Does this make sense to anyone else?

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!


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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20 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    The thing is, he is not offering a third way, he is just painting a rosier face on his fundamentalism… which will lead to the same end. He is condemning other faiths, just not to their face…. and people will see through it.

    I am a liberal Christian who feels no obligation to convert anyone out of (or to) anything, but am happy to join with anyone to contribute to our community and world.

  2. Alan says:

    Interfaith dialog tends to be in service of charity (“how can we pool our resources on a given project?”) or peace (“let’s put aside our differences for a moment” or “let’s talk about our differences to break down stereotypes we have about each other”). The sharing of one’s beliefs in hopes that they stick on others, I would assume, is secondary.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Sorry to be off topic, but the post comments feeds seem to have been redirected to the main posts feeds, at least for comments on old posts, but

  4. Jonathan says:

    …I suspect it’s true for all comments feeds.

  5. Alan says:

    Oh, and FYI, John-Charles Duffy’s PhD diss will be about Mormon-evangelical interfaith dialogue. Here’s his abstract, which sounds fascinating:

    The Cultural Politics of Mormon-Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue

    Despite recent interest in interreligious exchange, historians of American religion have paid little attention to interfaith dialogue as a cultural phenomenon. This dissertation untangles the sometimes converging, sometimes competing agendas at play in a dialogue that developed unexpectedly at the end of the 20th century among Mormon and evangelical intellectuals. In common with some mainline Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim counterparts, Mormon-evangelical dialogists were wary of what they saw as the relativizing tendencies of dialogues undergirded by liberal pluralism. They therefore sought to demarcate and occupy a mediating space between sectarianism and liberalism–a space not mapped in common models of American pluralism or of the culture wars. The resulting dialogue was a complicated and unstable performance, but it represented one way that Americans at the turn of the century worked through their ambivalence about religious pluralism.

  6. Justin says:

    One of the questions that I have asked religious people, is how they can explain the existence of every other religion in the world. The answers usually fall into one of two categories: ignorance and deception. People either are not aware of the truth, or they have been fooled into believing something else. Whenever I hear about an “interfaith dialog”, I picture a room full of people who see everybody else as being either uninformed or duped. I don’t see how such a gathering could really lead to anything productive.

  7. Daniel says:

    Justin, I wish I could upvote you.

    Instead, I’ll just leave this link to a relevant Jesus and Mo cartoon.

  8. Chino Blanco says:

    When I read “interfaith dialogue” I hear “co-belligerence.” If the idea is to get away from the culture warring, like others here, I don’t see what the new interfaith purpose is supposed to be. By the way, isn’t non-denominational the fastest growing segment of the church market? Is this a nod to that trend?

  9. Alan says:

    If the idea is to get away from the culture warring, like others here, I dont see what the new interfaith purpose is supposed to be.

    Most branches of Christianity have a salvation route for those who practice other faiths lifelong or who have never heard of, or even rejected, the mythos of Christianity but still practice “Christian works.” The Christians who believe that one must absolutely believe in Christ or therefore go to Hell are not really the ones engaged in interfaith dialogue in the first place. Now, of course, there’s still the paternalistic problem of entering a room and considering everyone to be a Christian-even-if-they-don’t-know-it-yet, but don’t atheists who argue that there is no God for everybody exhibit the exact same behavior? This belief can easily be set aside and other important issues can be discussed.

    By the way, isnt non-denominational the fastest growing segment of the church market? Is this a nod to that trend?

    No, there are a few terms to distinguish here. Ecumenism or interdenominationalism is the ideal of “one Christian church” that, well, will probably never happen. Catholics/Protestants/Mormons/etc have various issues that they attempt to resolve every once and a while in service of this idea. For example, Catholics and Lutherans still gather to talk about the grievances of the Protestant Reformation.

