My Wish List for Evangelicals in our Age of Terrorism and Religious Conflict
January 9, 2015
By John W. Morehead
The terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris this week is but the latest reminder that we live in dangerous and violent times. Not only does Al Quaeda continue to exert its influence despite claims from the US government that the terror network has been decimated, there is also the continuing violence from ISIL in Syria and Iraq, threats from Boko Haram, the ever present possibility of renewed hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, not to mention the less lethal conflicts in the public square in the West between competing religious and irreligious groups. In light of this, somehow it seems like it misses the mark to refer to our time as "post-9/11". I prefer a more expansive term like the "Age of Terrorism and Religious Conflict".
I've been reflecting on all of this for some time, and I think Evangelicalism has something significant to contribute that can make a real impact globally. If resources were not an obstacle, here's my Wish List for Evangelicals in multi-faith engagement.
1. Train Multi-Faith Ambassadors in Every Evangelical Church Congregation.
The New Testament refers to Christians as "ambassadors" (2 Cor. 5:20), and these diplomats are desperately needed in multi-faith contexts characterized by ignorance, fear, conflict, and violence. I would like to see the Evangelical FRD Chapter train and equip Multi-Faith Ambassadors in churches throughout the United States and beyond to serve as a resource within congregations, preparing them to love their religious neighbors, and to exercise this love not only in their local communities surrounding churches, but also around the world as these churches seek to make an impact globally.
2. Make Multi-Faith Engagement a Theological Priority for Evangelical Seminaries.
As I noted in a previous post, the National Association of Evangelicals recently distributed their Winter 2014/15 newsletter, and for many of their members who are seminary presidents, multi-faith engagement is not a theological priority. In fact, it doesn't even show up on the radar for a list of concerns. In light of our globalized and multi-faith world it's time for seminaries to recognize that our future pastors meed a basic religious literacy, and they need to develop a neighborhood theology of multi-faith engagement that embraces the Christian values of love of neighbor, compassion, and hospitality while maintaining faithfulness to Evangelical convictions. In the recent past the Association of Theological Schools provided a grant to fund the "Christian Hospitality and Pastoral Practices in a Multifaith Society." Perhaps they could serve as a catalyst here through similar grant funding for multi-faith engagement projects for seminaries.
3. Help Evangelical College and University Students Embrace Multi-Faith Diplomacy as a Course of Study and Vocational Calling.
Evangelical students, whether they attend Christian colleges and universities, or secular ones, need to consider multi-faith diplomacy and activism as a valid vocation that can be informed by and exercised as an expression of their faith. Presently Evangelicals pursue their educational goals with a wide variety of vocations in mind, including politics. In light of multi-faith tensions and conflict around the world, Evangelicals should consider a different form of diplomacy, a multi-faith one, that moves in political circles but also theological and religious ones in order to make an impact through peacemaking. This could be done through additional coursework in connection with existing programs, or through the creation of new interreligious or interfaith studies programs.
4. Put Multi-Faith Engagement on the Agenda for Evangelical Social Activism.
Evangelicalism is a large religious movement, and our subculture has a lot of resources at its disposal. When certain social issues capture our attention, we make a tremendous impact. Consider our work in addressing world hunger, poverty, HIV/AIDS, race relations, human trafficking and the sex trade, as well as religious freedom. I hope that in the near future Evangelicals will come to see multi-faith engagement and diplomacy as a pressing global issue that becomes a part of our agenda for social activism alongside these other important causes.
These four things make up my wish list, for now. What's on yours in relation to this issue?