I'm pretty much going to ignore St. Pat here today and, instead, talk about an interesting new interfaith development.
The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue is expanding its work by launching a new Web site. Like the print version of the Journal itself, the Web site promises to be a serious and useful forum for discussion among leaders of many different faiths.
In a time of growing need for understanding across lines of faith, this question often is asked: What opportunities are there for systematic sharing of ideas and for learning?
The Journal and its new Web site provide one answer to precisely that question.
As the press release about this new venture said, the Web site will offer "a novel way to establish long-term dialogue and collaboration between religious communities."
The key here is "long-term." Interfaith discussion and understanding requires a commitment of time. Nothing of substance in this field gets accomplished with an afternoon seminar and an annual dinner. Rather, it requires on-going contact and a willingness to know and to be known -- in detail.
I feel as if I've said this here and in print elsewhere a million times but I still find people who don't get it: Interfaith dialogue does not require anyone to abandon or soften any belief. Rather, it requires an ability to articulate those beliefs in a way that others can understand them. The goal is not some mushy syncretistic religion to which everyone can belong. Not at all. The goal is to understand one another well enough that we don't feel threatened and that we ourselves are not moved to resort to oppression or violence.
The Journal says that a goal of its online site is "to increase both the quality and frequency of interchanges between religious groups and their leaders and scholars."
That is an important calling of our time. And, by the way, while you're at the Journal's new Web site, surf around a bit. You'll already find some good resources.
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EXPLAINING JEWS IN IRAN
Columnist Roger Cohen offers this intriguing piece that seeks to account for the Jewish presence in Iran. The pragmatism of Iran's leaders and people, he suggests, may be a good sign for everyone, though he acknowledges that many people, especially Jewish refugees from Iran, disagree with him. To me, the lesson is that almost nothing is as simple as it seems at first glance.
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P.S.: Speaking of good interfaith work, check out this column about a college that seems to be doing it right.
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ANOTHER P.S.: To make sure you have a spot in the class I'll be teaching July 13-19 at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico, "Your Prophetic Voice: Writing to Repair the World," click here and follow the directions for registration.
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AND A FINAL P.S.: If you want to sponsor me in the AIDSWalk KC 2009 edition to raise funds for the AIDS Service Foundation, click here. I do this as part of the AIDS Ministry at my church. And thanks.
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TODAY'S RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY: St. Patrick's Day (Christianity)