Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Goals of Interreligious Dialogue

The corresponding video can be found at:

4/20/2011 11:44 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:44 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:47 am (et) Hengist: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:47 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:51 am (et) Lukas : private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:51 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:52 am (et) JoyceD: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:52 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:52 am (et) solfrid mjelde: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:52 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:53 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:53 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:55 am (et) Rob_Mus: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:55 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:55 am (et) interfaith1017: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:55 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:57 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:57 am (et).
4/20/2011 11:59 am (et) bernice: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 11:59 am (et).
4/20/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
4/20/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘The Goals of Interreligious Dialogue’ with Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of IFC, offering a quick reflection and standing by.
4/20/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
4/20/2011 12:00 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:00 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:01 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it led to some issues.
4/20/2011 12:04 pm (et) MikeNelson: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:04 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:10 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: How do we combat the resistance of many people, committed to their own faith tradition, to get interested and involved in interfaith activities? How do we move beyond 'preaching to the choir'? How can we convince them that interfaith is not a threat to their faith when they won't even open their ears to hear the message?
4/20/2011 12:11 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yes, it seems that you believe we can hold on to our faiths while doing interfaith work, and that it is even an important aspect, so this issue does come up.
4/20/2011 12:11 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Thanks, Laura, for your excellent questions
4/20/2011 12:11 pm (et) Lin: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:11 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:12 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Its easy to be accused of just preaching to the choir.
4/20/2011 12:13 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: In fact, we never know who we are speaking to, whether they are in the choir or not. Sharing our perspective may plant a seed, or confirm a seed that has already been planted.
4/20/2011 12:13 pm (et) roya: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:13 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:13 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: We can provide an alternative perspective to the way someone is used to hearing or saying something.
4/20/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But it could also challenge the place of a seed and I think that might scare some people. How do we expect them to accept that challenge.
4/20/2011 12:15 pm (et) Phil Wogaman: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:15 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:15 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: A supplement we've identified but haven't prepared yet will focus on taking the exclusive passages in any of our religious traditions and provide an alternative way to look at them, to understand them. That will take some important work
4/20/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: and how do we even get in the door or get them to come to us to hear the message?
4/20/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I mean I think affirming the individual faiths while doing this work is important as you say. Perhaps if others are aware that you are not out to convert 4/20/2011 12:16 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Yes, Susan, its very important that people understand we are not out to convert them. That's a key element of building trust that I've focused on.
4/20/2011 12:17 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Letting the other person know that we are concerned to learn about their tradition is also a critical point as well.
4/20/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: What is the major incentive that brings the different faiths together?
4/20/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: roya said: Hi Clark and everybody. I think a key element of interfaith dialogue is to demonstrate that people of different faiths are just human beings, like oneself.
4/20/2011 12:17 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: And perhaps we should add that even choir members need weekly practice! Even they may need to hear what we have to say. I certainly continue to learn from others
4/20/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: roya said: When we see our similarities, then our differences seem less scary.
4/20/2011 12:19 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Indeed, Roya. Sharing that we are all human beings is essential! That may be the beginning point others were asking about that gets one "in the door"
4/20/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: We need to move to where we appreciate the differences. We do not each have places on a linear continuum ranging from right to wrong. very Faith comes up with unique solutions to common problems. When we study each other solutions, we improve our understanding of our own Faith's answers.
4/20/2011 12:20 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Thanks for your sharing, Hengist. I've often said there is no Presbyterian answer (and I'm a Presbyterian minister) to drug abuse, but there are Presbyterian answers and important answers of people of other faiths.
4/20/2011 12:20 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: So we can improve the way we respond to a pressing problem or need in our community by working collaboratively with others.
4/20/2011 12:21 pm (et) Moderator: MikeNelson: In your experience, which denominations or faiths are most amenable (or least amenable) to interfaith efforts? I know in some Christian churches, people are real fond of quoting a few Bible verses that say And Jesus said--Unless you come through me, you cannot know God or enter the kingdom of Heaven.
4/20/2011 12:21 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: To many more conservative/fundamentalist types, it can seem like a contradiction (thus threat to faith or 'selling out' to doubt) to believe that one's own religion is THE Truth (exclusivism) but to also respect the religions of others (as equally valid?)
4/20/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Seems like the goals of those people are out to convert.
4/20/2011 12:22 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: So, Mike Nelson, I think you'll find persons in different Christian denominations who are very open to persons of other faiths and persons who are not. Yes, there are some denominations that are more open in general, but that does not mean that each member of a congregation of that faith is open to persons of other faiths.
4/20/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: private message to JoyceD: Thanks for your question, it will be posted shortly.
4/20/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: I do not think any group has a monopoly on open minds or closed minds. I think that many that need to 'win' a dialogue are insecure about their own beliefs. Secure people are more interested in listening and learning.
4/20/2011 12:24 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Part of our opportunity and our challenge as persons committed to inter-religious understanding (and I use interfaith and inter-religious synonimously) is to speak to those of one's own tradition or faith in ways that they may be open to hearing
4/20/2011 12:25 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I think that is a good point, and it makes sense that security comes from knowing what you beliee
4/20/2011 12:25 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Can interreligious dialogue provide more answers than we can find in our own traditions?
4/20/2011 12:25 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs off on 4/20/2011 12:25 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:27 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: I think that we often find ideas openly expressed in other traditions are implicit in our own traditions, and vice versa.
4/20/2011 12:27 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Someone in a meeting yesterday spoke of adults who behave like children and need to be right, for example, and adults who don't have that need. But I would add that its very important to understand and believe your own tradition is worthy, is worth being a part of for yourself, while at the same time knowing that God or whatever you call the ultimate in your life, may be calling someone to be
4/20/2011 12:28 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: A lovely thought in response to Susan's question was shared by a Scandinavian Lutheran bishop who asked us to be able to share what we envy in another's tradition!
4/20/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD: Thank you for providing YouTube videos of these discussions. Can pagans and atheists and others with misunderstood beliefs be included in the dialog?
4/20/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: If our goal is to gain more knowledge, then yes! I think the more different beliefs are even more helpful of a challenge that can shed more light on my own beliefs.
4/20/2011 12:31 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Certainly, JoyceD. The scope of the dialogue we have defined for the InterFaith Conference are historic religious traditions. And there's plenty of misunderstanding among them or about them. But its also important for pagans and atheists and others with misunderstood beliefs to be included.
4/20/2011 12:31 pm (et) DCP: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:31 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: I think theological differences are trivial compared to the values that we share. My personal God does nothing for you, but we can share an appreciation of Justice or Compassion.
4/20/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Yes, I believe we have more in common than not.
4/20/2011 12:34 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I think we can at least find enough common ground to begin a discussion, but interreligious dialogue I believe should be about challenging the other person and the challenges cme from differences.
4/20/2011 12:34 pm (et) Moderator: Lukas said: I think every human being is shaped by certain values and a individual code of ethics. Therefore, i think a particpation of pagans and atheists in the dialogue can be enriching.
4/20/2011 12:34 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: I wouldn't want to trivialize theological differences, and a focus on values shows our differences as well, as the supplement on values the InterFaith Conference is about to produce to our Teaching About Religion book shows. But there are fundamental values we do share. The Golden Rule, for example, is one important common value in so many diverse religious traditions.
4/20/2011 12:36 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Our values may not clash, and the differences in the values we choose to give priority to can be instructive of our differences as well as our similarities.
4/20/2011 12:36 pm (et) RevMark2U: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:36 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Differences seem to make the dialogue interesting, I wouldn't want to become all the same, but only wish to find a way in which we can live with differences.
4/20/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: What is important to remember is that concepts that we as individuals reject are thought about differently by people who accept such concepts. A personal God, afterlife, reincarnation, etc, are all thought about in different ways, which all deserve

