Beyond ‘Us and Them’: Taking Interfaith Dialogue Outside The Ivory Tower

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Full disclosure: it was not my intention to find inspiration for this piece via Ben Affleck.

That said, when the actor delivered an impassioned argument (including some explicit language) refuting Bill Maher and Sam Harris’ collective views of Islam on last week’sReal Time, I admit: I was transfixed. It made me think about such a plethora of issues; I sought out numerous commentaries on the debate, looking to better contextualize my own impressions and articulations in response, and amidst the vast array of clips and editorials, I came across Chris Hayes’ examination of the exchange, from which he drew the conclusion:

“Turns out, as a general rule, that asking people to explain what they believe, and why, is a whole lot more enlightening than speculating about their beliefs as if they’re not in the room.”

And that, right there—that crystallized what, for me, kept leaping out about this entire Real Time debacle: this idea of coming to the table, of sharing good fruits, in an Alvesian sense—of a truly genuine dialogue.

Because in academia, we try very hard at attain interfaith understanding; and we sometimes succeed, and it is fruitful. But in our classrooms, in our university-sanctioned settings—the Ivory Tower and its affiliates—we operate within a context that is oftentimes unrepresentative of the world we’re trying to engage.

The theory, at crucial points, sometimes diverges from the practice.

(( Read More at State of Formation ))