The Ecumenical Mormon

I’ve been asked to speak at an interfaith gathering next month, and I’d love your help as I prepare my remarks.

Apparently this event happens every year and people come from all over the world to represent their religious traditions. (I only have to drive an hour and a half.) There will be a Shoshone ritual, dinner at a Hindu temple (yum!), a prayer breakfast featuring the work of Harvard’s Pluralism Project, etc. I’m going to be representing Mormonism on a panel of people from many religious traditions, and we’ve been asked to reflect on the following three questions:

1. What in the scriptures of your faith could be understood by the believers to mean that their faith is the only true faith? What can cause this exclusivist view?

2. What in the scriptures of your faith and writings of your saintly personages promotes true acceptance and embracing others’ faiths with admiration, love, and respect?

3. What qualities of being do each one of us need to realize in order to be sincerely “interfaith people,� who not only voice this effort intellectually, but participate truly in this idea as an interior state of soul?

I’m well aware of answers to question one, since you can’t turn around in Mormonism without someone talking about being the One True Church, yada yada. Exclusivity is a core of the restored gospel from the First Vision onward, and has been emphasized more than ever in recent years. But there is also a strong strain of inclusivity in Mormon tradition and doctrine, such as the concept of a three-tiered heaven. How would you answer questions two and three? What would you most like to get across about Mormonism to this diverse audience?

I am so enjoying this blog assignment. I went back through some old posts by previous guest bloggers, and was intrigued by Claudia Bushman’s comment that the discipline of having to write something every day prompted her to reflect more on issues that she might not have delved into otherwise. So true.


30 comments for “The Ecumenical Mormon

  1. October 6, 2004 at 8:49 am

    Inclusiveness would be encouraged by any scriptural passage that extols the eternal value of the human soul, as long as that passage abstains from defining that particular soul’s religious persuasion.

  2. Kristine
    October 6, 2004 at 9:39 am

    Jana, I like 2 Nephi 29:7-14. We often read it selectively and only to explain the Book of Mormon, but it’s really much broader than that, suggesting that God has dealings with many peoples. You really can’t get much more ecumenical than “Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I…have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea…? …I shall speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it…and my word also shall be gathered in one.”

    There are hints of this idea other places, but I think this passage is the fullest exposition.

  3. October 6, 2004 at 10:14 am

    Maybe this is already what you were getting at, but in dicussing inclusivity I think it’s interesting to consider a person’s concept of what heaven is like, and compare that to what degree of glory Mormonism would predict for them. For example, it seems to me that within the Mormon cosmology many good and faithful “mainstream” Christians will end up in something very much like the heaven they imagined–immortal individuals enjoying the presence of Jesus (but not the Father). That’s first tier for them (since they don’t necessarily expect eternal family bonds, and since they conflate the Father and the Son), but second tier for us. Which begs the question: will they even know that we were right? :)

  4. October 6, 2004 at 10:28 am

    This is an easy one, but a quick search of recent talks by President Hinckley would turn up a lot of variations on his “If you are a member of another faith, bring what you have learned there, and let us see if we can add to it” theme.

  5. Kristine
    October 6, 2004 at 10:41 am

    Er, Ryan, I’m not quite sure what’s ecumenical about saying “whatever truth you’ve got, we’ve got more, but you’re *welcome* to be assimilated.” Sure it’s more polite than the Southern Baptist “you’re going to hell if you don’t accept the truth as I understand it,” but it’s not exactly a position of profound respect for other faiths. It implies the superiority of Mormon faith without exactly stating it; I’m pretty sure it would sound infuriatingly condescending to me if I were not Mormon. (Luckily, President Hinckley is so personally warm and kind, that it’s hard to get stuck entirely on the content of his message).

  6. October 6, 2004 at 11:07 am

    I actually don’t think that the idea of the three-tiered heaven is very ecumenical either. While the message that we don’t think someone will go to hell for not being Mormon is less negative than other soteriological formulations, it is not what I would call pluralistic to believe that Latter-day Saints will inherit a far greater glory than others complete with thrones, powers and dominions.

