Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reconciliation or Dialogue?: Religion is One

Just read a really inspiring piece in the Boston Globe this morning about a meeting between the King of Jordan and a group of American Rabbis in which the King quoted with great respect and reverence from both the Torah and the Quran and emphasized that Muslims and Jews are both "neighbors and kin", sharing a common spiritual heritage. This made me think about what I see as the difference between religious reconciliation and interfaith dialogue. Interfaith dialogue begins with the understanding of religion as being made of distinct and conflicting belief systems that are searching for common ground with at least some level of respect or acceptance of pluralism. People share prayers or food or experience each other's Holy Days and so on. Religious reconciliation begins with the assumption that God is one and that beyond all human interpretation or cultural expression, religion is also one. Reconciliation goes further than discussing the various ways people pray and involves a vigorous investigation of spiritual reality and the practical application of what is discovered. It's ultimate goal is uniting the human race into "one universal Cause, one common faith." Interfaith efforts are similar to promoting tolerance or multiculturalism in the sense that they are an attempt to promote unity among diverse peoples. As such they can be viewed as a means toward the end of uniting the human family, but not the end itself. It is reconciliation which is the mission of the Baha' Faith and one finds in its community people of all religious backgrounds bound together by a common recognition of the oneness of religion, building a new social order, a divine civilization.