INTERfaith dialogue is challenging enough, but
INTRAfaith conversations are even more so.
Linda Crawford, Executive Director,
Interfaith Center at the Presidio
The late Raimon Panikkar, often called the apostle of interfaith dialogue, once said “If interreligious dialogue is to be real dialogue, an intrareligious dialogue must accompany it.”
I agree! If we are going to get along, or even collaborate, with our sisters and brothers of other traditions, we also have to deal with our own (intrafaith) attitudes as Christians. In my years as a parish pastor I’ve encountered many questions about how to deal with parts of our Christian tradition that convey an exclusivism that is very uncomfortable for us. (“No one comes to the Father except through me” is the one most often cited.)
I’ve encountered this so often, I decided to write a book about how it. I write from a Christian perspective because that’s my tradition, but friends in my interfaith community tell me that many of the issues apply to theirs as well.
In many of our congregations, there is a continuum of thinking and believing that ranges from conservative to progressive and everything in between. Too often, we don’t know how to bridge these divisions between us (which, as we know, is not just a church problem!). This book deals not only with the Christological questions, but also with group dynamics and pastoral concerns. It provides a way forward in enabling healthy, lively, and respectful conversation. It’s designed to facilitate group discussion with reflection questions and suggested readings after each chapter.
Who should read it? Clergy, seminarians, lay members of congregations, and anyone interested in the future of Christianity within our ever more pluralistic religious universe.
Susan M. Strouse
Doctor of Ministry
This is an important book for our times. It will be essential reading for all people of faith and those in our country who experience spirituality outside the faiths. Strouse explores what it means for Christians to dialogue together with the beliefs of other world religions, with other denominations and within one’s church. This book ushers us step by step into a process towards unity of love and respect that enables us to discover how to live the love in which we believe as well as to evolve from a rote worshipper to a discerning believer. She shows how Christians can accept and respect beliefs of others, find common ground and evolve in our own faith expression to prevent exclusionary or irrelevant evangelism.
5.0 out of 5 stars – A unique and valuable resource for Christians (and others) engaged in interfaith dialogue by D. Andrew Kille May 27, 2016
Inevitably, profound questions arise out of respectful encounters with people of religions other than our own. Many who have been involved in cooperative engagements with people of other faith traditions discover that it is often easier to talk with people of a different religion than it is with the person sitting next to you in your own congregation. For others, the struggle is within, as in the case of Elsie L., a parishioner in Buffalo. After a church session in which a Hindu woman active in interfaith activities had spoken to the group, Elsie spoke to Pastor Strouse. “If I accept the Hindu path as equal to Christianity,” she said, “I’m worried that I’m betraying Jesus.”
Years of wrestling with that question and similar ones resulted in Strouse’s new book, The INTRAfaith Conversation: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves about INTERfaith Matters? In it, Dr. Strouse addresses the challenges that the increasingly interfaith realities of today present to Christians, and invites reflection on how Christian theology and identity might be shaped and even strengthened by cooperative interfaith relationships.
Blending personal stories, thoughtful reflection on the changing face of America and pastoral concern, The INTRAfaith Conversation invites readers to understand and appreciate just what doing Christian theology means in today’s multi-religious world. The book’s sections reflect the breadth of Strouse’s focus: dealing with the new religious context; what it means to think theologically as a community; tolerance, exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism; personal experience; and pastoral and leadership issues for congregations entering the interfaith world.
The book is designed to be used with a discussion group; each section is followed by a series of questions for reflection and discussion along with suggestions for further reading.
I personally have been involved in interfaith work in the Bay Area for over 35 years and have never seen a book quite like The INTRAfaith Conversation. It addresses a very real issue with depth, humor, and pastoral sensitivity. I highly recommend it not only to pastors and other leaders in Christian churches, but to lay people who may be asking some of the same questions. Further, although it is specifically aimed at a Christian audience, it offers a model for how similar questions might be raised and wrestled with in non-Christian contexts as well.