  7. Kevin Barney
    October 6, 2004 at 11:12 am

    For question 2, there are all the statements about the great religious leaders of the past, how they were inspired of God to do their work and so forth. There is the positive commentary on Islam in LDS newspapers in the mid-19th century. There is the old Brigham Young idea that “Truth is Mormonism,” and we are willing to embrace truth from whatever source derived–including from other religious traditions. (Admittedly more of a theoretical ideal than a practical reality on the ground.)

    For question 3, I think our constant missionary focus can be a hindrance in this area. As I get older and more curmudgeonly, I am putting my proselyting instincts more and more on the shelf, and just relating to people as people, not as prospective marks, which is a good thing, I think. And I continue to like Krister Stendahl’s famous concept of retaining room in your heart for “sacred envy.” His sacred envy for Mormonism was the concept of redeeming the dead; mine in return for Lutheranism is their music.

  8. October 6, 2004 at 11:23 am

    “Which begs the question”

    That would be “Which raises the question”.

  9. john fowles
    October 6, 2004 at 11:43 am

    I think that your efforts in this might be impeded by the fact that the Restored Gospel, just like the original NT Gospel and the OT Law of Moses before it, is by its very nature unecumenical because it seeks to create a “peculiar” people. This is not a pleasing concept in our PC and relativistic times.

    We can separate the idea of ecumenicalism and toleration. While religious toleration, as Locke posits, is an essential characteristic of True Religion, ecumenicalism, to my mind, seems to be a surrender of the possibility that True Religion or Truth exists and transcends human desires, cultures, or society. It acknowledges that religion is nothing more than a creation of men, and that as people become more enlightened and progressive, then silly man-made barriers to inclusion break down naturally as society and culture become more permissive/”open-minded.” If the Church has a claim to Truth through the Restoration and direct revelation in modern times through prophets who are just as much prophets as Moses and Isaiah, then ecumenicalism can’t really be part of the program. This is a very strict aspect of the Restored Gospel, but nevertheless inherent in the concept of Truth.

    At the same time, this does not claim that the Church already contains all Truth. Rather, I think that we can view the Church as continuing to seek Truth wherever it can be found. And we have the guidance of the Holy Ghost (the Gift of the Holy Ghost, that is) to help us discern additional Truth when we come across it. As it gets incorporated into the fabric of what we know as Truth, it also needs to be officially recognized by those with the appropriate keys. This process is slow on the macro level but doesn’t need to deter individual Church members from acquiring Truth from wherever they can find it and incorporating it into their own personal worldviews, unless of course it is blatantly antithetical to some other revealed Truth.

    Finally, despite the idea that ecumenicalism is incompatible with the Restored Gospel, religious toleration and acceptance of, and love for, all of God’s children are essential characteristics of True Religion and must be present in the lives of those who are Latter-day Saints through baptism by proper priesthood authority. This means that we follow the 11th Article of Faith religiously without surrendering to say that we have no special claim to Truth that anyone else doesn’t have. If this is the case, then there really is no point to being LDS because the concept of the Plan of Salvation with the three degrees of glory is just a theory created by man and no better than any other theory. For me personally, that would likely lead to agnosticism because I would be unwilling to say that some other denomination has a greater claim to Truth while absent direct contact to God (and the Latter-day Saints are the only ones claiming that they enjoy direct revelation from God in the Restoration of the Gospel and the leadership of the Church).

    If I were you, I would focus on the very open and accepting aspects of the Restored Gospel, such as the passage that Kristine referred to in 2 Nephi, among others, without surrendering to “ecumenicalism.”

  10. Johnna
    October 6, 2004 at 11:56 am

    How about D&C 134, the revelation on government and religion, verse 4 for respect for other faiths. (We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only…never suppress the freedom of the soul.)

  11. Ken in Atlanta
    October 6, 2004 at 12:30 pm

    Jana, your book, “What Would Buffy Do?” was brilliant. Anyone who ever enjoyed the show (or the spin-off “Angel”) should buy it. Run, don’t walk.

