Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Responsible Criticism and Inter-religious Dialog

Click for more on the bookIt would be silly for Catholics, Muslims or Jews, et al to pretend that the children of our religions have always behaved well throughout history. None of us is always a pure victim, always immaculate in deed.

For us Christians we must acknowledge with the Gospels that as Jesus Christ warned, the wheat & tares will always grow together. There was from the very beginning a Judas among the first 12 Apostles.

All have sinned in some ways at some times. It should go without saying.

There is plenty of room for reasonable, objective criticism. To pretend otherwise is a non-starter when it comes to better relations for today and for the future.

Honesty is where better relations begin. A mature people---Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, (yes, atheist too) etc---must expect some criticism, and, when it is motivated by a desire to be better neighbors, even to welcome it, even when it is tough. As with our personal spiritual lives, so with our collective histories. I see no contradiction between the responsible bona fide scholar who looks at the sometimes hard facts of history (ad extra or ad intra) as objectively as possible, in context, and Popes and other religious leaders who try to work for better relations, as we should, based on facts, truths. For most of my adult life I, like many others, have tried to objectively consider responsible criticism on all sides. And I have learned something from most critics, realizing also that no critic is above criticism. In the end I do my best to take the meat and leave the bones based on what I want to be a fair assessment.

Returning to the idea of constructive criticism---beyond all hatred and demonizing of the critic, whether 'ours' or 'theirs'---is a very Christian place to start from, even as we insist against any irenic tendency that would suggest all things can be true. Syncretism is a cop out. Precisely because we Christians believe the crucified rabbi, Jesus Christ, is Who He claimed to be, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6), we are called to "strive for peace with all men" (Heb. 12:14) without collapsing into either naivete or cynicism.

Responsible criticism on all sides then cannot be the enemy of truth or neighborliness, as the failure for all to own up to mistakes of the past can be.

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