Magazine article The Christian Century

Interfaith Prayer ... (Letters)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Interfaith Prayer ... (Letters)

Article excerpt

IN REFUSING to discuss the case in point--Dave Benke's suspension by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod--Gilbert Meilaender offers an antiseptic analysis of interfaith prayer ("Interfaith `prayer,'" Oct. 23-Nov. 5). Here context is everything.

First, Benke's action has to be understood as a pastoral response to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. In a city grieving its dead, it was essential that the Christian voice in general and the LCMS voice in particular be represented at this major show of solidarity with victims. It was first and foremost a pastoral act.

Second, Meilaender quickly dismisses another point of context--the "heavy-handed response of the LCMS hierarchy." Here too there is a lack of analysis. Benke was suspended for making a pastoral decision, in the midst of crises, that was in line with synodical policy and made in consultation with his ecclesiastical supervisor.

Kenneth J. Doka
New Rochelle, N.Y.

Meilaender does not explain how a "pagan" god can at the same time be impotent, with no real existence, and also exert "real evil power." Would Meilaender equate the pagan gods of the Greco-Roman world with the object of veneration of a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Hindu? Nor does he explain how Christians would be "denying" Jesus by their praying alongside of those who do not accept Jesus as part of the Godhead. We Christians can be true to our own traditional formulations while respecting other approaches to God.

Meilaender tentatively considers the possibility of a situation "in which a Christian and a Hindu, praying alongside each other, might also be said to be praying `to' the same God." Fair enough, but then he condescends to the Hindu in his conclusion: "... though that God is incompletely known to one of those who prays." Only "one of those"? Do we Christians "completely know" the true God? …

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