4/20/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But the differences can even be contraries so its hard to believe they are all about the same thing.

4/20/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: The God you don't believe in is probably very different from the God I believe in.
4/20/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Phil Wogaman said: do we need to learn from religions other than our own, and not just about them? For instance, what can Christians and Muslims learn from one another's faith traditions?
4/20/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: solfrid mjelde said: I think you can transfer Susans question to several parts of life. Travelling etc. At least I learn something new for very tradition I meet and it also puts my own world in perspective. If we are so certain on our own tradition and ignore others I think we are missing out on the amazing complexities of the world.
4/20/2011 12:39 pm (et) DCP: private message to Moderator: logs off on 4/20/2011 12:39 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Religion is an element of culture and there are many elements of culture that we can learn from each other.
4/20/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I think the differences are twofold. Some of them cancel out; one has to choose. But the most important ones are complementary. I emphasize those. They are like our opposable thumb. Each of the religions has at least one blind spot, one amazing fault. Each has at least one amazing contribution. Together they give us stereo vision; they allow us to grasp more of reality.
4/20/2011 12:40 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: The Hindu writer for a Hindu perspective on values said there were three separate sets of values from which he could have chosen. He chose one and wrote about it but those who follow either of the other two might disagree with his decision.
4/20/2011 12:42 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: What would you say were the most important values in your life/for you?
4/20/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I like the story of the blind men and the elephant. he universe is like an elephant and we are like blind people trying to decide what we are touching when we try to make sense of it.
4/20/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I mean it seems we have to believe that our own tradition has more truth than any other, otherwise we would not have chosen it, but I guess there can still be truths in the other traditions.
4/20/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Every difference occurs for a reason, in the circumstances of that Faith's appearance or the history that it has gone through. To understand
the origins of a difference increases our tolerance and even appreciation.

