Why I am committed to building relationships with those from different religious and ethical traditions – 1

Krista Dalton, State of Formation, Mar.07

The call for interreligious discourse runs deep within my personal and academic story. When I was a young girl, I grew up in the predominantly Mormon city of Salt Lake. I naively forged intimate friendships with my Mormon peers and excitedly learned about their cultural and religious heritage. Then one day, my Protestant parents sat me down and asked me to be “careful” of my Mormon friends. They, like so many other parents in my childhood Christian congregation, sought to keep their children away from those of differing religious traditions, hoping they would be “protected” from “other” ideas. It is hard to describe the range of emotions I felt that day, from shock and anger to the overwhelming sense that to end my friendships with my Mormon friends would be terribly wrong.

Thus, I was thrust at an early age into a pool of religious diversity, learning how to articulate my own Protestant faith while hearing from the traditions of my peers, often without the support of religious leaders. It was this formative experience that drove my commitment to interreligious dialogue in my own academic career; I have bridged religious boundaries, becoming one of the few Christian scholars of rabbinic Judaism. In my scholarly work, I focus on the conversation between ancient Christian and Jewish history, a story fraught with violence and misunderstanding stemming from an inherent devaluing of the other’s tradition. I have taken on the call of wading through those turbulent waters and attempting to bridge the traditions in open and honest conversation. Through my exchanges with my Jewish colleagues, I have not only experienced their vibrant stories, but my own religious faith has been shaped by the interaction.

I believe it is the responsibility of both academic and religious leaders to lead the interreligious conversation, especially in a time when cultural illiteracy is rampant. Interreligious dialogue is more than just historical inquiry; it is the ever-present search for justice and understanding between religious subgroups. By conversing together, we can infuse our sacred texts, stories, and traditions with new meaning, living out their stories and creating an atmosphere of friendship. Together we can practice this mantra: If we cannot learn from each other, who will we learn from?

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