One of the biggest goals of this blog is to see Muslim and Christian people (and our Jewish friends too) in honest, sincere, respectful faith dialogue – whether it is in a public setting with an audience, or 4 or 5 people sitting and talking in a coffee shop, or a 1 on 1 discussion at work or after a class.
Well, one of my Musim friends from Gaza once said to me, “If we don’t learn how to dialogue and build a friendship between us, our sons might wind up fighting or even killing each other.” That may or not be true but I get his point. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers. . .” I wonder if we can have real peace unless we have real dialogue.
Below are suggested guidelines for faith discussions. See what you think.
1. Relax – Enjoy Yourself!
– Put your stereotypes aside. Do your best to let go of any fear, hate, or suspicion of the other person.
– It’s normal to be nervous but this is a great opportunity to venture out into new experiences and relationships.
– You don’t need to be an “expert” in your faith to dialogue. You don’t have to have all the answers.
– When you cannot answer a question, it’s always OK to say “I don’t know but I will do my best to find out.”
– Don’t walk on eggshells worrying about making mistakes. Just smile a lot and do your best!
– Have fun. You will generally find that this kind of dialogue can be a very fulfilling experience, especially if all parties adhere to these guidelines.
2. Engage In Discussions And Dialogues, Not Debates!
– Discussions & dialogues are for friends; debates are for opponents.
– This is not a competition – it is not the Christians vs. the Muslims or the Muslims vs. the Christians so. . .
– You don’t have to “score points” or “win” or “beat” the other person(s).
– This is about sharing how one’s faith informs daily living. About talking heart-to-heart.
– Don’t argue or get defensive. If it feels like an argument is beginning, remember that you aren’t trying to defeat the other person(s).
– Ask questions – take the humble posture of a learner.
– Don’t lecture. Let there be an equal amount of give-and-take in the conversation.
– Show respect and honor. Listen carefully and sincerely to the other’s point of view and earn the right to be heard.
– Be patient, courteous, and polite.
3. Don’t Put Down The Other Person’s Holy Book Or People!
– This just builds huge walls – or strengthens the ones that are already there.
– Show respect for the other’s beliefs. Where they agree with your’s, you might say something like, “That is great. We have some common ground there.” Or “Our book says something very similar.”
– Build bridges, tear down walls!
4. Practice Honesty, Not Political Correctness
– You do not have to pretend that there are no significant differences between how Muslims and Christians view various points of faith, even very serious ones. (To pretend that there are no substantive differences is either being naive or disingenuous).
– You can talk about the differences but you might do well to find common ground first! What do you agree on about God, Jesus, prayer, sin, judgment, service, ethics?
5. A Note To Christians: Practice Wise, Culturally Sensitive Interaction With Your Muslim Friends
– Do not touch someone of the opposite gender in a dialogue setting (or any setting). If they offer you their hand to shake hands, then you may do so but do not extend your hand first.
– Dress modestly.
– It is fine to talk to members of the opposite gender but not alone. Try to spend more time talking with those of your own gender or talk in larger mixed groups.
– If you gather at your home, do not serve any pork products or alcohol. If you have a dog, keep it away from your Muslim friends.
– Do serve some kind of refreshments. Show hospitality!
6. Build Relationships!
– Build a relationship, don’t just communicate information. Don’t just talk head-to-head.
– Focus on the heart – gently probe how the other person perceives his or her relationship with God in daily living. Don’t just share doctrine or theology.
– Think about exchanging e-mails or cell phone numbers, getting together for a lunch, etc. Be friendly, and be a friend.
To my Muslim friends: what do you think? Would you enjoy talking faith and life with a Christian who followed these guidelines?
To my Christian friends: what do you think? Would you enjoy talking faith and life with a Muslim who followed these guidelines?
(Next time: suggested topics & questions for faith and life dialogues!)