Tonight the Dali Lama lead an interfaith prayer service in Bloomington. I recently spoke out about why I would not participate in this service, but I think I may have been misunderstood. Some have told me they thought this was wasting a great opportunity to engage in some interfaith dialogue. I guess I see it differently.
Please know, I engage in interfaith dialogue. I enjoy getting to know others from faiths different faiths. I am a member of a group that involves Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and Christians of every stripe. This interfaith prayer service, however, is not dialogue, but worship. Maybe you don’t think prayer is worship. I don’t know what else it could possibly be.
Some might object to my position saying that no one would be forcing me to pray to anyone but Jesus. That objection misses the point. The point is Jesus’ reputation. Is Jesus a peer of Mohammed or Buddha or Krishna? Participating in an event like this communicates to other participating that I believe Jesus is on par with these other religious leaders. Truth is, I don’t. He is superior. He is sui generis, in a league all by himself.
Again, some may say that my actions wouldn’t be interpreted that way, but this prayer service was promoted under the presupposition that “we all pray to the same Creator/God”. God might have something different to say, indeed he does (see Isaiah ch. 40-50).
Should I be concerned with conclusions others might draw from my participation? Absolutely. That’s an ambassadors job. The ambassadors actions are always being interpreted, and reflect on his boss and his nation. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We must consider how others will interpret our actions and how it will reflect on Christ.
Let me say one more word about interfaith dialogue. As I said, I do engage in a fair bit of this, but never with an open mind. Wow, I’m sure that takes some by surprise. What I mean is I never go into it willing to be convinced that Jesus isn’t the Son of God who took away my sin by being nailed to a cross and rising three days later. I keep an open mind about many, many things, but not foundational things. As C.S. Lewis put it, “The goal of an open mind is to develop a closed mind”. Instead, I go into these conversations looking for echoes of truth, longings that are waiting to be filled by a right relationship with God, things in our discussions that will help me point people to the life giving, freeing, saving truth of the gospel.
I hope this post helps clarify my position.
(For more on my thoughts, read A Pleading Letter to a Christian Brother)