How different might this election cycle have been had more voters been willing to be curious about, understand, accept, or even embrace a pluralist nation, rather than panic in the face of “the other? – Kate Blanchard
Kate Blanchard, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Alma College, asks a very important question. If we think that engaging in interfaith activities and education is just a nice “add-on” to the more important work of ministry in our churches, we are sadly mistaken.
And if part of our hesitancy of doing it is that people within our congregations might disagree on some of the issues that will be raised, we need to buckle up and prepare for the ride.
It would be strange if there were not differences of opinions and beliefs within a group of people – even in our credal, doctrinal churches. Trust me; if you allow people to express themselves and ask questions without fear of being branded heretics, you’ll discover a wealth of theological perspectives. Maybe that’s why so many leaders don’t want to ask!
But the truth is that people do have minds of their own, they do think about spiritual and theological matters, and they do form opinions about other belief (and non-belief) systems.
A wise leader would be willing to enter into the experience of interfaith and intrafaith discussions, not in order to tell people what to think and believe, but to facilitate the process of discovery.
As Professor Blanchard’s question articulates so well, this isn’t an abstract matter. There are concrete consequences to our avoidance of the challenges of pluralism.