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How Do We Speak, and Hear, Across Interfaith Boundaries?

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Spirituality & Health's former poetry editor says language is key.

This article appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. I’m grateful to have been raised in Hawaii, which in terms of religion is America’s future. It has long been the only state where no one religion has a plurality; thus, I grew up taking for granted that Americans were Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Shinto, as well as Christian. But my early exposure to religious diversity also has left me wary of the notion, if you will pardon an unpardonable pun, that the grace is always greener on the other side. I am especially wary of people whose fervent embrace of a new religion is marked by an equally fervent maligning of the tradition in which they were raised. As an unapologetic Christian believer, all too often I am approached by people who characterize Christianity (and by extension Christians) as rigid, closed, doctrinaire, fundamentalist, or imperialist. They are often reacting against bad personal experiences with a pastor or church, or have a simplistic, ideological take on the religion’s history. “I don’t understand,” one woman commented, “how you can find such comfort in a r …

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