4/20/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U: Following up on Phil Wogaman's addition, especially ‘we need to learn from,’ I totally agree. And we must overcome the Western religious bias for doctrine, dogma. One learns something entirely different from sitting on the meditation cushion and bowing to it, thus bowing to the Buddha within, or from doing Muslim prayer, than just reading about the ideas.
4/20/2011 12:45 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: A key difference, Susan, I believe is that you hold the truth of your faith while being open to the truth that others find in their faith.
4/20/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U: I say, ‘My wife is the most beautiful woman in the world.’ Is this some kind of objective reality? No way. But it is my subjective reality.
4/20/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Each of the blind men had a reason for their individual assessment of the elephant. What they needed was to remember that all had a necessarily limited experience.
4/20/2011 12:46 pm (et) Moderator: private message to RevMark2U: Please do not use double quotes as it messes with the post to all function. Thanks!
4/20/2011 12:47 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: And dialog helped the blind men understand more about the whole that they each experienced differently.
4/20/2011 12:47 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Amen to what Hegist just said. Which of us with our finite minds can comprehend the infinite fully? Yes, we see as the Apostle Paul said, now in a mirror darkly.
4/20/2011 12:48 pm (et) cynthial345: private message to Moderator: logs in on 4/20/2011 12:48 pm (et).
4/20/2011 12:49 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Joyce's last point echoes Philip Wogaman's earlier comment about learning from others. If we can enter a dialogue expecting to learn from others, we most likely will!
4/20/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: solfrid mjelde said: I we are going to affirm that different traditions contain truth how do we know what parts of them are true when we disagree?
4/20/2011 12:50 pm (et) Moderator: private message to RevMark2U: That is a great suggestion it is going on my list!
4/20/2011 12:50 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yes, is this a part of dialogue?
4/20/2011 12:51 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: An attitude of humility in combination with serenity, could make more dialogues possible.
4/20/2011 12:51 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: And RevMark2U's point about our subjective perspective is so important as well. Hooray that he thinks his wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. Yet hooray that he knows that is his subjective perspective, not objective reality! Making that distinction when we are in inter-religious dialogue is key as well.
4/20/2011 12:51 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD: We each have our own ways of determining what is ‘true’ but sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
4/20/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But when we believe that this point that we disagree on is of an ultimate importance, which is in line with religious belief, is it alright to let it sit at agree to disagree?
4/20/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Would we then agree that inter-religious dialogue is not about arriving at 'the' truth?
4/20/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: The point of it must be something else?
4/20/2011 12:53 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: And in the midst of agreeing to disagree, we can "know" that God (or our understanding of the ultimate) will reveal the reality of what is TRUE in the end.
4/20/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: We must never to expect
to see things in entirely
the same way, not even
with those of our own

4/20/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But is the end too late?
4/20/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: The point of dialogue is greater understanding of a Truth too great for any of us.
4/20/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: private message to Clark Lobenstine: Hey Clark, we have 5 mins. We should start wrapping it up.
4/20/2011 12:54 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: No, the end is not too late if I hold what I believe now in the context of knowing that "in the end" God/ultimate truth will reveal to us what is TRUE.
4/20/2011 12:55 pm (et) Moderator: private message to Clark Lobenstine: JoyceD: In my faith, Unitarian Universalism, there's a saying that ‘to question truly is an answer’.
4/20/2011 12:55 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Similar to my late colleague, Forrest Church's, assertion: God is not God's name; it is a three-letter word pointing to That which is greater than all of us and present in each of us.'
4/20/2011 12:55 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: private message to moderator: How do you want to start wrapping up? I leave that up to you!
4/20/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: private message to Clark Lobenstine: Ok, I will send a comment that we are wrapping, if you have any final comments add them, then send me a private message and I'll add my last comments
4/20/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: Alright Everyone, it is again that time where we must wrap up for the week, please finish any thoughts you have going.
4/20/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Susan, I think you are pointing to religious assertions that say, 'If you don't believe such and such' or 'don't do such and such,' you will suffer eternal damnation, or something like that. Yes?
4/20/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Then it could be too late.
4/20/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yes, I guess I was referring to those ho believe such things.
4/20/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: We do not need to know the complete Truth now. (Good thing) What we need is an attitude towards Truth that makes an evolving understanding

4/20/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: That might be one of those differences where one simply has to choose; where there is no particular coming together.
4/20/2011 12:59 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Thank you all SO MUCH for sharing in this dialogue on interfaith dialogue! I look forward to our next week's session, same time, same place! And if you want to learn more about the InterFaith Conference, please go to our website, and/or sign up there for our every other month e-newsletter and no more than weekly programmatic updates!
4/20/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Phil Wogaman said: I like the Forrest Church comment. It reminds us that there is in interreligious dialogue both a basis for expectancy and grounds for criticism.
4/20/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I think I no longer have an idea that there is something like one, capital-T truth
4/20/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: cynthial345 said: Yes, interfaith dialogue is an attitude or a way of being and listening that allows for understanding and respect.
4/20/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. If you would like to reach our speaker, please contact me at We hope to see you back here next week, same place, same time. We will be hearing from Michael Turner of the Baha’i community and member of IFC’s board who will be sharing his faith and its view on interreligious dialogue. However, after next week we will be moving to Fridays from 12 noon-1 PM EST.
4/20/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: It will help our growing multicultural world.
4/20/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: Also, this is a new effort on our part so we welcome your feedback! Any comments will be helpful. If you have any suggestion please feel free to email me at
4/20/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: If you are interested in finding out more about our organization please feel free to browse our website: and sign up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter by emailing me, again the address is