Friday, June 17, 2011

How To Dialogue

The corresponding video can be view at:

6/17/2011 11:46 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:46 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:47 am (et) Christa : private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:47 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:47 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:47 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:47 am (et) Mary: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:47 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:51 am (et) Hengist: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:51 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:57 am (et) Iris Firemoon: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:57 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:57 am (et) Clark Lobenstine: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:57 am (et).
6/17/2011 11:59 am (et) Hussong: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 11:59 am (et).
6/17/2011 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.
6/17/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘How to Dialogue,’ with Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director of IFC.
6/17/2011 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!
6/17/2011 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.
6/17/2011 12:01 pm (et) medina1: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 12:01 pm (et).
6/17/2011 12:02 pm (et) norm.cohen: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 12:02 pm (et).
6/17/2011 12:05 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 12:05 pm (et).
6/17/2011 12:10 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: You speak about striking up these conversations in pretty casual settings, but how do you know if someone is amenable to such questions?
6/17/2011 12:10 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I really like the concept of starting with the small things we have in common here in the US before we start to talk about goings-on in the Middle East.
6/17/2011 12:11 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Good question, Susan. Starting with casual conversation and in the process I believe you will find out if the other person is amenable to such questions.
6/17/2011 12:12 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Where are the subject that get sticky, perhaps if you get to them too soon?
6/17/2011 12:12 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: An understanding of applicable ground rules is important. If some areas are to be out of bounds, possibly owing to two or more of the participants having irreconcilable differences, it should be understood before hand. More important is that no one should expect to be convincing. We have different points of view, and if sometimes our ideas overlap, it is nice, but we are different and the important thing is to understand each other's viewpoint, recognizing that their ideas serve their needs just as ours
serve us.
6/17/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: hengist: 'agree to disagree'
6/17/2011 12:14 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Some of the sticky issues are quite obvious. For example, the Middle East is one that frequently creates very sticky situations and information through the media should make this obvious.
6/17/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Susan: key is to LISTEN to the other to see what they might be interested in talking deeper about
6/17/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Christa said: I have a questing - would be your suggestiong for opening up dialogue in a place that is not so open or diverse? For example I would love to bring religious diversity to my school in rural PA, but there's nothing around and no one willing to talk
6/17/2011 12:16 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Or what if you are confronted with those who aren't interested in 'agreeing to disagree'?
6/17/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: If you are talking to someone whose flashpoints are unknown, perhaps the best thing you can do is to let them talk about their position and feelings. Ask questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no. And when you speak refer to what they have said, with respect, showing that what they said is important.
6/17/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: A common thread through our conversations has centered around the goal of dialogue being to understand one another, but I know plenty of people who are interested in say evangelizing instead.
6/17/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Christa said: exactly - what do you say to someone like that?
6/17/2011 12:18 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: I'm surprised to learn of a place that has no one around who is willing to talk. I bet there are such people and such situations. There is so much more openness these days to persons of different faiths, cultures and nationalities. does that give you
6/17/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Can you say anything?
6/17/2011 12:19 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Yes, in all or most of our traditions there are people who really just want you to believe as they do. That's the one-way communication I spoke of in the opening reflection -- we talk about you or we talk to you.
6/17/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: My students are often surprised to find how religiously diverse even their rural area might be - even if its just diversity within Christianity (different denominations)
6/17/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Christa said: Yes, I think it's just a matter of accepting that some people just aren't willing to listen to what anyone else has to say... but perhaps I'm wrong
6/17/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I have a question when you're ready, Reverend. What do you do when you talk to someone about their faith religion and you have differing views on facts? Example: I state one ideology in a religion that is backed up by scholarly thought and general acceptance, but he refuses to believe it and believes that it is not true within his religion.
6/17/2011 12:20 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: And on the one hand, that is not surprising. If I am found something wonderful I want you to have it too! But that is not interfaith dialogue or dialogue at all.
6/17/2011 12:21 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: We have a saying that no one can fill their cup from your pitcher until they have emptied their cup first. Get them to talk about what they believe. When they begin to run down, you can respectfully submit alternatives to their view point, not linking your own view point to one in opposition.
6/17/2011 12:22 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Thanks Lillian, for your question. A lot depends on whether I am willing to accept that not everyone will agree with me or needs to agree with me.
6/17/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Hussong, yes it seems to be that some religious claims are mutually exclusive, but the use of facts is somewhat troubling, Lesslie Newbigin, a Protestant theologian has written about the misconception of a fact v. a belief.
6/17/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Even scientific facts are based off of some assumptions, so can we truly look at any statement as absolute fact?
6/17/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: If not, it may be easier to point out and agree to disagree...
