Inter-religious dialogue is a hot topic right now, particularly dialogue with Islam. But whenever I consider dialogue and ecumenism with Islam I always come back to one question.
What is the point?
By this question, I don't intend sarcastic commentary that any and all dialogue is fruitless. I mean it at face value. To measure the success of any endeavor, you must know what it is we wish to achieve by it.
So what do we hope to achieve with better dialogue with Islam?
First, may I suggest that it is not possible to have fruitful dialogue with Islam itself, but perhaps it is with some Muslims. This may seem like word games, but I think it is an important distinction. I will try to clarify.
Islam, as religion and as a movement does not dialogue, it conquers. If it can use dialogue to lull us to sleep while it conquers, so much the better. Such dialogue with Islam only serves the eventual imposition Islam. Islam, as a religion and as a movement cannot be reasoned with, because reason is not essential to it. Islam does not seek to conquer hearts and minds, it seeks simply to conquer.
If we believe that dialogue with Islam, aimed at reason and better understanding, can serve Christianity, we are fooling ourselves. If we think that we can partner with Islam to push back the tide of secularism simply because it is a monotheistic religion, we commit a grave error in judgement. Such an endeavor would be like partnering with the genocidal fascists in the interest of prompt train scheduling. Guess who ends up on the trains?
Lastly on this point, there is no monolithic Islam with which to have a fruitful dialogue. Even if we get some Imam somewhere to agree to some bit of reason, it would have no effect on the conquering movement that is Islam. That is like reaching agreement with a raindrop and expecting the ocean to follow suit. If this is the goal of such dialogue, I believe it doomed to failure.
But I think that the possibility of fruitful dialogue is possible with Muslims. Such dialogue cannot happen in a conference room in Assisi among a handful of theologians and Imams, because nobody in the Muslim world will give a hoot. Fruitful dialogue must go directly to the people and must be based on Truth with a capital T.
In my mind, fruitful dialogue must convey certain key messages to the Muslim world. These messages might contain things like:
While we tolerate and treat with respect Muslims in historically Christian countries, we will not allow you to set up alternative societies with your own laws. And we will not allow under any circumstances for you to impose your unreasonable and often barbaric culture on the rest of us. We will tolerate you, because that is how we roll, but don't for a second think we will tolerate the imposition of Sharia or any such nonsense. Tolerance is not a suicide pact.
That said, we will allow you to live your faith in peace as long as you do the same. And if you want that, guess what, you must start treating Christians in your countries with the same respect. The systematic persecution and expurgation of Christians living in predominantly Muslims countries must cease immediately. If you don't want to do it because it is the right thing to do, then perhaps you will do it when we lead the charge for serious sanctions by all western countries on those countries that refuse to respect the rights of Christians. You want respect, give it.
And lastly, the most important message that dialogue with Muslims should convey is that Jesus is Lord. Nobody comes to the Father but through the Son. Nobody.
If we say these things, then we'll really be talking.