Tag Archives: dialogue

How Can We Talk to ‘Others’ When We Can’t Even Talk Among Ourselves?

There’s a lot of talk these days about how we need to be able to listen and converse with those who hold differing political opinions from ourselves. I don’t disagree with this. But I do know that it’s easier said than done. We’ve lost the ability to go outside our silos and behave respectfully.

It’s the same in the religious realm. Progressive Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. enjoy one another’s company and often comment that these relationships are much easier than the ones within their respective religions. I know that some evangelical Christians have lamented that, despite their willingness to talk, progressives aren’t interested.At every interfaith gathering I attend, someone inevitably says, “What we really need to have is an intrafaith dialogue.” But we know that this is just as hard to do as the political one.

Which is why I like hearing about people and groups working in this area. Back when I was working on my book about Christian intrafaith dialogue, I identified Jesus as  our “elephant in the living room.” I wrote The INTRAfaith Conversation: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves about INTERfaith Matters? as a guide to help work through differing ideas and beliefs about Jesus.

But I also wanted to know about other traditions. When I asked a Jewish friend what issue divided Jews, she immediately replied, “Israel.” So I was delighted this week to learn about a program called iEngage, which brings together differing sides among Jews on the subject of Israel.  Jewish Values and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is a curriculum that can be used by groups who want to gain “greater understanding for the ideals that shape their own political views and a  greater respect and empathy for those who hold different views.”

That is the quintessental mission of the intrafaith conversation!

Every tradition has its internal issues. How can we expect to be in honest dialogue with “the other” when we aren’t able to do it among ourselves? Now more than ever, we need to relearn our conversational skills, get outside our solos, and create peace among ourselves and throughout the world.

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The Intrafaith Conversation in Mexico

NAINConnect16Well, it’s over. The 28th annual gathering of the North American Interfaith Network at the Convento Esclavas de Cristo Rey in Guadalajara was the first (and hopefully not the last) NAIN Connect in Mexico.

The theme was “Sacred Space” and much attention was rightly given to the indigenous people of Mexico. But there were other expressions of sacred space – both internal and external. I myself was privileged to lead a workshop on creating safe and sacred space in which intrafaith conversations can happen.

My wshe likes itorkshop was on Tuesday, but on Monday I got some great publicity. During the discussion at a workshop on interfaith hospitality, someone spoke up and said, “What we really need to have is an intrafaith dialogue.” I almost jumped out of my seat as I raised my  hand to jump in and tell everyone about the opportunity to do just that – and buy the book as well!

Going in, I had no idea how many religions might be represented. This was my first venture with a potentially interfaith group. It turned out that the group was largely Christian, with a smattering of Buddhists, Religious Science adherents, a Jewish/Buddhist, and a “none.”

I started off with a personal intrafaith story. Then I shared a resource I had  just learned at the hospitality workshop: The Differences Between Dialogue and Debate. This was part of the presentation about how to create a safe space for difficult dialogue to happen – and we all agreed that these can be very difficult conversations for us to be part of. Too often our buttons get pushed and our “non-anxious presence” (I prefer “non-reactive presence”) goes out the window.

IMG_4605Then we broke into small groups and everyone got a chance to share their own stories and struggles with members of their own tradition. Finally, we  began to strategize about how to create an intrafaith conversation when we got back home.

IMG_4606I don’t know if anyone will do that. But I believe that, at the very least, the issue was put out onto the table, and participants went away with some resources and hopefully lots to think about.

And that’s a start.

Check out my web site at https://intrafaithconversation.com 
Follow my blog at https://intrafaithconversation.com/blog-2/
Buy my  book at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Sagrada Sacred Arts in Oakland, CA
Kindle edition is also available on Amazon