In his book, The Church on the Other Side, Brian McLaren writes:
“One of the toughest challenges in the church on the other side will be to develop a new way of talking about – and with -other religions.”
I would like to kick off this new site by inviting the emergent church to seriously consider this challenge posed by Brian.
McLaren points out that globalization is reshaping, not only the world, but our local communities:
“To dismiss Buddhism when all Buddhists lived on the other side of the world was easy; but when a Buddhist lives next door or teaches your college chemistry class and proves to be a good neighbour or professor, his beliefs are not so easily dismissed.”
I find this an interesting comment, as I do in fact live next door to a Buddhist. She is a dear old lady who has recently been widowed.
But that’s just the beginning.
On the other side of our house are a young family of Sikhs who’s one year old daughter plays with my son. Two doors further up is a young Hindu family, who’s son also plays with my son. The world is at our doorstep – literally. Yet the majority of Christians I speak to, even in my local area, have a curious resistance to direct two-way dialogue with people from other religions. Despite years of trying to encourage Christians to engage, behavioural change has been meager. It is indeed a great challenge.
Is my area so unique? Yes and no. It is true we are in a hot spot for Hinduism, but other areas have their own demographic quirks. We’re not THAT unique. In my experience it have more to do with willingness to set outside your comfort zones. You don’t see what you shy away from.
“To caricature all Muslims as terrorists is easy until you meet a Muslim of grace and ethical depth. To focus on the cruelties of some Hindus and in so doing dismiss Hinduism might work until a Hindu points out a few of our own embarrassments and egregious failures as Christians. Just as we must acknowledge that both kooks and saints stand under the Christian banner, we will have to stop giving ourselves permission to be prejudiced and stereotypical about members of other religions. We can’t keep comparing our best with their worst and feeling smug.”
As a person who is deeply committed to justice and truth I find the vilification of other religions by Christians to be most disturbing. In our previous house we lived next door to a Muslim family. I became friends with the husband, Mohammed, and he was one of the best and most gentle neighbours I’ve ever had. Yet again and again Christians characature Muslims as violent. Only recently a pair of Christian ministers were found guilty in Melbourne, Australia for incitement to religious hatred. It sickens me that this is allowed to continue within the ranks of the contemporary church. One of my great hopes for the emerging church is that it can rise to the challenge of being good Samaritans to our neighbours.