Friday, May 13, 2011

Ten Steps of Relations Among Religions: What Should We Aim For?

 You can view the corresponding video at:

5/13/2011 11:45 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 11:45 am (et).
5/13/2011 11:46 am (et) Mary: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 11:46 am (et).
5/13/2011 11:49 am (et) Tom Wolfe: logs in on 5/13/2011 11:49 am (et).
5/13/2011 11:56 am (et) Bexgee: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 11:56 am (et).
5/13/2011 11:56 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 11:56 am (et).
5/13/2011 11:57 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 11:57 am (et).
5/13/2011 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.
5/13/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Ten Step of Relations among Religions: What Should We Aim For?’ with Tom Wolfe, Quaker member of IFC’s Board and Chair of IFC’s Center for Nurturing Understanding.
5/13/2011 12:01 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!
5/13/2011 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.
5/13/2011 12:08 pm (et) Kersi: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 12:08 pm (et).
5/13/2011 12:08 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Can you expand on what unity in diversity means?
5/13/2011 12:09 pm (et) RevMark2U: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 12:09 pm (et).
5/13/2011 12:09 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Unity in diversity comes when each faith is respected and God is seen as manifesting in each
5/13/2011 12:10 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So each tradition is still connecting with the same God/
5/13/2011 12:11 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Even within the Interfaith Conference not everyone believes this but this is definitely the goal as far as I am concerned
5/13/2011 12:11 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What are some of the other goals you have come across in your work?
5/13/2011 12:11 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I think of the order being respect first, then appreciation. Appreciation seems to suggest an actual acceptance not just of the other people (which is what respect would be) but acceptance of at least part of the teachings of the other religion. You respect people and then appreciate what those people have to share with you.
5/13/2011 12:12 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The main goal we are working on presently is to teach about religion in the public school system
5/13/2011 12:13 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: We now have four states actively using our textbook to do this balanced teaching about religion honoring all faiths
5/13/2011 12:13 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: I would add that appreciation includes accepting the aspects of another religion you don't agree with
5/13/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Could you headline, Tom, any semi-measurable results that have come from this expanding project?
5/13/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Or measurable?
5/13/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: You may have mentioned this in the video, but could you remind me what states are using the textbook? And also, what states are you now working to expand use of the textbook into?
5/13/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I feel as if accepting is something of an ambiguous word...can you expand on it, Mary and Laura?
5/13/2011 12:15 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: In the past 90 days we have trained 150 social studies teachers with the TAR model and are staying in touch with them to see how it flies where the rubber meets the roas i.e. in the classroom
5/13/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I teach about religion at the community college (NOVA) and I too have long stated that what I want most from my students is "tolerance, respect and appreciation for beliefs and opinions that might differ from their own"
5/13/2011 12:16 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The 4 states ar utah California Virginia and now 7 counties in Maryland
5/13/2011 12:16 pm (et) Moderator: private message to Laura S: Hi, please try not to use double quotes, our software doesn't like them...
5/13/2011 12:17 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Co-Celebration which is our fourth step is a form of appreciation
5/13/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: what text book is being used? (the title)
5/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The book is Teaching About Religion which is available from the Interfaith Conference. We now have two supplements as well
5/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Hi Laura, the textbook is an IFC effort called Teaching About Religion which asks practitioners of our 11 faith communities to answer a set of questions. We also have two supplements on topics of Symbols and Values.
5/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I think of respect in terms of agree to disagree, while accept means we find places where we are in agreement
5/13/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: > Tom and Laura: In these almost auto-polarizing times, have you had to deal with flack from parents or others?
5/13/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I often find that simply having knowledge of the different religions, similarities and thus places for acceptance become clear to most people
5/13/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: And if so, at which step especially?
5/13/2011 12:20 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The history of teaching about religion in Public schools is rife with conflict historically but so far in our work not so much. It seems inevitable though as this begins to grow that we will encounter strong feelings.
5/13/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I don't think our main goal should be pure agrement though. I think the diversity part is important also. The differences enrich our experiences.