    I would suggest you contact LDS Public Affairs and the get the latest and greatest stats about the Church’s really impressive humanitarian work worldwide. A common thought for non-members is that “Mormons take care of their own.” I have always found that people are astonished to learn how much we even try to take care of others, including members of those other faith groups who will be hearing your remarks. The humanitarian efforts of the Church (and its individual members) provide a concrete example of what we mean by “faith without works is dead.” Mormons don’t just talk the talk that we should love others, we actually try to comfort those in need of comfort, whatever their faith.

  12. October 6, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    Kristine, perhaps by comparison to other faiths, who will permit anyone to hold on to their own “truth” and still commune with them, President Hinckley’s statement is harsh and exclusive. But compared to the usual statements of LDS doctrinal primacy, I think that statement is very, very soft and flexible.

    The majority of us believe that our doctrine is a hard and fast collection of ideas that must all be accepted, and anyone who brings contrary ideas into the fold must discard them. President Hinckley’s statement, though maybe not substantively very different, is a huge contrast at least in tone. Most of us would say “whatever you have, leave it behind and come get what we’ve got.” He says “whatever you have, bring it and let us see if we can add to it.” I can’t see how that would be taken as offensive, especially contrasted with the previous statement.

  13. john fowles
    October 6, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Kristine, to tack on to Ryan’s comment, Pres. Hinckley says “let us see if we can add to it.” Of course, we think that we do have insights that will enrich anyone’s perspective, regardless of cultural background. But things are things that are added unto what it already there. And the way Pres. Hinckley presents it almost hints that in some cases less will have to be added than in others.

  14. Keith
    October 6, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    I would recommend Howard W. Hunter’s “The Gospel–A Global Faith” (Ensign, Nov 1991), and Roger Keller’s chapter “Restoration Fulness” in _Religions of the World–A Latter-day Saint Perspective_. So many of Pres. Hinckley’s statements have been to the effect of our need to appreciate and respect those of others faiths (and that this can be done with no doctrinal compromise). More recently (September Ensign) he notes the possible help LDS folks might hope for from others in opposing evil: “On the other hand, I am satisfied that there are millions upon millions of good people in this and in other lands. For the most part, husbands are faithful to wives, and wives to husbands. Their children are being reared in sobriety, industry, and faith in God. Given the strength of these, I am one who believes that the situation is far from hopeless. I am satisfied that there is no need to stand still and let the filth and violence overwhelm us or to run in despair. The tide, high and menacing as it is, can be turned back if enough of the kind I have mentioned will add their strength to the strength of the few who are now effectively working.”

    I take it that when the scriptures speak of all good coming from Christ (Moroni 7, Alma 5) this means that God’s spirit may be present in any genuine effort to do good, to follow, to worship, and so on. In this sense, Pres. Hinckley’s remark to keep all the good that you have makes sense. And we can celebrate with others (at least to the degree that we do not violate their or our religious conscience–I might go to the mosque, but not pray; I could go to mass but not partake of communion) and join in good causes. We can acknowledge something of the presence of God in many places, without at the same time denying the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel and the importance of covenants (covenants which are “exclusive” but to which all are invited) and how these covenants form who we are as Latter-day Saints.

    Best wishes with your presentation.

  15. Kristine
    October 6, 2004 at 1:43 pm

    Ryan, John, I get that we are not Unitarians, really I do. (I don’t even want us to be Unitarians–Episcopalians, maybe…) But if you had spent most of your life building a tower of blocks, and your big brother came in and said “oh, that’s very nice; now let me see what I can add with my superior block collection and building skills,” you can see how you might not *like* it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t true that your brother has more blocks, but you might be offended anyway.

    Moreover, the passage in 2 Nephi which I cited might very well mean that a more appropriate outreach message might be, “please come and teach us about your dealings with God, your holy writ, and we will talk together about how to find the one truth in them.” Maybe that’s the wrong approach for right now–I’m sure President Hinckley has good reasons for what he says. But I think there could be room for that kind of serious ecumenicalism in Mormonism.

  16. Fred Astaire
    October 6, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    I’d definitely draw on Elder Ballard’s recent conference address on “the doctrine of inclusion,” which supplements, if not negates, more exclusivist strains in authoritative mormon thought. Please return and report how the interfaith gathering went!

