Dinner in Rome
by Father Jonathan Morris
October 4, 2006
Last night I had dinner with a friend of mine. What a time we had! We laughed a lot, and apparently, we also carried on some pretty interesting discussion and debate. Walking out of the restaurant, two couples were waiting for us. They had been eavesdropping the whole night and just wanted to thank us for our dinner conversation!
“We know it’s rude, and we’re so sorry, but your conversation was so fascinating we kept silence at our table so we wouldn’t miss a word,” they said.
It’s fun to be with smart, open-minded people who care deeply about their families, their country, and about life in general. Somehow we got on the topic of religious diversity. I learned so much from our chat. Somebody brought up the fact that followers of all religions believe deeply that they are right, while their creeds are often essentially contradictory, one with the other. How do we reconcile such diversity with religious truth and dogma?
• The first thing we agreed upon was that we can’t all be right. For example, Christians believe Jesus was the divine Son of God. Others believe he was just another prophet. Still others believe he never existed. Logically, all three of those positions can’t be true!
• This means some of us are wrong. And that’s O.K.!
• Next, we discussed how to deal with other religions. We agreed that open-mindedness, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t mean doubting our own faith. It means learning to live side by side in peace and respect for others who believe differently. It also implies recognizing that our intellect and faith are imperfect; therefore, our understanding of true doctrine is gradual.
• Similarly, tolerance does not require us to water down our beliefs to the lowest common denominator so as not to hurt someone else’s feelings.
• Lastly, we agreed that all of us need to continue to seek a deeper understanding of the truth, while not being afraid to accept it when we find it, including all of the potential practical consequences for our lives.
I can live with that. Can you?