Two events have made me think about our changing world this week. One was a lecture at Redeemer University in Ontario by Dr. Reginald Bibby on the changing face of religion in Canada, and the other was a Mission Nexus webinar on the book “Our Global Families” by Dr. Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu. In both cases, I heard a counter narrative to Nietzsche’s “God is dead” argument that gained new life in the 1960s and 70s. For some time, the belief has been widely spread that religious faith is on the decline due to advances in science and technology. In fact, both Canada and the world are becoming more religious. As a Canadian, I was surprised because we hear so much about secularization and the decline of the Mainline churches in Canada. But Roman Catholics and Evangelicals are on the rise, as are Muslims. All this points to the need for a denomination wide conversation on living well amongst religious diversity; both diversity within the Christian world, as well as diversity in the inter-religious global community.
Do we as Christian Reformed folks find our identity first in Christ or in our own traditions? Can we identify ourselves first as Christians, along with 2.2 billion others spread across the globe, and then as a particular stream that adds flavor to the body of Christ? What does it mean today to obey God’s command to love Him first and then our neighbor - our neighbor from a different denomination, or our neighbor from a different faith group? How can we fully live out our faith as followers of Jesus with conviction, yet apply the principles of love, hospitality and civility in our interactions with believers of other faith traditions. How can we increase peace between these diverse communities?
Todd Johnson and Cindy Wu suggest four ways that we can live better in the midst of diversity and plurality.
- Lower suspicion. In both Canada and the United States, there is increasing rhetoric about the dangers of Islamic terrorism. Yes, groups like ISIS/L are a serious problem, but most Muslims are distancing themselves from these extremist groups. Let us not allow this present climate of fear to keep us from listening to the felt needs and concerns of this community.
- Become more informed. Learn more about the faith groups in your community and take time to meet practitioners of those faiths. If someone asked you why you believe what you believe, you would gladly tell them. People of faith are often very open to talk about their religious beliefs.
- Encourage inter-faith dialogue. Often this can only happen with an official invite and some planning around a simple meal, and perhaps a brief dialogue centered on a basic question, such as “tell us about the founder of your religion.”
- Practice hospitality. This comes naturally to us and so we shouldn’t shy away from practicing it. It is also biblical (Rom 12:13). It does depend though on number 1 above. Number 2 also helps in knowing what is culturally appropriate. Number 3 can be the vehicle for practicing hospitality.
We need to be challenged to live well in a pluralistic society. That doesn’t mean watering down our own faith, but simply being willing to share what we believe as we listen to the beliefs of others in openness and love.
For follow up information see www.crcna.org/salaam