From Diversity to Pluralism

From Diversity to PluralismPluralism is a response to diversity that consists in learning about meaningful differences between different cultures and identities; engaging with different cultures and identities in sites where open dialogue is possible; preserving distinct religious commitments; and looking to the First Amendment as the foundation of American pluralism. For Christians as members of the dominant American religion, pluralism requires intentional effort to look beyond their own experiences; for all citizens, pluralism is possible in schools, courts, hospitals, and neighborhoods.

All of America’s diversity, old and new, does not add up to pluralism. “Pluralism” and “diversity” are sometimes used as if they were synonymous, but diversity—splendid, colorful, and perhaps threatening—is not pluralism. Pluralism is the engagement that creates a common society from all that diversity. For example, on the same street in Silver Spring, Maryland are a Vietnamese Catholic church, a Cambodian Buddhist temple, a Ukrainian Orthodox church, a Muslim Community Center, a Hispanic First Church of God, and a Hindu temple. This is certainly diversity, but without any engagement or relationship among the different groups it may not be an instance of pluralism.

Pluralism is only one of the possible responses to this new diversity. Some people may feel threatened by diversity, or even hostile to it. Others may look forward to the day when all differences fade into the landscape of a predominantly Christian culture. For those who welcome the new diversity, creating a workable pluralism will mean engaging people of different faiths and cultures in the creation of a common society. Pluralism is not a foregone conclusion, but an achievement.

From a historical perspective, the terms “exclusion,” “assimilation,” and “pluralism” suggest three different ways Americans have approached this widening cultural and religious diversity. The exclusionist answer to the tumultuous influx of cultural and religious diversity that seemed to threaten the very core of American civilization was to close the door, particularly to “aliens”—whether Asians, Catholics, or Jews. Assimilationists, like those who envisioned America as a “melting pot,” invited new immigrants to come, but to leave their differences and particularities behind as quickly as possible. The message was: come and be like us, come and conform to a predominantly Anglo-Protestant culture. For pluralists, like Horace Kallen in the early 20th century, the American promise to immigrants was: come as you are, with all your differences and particularities, pledging only to the common civic demands of American citizenship. Come and be yourself, contributing in your distinctive way to the “orchestra” of American civilization.

Today’s discussion of America’s religious and cultural diversity echoes these voices of the past. America’s new religious diversity has produced fault lines, the cracks that indicate deep fractures and divisions. As experienced by immigrant Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or Muslim communities, stereotypes and prejudice have taken both old and new forms. There are encounters—at times hostile—over zoning and traffic, as new religious communities move into the neighborhood. Though often legitimate concerns, these also express fear and uncertainty about newcomers in the community. Unfortunately, incidents of vandalism, arson, and even physical violence have also sometimes been directed against these new religious centers and the communities that call them home. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, for instance, reported a 17% increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents between 2016 and 2017. Islamophobia is one form of religious bias coupled with racism and xenophobia. This was the case in 2010 when a Florida pastor made international news by threatening to burn a Qur’an to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, an action he carried out in 2011 and 2012.

But America’s religious diversity has also produced a new period of bridge-building, as diverse religious communities foster unprecedented relationships with one another. In Omaha, Nebraska Christians, Jews, and Muslims are building a “tri-faith” campus that will include a church, a synagogue, a mosque, and an interfaith community center. Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras have gradually joined councils of churches, synagogues, and mosques. The interfaith infrastructure of America’s cities and towns is strengthened with dialogue, congregational partnerships, coalitions to fight hunger and homelessness, and interfaith Thanksgiving services. On school boards, there are productive encounters over religion’s proper role in the public schools.

Today, as in every era, Americans are appropriating anew the meaning of “We, the people of the United States of America.” What does “we” mean in a multireligious America? How do “we” relate to one another, when that “we” includes Buddhist Americans, like the Hawaiian-born Buddhist astronaut who died on the Challenger, Muslim Americans, like a small town Texas mayor, and Sikh Americans, like a research scientist in Fairfax, Virginia? What exactly is pluralism?

