“Comfortable candor” at Yale Christian-Muslim meeting

August 1, 2008

NAE President Leith Anderson (l) listens to Shi’ite philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr speaks, 31 July 2008/Tom Heneghan“Comfortable candor” is the way Leith Anderson described the atmosphere at the Common Word conference on Christian-Muslim dialogue that ended at Yale University on Thursday. The term is as interesting for its image as for the person who used it. Anderson is president of the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals and one of several evangelicals attending the meeting. Among the mostly Protestant leaders who responded to the Common Word dialogue appeal in a letter launched by Yale Divinity School, evangelicals tended to be more cautious and more concerned about pointing out the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam. Even with those reservations , these participants faced some criticism in their own ranks for attending and came to the conference not knowing how open it would be.

Anderson told me on the first day that he appreciated how forthright the discussion was, with each side standing up for its beliefs while seeking common ground where they could. In his keynote address in the final session, he put his stamp of approval on the process: “Our differences are deep and real. Sometimes those differences are cultural or ethnic or racial. But I have been especially impressed this week with the comfortable candor with which Muslims and Christians have clearly stated their own doctrines to one another.”

Geoff Tunnicliffe, international director of the World Evangelical Alliance, made the same point in his address. We can affirm the appropriateness of simply engaging in dialogue and conversation with each other at this critical time in history. It is right that we’re together. We can affirm the development of new and strengthened relationships. It has been good to sit together and build new friendships. We can affirm the genuine spirit of being willing to listen to each other and seeking to gain understanding into each others’ perspectives.”

Leith Anderson at Yale Common Word conference, 31 July 2008/Tom HeneghanSome Christians in dialogue sessions like this seem ready to blur theological distinctions for the sake of harmony with Muslims. By contrast, evangelicals are steadfast in proclaiming their belief in Jesus and the Bible (as Anderson did repeatedly in his keynote address). As steadfast, in fact, as the Muslims are in proclaiming their faith in the Koran and the prophethood of Mohammad. So if they can approve a dialogue project like this, it must be doing something right.

Another theme in the two speeches was the diversity of the evangelical movement. Anderson stressed that the NAE covered 61 denominations and hundreds of evangelical organisations. The majority of evangelicals live in the Global South, he stressed, and much of the recent growth of evangelical Christianity in the United States came from immigrants. “We are not about politics or power or money or culture,” he said. As he said that, I wondered whether the Arabic interpreters were tempted to translate that as “they are not all George Bush’s allies.” Tunnicliffe even said one thing evangelicals certainly had in common with Muslims was the experience of being “stereotyped and stigmatized in the media” and invited them to look beyond cliches about evangelicals.

Anderson also noted that he was no stranger to contacts with Muslims even if this kind of theological dialogue was “not part of our normal repertoire,” as David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today (and fellow conference blogger) put it when we spoke. The NAE held a meeting on creation care and climate change with North African Muslim leaders, the World Bank and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Washington in June and Anderson addressed an interfaith dialogue meeting in Qatar in May. “And that’s just the last 60 days…” he remarked.

Steeple of Yale Divinity School chapel, 25 July 2008/Tom HeneghanIngrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, made a similar point about explaining the diversity of American Christianity to foreign Muslims when we spoke just before the Yale conference started. “When we U.S. Muslims hear Muslims in other parts of the world talk about the crusading spirit of contemporary America, the problem of the conflation of religion and politics in America and how that effects Muslim life and aspirations, we try to explain to them that the American political process is complicated, American Christianity is diverse and there are many different political opinions even among very devoted Christians. This is something that it’s important to have them understand … I think it’s important (for them) to have this opportunity to hear a more nuanced perspective on how American Christians look at the importance of their faith for motivating their sense of social justice and the involvement they have in certain issues.”

That the evangelical movement is not simply the Republican Party at prayer has made its way into the newspapers in recent years, especially on environmental issues. Do you think this message of dialogue and cooperation with Muslims has been heard?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

It makes no *real* difference that these religious ‘authorities’ are nice to each other, or “comfortable” with each other, or can clearly express their beliefs to one another.

None of this has any effect in the *real* world.

After all, these religious ‘authorities’ are *paid* to at least provide the *pretense* of civility.