6/17/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: Yes, exactly. Between popular faith and the scholarly look at faith (and to go further a scholarly analysis of sacred texts), there can sometimes be a huge gap.
6/17/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: And a person may simply not be ready to agree with you today, at this time, or even reach points of agreement, but that you may say something that may, at some later date/time, strike a chord, and cause them to reconsider what you said.
6/17/2011 12:24 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: I think that when we are speaking about religious understandings, we are talking about beliefs vs. facts. Did Jesus die on the cross. I say yes, as a Christian. Muslims disagree strongly. The Qur'an says that "one who looked like him died on the cross."
6/17/2011 12:25 pm (et) Moderator: norm.cohen said: I know some people do not want to engage in dialogue but only want to tell what they believe
6/17/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Smile and nod situation?
6/17/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Christa said: or just accept that their main goal is to put down everyone else..?
6/17/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Eventually though, the smile and nodding won't be do you get someone to listen? You can't really force them can you?
6/17/2011 12:28 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Yes, there are people who only what to tell what they believe. But you can certainly find others who are ready to talk, even if they are not ready to agree with you
6/17/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Let them talk, and ask questions so that you are sure you understand their position. If they are not interested in finding out what you believe after they have stated their belief and you have indicated understanding, they are in for a rocky road of evangelism.
6/17/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Rocky road? I feel like after such conversations, I the one stuck there, as they pose questions, 'Well, if you see what I mean, why don't you convert?' or something along those lines...
6/17/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I tend to assume that when I do not agree with someone, it may be because I am not fully understanding them. But it seems that this is not the sort of assumption that most people make
6/17/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: If someone is insecure about their beliefs, so that they feel unable to listen to another's ideas, they are not ready for dialogue, and the best thing you can do is be polite about disagreement.
6/17/2011 12:31 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I recall when I was in graduate school taking a class on Islam, I also went week after week to the Muslim Student Association meetings/discussions. After a number of months there, they got around to pressing me: am I ready to convert? After a couple of weeks of that I stopped attending the meetings
6/17/2011 12:31 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: I think one answer to the persons who are only ready to share what they believe is to be clear you disagree. If you simply nod and smile, you may well get into the uncomforable position of them wondering why you don't convert.
6/17/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I was there to learn from them but they seemed to think I was there to eventually convert
6/17/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: two different agendas in one stting
6/17/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Insecurity is a tentative place and usually transitory (I don't really want to reveal how much of a sci-fi nerd I am, but I am definitely thinking along the lines of Yoda and the path to the dark side...) so how can we catch someone before they lean the wrong way?
6/17/2011 12:33 pm (et) Moderator: norm.cohen said: In some situtions that can further add to your difficulties and suspicions by others
6/17/2011 12:33 pm (et) karen: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/17/2011 12:33 pm (et).
6/17/2011 12:33 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: When it comes to theism vs. atheism, I think it is quite possible that both sides are aware of the same set of facts, but have different emotional values attached to those facts. Experience shapes how we believe what we believe.
6/17/2011 12:33 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Laura's experience is unfortunately not unusual. It speaks to Hengist's point of rocky evangelism.
6/17/2011 12:34 pm (et) karen: private message to Moderator: logs off on 6/17/2011 12:34 pm (et).
6/17/2011 12:35 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Thanks, Hengist. I would add that the same may be said for persons of different faiths -- aware of the same 'facts' (I'd prefer to say beliefs) but have very different perceptions of them. Emotions may well be one of the causes. So too are the community of faith or belief that I have committed to.
6/17/2011 12:36 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: People in more urban areas often have friends or neighbors of different faiths that they speak and interact with regularly but never open the topic to discussing religion. That would be an ideal place to start the interfaith dialogue
6/17/2011 12:36 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: or, the community faith or belief that I want to be part of, and therefore say/believe things that others in that group believe in.
6/17/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: start the dialogue with people you already know and respect and trust simply as persons
6/17/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: that sounds a bit like you want to evangelize them! And who are we to tell them they're leaning the wrong way?
6/17/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: and who know and respect and trust you back]
6/17/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: The trick is find out what they are willing to talk about. On some levels, we can be more comfortable talking about celebrations and customs, rather than

6/17/2011 12:39 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Hussong: do you mean that I want to evangelize the persons in the group that I want to belong to? If so, you misunderstood me. I'm saying/believing things that others in the group that I want to belong to believe.
6/17/2011 12:39 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Hussong, sorry I did not mean for it to sound that way. By 'leaning the wrong way' I guess I meant towards further exclusivism and unwillingness to listen.
6/17/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Hengist, to whom are your comments directed? I don't see where my comments suggest a desire to convert others
6/17/2011 12:40 pm (et) Moderator: I believe you are referring to Hussong's comment, Laura S, is that correct?
