Be More Christian

(photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Leftoverlumpias)

Here’s a quote from a recent Our of Ur post. Try and guess who said it. No fair clicking on the link to see… that’s cheating!

“Remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race… Don’t be afraid to be Christian ministers. If you don’t use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative.”

Any guesses?

Well, this is a quote by a guest lecturer at McCormick Theological Seminary… and he is a Muslim. The class is on interfaith leadership and is co-taught by Eboo Patel and Cassie Meyer of the Interfaith Youth Core, which is a Chicago-based international non-profit that brings together religiously diverse young leaders to serve their communities.

While you may not know what to do with a course like this or even an organization like IFYC, what Leadership Journal found being taught in this course is worth thinking through, especially when it comes to how we teach kids to interact with people of other faiths.

Meyer and Patel encourage Christian ministers to “be more Christian” when it comes to interfaith dialogue. In other words, they are saying that it is better to acknowledge your unique perspectives and beliefs as a Christian when talking to and working with people from other faiths. It’s not a matter of compromising and affirming that all roads lead to God or seeing other religions as the enemy. Meyer and Patel advocate a different way of approaching interfaith conversation: “religious pluralism.”

One student puts it this way:

“Religious pluralism is different than relativism… Relativism says you cannot make exclusive truth claims, that everyone is right. Pluralism simply recognizes that we live in a very diverse culture; there are a lot of different religions. Pluralism means talking about how we can live together and still maintain our own religious identity. Truth claims are okay.

At first the idea of trying to “live together” can seem scary. How can we “maintain our own religious identity” if we don’t point out the wrong in other religions?

We don’t always have to point out the wrong in the people around us. It is possible to work alongside people we do not share religious beliefs with. It is possible to respect people of other faiths as unique creations of God. We are called to love our neighbors, which includes those we don’t agree with. That doesn’t mean, though, that we have to water down what we believe. It means we love out of our calling as followers of Christ.

We need to help the kids we minister to learn to love, respect and serve all people regardless of who they are, what they’ve done, and what they believe. We need to focus more on God’s desire to redeem all of humanity rather than an us vs. them mentality.

“The ability to bring mutually exclusive people together is the gift of the great leaders of our time,” says Patel. “If religious leaders will not model for their people how to live beside other faiths, then who will?”

  • What do you think about the idea of religious pluralism as a third way of approaching interfaith dialogue?
  • While, yes, we need to make sure that children are grounded in truth, how do we help them treat those of other religions with respect?


One thought on “Be More Christian

  1. jcisonline says:

    Totally agree here Henry. Absolutely amazing concept and very deep to dive in with kids. But this generation is a generation in which they are more socially and relationally conscious, so they could be the ones to lead the charge in this arena. But they need leaders to do so.

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