Faith is a difficult issue for me; I understand next to nothing. (see My Religion, etc.) But it's an important topic, and has been for millennia. Recent events bring a key question into sharper focus: how should devout members of one religion treat those who believe in something different? Many times the apparent answer is with intolerance and violence.

Some better thoughts on this theme appear in an conversation with Dr. Joseph C. Hough Jr. (president of the Union Theological Seminary, NY; interview by Gustav Niebuhr in the New York Times, 12 Jan 2002). Hough points out that an infinitely powerful, unconditionally free God shouldn't be restricted to saving people in only a single way --- and that it's a mistake "... to impose our own limits on God's redemptive action."

Hough also feels strongly the need for respect for other faiths. He distinguishes between proseletyzing and demonstrating deep belief in one's own religion:

It's the difference between an attempt to convert and an attempt to bear witness. The attempt to bear witness is the attempt to state honestly what you have discovered in faith in Jesus Christ. This is to share the things in your life that are of highest value to you, and I think this is an act of friendship. But this is very different from saying, 'Now that I've told you this, you've got to believe as I do to experience this.' The one is an opening to conversation; the other is closing conversation.

The interview concludes with Hough's hopeful remark:

I believe that there is ample evidence in the best of the world's religions, including our own, that God's work is effective. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others have been and are being transformed by a powerful vision of God that redeems them with hope and infuses their religious practice with compassion, justice, and peace. Wherever there is peace and movement toward peace, where there is justice and movement toward justice, God is present and working.

TopicFaith - 2002-01-17

(correlates: MercifulSchadenfreude, MoreMetaforestry, DeschoolingDemythologized, ...)