  17. Geoff B
    October 6, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Jana, I think the best way to get non-members to understand our faith is to compare our mortal experience to a trail leading up a mountain. While we are on Earth, we start near the bottom of the trail and head up as we age, learn, make mistakes, etc. Our goal is to get to the top (the celestial kingdom). If we make mistakes (sin), we may head back down the trail, ie, head farther from our goal.

    What we believe, in my humble opinion, is that our church will take us up the hill fastest and is the only that allows us to get to the top. Most other churches have things that will help them up the trail in the right direction, but people will go more slowly and their progress will be stopped at some point unless they accept certain doctrines and truths that are part of our church. We have the fulness of the Gospel, meaning the most amount of information that is currently available to allow quick and full progress. The Church is the only true church in the sense that it is the only one that can get you to the top of the mountain, but it is not the only one that can get you headed in the right direction.

    If you look at things this way, it becomes much clearer that we are all on the same path and that God wants all of us to progress and that He has given us certain signs and doctrines to His true Church that allow progression to take place. But this does not mean that we are opposed to the teachings and doctrines of all other churches. And it certainly doesn’t mean that people who don’t believe as we do are going to Hell.

  18. Jonathan Stapley
    October 6, 2004 at 4:17 pm

    I had read a message from the First Presidency several years ago that dated from the 70’s. It reinforces that idea of part versus whole (which serves as the rapprochement of many Christians to the Jews). I tried to dig it up, but the only thing I could find was from a BYU devotional by Alan Keele who quotes it:

    On a philosophical note, I have had the pleasure of living in Europe both as a missionary and as an employee. In both instances I would celebrate mass with my catholic friends. Granted it took me a while to overcome some deep seated prejudices and I won’t partake of the Eucharist, but I got pretty good with my Lord’s Prayer. Isn’t it really about whether individual member’s of disparate churches can respect and worship with each other, more than whether there is sufficient grounds for doctrinal reconciliation?

  19. Jonathan Stapley
    October 6, 2004 at 4:18 pm

    Sorry.. I jacked the HTML…here is the corrected comment:

    I had read a message from the First Presidency several years ago that dated from the 70’s. It reinforces that idea of part versus whole (which serves as the rapprochement of many Christians to the Jews). I tried to dig it up, but the only thing I could find was from a BYU devotional by Alan Keele who quotes it:

    “…statement of 1978 by the First Presidency, President Spencer W. Kimball and his counselors President Marion G. Romney and President N. Eldon Tanner: ‘The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.’â€?

    On a philosophical note, I have had the pleasure of living in Europe both as a missionary and as an employee. In both instances I would celebrate mass with my catholic friends. Granted it took me a while to overcome some deep seated prejudices and I won’t partake of the Eucharist, but I got pretty good with my Lord’s Prayer. Isn’t it really about whether individual member’s of disparate churches can respect and worship with each other, more than whether there is sufficient grounds for doctrinal reconciliation?

  20. CB
    October 6, 2004 at 4:26 pm


    Thanks, that was the statement I was looking for. I knew I had heard it somewhere. Is that the same First Presidency statement that also includes a phrase something like “there are many path to God”?

    I was also interested to note that Elder Bednar’s father is Roman Catholic.

  21. Glen Henshaw
    October 6, 2004 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Jana-

    I think the concept of progression really comes into play here, as opposed to the concept of a single “born-again” experience. Yes, Mormonism is exclusivist in that we believe this is the only true church. But I think that when you get right down to it, that statement has much more to do with authority than it does knowledge.

    In a broad sense we believe that salvation is a journey, not an event, and in that sense every soul is on “the path” to acquiring the knowledge and the characteristics it needs for salvation. Because of that, we believe that every religion is valuable inasmuch as it teaches true principles to its adherents — hence President Hinckley’s statement about bringing the truths you know with you. I think that few Mormons who are really being honest with themselves believe that we have a lock on the truths needed for salvation.

