Etiquette for interfaith discussions, by Thalassa
Editor’s note: In light of the conflagration ignited by last week’s post, a few words seem in order.
The fact that the piece had such reverberations throughout the Pagan community seems a sign that HP has grown, enough that we now have readers extending far beyond the naturalist community. Thus, we naturalists cannot speak as if only speaking to each other anymore (if we ever could). In point of fact, M. J.’s post was originally posted to an email list comprised only of naturalists. But by bringing it to the HP blog, the audience changed and the piece changed along with it. As editor, I take responsibility for publishing the piece, indeed for encouraging M. J. to publish it, as well as for the choice of image.
Recently Star Foster organized a Live Pagan Hangout on active tolerance, in which many good things were said. Crystal Blanton‘s comments stood out most to me: “We spend so much time defining our path that we can get lost in other people’s paths.” She also said: “We need to be able to speak up about the expectation of respect for one another, and when we do it – and here’s the key – we need to be sure we’re also doing it with respect.”
To help move in the right direction, Thalassa has graciously let us repost her pointers on interfaith sensitivity, originally published at Musings of a Kitchen Witch. Numbers 8, 9, and 10 seem most apropos at the moment. – B. T. Newberg
With much help from (and much thanks to) the folks at the Pagan Forum and CafeMom’s Religious Debate section for their constructive ideas, I’ve been working on list of behaviors and attitudes to reduce conflict over religious beliefs between individuals. Think of this as Miss Manners putting the smackdown on multi-faith and interfaith discussions and debates!
Thalassa’s Etiquette Guidelines for Interfaith Discussion
- If someone asks about your religious beliefs, share (respectfully and with compassion). If they don’t ask, don’t assume that sharing will be welcome and go out of your way to do so.
- If you feel compelled to ask someone else as a way to spark a discussion about their beliefs, back off if they aren’t interested.
- Make sure the setting is appropriate for the discussion so neither party will feel uncomfortable.
- Don’t act like your truth is everyone’s truth–it isn’t, because if it were, there wouldn’t be a conversation on the matter. When expressing your beliefs, use I-statements to express your personal beliefs.
- Refrain from using absolute or exclusive language, but don’t assume that absolute or exclusive statements are made with negative intent.
- If you are in a mutual discussion of beliefs, don’t use your theological opinion as a tool for condemnation or insult.
- Realize that the people who vocally use their beliefs about religion as an excuse to be a jerk are louder than those that don’t, if you want to be a good ambassador for your faith, act your ideals, and even share them, but don’t preach them.
- Language is imprecise–different religions and denominations have differing terminology; understand the limits of your religious literacy and ask for clarification if you are unsure of one’s meaning.
- Disagreement is not an automatic insult or attack. Try to refrain from taking offense to comments that may be well-intended, but poorly phrased.
- Courteously and constructively correct misinformation. Do not get drawn into an argument (as opposed to a debate). Be polite, even when the other person is not.
- If things start going badly, be the adult and back off. When this happens, don’t wait for the other person – do it first. If you are a person that has to have the last word, remember that walking away with dignity while the other person brays like an ass is its own last word.
About the author
Thalassa: I’m a (occasionally) doting wife, damn proud momma of two adorable children, veteran of the United States Navy, part-time steampunk hausfrau, a beach addict from middle America, Civil War reenactor and Victorian natural history aficionado, a canoeing fanatic, Unitarian Universalist and pantheistic Pagan,and a kitchen witch and devotee of various aquatic deities.