Dialogue Commandment #2: Dialogue is Inter-religious & Intra-religious

SECOND COMMANDMENT: Interreligious, interideological dialogue must be a two-sided project–within each religious or ideological community and between religious or ideological communities. Because of the “corporate” nature of interreligious dialogue, and since the primary goal of dialogue is that each partner learn and change himself, it is also necessary that each participant enter into dialogue not only with his partner across the faith line–the Lutheran with the Anglican, for example–but also with his coreligionists, with his fellow Lutherans, to share with them the fruits of the interreligious dialogue. Only thus can the whole community eventually learn and change, moving toward an ever more perceptive insight into reality.

It is often more difficult to talk with members of one”s own religious tradition about interfaith dialogue than it is to talk with people from other religious groups. To some extent, interfaith dialogues are self-selecting. If I am interested in reaching out and learning from other traditions, I am likely to encounter those people in the other traditions who have a similar desire to reach out.But within my own community, I will encounter those who feel threatened by, betrayed by, or simply indifferent to interfaith relationships. For whatever reason– their need to protect certain beliefs, their suspicion of others, their focus on other priorities– they are not themselves immediately ready to engage in dialogue, and may even mistrust my own involvement.It is perhaps tempting to spend our time with those who are supportive of interfaith dialogue, but in so doing, we would relegate interreligious relationships to little more than a sideshow– irrelevant to most within our tradition. It is only as we engage and encourage those of our own tradition that we weave together the threads of the larger, more inclusive tapestry with all the richness that each of us brings to the encounter.

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