07 June 2011

Why Interfaith Dialogue Doesn't Work -- And What We Can Do About It

Why Interfaith Dialogue Doesn't Work -- And What We Can Do About It, by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie (Huffington Post, 29 May 2011)

Excerpts:
I have been participating in interfaith dialogue as a rabbi and Jewish leader for more than 30 years, and most of the time it just doesn't work.

Most of the time -- and it is painful for me to admit this -- it is terribly boring. Most of the time there is a tendency to manufacture consensus, whether it exists or not. Most of the time we go to great lengths to avoid conflict. Most of the time we cover the same ground that we covered last month or the month before. And far too often we finish our session without really knowing the people across the table and what makes them tick religiously.

And most of we time we are satisfied with mouthing a few noble, often-repeated sentiments. Thus, we affirm the importance of mutual understanding, tolerance and dialogue; we assert that all human beings are created in the image of God; we proclaim that despite our differences, all of our traditions preach love of humankind and service to humanity. Nothing is wrong with these sentiments, of course; in conceptual terms, I believe in them all. But if we don't dig beneath the surface and focus on substance rather than rhetoric, they mean very little.

The result is that most of the time, interfaith discussions are simply excruciating, irrelevant to me and to the world around me. Why then have I been so involved for so many years?
Link: Why Interfaith Dialogue Doesn't Work -- And What We Can Do About It


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