Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bridging the Divide: An evening with Bob Millet and Greg Johnson

Respectful and courteous dialog on religious differences is a rare thing. In many cases, people of faith are suspicious and sometimes blatantly antagonistic with anyone who is not of their faith. This is not limited to religious matters. Political parties, nations, scientists, philosophers, etc. often have a hard time respecting the view of the other. They assume anyone thinking along a different path must be foolish, deceived, or evil.

Into a rarely taken path of civility steps Greg Johnson, former Baptist pastor and head of Standing Together Ministries , and Bob Millet, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. Together, they host an evening of dialog where the audience sees first hand how a discussion with different streams of thought may be accomplished in a respectful manner. They talk about the hot-button issues that exist between Mormons and Evangelicals and demonstrate how one might discuss these in candor without being caustic. I had an opportunity to see their dialog last night.

I was particularly looking forward to meeting Bob Millet (no slight to Greg, but I see him regularly at church). When my wife and I first announced that we were going to Salt Lake City, we had many people offering us books about Mormons. These books tended to be written by non-mormons, and could best be described as negative. We decided to forgo these and instead waited for an opportunity to learn Mormonism from Mormons. During our first few weeks here, I recorded a round table discussion about C.S. Lewis on BYU TV (Letting God have His way: A conversation about C.S. Lewis). It was hosted by Bob Millet and I couldn't have enjoyed the discussion more. Bob was my first real introduction to Mormonism.

I am neither Mormon nor Evangelical but I was grateful to spend an evening in fellowship with these two men and our small group that had gathered to discuss the things of God. Though everyone in the room may have had different lenses through which they see God, it was a night where suspicion was tabled and understanding flowed.

If you cannot feel that the other faith is as true as yours, you should feel at least that the men are as true as you. ~ Gandhi


Brook said...

Sounds like a great evening. Reminds me in a way of that interview between Billy Graham and Woody Allen that Carrie put up on her blog a while ago.

I like the Gandhi quote, and have always been struck by the fact that those whom we would consider truly grounded in their faith are never threatened by other religious beliefs. People like Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, etc.. have always actually encouraged those others to be as true to their faith as possible, instead of always trying to convert them. I believe the underlying thought or reason is that all those who are honestly and genuinely seeking truth will ultimately come together on the same path, and this will ultimately go beyond any particular religious labels. God and (his) reality / truth lie beyond anything human language can describe, and so to get stuck on labels or the difference between how one group describes the truth they've found vs the language another group uses is to almost get mired in trivialities. The well-grounded in their faith always remember that "now we see as through a glass darkly", "now I / we know in part". even collectively, all of us together only know a part of the truth, and in the end, we may find that we've all been like those blind men describing the same elephant.

Kay said...

What a novel concept you espouse: getting to know about a religion from the adherents of that religion, rather than from someone who has never belonged to that religion. ;-)

I love the Gandhi quote. Very true.

Thought I'd pop in and say hi and see how things are going.


Andrew said...

Hey Kay - I lost track of you when you shifted URL's. Glad to have you back on my Google Reader!

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