For the past three weeks I’ve been working with a local church on communications for an inter-faith panel they hosted over the weekend in their regular services. Under the heading “Are all Religions the Same?” representatives from five major world religions – Buddhism, Judaism, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church), Islam and historic Christianity – sat on the panel and discussed the tenets of their faith.
The goal was to examine the commonly held assumption that all religions are basically the same and all lead to God, educating the audience by comparing key beliefs of each religion in an open dialogue. To that end, the discussion was not set up as a debate, and there were no rebuttals or challenges. Each panelist was simply asked to answer the same five questions:
What is your concept of God?
What is your concept of Truth?
Who do you say Jesus was?
What are your sacred texts and how did you get them?
What is your view of the afterlife/eternity?
It was quite obvious that these religions are not the same. At the close of each service, the audience was reminded of the Law of Contradiction – that two contradicting premises in the same context can not both be true. They were encouraged to pursue the truth and make informed decisions about faith, and challenged that as spiritual beings the answers really matter.
It was also hoped that this calm, rational, yet engaging discussion would demonstrate how people of faith can likewise have positive conversations among those with whom they live and work. And through loving dialogue demonstrate the love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness and goodness that is to mark the Christian life.
I have to say the discussion was quite moving. Each of the panelists expressed a deep appreciation for the opportunity. There was a lot of humor. There was remarkable warmth. It was quite powerful to see a Jewish Rabbai and Muslim Imam laughing together. And it was clear that it’s only when we’re willing to listen that we have any real hope of being heard.