Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Interfaith Dialogue

Recently it seems God has been "pushing" me into more intentional engagement with two areas of theology I had, in recent years, neglected. The first, political theology, I had never thought through quite in the way recent scholars have been engaging it, and so most recently Jeffrey Stout's work in democracy and tradition, as so Michael Kirwan's little book Political Theology: An Introduction has captivated my attention this Memorial Day weekend.

But then, at about the same time, a few streams came together to form a river. First, the Dalai Lama visited Fayetteville, initiating some reflection on our interfaith engagement with Buddhists and religious leaders from the east. Second, I'm preparing a class this fall that contains a component on comparative religions. Third, our presiding bishop, Mark Hanson, wrote leaders in the ELCA encouraging them to initiate plans for interfaith conversation on or around September 11th, 2011. Finally, Miroslav Volf, a theologian whose work I deeply respect, published Allah: A Christian Response, in which he offers reflection on Islam from a Christian perspective.

Perhaps what is most winsome about this book is that he doesn't attempt to present Islam objectively, but instead cajoles readers into engaging Islam from their perspective as Christians. He encourages Muslims to write similar books from their own perspective.

My plan is to spend some time with this book this summer and prepare to make use of it on or around the September 11th anniversary. In the meantime, I'll also simply continue to be in intentional and caring conversation with those of other faiths. Anyone else currently reading Volf's book?


  1. Any chance you'd like to do a skype conversation with a class of mine in the fall? We're working on "learning in the presence of other faiths" on Thursday afternoons, and it would be a huge boost for them to hear from an active pastoral leader...

  2. Absolutely! I'm game. Just send me more details!

  3. I have a real passion for this area. I am fascinated by interfaith discussions. A few years ago I got to see an amazing exhibit called "Sacred" at the British Museum, which was all about the various ways early Islam, Christianity, and Judaism interacted with each other. It included illuminated texts and various clergy of each faith's commentary on the texts of the others. That same trip I also had a chance to see the Cathedral of Seville in southern Spain, which was built over the top of what was originally a mosque. The features of the mosque were still quite apparent. All of these things were visually stunning reminders that we are all far more intertwined culturally, philosophically, theologically, politically, and historically than we realize in our modern-day zeal to see ourselves as "separate" from each other.