5/13/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I sometimes get flack from my more conservative Christian students - they resent that I insist they demonstrate respect and appreciation. They tend to find the fault with the other religions they are learning about
5/13/2011 12:21 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Do you have any telling anecdotes that lift your spirits?
5/13/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: What I mean by acceptance (specifically in this context) is the idea of having an educated understanding of a differing opinion and then knowledgably 'agreeing to disagree' (i.e - accepting the differences)
5/13/2011 12:22 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The main thing that lifts my spirits these days is the request of the Saudi educators to meet with us on more than one occasion. Light in the darkness.
5/13/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Ahh! accept the differences and then respect the other anyway, despite those differences
5/13/2011 12:23 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Also it is uplifting to feel the enthusiasm of the social studies teachers for taking on this work.
5/13/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: When we agree to disagree though...that seems to be the external consensus, what do you think in your head? What do you honestly feel about their goals and beliefs? I mean I am sure we can say we agree to disagree and yet some would continue to believe that ultimately that person is mistaken and will pay for that mistake...
5/13/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: In some fundamenalist Christian circles, they would still say others are going to Hell...
5/13/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I was thinking of accept in terms of accepting what one can agree with - an intellectual acceptance, rather than a social acceptance (which is what I was thinking of as respect)
5/13/2011 12:25 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I guess we'll find out on May 21st about that 'going to hell' ... or not.
5/13/2011 12:25 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The consigning of other faiths to Hell is in Martin Luther, Terri Jones and the Saudi textsbooks
5/13/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I was wondering just how a true Muslim could hate the prophets of the Jews when Islam recognizes them as prophets for it's own faith.
5/13/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Same with Christians...
5/13/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: That sort of statement just demonstrates ignorance of one's own religion
5/13/2011 12:27 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Ah...but how do we get that across?
5/13/2011 12:27 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Looking back on my experience at IFC, one thing I regret is that I put too much emphasis on the intellectual understandings.
5/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Teaching in the face of this kind of ignorance is exactly what we anticipate will be the future in the schools
5/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Is this Mark Hoelter?
5/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Can you expand Mark, what would you have liked to have focused on instead?
5/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: This is
5/13/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: It seems to me that's both a Western and more specifically Christian bias, the emphasis on 'doctrine,' 'teaching,' ideas.
5/13/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Several sessions that really came alive were when we got into practices.
5/13/2011 12:29 pm (et) Aaron: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 12:29 pm (et).
5/13/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Co-celebration?
5/13/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Imam J led us all in the postures of prayer.
5/13/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I actualy have my students do field research to EXPERIENCE the other religions up close and personal - talk with people of the other faiths and get a sense of them as people just like them
5/13/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: And one 'learns' something different from sitting on the meditation cushion, then bowing to where you sat, than one learns from a lecture or reading on the ideas.
5/13/2011 12:30 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Laura...what school do you represent?
5/13/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Northern VA community collete
5/13/2011 12:31 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: college
5/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: The first amendment rights guarantee the first three steps toward unity in diversity, but co-celebration and unity at this time are not able to be taught in the public schools
5/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I also see how the 'doing' of such practices, even innocuously, could be trickier or more dangerous.
5/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It seems Tom's model takes both the intellectual and then the spiritual (in co-celebration) and brings them to a higher level, the unity in that correct?
5/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I often find my students do not look forward to the requirement to actually visit some place but after the fact they are very glad they had to do it and I am sure they will remember that experience the rest of their life (more so than the facts they read about in a text or hear in a lecture)
5/13/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Could be perceived as a kind of 'enrollment.'
5/13/2011 12:33 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: > Laura: Hmmmmmm. Rich.
5/13/2011 12:33 pm (et) Iris Firemoon: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 12:33 pm (et).
5/13/2011 12:33 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Outside the public schools and in our houses of worship, co-celebration and unity are for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see
5/13/2011 12:33 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I cannot require my students to actually participate in the religious activity (co-celebration) but they can observe it as an anthropologist might'
5/13/2011 12:34 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Mark, a lot of traditions have issues with taking part in another's tradition...I have an aunt who will not go inside a Church as an Orthodox Jew
5/13/2011 12:34 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: In my Quaker school 5-8th grade class the young friends have really enjoyed going to other communities to learn and co-celebrate
5/13/2011 12:35 pm (et) clarkifc: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 12:35 pm (et).
