We recently had some visitors to our university from Eboo Patel’s InterFaith Youth Core. They are trying to encourage interfaith dialogue, of course, since that is what their movement is about. One of the handouts they gave us was this guest post from The Washington Post’s “On Faith” site called:Why evangelicals should reach out to Muslims (and Hindus, Buddhists and others). Thinking I’d give these representatives the benefit of the doubt, I read through it. Here are the parts that don’t make sense to me:
But alignment with one political party since the 1970s, and fighting a cultural war with no exit strategy, has taken its toll. As reported by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman in their book unChristian, most young adults in the US view the church as homophobic, hypocritical, and too political. Equally disturbing is research indicating people raised in the church are leaving at an accelerating rate.There are many reasons for this exodus, but I wonder if a significant one is the church’s failure to prepare young Christians for life in a pluralistic culture. The church often presents them with a false dichotomy. The fundamentalist say we should condemn those of other faiths. This is a recipe for either isolation or conflict. The liberals, on the other hand, invite us to put aside our theological differences in favor of an “all paths lead to God” approach. This results in denying the unique claims of Christianity.I believe the church needs a third alternative–one that avoids the arrogance and isolationism of the fundamentalists as well as the identity-erasing approach of the liberals. Young Christians must learn how to hold firmly to their Christian faith while living, cooperating, and even blessing those of other faiths. Interfaith cooperation is vital not because we believe all faiths are equal, but precisely because we do not.
How I, a secular humanist, interpret this: “I think all of those other religions are worse than mine, but I still want to work with them because, well, I’m better than they are and hope to eventually help them realize the error of their ways.” Is my interpretation off?
And what about interfaith dialog, generally? To me it seems like it might be a good idea, but it also requires that religions not be exclusive, which, of course, many are. So, rather than being a good idea, it seems more like a futile idea. And I say that as someone who fully embraces the idea of working with and seeing liberal religious groups as allies against the fundamentalists. But it just seems, well, silly to think that religious people can give up being… RIGHT!