But, in the real world, their followers do not have the *luxury* of those who are *paid* to be religious ‘authorities’. Rather, the beliefs they have been taught form the basis for the projection of evil one upon the other. That leads to conflict and violence and warfare and genocide; while the religious ‘authorities’ who have concocted these doctrines in violation of the Revelations remain blissfully unaware and *above* it all, looking condescendingly at their followers for not being able to “see the light” of how to believe contradictory things and yet not be involved in conflict and violence.

But the question is whether this is the way the *Creator* wants this to be; with people being *paid* to tell LIES; and NO ONE concerned with the Truth anymore, but just how to ‘get along’ with *other* liars.

If God is a God of Truth rather than a ‘God’ of ‘let’s just get along with each other’, human civilization is in for a *rude* awakening.

Michael Cecil

http://after-the-false-peace.blogspot.co m/

Posted by Michael Cecil | Report as abusive

Michael, you say that religious authorities are paid to provide a pretense of civility but their followers are taught to project evil on the other. Who is doing the teaching? And who teaches the teachers? If religious authorities decide that teaching will include a better understanding of other religions, then the followers will be able to have what you call the “luxury” of tolerance. They will be able to “see the light” because they have been taught “the light” and not some dark conspiracy theories about the others. Of course, this is not an open-shut case — there will always be intolerance no matter how enlightened a message is taught. But this is surely preferable to saying it will never work and leaving things as they are.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Tom, the issue here is not merely the Truth; it is also the cowardice of the religious ‘authorities’ who no longer care about Truth at all, but merely how to ‘get along’ with each other. (It seems I recall a philosopher or statesman from hundreds of years ago saying something to the effect that ‘those who are willing to sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither’.)

Arriving at a “better understanding of other religions” is *not* going to help the situation if what it comes down to is a better understanding of the *lies* that are told by the other religions. (Lies are much more preferable than the Truth because they are more *pleasurable* than the Truth; and people are willing to pay for pleasure but not so willing to pay for Truth; which is why the religious ‘authorities’ teach what they teach: they need money.)

It does not help for Muslims to understand more clearly that, to the Christians, Jesus is ‘God’. That is one of the *sources* of the conflict because, according to the Torah, the Prophets, the Teaching of Jesus and the Koran, that amounts to blasphemy. (It is also the doctrine that led quite directly to several hundreds of years of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust of I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands or millions of Jews.)

It does not help for Christians to be told that Mohammed is the “final prophet” or that the Koran is the “final Revelation”. That specifically contradicts Revelations in the Koran too numerous for me to remember. This may very well be what millions of Muslims *believe*, but it is simply not the Truth.

Nor does it help Christians and Muslims to be told that the children of Israel are the Chosen people (which, by the way, is affirmed by the Koran), if that Doctrine is then used to ‘justify’ all manner of immorality and violence and evil against those who are not Jews.

Nor does it help to understand that the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious ‘authorities’ (except those within the esoteric or mystical traditions) ALL believe that the “resurrection” is NOT a Doctrine of ‘Rebirth’. They are simply, but categorically, contradicting the Revelation.

I could go on.

But, while the theologians may be perfectly *satisfied* with merely ‘getting along’ with each other; God is a God of Truth. Truth is the *purpose* of Revelation; and Peace emanates from *Truth*, rather than the REVERSE: the religious ‘authorities’ delude themselves into thinking that they can achieve Peace by *ignoring* the Truth; which is what they have done for more than 30 years with regards to the Truth about the “resurrection”.

It does make a difference that I did not receive one response to the several e-mails and the fax I sent to the people involved in this conference.

It DOES make a difference that the theologians are doing EVERYTHING they possibly can to avoid the Truth about the “resurrection” and certain very specific Prophecies in the book of Daniel.

The reason this will “never work” is because the theologians are interested only in *religion*, not in Revealed Truth. And, as I have explained at length on both of my websites, thought originates in duality and results in conflict and violence.

It is irrelevant how “well-meaning” they may be (although they are CERTAINLY not “well-meaning” in my regard).

