Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Questioning Interfaith Dialogue? Uranus made me do it!

I don’t normally read horoscopes. Astrology is something that made sense in the pre-scientific world, when the earth was in the centre of the cosmos, and the cosmos was divided into sub- and super-lunary spheres. In that world view it made a sort of sense that was almost rational. But in the new cosmology its just silly. [There’s a warning in that somewhere for modern scientism...]

But after reading an old horoscope the other day which said that I would feel much better after my cosmetic surgery, I thought it might be good for a laugh to read the horoscopes a week or two after the period for which they were written. Here is my horoscope for the week of June 25th 2006 in the “Sunday Life” magazine (an insert with The Sunday Age):

[Reader: What star sign are you?
Schütz: I’m Pisces.
Reader: I always knew there was something fishy about you…]

“Hard as it may be to believe, you could still be playing things a little too safe. You’ve coume out of yourself in spectacular fashion lately and made everyone aware of your true feelings. But as the anarchic Uranus makes an about-turn in your sign, you need to secure what changes you’ve made.”

Aha! So I can blame all my recent questioning of the interfaith endeavour on the anarchic effect of Uranus?

You, dear Reader, know nothing of this, but I am, at best, a reluctant convert to Interreligious Dialogue. Every morning I wake up and think: What the hell am I doing? I want to convert the whole world to faith in Jesus Christ (and even more specifically, the Catholic faith in Christ), and here I am defending the right of all people to religious freedom.

Then I have to start again from first principles and work all the way through till I get to the point where interfaith dialogue is an essential part of the evangelising mission of the Church (cf. Dominus Iesus §2 and §22, and Dialogue and Proclamation).

Nevertheless, as some of my colleagues on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission will attest, I have been a bit of an anarchic pain of late, “biting the hand that feeds me” (almost), by asking really annoying questions about why and the wherefore of multifaith religious experiences (aka “joint prayer”) and the whole issue of conversion and evangelisation in relation to other faiths.

It would be so easy to say a big simple (simplistic??) “NO” to interfaith relations, because of all the fuzziness that is so often associated with this endeavour. Among theologians dealing in the nuts and bolts of interreligious dialogue, there are theories and theologies that make me truly uneasy.

As I seek understanding, I become aware that for me interfaith work is firstly an act of faith, and secondly an act of understanding. The very Gospel I seek to proclaim continues to propel me into the chaos that is the interfaith encounter.

Or is it perhaps that pesky planet Uranus…?

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