I am a member of a group titled “Multi-Faith Matters.” We are a team of Evangelical pastors and academics telling the stories and discovering the best practices for living in a multi-faith world with love, and without compromise. Our group believes that Evangelical Christians in North America need to come to terms with the fact that our Christian privileges are shrinking, that other traditions are increasing in presence, and that we cannot operate as if we are living in a mono-faith world. This point has come home to me in many ways over the years, and was reinforced over the past few weeks.
A few weeks ago, my new dental hygienist shared spontaneously and confidently with me that she is a Druid. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, as she was cleaning my teeth. When I thanked her for doing such a great job and that she didn’t prick me once, she jokingly said she is no longer permitted to do bloodletting! My hygienist informed me that she is more open than many in her community. She also shared with me why she left Christianity, and what it is about her particular Pagan tradition that appeals so strongly to her. Her sense of humor, amiability and confidence stood out to me, and no doubt to others who heard her share.
On Thursday, our Multi-Faith Matters team met together with an Imam in Texas, who presides over what might be called a mega-mosque. Thousands of Muslims are associated with his mosque, which may soon become the largest mosque in the country. The taxi driver who picked me up after the meeting to take me to the airport is a Muslim, and shared with me that he attends that same mosque. Both the Imam and the taxi driver shared how Islam is growing in the Dallas/Fort Worth region.
Last night, I participated in a small group potluck and discussion involving Evangelicals and Buddhists back in Portland, Oregon. We spoke of Gay marriage as well as the civil rights and religious liberties debate flaring in different parts of the country involving Christian business owners, wedding cakes, and pizzas. Some of our Buddhist friends are Gay and Lesbian. The conversation focused on how Buddhists and Christians can approach the subject with civility, a non-judgmental spirit, and compassion toward one another in the midst of differing convictions on the subject.
Each of these encounters underscored the point that we are not living in a mono-faith world, but a multi-faith world. Multi-faith engagement is needed. One of the ways such engagement manifests itself is for Christians to engage in dialogue, not monologue. Apart from rare instances like the dental cleaning appointment in which my hygienist’s cleaning instruments were in my mouth most of the time, I have opportunity to interact by raising open questions and sharing my perspectives as a Christian. Multi-faith dialogue does not entail compromise, but rather companionship, where people of different faith convictions can engage in meaningful conversation in the pursuit of understanding and truth.
Hopefully, Evangelicals in North America don’t need to have the last word to stay in a conversation. Only as we come to terms with the need to listen and learn and to share as one among many conversation partners in our multi-faith society will we be able to share about Jesus, whom we believe to be the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6-7).