Interfaith

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Methodological Challenges to Measuring Transformation

When I set out on my dissertation research, my main question was whether and how interfaith dialogue functions to transform people. I had a hypothesis that people do interfaith dialogue because when doing it they experience a shift in perspective, behavior, or identity construct. I wanted more detailed data about the transformation that occurs through interfaith […]

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Can We Get Real? Authentic Interfaith Truth-Telling & the Burning of Black Churches

“Why does it take a tragedy to bring us all together?” Rev. Terry McCray Hill of Bethel AME Church in Portland, Oregon asked this question the day after the Charleston massacre. We gathered, standing room only, into the hot, crowded sanctuary of Bethel AME and one by one, stood, naming our faith community to affirm […]

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Taken by the author at the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions in Melbourne, Australia.

Choice and Safety: Required Ingredients for Interfaith Progress

Classic “contact theory” predicts that diverse societies automatically bring about tolerance. I argued against this idea here when I discussed how proximity generally exacerbates the anxiety of difference, and fails to disconfirm negative stereotypes when people see—but do not understand—their differences. If your goal is increasing tolerance and civic cooperation, it is not enough just […]

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Generalizations Are Never Defensible. Or Is This an Indefensible Generalization?

Figuring out how to talk about religion, especially in boundary crossing contexts, can be a struggle. Isn’t that part of what we are trying to do at State of Formation–figure out the how of interfaith as much as actually doing interfaith? One of my biggest struggles writing about interbelief just feels trite. Sometimes. And sometimes […]

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Interfaith Dialogue with Those Who Belong to Exclusivistic, Literalistic Religions

When I read Jenn Lindsay’s recent State of Formation blog post entitled “On Irreconcilable Differences: My Interreligious Dialogue with Mormon Missionaries” I was immediately intrigued for a number of reasons. Primary among these is that I, although no longer believing or practicing, used to be a devout Mormon. I even served a two year proselytizing […]

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Photo taken by the author at the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions.

What Is the Unity of “Unity in Diversity”?

Notwithstanding the prizing of diversity, there IS some unified bottom line to interfaith dialogue. Nonviolent behavior is the basis for “unity in diversity.” Behavior is a category about which all parties participating in a dialogue must actually be on the same page. A behavioral covenant of nonviolence is necessary to contain and maintain an interfaith engagement, […]

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Inclusion and Dialogue During Ramadan

The holy month of fasting for Muslims, called Ramadan, is finally here and there has never been more media publicity about it. Have you noticed how even mainstream news publications are writing about Ramadan these days? From photo essays of fasting scenes around the world, to op-eds about what it means to fast and how […]

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taken by the author on December 5th, 2009 at the Parliament for the Word's Religions in Melbourne, Austalia.

Romantic Distance vs. Vexing Proximity: the difficulty of real up-close interfaith encounters

My research on interreligious dialogue and engagement has reinforced an old cliché: absence makes the heart grow fonder. When two people are distant from each other, it is easy to idealize each other. It is easy to recall them enshrouded in mists and to dream of an incandescent, ecstatic reunion. It is easy to gleefully […]

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Charleston: #BlackLivesMatter This Ramadan

I logged onto Facebook Tuesday night, about to post a “Ramadan Mubarak!” wish for all my Muslim friends. And then, scrolling down my news feed, I saw it—the news that a white man had entered a black church in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire, killing nine people. “Terrorism,” one of my friends […]

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By Barbaricino (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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On Irreconcilable Differences: My Interreligious Dialogue with Mormon Missionaries

Since I’m conducting field research on interfaith dialogue in Rome, I thought it would be an important part of my participant-observation to embark upon a dialogue. I met some Mormon sisters conducting missions in Italy, and we gathered on three different occasions to trade our stories, religious commitments, and to talk about our faith. I grew […]

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