Navigating the Waters of Interfaith Activity

December 11, 2008

Author: Matthew Weiner and Matthew Dunbar

Source: The Dallas Morning News

When liberal religious groups work together, it is assured that they agree on one thing: proselytizing is against the rules. The history of Christian evangelism has led to extreme sensitivity on this issue, especially amongst Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus. A Buddhist monk, who is also a parliamentarian in the Sri Lankan government, even introduced a bill to make proselytizing illegal.

Liberal religious communities assume that in order to engage in honest dialogue, one cannot think one's faith is superior, let alone try to convince the other participants that one's religion is the only true faith. But there are problems with this assumption. Moreover, far more theologically conservative religious communities also work across religious lines these days. Many of them believe their faith to be superior to the faiths that they encounter. How do these participants reconcile the conflicting objectives of working together honestly and preaching their faith? And how do liberal religious leaders navigate such difficult waters? If interfaith activities seek to move beyond the usual liberal context, these are essential questions to pursue.