Friday, November 13, 2009

Inter-religious Dialogue

A friend , John, who is a Christian, copies me on a letter he writes to a Muslim friend of his:

"I was prompted by Karen Armstrong’s article in the Guardian today, where she suggested that truly Socratic dialogue should be conducted by expressing yourself clearly as a gift to your debating partners.

"The question arises as to what followers of Jesus can offer to members of other faiths that seems to be unique to Jesus.

"If we just list common points between the faiths the result can look can look rather like a list of middle class values!

"The combination of the following things seems to me to be unique to Jesus. They were revolutionary in Jesus’ time and continue to be so. The problem is that the conflict between virtue and power usually results in power getting the upper hand.

"Jesus’ responses to his own persecution and his entreaty to his followers are quite sublime.

"I quote from the New International Version of the Bible.

1. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Mathew 5 v 43

2. Jesus on the cross said -

“ Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23 v 34

3. The “Sermon on the Mount” Mathew 5 vv 3-11

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are all the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
Blessed are you when people insult you persecute you and falsely say all kinds of things against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is you reward in heaven, for in the same way they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.

5. The Lord’s prayer. Mathew 6 vv 5 – 14

“ Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver is from the evil one.
For if you forgive men when they have sinned against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins your Father will to forgive your sins.”

6. The parables of Jesus in the gospels ------in which he says “ The kingdom of heaven is like this…………….”

"Would it be possible and valuable for you to set out the unique gifts other faiths can offer to each other?

"I once attended a dinner in London hosted by Sigi Sternberg where Muslim Jews and followers of Jesus shared their faith in after dinner discussion. It was quite inspiring".

As someone who finds formal "inter-faith dialogue" totally boring, but always values more personal sharing, I thought the point that John made at the end rather more my cup of tea.

Though I should say that what John regards as "middle class values" are in fact, historically speaking, Biblical values that were the cultural creation of the Protestant Reformation, even though that has not yet quite succeeded in overcoming bourgeois values.

However, I responded to John somewhat as follows:

Dear John
many thanks for copying me on this
I seem somehow to be under the impression that what is unique about Jesus the Living Lord is His promise to come and live in the hearts of those who choose to follow Him, so as to renew in them day by day a desire to grow more closely into God's moral/ spiritual/ emotional likeness...
his teachings are at best beautiful thoughts, though arguably more beautifully expressed than by others, if we do not have the experience of His living in us
Prabhu Sphere: Related Content

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