6/17/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Yes, Hussong
6/17/2011 12:42 pm (et) Moderator: If I could direct everyone to earlier comment, where she mentions 'stopping people before they leant the wrong way' I believe we will find a better flow. I am sorry for the confusing way of posting these comments.
6/17/2011 12:42 pm (et) Moderator: Susan's earlier comment*
6/17/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: norm.cohen said: dialogue needs to just be a simple conversaton of ideas without any agenda from there some extent of understanding of difference might be achieved
6/17/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: If you are comfortable enough, you should try to project the idea that you believe that every difference between belief systems has a reason, that should be respected, coming from their history, culture, or environment. Believing that, you can reassure them that you are not interested in proving them only right when they agree with you, but also in understanding their differences so that you can understand their rightness in their context.
6/17/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: recognize similarities as a place for connection and respect differences as something interesting to know and understand
6/17/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: That is a difficult thing to admit Hengist, when many beliefs are held as universal.
6/17/2011 12:45 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: We have focused a lot on the challenges we can have trying to start an interfaith dialogue if the person is not ready for it. What are some learnings we can share from having been in dialogue with others who may well have disagreed with us but whom we respect?
6/17/2011 12:46 pm (et) norm.cohen: private message to Moderator: logs off on 6/17/2011 12:46 pm (et).
6/17/2011 12:46 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I think my most jarring epiphany in that regard Clark, has been that those disagreements may be with people of your same faith even.
6/17/2011 12:47 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: that certainly happens and is a wonderful reminder that we are not all on the same page!
6/17/2011 12:47 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Clark: I recall a dialogue on the question of a personal god. Turns out that only through deep dialogue did it finally come out that what we meant by
6/17/2011 12:48 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Clark: I recall a dialogue on the question of a personal god. Turns out that only through deep dialogue did it finally come out that what we meant by 'personal' was different. We actually believed about God much closer to each other than originally apparent from the langauge we used
6/17/2011 12:48 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Is God a 'person' vs. our experience of God is personal
6/17/2011 12:48 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: I can remember a conversation with an agnostic and an atheist, in which nobody changed their positions, but I and the atheist discovered some common understandings of the the philosophical validity of Justice.
6/17/2011 12:49 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: one of our founders said that he often found it easier to come to the meetings of the InterFaith Conference, found more readiness to discuss our similarities and differences than he often found with others of this same tradition.
6/17/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So getting beyond language to actual concepts seems to be a way to take disagreements and make them into similarities.
6/17/2011 12:50 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: We may find we agree or we may just better understand why and where we disagree!
6/17/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: another example: when Jews and Christians disagree on Jesus' status as the messiah and neither party is aware that their understanding of the concept of 'messiah' is quite different. By Jewish understanding, Jesus clearly did not fulfill their expectations for the role while Christians seem to have a different idea of what that role actually is
6/17/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Terminology is important. In China, what they call 'Gods' are closer to what we would call 'Mythic heroes' What we think of as God is closer to what they call 'Heaven', less personal but just as omnipotent and omniscient.
6/17/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: It is interesting because the Catholic Church has leaned away from some of this tradition, but Medieval theology was focused on the minute distinctions of language, what did such-and-such actually mean.
6/17/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: We are talking here about interfaith dialogue (dialoging on dialogue) but how about one week we actually HAVE a dialogue on a specific topic - model dialogue?  
6/17/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: Well, we have reached that time of the day, where we must be closing. Please finish any closing comments!
6/17/2011 12:57 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I think I'd have to agree with the Chinese then, Henghist! I've always thought heaven was supposed to be closer to God (hell being the absence of God's presence)... not actually a place!
6/17/2011 12:58 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: going back to what Laura and Hengist said about the importance of language, the importance of language itself is an important learning of dialogue. We can often discover that we assumed the other person agreed with or 'knew' was different from what I meant by the same word or phrase
6/17/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: But it is only through dialgoue that we get to that point of realizing we have different definitions or understandings of the same word
6/17/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: So: before we disagree, we need to be sure we are truly understanding the other
6/17/2011 12:59 pm (et) Clark Lobenstine: Amen, Laura!
6/17/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Hengist said: Remember that terms such as Messiah have different meanings at different point in history. Martin Luther read the Old Testament, and concluded that the Jews must be lying to him because he did not get the same meaning from the literal text as they did.
6/17/2011 1:01 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. If you would like to reach our speaker please contact me at Next week we will be discussing ‘Models of Interreligious Dialogue: the Bookclub,’ with Rev. Carol Flett of St. Albans Episcopal Parish.
6/17/2011 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
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