First, pluralism is not the sheer fact of diversity alone, but is active engagement with that diversity. One can be an observer of diversity. One can “celebrate diversity,” as the cliché goes. One can be critical of it or threatened by it. But real pluralism requires participation and engagement. Diversity can and often has meant isolation—the creation of virtual ghettos of religions and sub-cultures with little traffic between them. The dynamic of pluralism, however, is one of meeting, exchange, and two-way traffic. Kallen’s analogy of the orchestra sounding together may be a good one, but as Kallen was well aware, the symphony remains unfinished. The music of America’s cultures, perhaps more like jazz, depends upon having an ear always attuned to the genius of the other players.

Second, pluralism is more than the mere tolerance of differences; it requires knowledge of them. Tolerance, while certainly important, may be a deceptive virtue by itself, perhaps even standing in the way of engagement. Tolerance does not require people to know anything about one another, and so can let us harbor all the stereotypes and half-truths we want to believe about our neighbors. Tolerance is certainly important, but it does little to remove our ignorance of one another. It is too thin a foundation for a society as religiously diverse and complex as America’s.

Third, pluralism is not simply relativism, but makes room for real and different religious commitments. Some people are wary of the language of pluralism, insisting that it effectively waters down one’s own religious beliefs by acknowledging that others believe differently. Some mistakenly think a pluralist perspective assumes that there are no differences among various religious traditions and their values. However, in reality, the encounter of a pluralist society is one of genuine commitments and real differences. Pluralism does not require relinquishing the distinctiveness of one’s own tradition of faith to reach the “lowest common denominator.” In the public square of a pluralist society, commitments are not left at the door, but invited in. People of every faith or of none can be themselves, with all their particularities, while engaging in the creation of a civil society. Pluralism is the process of creating a society through critical and self-critical encounter with one another, acknowledging, rather than hiding, our deepest differences.

Fourth, pluralism in America is clearly based on the common ground rules of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “no establishment” of religion and the “free exercise” of religion. The vigorous encounter of a pluralistic society is not premised on achieving agreement on matters of conscience and faith, but on achieving something far more valuable: the relationship of ongoing debate and discussion. E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one,” envisions one people, a common sense of a civic “we,” but not one religion, one faith, or one conscience; unum does not mean uniformity. Perhaps the most valuable common bond people of many faiths have is their mutual commitment to a society based on the give and take of civil dialogue at a common table.

Fifth, pluralism requires the nurturing of constructive dialogue to reveal both common understandings and real differences. Not everyone at the “table” will agree with one another; the process of public dialogue will inevitably reveal areas of disagreement as well. Pluralism involves the commitment to be at the table—with one’s beliefs. Discovering where these “tables” are in American society and encouraging a climate conducive to dialogue is critically important for the flourishing of a civil society.

So where are those public spaces, those “tables” where people of various traditions and beliefs meet in American society? In neighborhoods and community organizations, schools and colleges, legislatures and courts, zoning boards and planning commissions, interfaith councils and coalitions, chaplaincies and hospitals. In every one of these areas of public life, Americans are now facing new questions, new challenges, and new tensions in appropriating a more complex sense of who “we” are now.

One of the institutions where a new orientation toward pluralism has been most visible, and for some most controversial, is the Christian church. No doubt, the late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen the resurgence of a strong exclusivist Christianity in some churches, often coupled with a nationalistic impulse that attacks other traditions as “un-American.”

But there has also been a concurrent re-examination of the relation of Christianity to other religions that has been strong, positive, and biblically-based. The Roman Catholic Church and most of the major Protestant denominations have given new emphasis to interfaith dialogue as essential to the relation of Christians to people of other faiths. Documents like the Catholic Nostra Aetate, the Presbyterian “Interfaith Relations Denominational Principles and Policies,” and the United Methodist “Guidelines for Interreligious Partnerships” provide a new sense of direction for Christians seeking to be good neighbors in a multi-religious society. Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches’ Interfaith Relations initiative works with member churches, Protestant and Orthodox, as well as with Catholic partners to support interfaith understanding and action.

