Is religious tolerance one-sided?

Be warned- I’m about to cite an article that will likely rile up a number of people.  It came from a blog post about universalism (we’ll save that topic for another day) that you can find in its entirety here.  However, it is the following excerpt that I found worth debating and pondering.  I included the first sentence (which is the most inciteful, I think) only to provide a brief bit of context:

(Dr. Michael) Youssef argues that the ideas of tolerance and acceptance are used by religions seeking to dominate Christianity in order to mislead the West, where the people do not understand the nature of other religions.

He mentions a former liberal Bush administration official who noticed that other religions did not welcome alternate faiths. She says she tried to instill the idea of “tolerance” until she realized, “We had the imam in our church speaking, preaching several times” but she never saw “him invite the preacher to preach in the mosque.” So the Leading the Way founder brought to her attention that she would be waiting forever for that “because it’s never going to happen.”

I think you can disagree with Youssef’s assumption in the first sentence while still being interested in the interplay between religions that gets brought up in the second paragraph.  It caught my interest because I am so used to seeing this question only from my side (how do Christians view other religions, etc.) that I realized upon reading this how very little time I’ve spent engaging the other sides.   Personally, I can’t say that I can quote a conversation I’ve had with someone of another faith where they tried to explain to me that they have room for me, in whatever way that means for them.  I’ve also never been invited to speak to another faith group.  I say that rather neutrally; I don’t think there is any deep ill-will in these exchanges or lack of exchanges.  But  I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

Here are my questions:

Have you ever asked one of your friends from another faith tradition whether they think we have an afterlife/salvation/hopeful future?  (Do they think we need to “convert” in any way?)

Can you share examples, if you are a pastor or general Jesus person, of being invited to speak at another house of worship?  (I’d even settle for examples of panels, keynotes or classes initiated by non-Christians)

Do you think the problem is that people in general just aren’t having these conversations?  Do we need them?  Is it that we don’t know how to engage one another on religious issues that require such sensitivity?


  1. We have an organization here in Minnesota that sponsors interfaith exchanges between Christians and Muslims. Many churches and Mosques participate, and each “side” alternates each month the responsibility of hosting. Sometimes a Pastor or Imam will give a brief talk on how a particular issue is viewed from their tradition and discussion follows. Its a really great group of people!! Their attendance was the best, interesting, during the Mosque controversy in New York. Lots of Christians came out to show their support for Muslims.
    For the salvation thing, I’ve been told by a few Muslims that the only sin that won’t eventually be forgiven is giving another person or entity the same glory as God. But I’m not quite clear how that works for Christians in their minds, since they see the Trinity as polytheistic.

  2. Travis StanleyNovember 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Though I no longer live in Dallas, I do know that Temple Shalom and Temple Emanuel, both Reform Synagogues in North Dallas, have been very active in interfaith dialogue, both speaking in churches and having pastors speak in their church. Rabbi Jeremy Schneider at Temple Shalom is a strong catalyst, even throughout Reform Judaism, for interfaith cooperation, and Temple Shalom and Wilshire Baptist have a long standing relationship. Both of these Dallas synagogues are very active in Dallas Area Interfaith, which has brought several Christians into their synagogue, myself included, to do training, teaching, speaking and organizing.

    I’ve also heard stories throughout the country of other Industrial Areas Foundation affiliates who have created these sorts of relationships among their member congregations. In New Orleans, where I now organize, there have been several instances of Christians and Jews, through the relationships of our organization, speaking in one each others congregation.

    But to me, the most important thing is when you can bring people of different faiths together to not only share their faith experiences, but to join with each other in collective action for the good of the entire city.

  3. Hey Travis,

    I should have mentioned the Wilshire/Temple Shalom friendship as a great example. Thanks! It’s good to hear positive stories. I know there are plenty out there!

  4. Just curious. When speaking with people from other “faith” traditions does the conversation ever move toward Christ being the only way to heaven, to God, for salvation? Feel free to email the answer or any other questions.

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