5/13/2011 12:35 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Susan, yes, indeed.
5/13/2011 12:35 pm (et) Hengist: private message to Moderator: logs in on 5/13/2011 12:35 pm (et).
5/13/2011 12:35 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: So how would you approach your aunt to gain tolerance as a first step is the challenge of this work
5/13/2011 12:36 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: And there is also the possibility or danger of bastardization of a practice or tradition.
5/13/2011 12:36 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I have had pentecostal students who are like your Orthodox Aunt. They believe there are evil spirits to get possessed by and they by visiting other places of worship they might be exposing themselves to this spiritual danger
5/13/2011 12:36 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What do we say to those traditions...they seem to want to skip the co-celebration is it necessary?
5/13/2011 12:36 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: My aunt is very willing to accept the diversity of religions, so it does not seem to stand in her way.
5/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: I agree with Mark that sometimes an intellectual approach is secondary to meeting some people from the tradition who are different and easy to respect
5/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I think if we can just get people to the next level, we are accomplishing a lot. If they start with hatred and we get them to tolerate, that's enough for now
5/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I wonder if we should ascribe these 'refusals' to 'those traditions.'
5/13/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: It seems to me now that they are more a developmental level.
5/13/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: And I am pretty thoroughly a developmentalist, a'la James Fowler and others.
5/13/2011 12:39 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: developmental level? as in they will grow out of it?
5/13/2011 12:39 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Mark: Hunh? 'refusals to those traditions'?
5/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: We have set up an e mail address for anyone interested in tracking this work (or helping) at
5/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: > Laura: not necessarily will, but can.
5/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I know this goes against a postmodern grain.
5/13/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Mark: still not clear what you are trying to say
5/13/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Traditional people can identify with traditions in other faith groups. Often different traditions evolveto meet similar needs.
5/13/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Kersi said: Tom, when Mike Goggin was at the IFC he arranged several meetings at area schools to introduce different faiths to the students. Is the IFC going to continue with this practice?
5/13/2011 12:41 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: We have found that inferring that one can or needs to grow in regious understanding is an emotional stance and we continue to forge ahead anyway
5/13/2011 12:42 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I try to emphasize the patterns across religions - the commen themes - in one of my courses
5/13/2011 12:42 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: to demonstrate the universality of religion and the way it fulfills certain human needs
5/13/2011 12:43 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Kersi: Absolutely, we are looking for every opportunity to teach about all 11 faiths to any social studies teachers willing to attempt bringing religion into the classroom
5/13/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Emotional expression is also a human need.
5/13/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Tom can you also explain what you mean in your last comment please?
5/13/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: >Laura: Sorry. I'm saying that at least some of the people who might refuse to participate in even a superficial 'doing' of a practice, or in taking such a class, have a more childlike understanding of their religion and/or their spirituality.
5/13/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: clarkifc said: A response to Kersi: Yes, the IFC is continuing that practice. With the publication of the Teaching About Religion book and now its supplements, many area schools and beyond our area are using these wonderful resources to strengthen the teaching about religion, expecially among high school students
5/13/2011 12:45 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Susan which comment are you referrring to?
5/13/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Mark: that 'child-like understanding' can be very frustrating - especially since, typically, those are the same people who THINK they know more than they do and have blinders up, refusing to open their minds to the fact that they may have more to learn
5/13/2011 12:46 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: the one about the emotional feeling of needing to grow and forging through it...
5/13/2011 12:46 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: I agree, and no doubt the more so at the level you're teaching.
5/13/2011 12:46 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: For me, part of childhood is curiosity. Children have to learn to be afraid of the different.
5/13/2011 12:47 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Hengist, that's a brilliant observation!
5/13/2011 12:47 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: This is one of the main reasons I hold it is important to train teachers and facilitators in a model that anticipates the issues and gives folks a goal to shoot for
5/13/2011 12:47 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: And awe, children are much more at awe of the world...losing that causes the world to become black and white....