    So what do you need? You need the two great commandments — remember, Christ said “this do and you shall live” about those. Most religions have that knowledge, or something very close to it. You also need to understand who God is and who Christ is, at least enough to be able to make an informed decision to follow Them. Most Christian religions have that as well IMO.

    But you also need is authority — the priesthood. The ability to make covenants with God. It is in the idea of authority in which we are more strictly exclusivist. So in the sense that we believe everyone at least needs baptism by authority to be saved, we believe everyone must accept the Mormonism as being the only path to salvation. IMHO this is the prophet’s most vital role — he holds the keys to perform the saving ordinances. What he teaches is important, but the authority he holds is essential.

    OTOH, I think the idea of baptisms for the dead “softens” our exclusivist stance a little bit.


  22. Keith
    October 6, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    The First Presidency Statement dates Feb 1978. It can be found in Palmer, Spencer J., ed. _The Expanding Church_. Salt Lake City, 1978. It’s also cited in Pres. Hunter’s talk “The Gospel–A Global Faith.” Another good resource is James A.Toronto’s, “A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammad,â€? Ensign, August 2000. Though focusing on Islam, the article does gather together a number of statements about (what ought to be) LDS attitudes towards other religions.

    Here’s the First Presidency statement in it’s entirety:

    Statement of the First Presidency
    February 15, 1978

    Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from common mortal progenitors, but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.

    The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.

    The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.

    Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or the life to come.

    We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fullness of joy forever. For those who have not received the gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.

    Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are the sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father.

  23. JWL
    October 6, 2004 at 6:40 pm

    The First Presidency statement is very good. However, IMHO you will not find anything more direct, authoritative, or punchier than these original Joseph Smiths:

    In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may. Teachings of Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 313

    We should gather all the true and good principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true ‘Mormons.’ TPJS p. 316

    I am copying these from another source, so there may be more quotable stuff at those pages. The advantage of these statements is that they are more open than the “you’ve got some truth, but we’ve got more” line which anyone would be put off by (no matter how sweetly and sincerely put) and they are from the first prophet.

    I think that if you check Discourses of Brigham Young that you will find a lot of quotes along similar lines. I don’t have it here, but I believe in fact that Widtsoe assembled a whole chapter of such quotes. Brigham is useful to quote because he is usually even better known to a non-LDS audience as a Mormon leader than Joseph Smith.

    I too would like to know how it goes.

  24. David
    October 6, 2004 at 7:52 pm


    I really like your analogy. Sometimes, getting to the highest peak where the gospel leads may require just a hop and a skip over to the right path; I like Elder Oaks description of many who will come into the Church after having spent most or all of their lifetimes in another faith tradition (or perhaps none at all):

    “Many who come in the eleventh hour have been refined and prepared by the Lord in ways other than formal employment in the vineyard. These workers are like the prepared dry mix to which it is only necessary to “add waterâ€?—the perfecting ordinance of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. With that addition—even in the eleventh hour—these workers are in the same state of development and qualified to receive the same reward as those who have labored long in the vineyard.”

    Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,� Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32

    For me, some of the hardest parts of the gospel are the principles that our faith shares with most others–love, patience, honesty, loyalty, courage, justice, mercy, diligence, charity. It is interesting that when Jesus describes who will be on His right hand at the Second Coming, for some reason He does not mention membership in His Church, but focuses on how we have treated “the least of these, my brethren.” Matthew 25:40. I think many people can receive their training and refinement in these important principles in a wide variety of epochs and countries. As Elder Oaks puts it, for some, qualifying for the final reward will just be a matter of “add[ing] water” in the “eleventh hour,” either here or the hereafter.

  25. Rosalynde Welch
    October 6, 2004 at 11:53 pm

    It could be argued that ecumenical borrowing occurs (or, at least, has occurred) in some of the most accessible aspects of LDS worship, since we’re both a relatively new religion and regularly fortified with new members: many of our hymns (“A Mighty Fortress”), certain forms of Sabbath observance (low-ritual weekly worship), some of our religious organizations (Sunday School), are clearly adapted from the Protestant context of 19th-C America–changed in crucial ways to accommodate our unique doctrine and ritual, of course. And, despite an understandably strong emphasis on convert-assimilation, there must be myriad local instances of cross-fertilization with the religious backgrounds of our many converts.

