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Interfaith Dialogue

I experienced my second visit to Temple Israel in Minneapolis last night. This morning it is still Sabbath. Shabbat Shalom my friends. These visits were part of our ninth grade confirmation program at Easter. Last month we visited the Burnsville Mosque. Each small group is also supposed to visit St. George Greek Orthodox Church and The Potter’s House at some point during the fall. Unfortunately the Potter’s House was under construction this fall and they cancelled our visit late in the game.

The plan is to spend three Sunday afternoons in January discussing these church visits and opening up the dialogue about how we are supposed to peacefully co-exist in a world where multiple, and seemingly conflicting, religious and philosophical systems intermingle at every turn. How do we understand our own faith in light of this wide spectrum of belief systems?

This is such an important topic that I am both excited and intimidated by the prospect of these three weeks. There are many factors at play that contribute to my mixed feelings. First, I am the new pastor, so these ninth graders do not know me and, therefore, naturally have no reason to trust me yet. Second, it is impossible to understand another faith system by one visit. We are barely going to be able to scratch the surface of the topic. Third, it is a group of ninth graders who are just now developing the cognitive neural pathways to entertain the complexity of a pluralistic world. It will be a Sunday afternoon. They are “forced” to be there by the Confirmation system. In other words, I wonder if they will be engaged in the topic?

Here is, what I see, to be the biggest challenge for this particular teaching context. This is a group of predominantly white, middle class, suburban, Lutheran high school students in the south metro of St. Paul, Minnesota. We are the dominant culture. We are people of privilege. We are usually blind to the colonization and oppression that enabled us to view our version of Christianity and our privileged place in society as “normal” and our “right” as citizens.

There are so many voices and data streams flowing into these young minds that the Christian faith can sometimes seem to be either, a) a relic of bygone days, or b) the symbol of oppression and hatred in our culture. How can I present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these students in a way that they can see through Western European Imperialism and see the radical Prince of Peace that called us to love God and love our neighbor and walk in the disruptive, illuminating, unifying power of the Holy Spirit?

I invite you, the reader, to do two things: One, pray for our process, that the spirit of God will flow freely through our conversation and show us the peace that passes all understanding. Two, read Richard Rohr’s meditations on Interfaith Friendship from this week. The meditation on Saturday always provides a weekly summary and links to each daily meditation. Read the summary here.

Peace (Shalom) to you, dear reader.

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