When to Speak


I spent last week at Holden Village on the teaching staff. I was honored to be joined by Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, Rainer Waldman-Adkins, and Kareem Mulana.

We offered text studies from the Hebrew scripture, the Quran, and the Christian scriptures. Then we offered a panel, discussing what each tradition teaches about how we repair relationships with each other when we have harmed each other.

Holden is a retreat center in the Lutheran tradition. What Holden is working on is how to create space for and engage with people of other traditions. One of the questions, then, was this: Should I do a study from the Christian tradition, or should I create more space for my Muslim and Jewish friends?

Well, it all depends on the context. There are times when, in a largely Christian environment, it is a positive thing for Christians to create more space. There are so many benefits we can receive when we learn from people of diverse traditions.

But there can be unintended negative impacts, too: Giving the floor to other traditions can cause some Christians to withdraw from the conversation. Some might think: When diverse traditions are present, my voice is not important, or will not be heard. Others might hesitate to put their own teaching “on the table” in an honest and self-critical way when they believe it is being compared to other traditions.

I asked my Jewish and Muslim friends what they thought I should do at Holden in this week. Should I lead a study of the Christian scriptures or not? We all agreed that people had listened well, had been respectful and curious when they engaged with Islamic and Jewish teachings. And we also agreed: We need Christian leaders to model how to be Christian AND to be in conversation with people of other traditions.

That is what we did.

It was an honor to be with my friends at Holden. It was an honor to learn from them and with them. We are better together.