Outside of churches, other communities and spaces such as schools, courts, hospitals, and neighborhoods have worked to accommodate diversity and facilitate pluralism. The bounds of engagement between religions and other institutions, and between different religious traditions in the United States, are constantly renegotiated.

Documents

Nostra Aetate (In this age of ours . . .)

Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions
Vatican II
October 28, 1965

1) In this age of ours, when men are drawing more closely together and the bonds of friendship between different people are being strengthened, the Church examines with greater care the relation which she has to non-Christian religions. Ever aware of her duty to foster unity and charity among individuals, and even among nations, she reflects at the outset on what men have in common and what tends to promote fellowship among them.

All men form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth (cf. Acts 17:26), and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all men (cf. Wis. 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom. 2:6-7; 1 Tim. 2:4) against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city which is illumined by the glory of God, and in whose splendor all people will walk (cf. Apoc. 21:23 ff.).

Men look to their different religions for an answer to the unsolved riddles of human existence. The problems that weigh heavily on the hearts of men are the same today as in the ages past. What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is upright behavior, and what is sinful? Where does suffering originate, and what end does it serve? How can genuine happiness be found? What happens at death? What is judgment? What reward follows death? And finally, what is the ultimate mystery, beyond human existence, from which we take our origin and towards which we tend?

2) Throughout history even to the present day, there is found among different people a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times there is present even a recognition of a supreme being, or still more of a Father. This awareness and recognition results in a way of life that is imbued with a deep religious sense. The religions that are found in more advanced civilizations endeavor by way of well-defined concepts and exact language to answer these questions. Thus, in Hinduism men explore the divine mystery and express it both in the limitless riches of myth and the accurately defined insights of philosophy. They seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love. Buddhism in its various forms testifies to the way of life by which men can, with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help. So, too, other religions which are found throughout the world attempt in their own ways to calm the hearts of men by outlining a program of life covering doctrine, moral precepts and sacred rites.

The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. Yet she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life.

The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.

3)  The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they worship Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.

Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.

4)  Sounding the depths of the mystery which is the Church, this sacred Council remembers the spiritual ties which link the people of the New Covenant to the stock of Abraham.

The Church of Christ acknowledges that in God’s plan of salvation the beginning of her faith and election is to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all Christ’s faithful, who as men of faith are sons of Abraham (cf. Gal. 3:7), are included in the same patriarch’s call and that the salvation of the Church is mystically prefigured in the exodus of God’s chosen people from the land of bondage. On this account the Church cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament by way of that people with whom God in his inexpressible mercy established the ancient covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws nourishment from that good olive tree onto which the wild olive branches of the Gentiles have been grafted (cf. Rom. 11:17-24). The Church believes that Christ who is our peace has through his cross reconciled Jews and Gentiles and made them one in himself (cf. Eph. 2:14-16).

Likewise, the Church keeps ever before her mind the words of the apostle Paul about his kinsmen: “they are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race according to the flesh, is the Christ” (Rom. 9:4-5), the son of the virgin Mary. She is mindful, moreover, that the apostles, the pillars on which the Church stands, are of Jewish descent, as are many of those early disciples who proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to the world.

As holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize God’s moment when it came (cf. Lk. 19:42). Jews for the most part did not accept the Gospel; on the contrary, many opposed the spreading of it (cf. Rom. 11:28). Even so, the apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed of the choice he made. Together with the prophets and the same apostle, the Church awaits the day, known to God alone, when all people will call on God with one voice and “serve him shoulder to shoulder” (Soph. 3:9; cf. Is. 66:23; Ps. 65:4; Rom. 11:11-32).

Since Christians and Jews have such a common spiritual heritage, this sacred Council wishes to encourage and further mutual understanding and appreciation. This can be obtained, especially, by way of biblical and theological enquiry and through friendly discussions.

Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6), neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his passion. It is true that the Church is the new people of God, yet the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture. Consequently, all must take care, lest in catechizing or in preaching the Word of God, they teach anything which is not in accord with the truth of the Gospel message or the spirit of Christ.

Indeed, the Church reproves every form of persecution against whomsoever it may be directed. Remembering, then, her common heritage with the Jews and moved not by any political consideration, but solely by the religious motivation of Christian charity, she deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of antisemitism leveled at any time or from any source against the Jews.

The Church always held and continues to hold that Christ out of infinite love freely underwent suffering and death because of the sins of all men, so that all might attain salvation. It is the duty of the Church, therefore, in her preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God’s universal love and the source of all grace.

5.  We cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people in other than brotherly fashion, for all men are created in God’s image. Man’s relation to God the Father and man’s relation to his fellow-men are so dependent on each other that the Scripture says “he who does not love, does not know God.” (1 Jn. 4:8).

There is no basis therefore, either in theory or in practice for any discrimination between individual and individual, or between people and people arising either from human dignity or from the rights which flow from it.

Therefore, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion. Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the sacred Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to “conduct themselves well among the Gentiles” (1 Pet. 2:12) and if possible, as far as depends on them, to be at peace with all men (cf. Rom. 12:18) and in that way to be true sons of the Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt. 5:45).

[Excerpted from “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, Proclaimed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.” “The Holy See – Archive.” http://www.vatican.va/archive/. The Vatican.]

“Presbyterian Principles for Interfaith Dialogue”

Adopted by the 211th General Assembly (1999)

Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

1. Pluralistic U.S. and global societies are the context within which Christians relate to people of other faiths.

Christians live among people grounded in other religions and ideologies, or in none. If our immediate circle of neighbors or friends does not reveal the religious plurality of the world, we need look no further than our cities, our nation, and our globally‐connected world to see the diverse religious traditions which increasingly intermingle there. In this environment, persons and communities affect one another even when they are unaware of doing so.1 Pluralistic U.S. and global societies are the context within which Christians relate to people of other faiths.Christians live among people grounded in other religions and ideologies, or in none. If our immediate circle of neighbors or friends does not reveal the religious plurality of the world, we need look no further than our cities, our nation, and our globally‐connected world to see the diverse religious traditions which increasingly intermingle there. In this environment, persons and communities affect one another even when they are unaware of doing so.

3. We are called to work with others in our pluralistic societies for the well‐being of our world and for justice, peace, and the sustainability of creation. We do so in the faith that, through God’s Spirit, the Church is a sign and means of God’s intention for the wholeness and unity of humankind and of all creation.

At a time when the cultural hegemony of the Christian religion in many parts of the world is waning, we may have new roles among other people.

• When religion is used for purposes of power, and when religion is manipulated as an instrument of conflict, our role is to be peacemakers and peacekeepers.

• When all inhabitants of the planet bear joint responsibility for its life (e.g., for the environment or the globalized economy), our role is to cooperate with others in seeking mutually acceptable ethical standards for behavior.

• When privilege is granted to some and denied others, our role is to be advocates for others’ freedom, just as Jesus approached others with full awareness of their freedom.

• When persecution is unleashed upon fellow Christians or upon other religious communities, our role is to champion the cause of those marginalized by their minority status and to practice our own faith in ways that do not abridge the freedoms of others.

5. We are called to relate to people of other faiths in full humility, openness, honesty, and respect. We respect both others’ God‐given humanity and the seriousness of their spiritual quests and commitments. It is our Christian faith in the Triune God and our intention to live like Jesus, not our cultural standards, that require this of us.

• We recognize that all religions, including our own, stand under the judgment of God and we acknowledge our own sins against others both in the historical past and in our own times. These realities keep us from condemnation of others while they encourage our own commitment to the Christ who forgives and reconciles.

• We recognize that our culture relativizes and privatizes all religion‐‐propagating marketplace attitudes toward religious choices. We pray for God’s power to live in firm commitment without trampling upon the God‐given freedom that Jesus respected and challenged in all persons. In our journey, we are helped by ecumenical partners around the world who, with us, are part of the church yet who live with different cultural values.