This is the inescapable *structure* of the reality with which we must deal: unless these religious ‘authorities’ are willing to acknowledge their fundamental errors, and *quickly*–unless the “Knowledge of God” is allowed to “cover the earth”–there will be NO escaping the horrors of the “time of trouble”, AFTER which the Truth will *finally* be allowed to be heard.

The media can either help in this regard, or it can choose to ignore this information, as it has for more than 30 years.

Michael Cecil

http://after-the-false-peace.blogspot.co m/

Posted by Michael Cecil | Report as abusive

“Michael said: None of this has any effect in the *real* world.” Of course people are influenced when intelligent people from communities sit down and discuss their problems and commonalities. If this was not so, hundreds of conflicts in history would never have ended. How did the British government and IRA end decades of fighting? All constructive discourse is to be welcomed as a step forward, a step we should all God willing emulate.

Posted by Yakoub | Report as abusive

Sounds like both Michael and Tom need to read Book 1 of the Jackass Trilogy, along with some fisking of Tom’s recent posts. Cheers! Type “Reuters” into the search engine of my blog and see what you get.


Posted by Father Renzo di Lorenzo (Trilogy) | Report as abusive


Correct. Nothing that these religious ‘authorities’ did this past week has done anything at all to diminish the potential for conflict between the United States/the Israel and Iran. Nothing that they have said has in any way diminished the potential for a military conflict over Jerusalem.

You do not see, for example, the United States or the Israel or Iran or the Palestinians saying, all of a sudden, that something ‘new and different’ has occurred at the conference this past week which suggests that it is possible to resolve these conflicts Peacefully on the basis of achieving a theological ‘modus operandi’.

My real concern here, however, is that you appear to want to *protect* the theologians from the consequences of their categorical denial of the Truth; to take the side of the theologians in preserving their pride, their wealth and their power; even when the pursuit of such ‘interests’ is giving every indication of providing a clear rationale for Armageddon, in which millions upon millions of people–even including many of these religious ‘authorities’ themselves–will likely lose their lives.

Clearly, for example, you (ignored and) appear to *justify* their continuing censorship of the Truth about the Doctrine of “resurrection”, as if this is utterly IRRELEVANT to these conflicts–which, of course, has been the position taken by several *hundreds* of journalists, editors, and website operators who I have contacted over the past 32 years…

While thousands, hundreds of thousands, and *millions* of Muslims (hundreds of thousands of them children) have been *slaughtered* across the Middle East during this same period of time. (It is no mere coincidence that the censorship of this Truth–that the “resurrection” refers to ‘Rebirth’–has occurred *simultaneously* with this genocide.)

Yet, very obviously, you seem to be suggesting that this censorship *continue*…(I seriously *doubt*, for example, that Reuters would EVER do a news item about the Doctrine of “resurrection” as a Doctrine of ‘Rebirth’ until, perhaps, *after* the eruption of the “time of trouble”.)

With, however, precisely the *same* result.

(This, of course, is the reason for the Prophecies in the 12th chapter of Daniel in the first place.)

The recent conference was not a “constructive discourse” conducted by “intelligent people”.

It was nothing more than a pretense by people *paid* to give the *impression* of a serious discussion; by people whose principal concern was not the Truth but trying to preserve their jobs, retain their wealth, power, and the high esteem in which they are held by their followers, and
oh, by the way, achieve Peace as, perhaps, a *secondary* effect.

Posted by Michael Cecil | Report as abusive

[…] reporting of the Yale Christian-Muslim meeting. Does this ever need a good fisking! GO HERE for the original […]

Posted by The Jackass Trilogy fisks Reuters’ Tom Heneghan’s reporting of the Yale Christian-Muslim meeting. Does this ever need a good fisking! « ••• Welcome to the Jackass Trilogy ••• | Report as abusive


My previous response was to Yakoub rather than Tom.

Too busy focusing on the contents of the message, did not even pay attention to who wrote it.


Posted by Michael Cecil | Report as abusive

[…] grup care reuneste acum 305 participanti a promovat o serie de intlaniri intr elideri si teologi crestini pentru a adresa un raspuns la initiative musulmana. in May 2009, Papa Benedict a confirmat efortul […]

Posted by pe scara Cerului » Blog Archive » si premiul merge la… | Report as abusive