Moved by the Spirit

A Christian Scientist in divinity school and an Orthodox Jewish rabbi explore common ground for interfaith dialogue.

"Wanted : Thinker/activist prepared to help a growing venture make quantum leaps of faith."

This fictitious but not totally unlikely employment ad came to mind as I considered the kind of thought-leap that put a book about Islam on this summer's reading list for incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina. That decision sparked vigorous protests and a lawsuit from conservative Christians, while drawing praise from other Christians and those of various faiths.

Who can explain such conflicts? Someone who knows what and why people believe what they believe, and the intertwined histories of differing belief systems. Someone who has a working knowledge of a people's idea of God and codes of ethics. So today's cutting-edge expert may be—yes, a theologian. For virtually any global enterprise to operate successfully in a religiously complex world—and this includes businesses, governments, healthcare researchers, humanitarian services, media, religious institutions, and the proverbial "many others"—some of the most needed expertise is theological.

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A spiritual journey
September 23, 2002

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