5/13/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: And, Tom, this is clarifying for me, the goals will be different at different levels of development and education - HS versus College
5/13/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: 'black and white' thinking can be a comfort to a lot of people - they reject ambiguity and fuzzy greying of the lines
5/13/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: If children can learn to see beauty in the varietyof religious expression, their world view will be drastically different.
5/13/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: clarkifc said: How do we create respect for people who deeply believe in their exclusivism?
5/13/2011 12:50 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Susan: Many religious folks know on a feeling level that other faiths are worthy of respect but the intellectual teaching of thier faith either discourages or forbids contact with fiath in what they perceive to be other Gods. Meeting people who practice othr faiths sometimes works better to break down the resistance than trying to intellectual convince. People are hard to hate in person
5/13/2011 12:50 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Clark, that is a tough one! especially for those of us on this side of the fence who tend to think everyone needs to be more open-minded
5/13/2011 12:51 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Clark, I think we give them respect but we don't let them make the rules of engagement.
5/13/2011 12:51 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: In the extreme, that's like letting Osama bin Laden make the rules.
5/13/2011 12:51 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Well I think the distinction we made earlier is important too...even in exclusivism you can respect, although you cannot truly appreciate.
5/13/2011 12:51 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Our meeting with the Saudi educators was a case in point. We certainly did not agree about a lot of concepts, but they were easy to like. Hopefully they felt the same way about us.
5/13/2011 12:51 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: tom: that's why I feel my field reseach assignment is the most important one for my students to do
5/13/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Although maybe it is difficult to respect someone you think is going to Hell for sure...
5/13/2011 12:53 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Laura: In private schools it is easy to do, but in the public schools it has to be absolutely fair. It is a big step from where we are now to ask any social stusies teachers to visti other house of worship
5/13/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: I think that part of the issue is that teaching religion is often very impersonal, and disliking an idea on paper is easy. So Laura, I completely agree. Meeting people in person and providing a human face can help bridge a lot of differences.
5/13/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: tolerance, respect and appreciation are something that WE also have to work on within ourselves when we are faced with exclusivisists
5/13/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: And another approach to the practices occurs to me now.
5/13/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: In one of the films - 3 families, perhaps - Yah-yah Hendi leads the children in a regular Muslim prayer, explaining each step, each phrase, each bow.
5/13/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: So that 'enrolls' no one, is sort of conceptual, but goes a bit farther.
5/13/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: It must become a truismto say 'I am a better follower of {religion} because I now understand another religion.
5/13/2011 12:55 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: I would like to believe that the spirit of any true worship would be able to be respected as folks get exposed to more diversity. I believe that the heart in all of us can feel the unity.
5/13/2011 12:55 pm (et) Moderator: Hi All, it is again that time of the week where we must wrap-up so please finish you final thoughts!
5/13/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Tom, do the HS teachers ever bring IN guest speakers from the different religions? That would be an alternative to field visits
5/13/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: There's that old, old saying from Max Mueller, 'The man [sic] who knows but one religion knows no religion.'
5/13/2011 12:57 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Yes the brave ones do. Our textbook is the easiest way for them to expose thier students since the fairness issue is taken care of.
5/13/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: The richness of this chat for me is that is has jostled loose some of my conceptions.
5/13/2011 12:57 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Please stay in touch Friends with this ongoing work at
5/13/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Can we cultivate a feeling of organic unity, thatis, that the world is better because there are many different expressions of Spirit, from each of which, anyone can learn, no matter whatyour own faith tradition may be.
5/13/2011 12:58 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. If you would like to reach our speaker or are interested in the Teaching About Religion (TAR) program or books (which are available through IFC) you can email Next week we will be taking a break (your moderator is graduating from Georgetown!) and will return the following week, May 27, to hear from one of our member faith communities, the Latter Day Saints. Stay tuned for the schedule for the next few months which will be posted on IFC’s website ( by the end of the week!
5/13/2011 12:58 pm (et) Moderator: RevMark2U said: Ah, you're a dangerous person, Hengist! I love it.
5/13/2011 12:58 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
5/13/2011 12:58 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
5/13/2011 12:59 pm (et) Tom Wolfe: Thanks for sharing and Hengist Absolutely!!!