    Nondenominational tends to mean “Christian,” not “interfaith.” It tends to point to a specific personality leading a local church like a business. If anyone really digs into the doctrine of a given nondenominational church, what they’ll find that if try to set it alongside another nondenominational church, it’ll either match up (thus pointing to a “denomination”…perhaps what the personality was raised as) or be different — pointing to a different “denomination.” Nondenominationalism hides denominationalism, often by watering down scriptural content to whatever basic lesson the personality plans for a given Sunday. Nondenominational churches are interesting in the sense that they are ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, but in my opinion their content really brings forward Marx’s maxim of religion as an “opiate for the masses.” And it’s not just secular me who thinks this. A lot of those who are part of denominational churches think this, too.

    Now, contrast this with “interfaith dialogue” where you would potentially include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others in a conversation that isn’t necessarily about resolving different mythoi, but living in a world together.

  10. profxm says:

    Jonathan (#s 3 & 4), I’m not having the same problem. The feeds seem to be working fine for me. Can you describe what is happening in more detail?

  11. Jonathan says:

    Perhaps it’s not on the MSP end, but over the last week or so, Google Reader has been showing the latest MSP posts on comment feeds for posts like Whats with Mormons and porn?. I downloaded the feed at the following URL, and it seems to be fine.

    I’m just wondering if someone installed or enabled something that would redirect Google Reader to the main feed.

  12. profxm says:

    Weird. We are trying to set up a new blog aggregator, but I don’t think that has involved any changes to the backend of the main site. I’d suggest using the two main RSS feeds:
    For top-level posts:
    For all comments:

    I, too, am subscribed to the feeds via Google Reader and those are the ones I am using. I haven’t seen anything strange on my end, but if you subscribed to feeds for specific posts, that may be the problem. Not sure why it would cause a problem, but it seems like that is the likely culprit.

  13. Jonathan says:

    I really don’t want to listen to all comments, and the website is advertising the per-post comments feeds in the HTML header.

  14. profxm says:

    Makes sense. I just checked the RSS feed for the article we’re chatting on and it seems to be working correctly:

    Maybe something screwy happened with the particular article you subscribed to? Or is this happening on all of the ones to which you have subscribed?

  15. chanson says:

    Odd. I’m subscribed to the MSP RSS feed, and no comments have shown up for me — just the top-level posts.

  16. Jonathan says:

    FWIW, I’ve seen the top level posts appearing in several comment feeds. I don’t know whether that is all of the MSP comment feeds I’m subscribed to.

  17. Seth R. says:

    I haven’t exactly tried to hide that my own attempts at dialogue – interfaith and otherwise – are not premised on unity, or understanding, or any of that other sentimental stuff.

    I do it for entirely selfish reasons. I do it to better understand my OWN position and, frankly, for target practice.

  18. Buffy says:

    There’s a third perspective, which is the one I used to hold when I was a Christian: “My religion/faith is right for me, but I understand and accept that other people have different beliefs that are right for them.” I never did understand the notion of trying to convert others to one’s religion, or insisting one faith was superior to another. Even if you *do* believe your religion/faith is superior, who are you to say others should/must accept it?

  19. Darn straight. Heck, they can’t even give up being “right” once they become atheists. ~.^

  20. chanson says:

    Ever since this post was put up (a couple of weeks ago), I’ve been thinking about my own reasons for engaging in “interfaith dialog” here at MSP and (in comments) elsewhere on the Bloggernacle.

    It’s not that I’m interested in deconverting people or convincing them that my position is right, however challenging people’s stereotypes and preconceived notions about exmormons and atheists is a big part of it. (Note to regulars: let’s please avoid another round of “feed the trolls” on this thread.)

    Additionally, I don’t feel like I need to agree with people (or debate them) to have an interesting discussion. I think that Mormons and non-believers have some areas of common interest (especially in the topic of how to get along in a mixed-faith family), and can even have interesting discussions with each other about Mormonism and Mormon culture. I think Mormonism is an interesting topic, and I like talking about it — regardless of whether the people I’m talking to believe in it.

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