In seminary, I chose to study interfaith theology and sort ordination as an interfaith minister.
What is interfaith?
Interfaith is a theology emerging from the ancient traditions of the world’s religions. It considers a synergistic approach while respecting individual beliefs but honoring our collective experience of the Sacred. Interfaith promotes constructive dialogue between religions; celebrates shared perspectives; and creates worship and service opportunities based on cooperation, collaboration and spiritual engagement.
Some suggest that interfaith has the potential to be a new spiritual paradigm for peaceful coexistence both culturally and religiously.
Interfaith is not about “my God is better than your God” or winning or losing a theological debate. It also isn’t looking to create some new “super religion.” But its also more than Comparative Religions 101 or reading a book about Buddha.
Interfaith is a sincere dialogue… an honest conversation… a trusting exchange… a heart-felt discussion about Who are we? Why are we? What is Life? Who is God? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is Death? What is real? What matters? What are we all about?
Interfaith wants engagement. It’s inquisitive. It wants to listen. It is patient, tolerant and kind. Interfaith celebrates similarities and accepts differences without threat. It seeks to cooperate, collaborate and discover solutions locally and globally together.
Interfaith is an invitation: Teach me. Explain to me. Help me understand.
Interfaith is not a new religion. It’s a kind of middle way between the world’s major religions. Interfaith is about connections, the search for similarities and finding common ground.
Interfaith is synergy without religious blend. Interfaith honors, respects and upholds many paths to the Divine.
Interfaith imagines unity among diversity. Although not all agree, I define interfaith as One God…many faces. One destination… all paths.
Interfaith is a particular way of being in the world that is respectful. Interfaith sees, hears and touches the experience of the sacred in a variety of ways. Interfaith is more experiential… less dogmatic; more suggestive of collaboration, cooperation, conversation.
Interfaith dialogue is not an exercise of compare/contrast similarities and differences. It does not proselytizing or call for religious conversion.
Interfaith does not debate. Debates are competitive. Inevitably, debates have winners and losers. Debates hint at the possibility of arguing or fighting toward a less than amiable outcome. While some theologians may prefer to maintain interfaith dialogue within the realm of debate , I am not content with “beating” conversations or with any dialogue that perpetuates the “my God is better than your God” mentality.
Interfaith is not about eliminating our culturally rich diversity of religious expression (with all of its successes and failures…rewards and punishments…saints and sinners). It is not about rejecting these traditions’ individuality for a homogeneous super-spirituality. It’s also not an attempt to create a new spiritual culture or cult.
What does successful interfaith look like?
• direct, open, honest and responsible communication
• cooperative attitude; win-win
• practice understanding with mutual respect
• establish an environment of tolerance and inclusion
• create the sense of being with or a kind of communion
• celebrate similarities and differences
• accept the simple over the complex
• a sense of humor
• commit to the expressive and transformative power of the arts
• dialogue/interplay with active listening and compassionate speaking
• be motivated/committed from contemplation to action to benefit the common good
• promise and deliver service
• strive for inherent optimism (hope)
• be aware of the relationship styles of power, control and influence
• accentuate the positive always
The Christian theologian Hans Kung contends: “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.” I agree.