• We recognize the integrity of others’ religious traditions yet we avoid any attempt to create some new religious community by merging our separate identity with theirs.

[Excerpted from “Presbyterian Principles for Interfaith Dialogue.” The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). www.pcusa.orgPDF available online.] 

“Called To Be Neighbors and Witnesses: Guidelines for Interreli

The United Methodist Church

ADOPTED 1980
REVISED AND ADOPTED 2000
REVISED AND READOPTED 2008
Resolution #3142, 2008 Book of Resolutions
Resolution #89, 2004 Book of Resolutions
Resolution #79, 2000 Book of Resolutions

See Social Principles, ¶ 162 B.

The emergence of religiously diverse societies and the new dynamics in old religious communities have prompted many faith communities to reconsider how they relate to one another and to prevailing secular ideologies. This represents a great opportunity for learning and an enhanced understanding of our common concerns. Yet, there is also danger that religious tensions will lead to oppression of religious minorities and curtailment of religious freedom with real potential for armed conflict. At a time when worldwide problems of human suffering due to poverty, wars, and political oppression are so vast and pervasive that no one faith group can solve them, tensions between religious groups often prevent the level of cooperation needed to respond more adequately. As ancient religions demonstrate new life and power to speak to the deepest human concerns, Christians are pressed toward a deeper understanding of other faith traditions and a reexamination of their our claims to a global mission to all people.

What are the implications of this religiously diverse situation for Christian theology and ministry? What does it mean to be a faithful follower of and witness to Jesus Christ? What does it mean to affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ in a religiously pluralistic world? Can we, of different faith traditions, live together as neighbors, or will diverse religious loyalties result in mutual antagonism and destruction? What are the resources United Methodist Christians bring for building constructive relationships between persons of different religions?

What does it mean to be a neighbor? It means to meet other persons, to know them, to relate to them, to respect them, and to learn about their ways which may be quite different from our own. It means to create a sense of community in our neighborhoods, towns and cities and to make them places in which the unique customs of each group can be expressed and their values protected. It means to create social structures in which there is justice for all and that everyone can participate in shaping their life together “in community.” Each race or group of people is not only allowed to be who they are, but their way of life is also valued and given full expression.

As relationships with persons of other faith communities deepen, Christians discover how often our witness has been unneighborly, how much we have talked and how little we have listened, and how our insensitive and unappreciative approaches have alienated sincere truth seekers and persons who already have strong faith commitments. We become aware that we frequently communicate attitudes of superiority regarding our own faith, thereby perpetuating walls and hostilities between us as human beings. These can only restrict Christian witness.

As United Methodist Christians reflect anew on our faith and seek guidance in our witness to and encounter with our new neighbors, we rediscover that God who has acted in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the whole world, is also Creator of all humankind, the “one God and Father of all, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all” (Eph. 4:6 TEV). Here Christians confront a profound mystery—the awareness of God who is related to all creation and at work in the whole of it, and the experience of God who has acted redemptively for the whole creation in Jesus Christ. Christians witness to God in Jesus Christ in the confidence that here all people can find salvation and in the trust that because of what we know of God in Jesus, God deals graciously and lovingly with all people everywhere.

[Excerpted from “Called to Be Neighbors and Witnesses: Guidelines for Interreligious Relationships.” From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2012. Copyright © 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Available online at www.umc.org with permission.] 

“Getting to Know Neighbors of Other Faiths”

A Theological Rationale for Interfaith Relationships

The National Council of Churches, U.S.A
Interfaith Relations Committee

God and Human Community

As Christians, we affirm that God loves all of creation and that all people are cre- ated in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Through God’s love, all people are related to one another as children of God. This common humanity and relatedness are gifts from God to the human race. Relating to people of other faiths strengthens com- munity and encourages human flourishing.

