One of the biggest blessings and tragedies that is currently happening to the Christian faith is enduring is that there are becoming less and less of us out there. As America continues to follow the direction of European life (politically/socially), we have also followed their trend where Christianity decreases more and more all the time. While this is a loss numerically, we also ween out “some of the fat”. My generation, while struggling to form their Christian Identity because of not growing up in faith, isn’t appealed by fundamentalism and dogma. While this is a gain for nurturing a safer and healthier environment, there is still a loss in the loss numerically. This loss means that because we live in the world, we will be talking to more and more with those outside of our faith.
How do we handle this?
The great Spiritual Teacher Thomas Merton once said “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” This has profound implication when we recognize that every human being has divine DNA because we are all made in the image of God. So when another person has a negative and disturbed view of themselves, then the way they actually feel and actually perceive God is similar. Similarly, when there is such a negative view of God and self, then there can be no other image in which they view others. If our idea of God is violent, smiting and constantly shaming us then the way we engage others outside of our faith will not be any bit appealing. In the attempt of inter-faith dialogue, these people are often more detrimental to the cause of Christianity than beneficial. This is in part because they have little to no respect for their own spiritual DNA and cannot reciprocate it to others. This is campaigned through our street preachers and publicly slander and shame people outside of Christianity. The Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas once said that we ought to see God in “the holy other”. If everyone’s spiritual DNA is in the image of God, then we cannot respect their divine integrity. And, even though they don’t share our same “salvation project”, they are still a child of God and we need to respect that. So what guidelines should we follow in our inter-faith dialogues?
I borrowed this from the Book Allah: A Christian Response by the Theologian Miroslav Volf for how we should approach Evangelism/Inter-Faith Dialogue:
1. Witness to others only if you are prepared to let them witness to you.
2. Witness to others in the way you think others should witness to you.
To Flesh these out Volf says we submit to the following:
1. It is wrong to coerce others to accept faith; the recipients have to be able to receive or reject faith in freedom, rather than be forced to cave in under the pressure of a superior power.
2. It is wrong to bribe or seduce others to embrace faith; the faith has to be offered as valuable and attractive in itself, rather than on the account of its “packaging” or the extrinsic rewards associated with it (money or status).
3. It is wrong to compare the best practices of one’s own faith with the worst of the other faith.
I believe that these are the proper ethics and guidelines for inter-faith dialogue. And, through out the week I will flesh what this looks like.
Do you think these are proper guidelines to initiate faith-based conversations?
Have you seen these guidelines used in a poor way? In a positive way?
Have you seen other spiritual DNA abused in faith-based conversation?