Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue

By Jane Idleman Smith | Go to book overview

6
The Pluralistic Imperative
Christian Perspectives

Among the major challenges confronting American Muslims today, as we have seen, are the following: What binds together a community that is comprised of so many different branches and interpretations as Islam? What does it mean to be Muslim, both personally and communally, in a society in which Islam is not the majority faith? In the next chapter, we will consider a third task that is being assumed by at least a few American Muslims, which is to figure out whether Islam itself values other religions. Is Islam, in other words, a pluralistic or an exclusivist faith?

Christians also face several challenges in light of the growing presence of Muslims. One is to try to come to terms with the sheer fact of rapidly increasing religious plurality in American society (to say nothing of the hotly-contested issues related to immigration), of which Muslims are a single, albeit highly significant, element. In this sense, plurality is to be understood as a descriptive term; we are a nation of many different constituent elements. For members of Christian churches, as well as for their leaders and theologians, another challenge is to reflect theologically on the meaning of encounter with Islam. Christian theologians may put the question this way: Is there room in the understanding of Christianity for belief that truth can be found in other religions, specifically in Islam? Is Christianity, in other words, a pluralistic or an exclusivist faith?

The struggle of America, given the reality of its multicultural diversity, is to find a way in which to formulate some kind of

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Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1- Encountering Each Other 3
  • 2- The Legacy of Engagement 23
  • 3- Islam - A Truly American Religion? 41
  • 4- Models of Christian-Muslim Dialogue in America 63
  • 5- When Dialogue Goes Wrong 83
  • 6- The Pluralistic Imperative - Christian Perspectives 101
  • 7- The Pluralist Imperative - Muslim Perspectives 121
  • 8- New Directions in Dialogue 141
  • Notes 161
  • Bibliography 173
  • Index 179
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