Hospitality to the Stranger

Scripture offers many examples of ethical and pastoral incentives for interreligious relationships. The stories of Abraham and Sarah, Jethro, Ruth, and others, remind us to welcome and treat kindly those from outside our own religious communities. The virtue of hospitality to strangers is amplified in Jesus’ ministry as he befriends the Samaritan woman and shows in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) that caring for those outside of one’s own community is important. In the letter to the Hebrews we read, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ (Hebrews 13:2)

Loving God and Neighbor

Indeed, Jesus goes beyond hospitality to suggest that the whole of the law and the prophets are summarized in the commandment to love God and to love one’s neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40). Loving others means respecting them, listening to them, and treating them as we would want them treat us (Matthew 7:12). Loving means not only the authentic sharing of truth as we see it, but a deep listening to others. Loving one’s neighbors take priority over proclaiming

right doctrine or performing formal worship, it becomes the first and guiding commandment for Christians. (See Matthew 5:23-24 and 12:12).

Reconciliation with God

Christians affirm that all people have been already reconciled to God and to others in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18ff.; Colossians 3:15ff.). Every person embodies something of the divine image and therefore may possess some ray of truth, some aspect of the Mystery of God we know to be revealed in Jesus Christ. Christians know God through Jesus Christ, but understand that all human understanding of truth is inherently limited and conditioned. The reality of God, in contrast, is intrinsically unlimited. God will always be greater than any hu- man can comprehend or any religion can convey.

Christian Witness and Reconciliation with Others

Christians have been sent into the world to testify in word and deed to the God we know through Jesus Christ (John 17:18). Yet Christians have not always embodied God’s love in their relationships with people of other religious traditions. A lack of understanding and respect for other faiths has often resulted in fear, distrust, and the dehumanization of people in other religious traditions. Christian witness to God’s love seeks to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. That means conversing with, listening to, learning from, and living peacefully with those in the world who do not confess Jesus as Lord. Listening and sharing sometimes shows God’s love better than declarations of beliefs.

Peacemakers

As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers in the world. We look for ways to strengthen human life in community. But since Scripture speaks in many voices, it has sometimes been used to discount and divide people of different faiths from one another. Through encounters with people of other religions, Chris- tians hope to find new understanding and to discover fuller and more meaningful ways to live in reconciled communities together.

Person and work of Christ

Through Jesus Christ humanity is invited to speak and respond to God. In Scrip- ture, God not only speaks but listens, not only challenges, but waits. In the death and resurrection of Christ, God brings about the possibility for new relationships between God and humanity and between different human persons and communi- ties. The work of Christ is to break down the walls of separation and alienation between peoples with each other and with God. New possibilities for relationship began in the vulnerability, risk, and faith of Jesus. A new reality is now available now for believers in Christ to make ourselves vulnerable and to take risks in our relationships with people of other faiths.

Spirit of God and Human Hope

Christians affirm that the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters when the earth was void and without form (Genesis 1:2), can bring order out of chaos and can reshape warped societies. Relationships with people of other religious traditions are shaped by the Holy Spirit who, like the wind, ‘blows where it chooses’ (John 3:8). While we do not always understand the Spirit’s purposes, we need never be with- out hope, for we nor the rest of creation are ever without the Spirit of God.

[Excerpt from “Getting to Know Neighbors of Other Faiths: A Theological Rationale for Interfaith Relationships.” National Council of Churches, U.S.A. www.nccusa.org.]

“Minister: ‘Burn a Quran Day’ To Go As Planned on September 11”

The Huffington Post
September 7, 2010

Mitch Stacy

The government turned up the pressure Tuesday on the head of a small Florida church who plans to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, warning him that doing so could endanger U.S. troops and Americans everywhere.

But the Rev. Terry Jones insisted he would go ahead with his plans, despite criticism from the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, the White House and the State Department, as well as a host of religious leaders.

Jones, who is known for posting signs proclaiming that Islam is the devil’s religion, says the Constitution gives him the right to publicly set fire to the book that Muslims consider the word of God.

[For full article, visit “Minister: ‘Burn a Quran Day’ To Go As Planned On September 11.”]