Blogs fill a need in our lives for expression. Sometimes when you’ve said all you want to say, you feel at peace, and in many ways a natural chapter comes to a natural resolution in one’s life.
It’s been about a year and a half since posting at Summa Theologica. The four years or so blogging on merits of interfaith dialogue has been quite rewarding. I was pleased to interact with several wonderful individuals devoted to increasing mutual religious understanding. I knew there were Evangelicals who were not excited about interfaith dialogue approaches to Mormonism. However, I experienced some unexpected moments when I interacted with Latter-day Saints who also did not seem to find the goals of interfaith dialogue particularly appealing. I tried, along with other Evangelicals, to make the case for interfaith dialogue, knowing that it would not appeal to everyone. However, any failures at communication were overshadowed by the new friendships and associations I made, and continue to make.
Part of interfaith dialogue is becoming a student of other religious traditions. One must get to know those who live in other faith communities, learn their history and culture. Part of interfaith dialogue is also becoming a student of one’s own religious community.
As a Latter-day Saint in conversation with Evangelicals or Catholics or those of other faiths, I’m looked upon as one who can explain why I believe what I believe, and why my community does what it does. The question is simple. The answers, surprisingly, are not always so simple. Often this takes me back to my own religious tradition, or it orients me towards other faiths.
One of the great things, I believe, about interfaith conversations is that it gives us an opportunity to return back to our religious community with new questions, with new eyes, with a new frame of mind. The last couple of years I’ve spent much more time focusing on movements and schools of thought within Mormonism. I’ve been fortunate to make friends with more scholars of religious history and culture, and impressive graduate students in religious studies, who I have no doubt will write a whole new generation of amazing books.
Even though its been a while since I’ve posted anything here, I still continue to be inspired by traditions other than my own, and still ponder my conversations and associations with those from other religious traditions. We are not only in dialogue with those outside our religious tradition, we are in dialogue with those within our traditions, and we are also in dialogue with ourselves, and in dialogue with God.
I recently came across a devotional address given November 17, 2009 by Keith H Lane, Associate Professor of Religious Education at BYU-Hawaii. Professor Lane holds a Ph.D. in the Philosophy and Theology of Religion from Claremont Graduate University. He recently published “Kierkegaard & the Concept of Religious Authorship” in the German series Religion in Philosophy & Theology 45 (Mohr Siebeck, 2010), and presented this topic at the SMPT Conference in March 2010.
I listened to his address while doing the final edits of my response to the recent article by Richard J. Mouw, where in he called for Christian hospitality. As I listened to Prof. Lane I began to be surprised at his message, for two reasons. First, he drew upon many of the same quotations from Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders that represent a tolerant tradition that is often not discussed. Secondly because of two paragraphs that spoke openly and bluntly about our discourse about those not of our faith.
Let us as Latter-day Saints reach out to others not of our faith. Let us never act in a spirit of arrogance or with a holier-than-thou attitude. Rather, may we show love and respect and helpfulness toward them. We are greatly misunderstood, and I fear that much of it is of our own making. We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism and arrogance. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Time of New Beginnings,” Ensign, May 2000, 87) Read more…
The third issue of Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue (Summer 2010) contains an important article by Richard J. Mouw titled “Convicted Civility and Interfaith Dialogue.” Drawing upon Martin Marty’s concept of “convicted civility” Mouw beings to make the case for learning about the religious tradition of others.
I remember some of my first attempts years ago in discussing the need to learn about other faiths. It wasn’t easy to make the case for learning about other faiths. One Christian youth responded to me by saying: “What is the point of learning about the beliefs of others if they are false?” It isn’t always clear the best way to respond to this inquiry.
Mouw begins by saying that “meaningful exposure” to other religions can deepen our religious convictions. I believe Mouw frames the issue by employing the concept of “hospitality” that is, we make room for people to occupy our hearts and minds. As with any form of hospitality, there is a risk and vulnerability involved. Yet, Mouw makes the case for Christian hospitality by pointing out that Jesus often showed hospitality to those “whose lifestyle and ideas he strongly opposed.” Read more…
Discussions between Mormons and Evangelicals sometimes get snagged as to whether works are necessary to salvation or whether only faith is necessary. This particular debate, however, tends not to produce or enhance mutual understanding and therefore there is a need to move beyond the faith-works stalemate.
Sometimes, during these debates, Mormons try to finesse ‘works’ and explain that having faith is a work, or accepting a gift is a work. In their mind, since both sides agree that we need faith and need to accept the gift, then this should resolve the debate. The logic seems sound. However, for reasons below, this kind of explanation confuses more than enlightens, and probably should be substituted for something better. Read more…
Last month, the Mormon Chapter of the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy held its inaugural conference, “Mormon Engagement with World Religions: Perspectives and Possibilities with the Abrahamic Traditions.” The conference was held at the University of California from June 11-12 (program here).
I was very pleased to be invited to attend the conference, but unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I found myself unable to attend. I’ve had a long interest in interfaith dialogue and deeply regret not being able to attend and meet the many persons involved in what to me seemed like a singular event. Hopefully, there will be more conferences of this kind in the future.
Fortunately, however, some individuals have shared their notes of the conference. If you know of other write-ups, please let me know.
Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy Conference: Mormon Engagement with the World Religions by John W. Morehead at Morehead’s Musings, June 16, 2010
FID Conference (Day One) by Lynette at Zelophehad’s Daughters, June 17, 2010
FID Conference (Day Two) by Lynette at Zelophehad’s Daughters, July 10, 2010
Interreligious — not Irreligious — Diplomacy by Ralph Hancock at Times & Seasons, June 17, 2010
On Interfaith Dialogue
The purpose of interfaith dialogue is not so that in the end everyone will agree about everything they discuss. Rather, one of the purposes in my view is that where there is disagreement, the disagreement will be on the right things, where actual disagreement exists. This can only happen when both sides are informed and both sides seek to understand one another.
At times, perhaps part of interfaith dialogue is allowing both sides to vent and express their frustration. We should, however, also have the goal to move beyond venting, to move beyond expressing frustration about how we have been treated, to increasing mutual understanding.
On the Creeds
It is true that many Latter-day Saints say that they reject the historic Christian creeds. In fact, there are two main disagreements. The first is with the content of creeds, the second is with the function of creeds. As to the content, in reality there is very little in the creeds that Latter-day Saint must reject. Many of the creeds only make sense if understood in their historical context and once a person takes the time to learn the history the reason for the creeds become much less confusing. Read more…
On February 23, 2010, Cardinal Francis E. George, Archbishop of Chicago, spoke to Brigham Young University on “Catholics and Latter-day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom.”
The event was held at the BYU Marriott Center, and reports estimate 12,000 in attendance. Also in attendance were Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Cardinal George explained:
“I’m personally grateful that after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics and Latter-day Saints have begun to see one another as trustworthy partners in the defense of shared moral principles and in the promotion of the common good of our beloved country.” Read more…