The editors of
Experiments in Empathy: Critical Reflections on Interreligious Education have assembled a volume that spans multiple religious traditions and offers innovative methods for teaching and designing interreligious learning. This groundbreaking text includes established interreligious educators and emerging scholars who expand the vision of this field to include critical studies, decolonial approaches and exciting pedagogical developments.
The book includes voices that are often left out of other comparative theology or interreligious education texts. Scholars from evangelical, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, religiously hybrid and other background enrich the existing models for interreligious classrooms. The book is particularly relevant at a time when religion is so often harnessed for division and hatred. By examining the roots of racism, xenophobia, sexism and their interaction with religion that contribute to inequity the volume offers real world educational interventions. The content is in high demand as are the authors who contributed to the volume.
Contributors are: Scott Alexander, Judith A. Berling, Monica A. Coleman, Reuven Firestone, Christine Hong, Jennifer Howe Peace, Munir Jiwa, Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Tony Ritchie, Rachel Mikva, John Thatanamil, Timur Yuskaev.
The focus of this chapter is on innovative efforts to educate Evangelical/Pentecostal seminarians and university students regarding interfaith (i.e. multifaith) understanding, dialogue, and cooperation. Most of these efforts have been conducted at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (pts) with related activities at Lee University. Both institutions are located in Cleveland, Tennessee, as educational ministries of the Church of God, which has international offices in Cleveland as well.1 Additionally, annual academic conferences and publications of the Society for Pentecostal Studies have provided a broader forum for promoting multifaith understanding, dialogue, and cooperation among member institutions with their respective scholars.2
The structure of this chapter is threefold. First, I outline the philosophy behind an explicitly Pentecostal pedagogy for teaching on interfaith topics in higher education contexts. Second, I survey the current state of the Christian theology of religions among Pentecostal thinkers and practitioners. The third section recounts specific educational praxis through classroom instruction and guided encounters. I discuss symbiotic concerns and questions as they arise in each section.
Why and how does interreligious theological education matter? In this chapter I reflect on such questions through in-the-field experiences of Muslim chaplains trained at Hartford Seminary. In moments of crisis—situations that viscerally encapsulate multitudes of embodied histories and hierarchies of power—chaplains rely on seminary courses that interweave theological, comparative and pastoral threads. The intersectional quality of such coursework is impactful because it is formational: it enables seminary students to hone a more nuanced, deeper sense of the pluralistic spaces they inhabit. Employing William E. Connolly’s theory of pluralism, I argue that interreligious theological education matters when it adds depth to the experience and politics of pluralism.
This chapter argues that the two words in the term “comparative theology” generate between them a field of creative tension that require the nature of theology itself to be reimagined. The adjective “comparative” does not sit placidly alongside “theology,” leaving the latter materially unchanged for business as usual. The adjective pressures the noun to undergo transformation when encounters with other traditions compel comparative theology to remember that its primary genre once was, as Edward Farley has shown, sapientia or contemplative wisdom, and not academic text production. Because theological reflection in other traditions still remains a quest for such wisdom, an encounter between Christian theology as academic text production and theology as practiced by other traditions, will likely be of limited value. Theological writing that engages other traditions will have to harken back to its earliest genre—the quest for wisdom. Comparative theology, in at least one of its modes, will then become a quest for “interreligious wisdom.” In this chapter, I will attempt to offer a preliminary working definition of interreligious wisdom. The prime pedagogical question to follow is then, “How can interreligious wisdom be taught?”
This chapter reports on the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (rrc)’s bold experimentation in the field of inter religious education as integral to its mission. It chronicles how, with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, over the last decade and a half, rrc has responded to developments in the American and Jewish environment with an-ever evolving approach to the training of clergy. The chapter details two signature programs, one to build solidarity between Jews and Muslims, the other to create a novel entry point for education in interreligious literacy and co-spiritual formation across multiple traditions.
This chapter engages with ways interreligious and intercultural pedagogies might honor and make visible the religious and cultural diversity present in classrooms by co-cultivating new forms of trans-spiritualities and nurturing a commitment to mutual transformation. It examines how minoritized people and communities carry porous boundaries across space, time, and lands, creating new practices, customs, and lexicons, while simultaneously struggling with the impact of internalized cultural and religious hybridity. The chapter discusses the dangers of white and Christian supremacist understandings of non-white and non-Christian communities, and the resistance of such supremacism to any naturally hybrid and dynamic representations of culture and religion in the intercultural and interreligious classroom.
Because seminaries are designed to further the goals of the religious communities that fund and support them, interreligious learning may not be generally accepted as fulfilling their institutional needs. This perspective derives from the history of interreligious polemic and competition between and within monotheist traditions, based on the assumption that God represents a single Truth that cannot be compromised, and that our expression of religion represents that Truth. This essay interrogates these assumptions and argues that true understanding must transcend the limits of religious institution, and offers an instructive way to understand the distinctiveness of one’s particular spiritual tradition in relation to other attempts to understand the Infinite.
Inspired by the lyrics of Florence + the Machine’s riff on the story of the biblical (anti-)heroine Delilah (Judges 13–16), this paper seeks to contribute to the conversation on the nature of the emerging field of interreligious studies through the lens of the struggle to be an interreligious ally. It argues that conversations about the telos/teloi of interreligious studies lie at the heart of broader discussions concerning the shifting orientations of theological education in general in the first few decades of the twenty-first century. After exploring some of the challenges involved in aspiring to be an interreligious ally (specifically the intersectional dynamics around race, gender, and sexual orientation), the paper pursues an original exegesis of Qur’an 2:30–33 as the basis for an exercise in comparative Christian-Muslim theology. It proposes “ministry/khilāfa of radical kinship”—especially in the form of becoming an interreligious ally—as one possible paradigm for thinking about the telos of interreligious studies and as a possible organizing principle for emerging interreligious pedagogies.