Would you be willing to change your mind?

In a recent post I asked if anyone would be willing to risk their own salvation for the sake of others - the way Paul seemed to be when he wrote the letter to Romans.

I want to continue along that line - concerning Christians' willingness (or more commonly, unwillingness) to give something up; to be changed. We talk a lot about interfaith dialogue and ecumenism, but how many "participants" in such dialogue really enter in with openness to change their minds?

There's a group at Oregon State University (my backyard) called the "Socratic Club." They provide a venue for Christian debate. They get Marcus Borg (OSU emeritus prof) to show up and provide liberal counterpoint whenever they can. Time and again, the auditorium fills up with angry constituents of local evangelical churches. They bite their tongues until the post-debate Q&A, and then lob sneering arguments-posed-as-questions at Dr. Borg, revealing their whole reason for attending in the first place.

I don't agree with everything Borg writes. I don't think I agree with everything anyone writes (including myself). But it makes me think about the classic missionary-mindset: if our predetermined purpose is always to convert others, then how are we to ever grow? How do we change, evolve, and stretch - spiritually - if we never consider other vantages? Other beliefs, paradigms and worldviews?

What if you heard a Buddhist treatise that was so captivating, so convincingly lucid - so undeniably true - that you were moved to steer away from Christianity and toward Buddhism? Yikes!

What if you were confronted with something in Islam that was so beautiful that you become completely enamored with the Muslim faith? Gracious!

If the "danger" of this prospect keeps us from interacting honestly (authentically, with vulnerability and openness) with people of other faiths, then we aren't really be honest with ourselves. Our faith isn't really founded on "faith."

And how in the world can we expect to approach those of other religions with evangelistic intentions, and look ourselves in the mirror?

How can we ask the stranger on the street to consider our gospel, if we won't consider his?

How can we try to introduce our neighbors of other faiths to Jesus, if we refuse introduction to Allah? Or Krishna? Or Elvis or the Buddha? This is the sort of posture that Buddhist Christ-follower Thich Nhat Hanh has chosen to follow.

My personal beliefs aren't quite as radical as all this sounds - that's not the point. I love Jesus Christ with all my heart, but I am still just beginning to understand what that means. The tighter I cling to who I think Jesus is, the more I find spilling out between my fingers. When I hold Jesus with open arms, inviting those around me to share in fellowship, grace, and transformation, I find that my heart grows, rather than contracts. My spirit dances.

Yes. It's scary. It's f***ing terrifying to consider the possibility of a different truth. Other. But we've got plenty of Christians who are fighting to hold established, normalized, homogenized, pasteurized, sterilized, suburbanized, modernized, anglicized, censored for television, family-friendly, "home turf." I find that completely uninteresting. There are real people in the fringes, between faith and doubt, certainty and ambiguity, orthodox and heretical, and those people are a lot of fun to know...


Patrick said...

My grandmother was rather upset at the prospect of me becoming a Philosophy major because she thought my exposure to "radical thought" would deteriorate my faith.

Well, fortunately curiosity did not kill the cat. Several years later and a whole lot of reading and discussion as well...and I can easily say that my faith solidified instead. Perhaps a few of the outer strands in my web of belief blew away or got replaced but I have found a lot of answers to things that always bothered me.

I know that the answers I found can't be readily viable for someone else. Its a journey that is inexplicably personal. But I must agree with the spirit of this particular post. It is only through one's ability to "endanger" their own world view will not only growth be possible, but for that vision to become crisper and that much more easier to grapple with. I say "grapple" because faith should be a daily struggle else it isn't faith at all. That's what makes faith such a powerful thing.

Al said...

I expect that the reason many of us might join some form of inter-faith dialogue would be (at least subconsciously) the hope that we would bring someone over to our side, not the desire to gain understanding.
However, the biggest 'absolute truth' in the universe is that no-one has everything figured out perfectly. We need to honestly approach different points of view and at least listen and consider.
I think the biggest step in my own journey away from dogmatism was a conversation with a friend about sexuality. He brought up some points worth considering, and I chose to continue to consider them, instead of reverting to 'the party line'.
Thanks Peter, for again jumping into some deep water and inviting us to join in the fun!

Peter said...

Thank you both for your thoughtful comments. Patrick, what a great way of putting it: "It is only through one's ability to "endanger" their own world view will not only growth be possible, but for that vision to become crisper and that much more easier to grapple with." Well said.

Casey said...

You never fully understand whatever faith you have until you learn why you don't trust the other... where you actually have to trust... and depending what you settle on, just might be something you can't fully understand... sign me up for a life like that???

"In the end, Christianity is a huge gamble on something counter-intuitive. It’s putting all your chips in the middle and betting on God. If God delivers, you win. If God fails, you lose."

love it

rjlight said...

Throughout the years God has taken off my layers--those layers that knew everything. I am now at a place where I seem to rethink everything and question just about everything I was told. I am not denying Christ, far from it, I just want something that is genuine and real and mine. It is a hard position to be in though. This is the narrow road Christ was talking about--this road where you really don't want the easy answers and you realize you know so very little about what is important. I am not sure that made the least bit of sense, but it felt good typing!

David Henson said...

Raimon Panikker in IntraReligious Dialogue writes that the possibility for conversion in dialogue with other religions is critical for fruitful conversation. Then again, if we are having an inter/intrafaith dialogue, can I require a missionary/evangelical to bracket the foundational and fundamental tenet of their faith to preach/convert? As you noted, there is this wall? One of my professors suggested the only way I can think to break through that wall: friendship. That's the part I'm working on now.

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