"Religion, once a common way of making sense of the world and connecting to beliefs and a code of ethics that unite us, has become perceived as a jumble of justifications that are used to separate and injure those deemed 'other.' In our dangerously conflicted and rapidly changing world, we urgently need to weave a fabric of firsthand knowledge of different faith traditions into our society. Our ability to hear each other's religious voices without fear and intolerance will bring faith back to the public square in a meaningful and balanced way."
The Rev. Canon Dr. Gwynne Guibord, speaking about her new experience-based education mission.
I deeply admire what Rev. Gwynne is doing, and I'll probably participate in the study group when she gets it going, but I'm very aware of the limits of these kinds of endeavors. We will all be preaching to the choir. I'm anticipating a gathering of the usual liberal* Protestants, moderate Muslims, progressive Jews, ecumenically minded Catholics, and gospel-music-loving agnostics, with a few Wiccan spouses or cousins thrown in. In my experience, any time you call something "interfaith" that's who shows up - people who are already plugged into the larger world of belief and practice.
The big problem, one I've been struggling with a lot lately, is I'd like to hear from those who don't believe in this kind of engagement.
Ask some people to stop shouting and come to the round table, they shout all the louder. Calls for civility in disagreement are put down with accusations of political correctness, the tone argument, and being too Kumbaya. I'm not sure how to respond. Responding in kind is, for some of us, not an option.
I really don't care for debate, mainly because to me it's not very productive. I've never changed my mind about anything because of an argument someone made. I have changed my mind through queries and explorations, the kind you do at those "interfaith" Sunday afternoon things.
*That's in the religious, not political, sense, though there is a good deal of overlap.