a church in texas is taking some heat because it refused to allow an "interfaith" thanksgiving meal and prayer service involving christians, muslims, hindus, jews and other religions.
the gathering was scheduled to be on the property of hyde park baptist church, but upon receiving information that the event was to contain prayers of other religions (thereby to gods that would be considered false gods to the church who owned the property), the church pulled out of the event. (read the whole story here)
"They notified us four days before to say that we
could not have the Thanksgiving service on their
property," said [AAIM Interim Executive
Director]".They said they did not realize
that we'd have non-Christians at the service."
Church officials told her they thought "interfaith"
meant different sects of Christianity.
we cannot know what was said and the exact circumstances that went on that led to the churches decision to not allow the service to be held on their church property.
the wording in the above paragraph is crucial, and we must remember that the events being described are being interpreted by the person writing the article.
to say "they did not realize there would be non-christians at the service" sounds very bigoted and just plain mean. but i think it is safe to say that the concern was that there would be non-christian religions using a christian church property to pray to false gods-not just that "non-christians" would be there.
i would dare say that no true christian church refuses non-christians...in fact any true christian church that is behaving in a scriptural way would welcome non-believers into their midst every week and celebrate the fact that they came.
another phrase worth examining is "Church officials told her they thought "interfaith" meant different sects of Christianity."
when i was in college, there was a student center called "interfaith student center". it was a religious organization (like b.s.u./b.c.m. or r.u.f.) that did not have a denominational affiliation. the students that made up that organization were catholic, methodist, pentecostal, etc. but all of the groups represented were christian groups.
in addition, often times "interfaith worship services' or "bible studies" were advertised around campus. these, too, were made up of many denominations within christianity.
so it is not a stretch to say that when the church initially received a request for an interfaith thanksgiving prayer service on their property, that they assumed it was a group made up of different christian denominations.
should they have found out exactly who was in charge and what the event was before giving the ok? most definitely. but to simply state "the church thought interfaith meant different christian groups" is misleading and can come off as a condescending comment.
now.. what actually happened at the service?
The Interreligious Ministries service blended traditions
from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Baha'i, Sikh
and Buddhist faiths, among others. It began with a procession
of leaders of a variety of religions, followed by customary
Muslim and Jewish calls to prayer, and a Christian bell
choir signaling the start of worship. There were offers of
gratitude to God in the Christian, Muslim and Hindu
traditions. A Buddhist ritual closed the hour-and-
i am all for dialogue with other faiths. in fact, as christians we are called to share our faith with unbelievers. to do this well takes more than just handing someone a "tract and a weak-faced smile", but that we actually are able to talk *with* the person, not *at* them.
we should not be scared of people of otehr faiths. i have friends of ther faiths who have been great friends. so we should not close ourselves off from anyone who is "different".
so i am not at all against the idea of discussion and conversation, and even understanding with other religions.
but the line is drawn when anything resembling an act of worship or honor is given to another god. the muslim god is not the christian god. jews are not christians. hinduism and buddhism are false religions. this doesn't mean we cannot get along with people of other faiths, but to worship with them as other/false gods are given homage and prayed to is wrong.
we do nothing but muddy the gospel when we blur the lines of christianity in this way. we need to be clear that there is no god except the god of the bible (old and new testaments), that there is no salvation outside of faith in jesus christ, and that while we can get along with people of other faiths, we will not dishonor our god by participating in services where people worship false gods, and in doing so dishonor the one true god.
rather than join in on an inter-religious(a better term i think) service, perhaps we should take the time to befriend those of other faiths around us and share with them the good news of jesus christ so that they may spend an eternity in the presence of the glory of god. we may hurt their feelings by not joining in their worship, but perhaps the lord will save their soul because we don't.