A Hindu-Christian Conversation 1

Cambridge, MA. As readers of this blog know, I am quite interested in interreligious dialogue, and in learning from Hindu traditions. I have been blessed with many Hindu friends over the years, and many of these have also challenged me and raised difficult questions that were good for me to answer. Well, now is a chance for a bit of on-line dialogue, with a new Hindu friend. One person who has commented occasionally on my posts has been simply MMK — but through off-line emails he and I have had some great conversations. It occurred to me that as a kind of experiment, we could share some of our dialogue with you. So let us introduce ourselves.

     You know me already, I hope — Catholic, Jesuit, priest, Harvard professor. My partner in dialogue is Sri Murali Manohar. He is a Hindu in the USA, and like many of his generation in their 30s and 40s, is an engineer who has more than a passing interest in religion and the dialogue among religions. But I now turn things over to Mr. Manohar, to introduce himself:


     “My interest in dialogue is shaped by many factors - my personal background, one shaped by a religious family and a technical education, my witness to the 'religious others' characterization of aspects of Hinduism - positive and negative, my reception and response to academic scholarship of traditions, and questions about theological implications of pluralism and dialogue.

     “I seek to gain an understanding of dialogue, with concerns that are distinct from the Christian concerns and presentation of dialogue – a view of dialogue that is usually framed by Christians, where the ground rules preserve a non-negotiable place for Christ, where the emphasis significantly privileges texts, textual comparison and Christian doctrinal matter. By contrast, much of Hinduism is embodied in its domestic, oral, performative, artistic and visual representations - in addition to texts.

     “I also seek to understand the ultimate individual value of dialogue beyond its important and practical value of social goodwill. My conversations with Prof. Clooney start with these important questions that not merely theoretical, but of the sort that one encounters in very real, reflective, jarring, and comical ways in a country like India, as well as among Hindu and Christian friends in the USA.”

     This blog is the introduction, and the next will be a post by Mr. Manohar. In turn, I will respond to him, and then in the fourth, possibly final post, he will respond again to me.

     But why be a spectator only? You can help make this more interesting by adding your comments as we go along — both what you think of what we write, and the mention of issues you would like us to take up. More soon!

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9 years ago
I would be interested to see a focus on the experiential (sadhana or practice) as opposed to the merely theoretical. Looking forward to it.
9 years ago
One of the more powerful arguments against theism is the argument from multiple belief. Perhaps Clooney and Manohar could explain why the unshakeable faith of a billion people (on either side) does not invalidate their particular claims to truth.
9 years ago
An useless effort
Christianity starts the talk of ''unnegotiable'' place for ''Jesus Christ''.  Well, then what is the use of talk? Want to initiate some goody feeling among your folks that you ''reach out''.  It is a total waste of time and nothing good comes out of it.  The atrocities in the name of christ is huge.  They destroyed cultures after cultures with anti-science and anti-social activity.  Now, in Orissa, India they are targeting the innocent hindus and hurting their sentiments and killing their cultures.  Inturn they cry that hindus attack them.  I am sick of their attitude. The greatest contribution of the christians-hindu dialog would be not to talk and put the real values of christ in practice as Gandhi did.  Atleast it will give us some time to heal.
9 years ago
For somebackground on Siva's comment, comes a piece today on what has happened in Orissa in the last 13 months.  There seems to be more than a bit of tension over issues of intolerance over what had been termed "religious matters." 
After the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in August put India under its Watch List for the "country's failure to protect the rights of religious minorities,"  21 American lawmakers have written a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik expressing concern over the alleged intimidation of the Christians in the communally-divided region and the possibility of the perpetrators of the violence in last year’s anti-Christian riots in Orissa's Kandhmal district, with over 40 dead and thousands homeless.  The American lawmakers seek action against those involved in the violence.
Per a news agency report quoting the letter sent late last month, "Such attacks on the fundamental freedom of religion threaten not only India's reputation for religious diversity, but also the very stability of India's secular democracy.  Given the recent experience with religiously inspired terrorism, we are concerned that if Hindu extremists can act with impunity toward religious minorities in India, these extremists and their ideologies will begin to affect international security as well."
The timing on this blog seems more than appropirate.


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