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!)