When Interfaith Dialogue Doesn't Work

by | Nov 9, 2012

Recently the longstanding Christian-Jewish Roundtable sinned.  As in missed the mark.  Big time.
Christian leaders from the group–including representatives of the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA)–sent a letter to Congress on grounds of “moral responsibility” asking that US aid to Israel be reevaluted in light of the Jewish state’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
The missed mark?   Here’s one of them.  The letter was sent shortly before the whole group was to meet for a regularly scheduled meeting.  Jewish dialogue partners include leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti Defamation League.
How moral is it to ambush your dialogue partners with a request that is sure to bring up a complex of emotions and responses?
Why didn’t they wait and speak to their partners in interfaith dialogue?  It certainly would have been messy.  It might have been indelicate.  Perhaps there would have been hurt feelngs.  Or big disagreement.
But all of that is happening anyway.  Without the benefit of having spoken together.  And now it may be hard to get the parties back to the Roundtable to talk.  This very Roundtable by the way was established in part to help diffuse differing opinions over US aid to Israel.
Interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians has come a very long way.  Much has been accomplished. But this is a sign that there is still more work to be done.
When does interfaith dialogue not work?  When it’s not practiced.

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