  26. Jack
    October 7, 2004 at 12:22 am

    Jana, how about 1Nephi 13: 11-19? You’d have to be a little selective, but these passages make it quite clear that the Spirit of God was influencing certain peoples to migrate to the new world before the restoration ever occured and that the power of God was with them in delivering them from all other nations. Granted, it may come across a little too “americana” for this crowd but there may be a way of tempering it to make it suitable.

    Also, I’ve always been intrigued by the way D&C section 22 likens previous baptisms unto the Law of Moses. While the revelation makes it clear that baptism into another faith is considered a “dead work” and that one cannot enter into the strait gate by the “Law of Moses”, it also seems to imply that because the Restoration is a New Covenant, the Law (which was also given by God) is no longer needful – though perhaps it may have been useful for a period of time as in days of old. One gets the idea that christianity in the new world may have been a “preparatory gospel” from which many have had a hard time moving beyond just like the Jews who could not see beyond the Law in the days of the primitive church.

  27. Gilgamesh
    October 7, 2004 at 2:47 am

    I have always used Alma 29:8 as a basis for believing that God speaks to others outside of our faith. It reads “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.” Granted, this implies that those in the LDS tradition are more “fit” and therefore recieve more, but it does not preclude God from speaking with people outside the church, nor limit what God can and will do for others. It is a nice reminder that we don’t know, nor can we claim to know, how God interacts with humanity at all times.

    As for articles, there is an article in the October 1977 Ensign entitled “Respect for Other People’s Beliefs” which is paraphrased in the introduction of the “Religions of the World–A Latter-day Saint Perspective.”

  28. October 7, 2004 at 10:37 am

    You know, I haven’t heard Howard W. Hunter’s name mentioned in a really, really long time. It seems he doesn’t get quoted or mentioned much these days.

  29. Charles Randall Paul
    October 7, 2004 at 1:13 pm


    Please visit the website It states the program and strategy for the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy. It will give a slightly different view of how to approach your upcoming experience. I have found that large panels rarely allow much heart and mind moving dialogue. However, they are a beginning. You will see that most involved are already closet exclusivists who believe in an “over-religion” that contains all particular religions. They of course are philosophical/emotional “fundamentalists” who believe their only hope is convert the benighted (and stupid) folks who hold to a world view they do not share. The mucky thinking and outright silliness of much interreligious dialogue has produced very little change in the world. We need to start by saying we believe our view is SUPERIOR to all other views or we would not hold the view. Forget the exclusivist argurements and go to the superiority claims. Then, have all admit that they are ethically required to attempt to influence “the other” to understand truth. And, that they are wise to listen the other to gain more truth from him AS WELL AS to understand better ways to persuade them. Again, always admit at all times that persuasion is a constant motive for all parties, and it can exist simultaneously with a motive to be persuaded. Shock them all by saying any dialogue for MERE UNDERSTANDING is a shallow and probably insincere dialogue. Ask what change do we want from this meeting? Most would say, I bet, they want the other “fundamentalist exclusivists” to stop proselytizing forthrightly so the closet fundamentalist exclusivists can persuade (never evangelize!) everyone through non-confrontational dialogue that their world view is the one that should be adopted because it is superior to alternatives.

    Note that I am not against those who desire to influence me that an over-religion is the correct view. I am only against the attitude that is not forthright in making claims of superiority while criticising others for so doing. The world will be so much more real and alive when we own our views and motives and listen to others who do so. The change needed is this: we all need to be willing to listen carefully to the missionaries of other religions as they try to persuade us to convert. This is not child’s play. It should only be for adults after they have had time to be indoctrinated by their parents and/or tribe. But when the time is right, we need to join the world community in respectful contestations (without contention) over things that matter most.

  30. October 9, 2004 at 6:40 am came to mind when I heard about your Buffy book.

    I do think that the joint humanitarian and other efforts are an important part of what interfaith life should be about — true religion and undefiled and all that…

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