Blog Template Theology of the Body: "Inter-religious dialogue"?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Inter-religious dialogue"?

A few of the contributors (if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing for class) are reading in the area of inter-religious dialogue this weekend. This has long been a touchy subject. What does it mean, precisely, to enter into inter-religious dialogue? What are the motives? What are the goals? And what does the process look like?

For my part, I read James L. Fredericks' Buddhists and Christians: Through Comparative Theology to Solidarity. He argues that the pursuit of an adequate 'theology of religions' will never be adequate or even successful, because such pursuits always tend to distort particular traditions, and conflate the significant differences between them. The pursuit of a theology of religions is thus a construction of a general meta-theory, which covers all religions, and thus ends up describing none. Instead, he argues for what he calls "comparative theology," which explicitly maintains one's own fidelity to a particular tradition, while at the same time opening oneself up to that which is good and true in other religious traditions. And although he does not give much in the way of specifics when it comes to what precisely such 'genuine dialogue' would/should look like, I believe he is right to suggest that abandoning one's own doctrinal background and beliefs in the interests of "tolerance" is to abandon true dialogue before it has had a chance to begin. That is, if, in the interests of "openness," we jettison our fidelity to our own particular traditions, we are not paving the way for true conversation, but rather, making it ultimately impossible, or at least completely pointless. This is because implicit in my own abandonment, would be the assumption that no one can come to conversation without a similar move, which means that no one can make any claims at all.

So, is this accurate? And what exactly does/should "dialogue" look like?