why we give graduate courses in Public Administration. With the increasing world populating and the shrinking resources, we cannot survive via managing people, we have to go through a paradigm shift and start thinking of “people development”. Only then we will have a hopeful future for everyone and hopefully that illusive world peace.

Comments are closed.