Soup v Salad

There are those in each of the great world faiths who take to interfaith dialogue like ducks to water; but equally there are those who view it with the greatest suspicion.

I have an image of what we are trying to achieve in interfaith relationships which I think is helpful, and it may caution the over-radical and calm the fears of the cautious. It is the image of the soup versus the salad. In a soup one normally pops all the ingredients into a liquidiser and what emerges is a product of even colour and texture.

That is not what we are aiming for in interfaith work. No, we are aiming for an interfaith salad. The various components of the salad – Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and so on – retain their characteristic flavours, colours and textures but are bound together with a good dressing. The salad dressing allows for a genuine but limited exchange of flavours between the various ingredients. If you like, we have an exchange of understanding which leads to mutual respect. The salad dressing is mainly olive oil, but there is vinegar to sharpen up the flavours and sugar to mask the less palatable aspects of the vinegar. Getting the salad dressing right is the crucial dimension and that is nothing to do with bureaucracy and everything to do with style.

You can introduce all the right structures, but without a genuine desire for mutual understanding and respect, the salad will not work. More than a mere touch of vinegar and the salad will be sour. The recognition that interfaith dialogue is about preparing a salad, rather than a soup, takes away any fear we might have that we are the object of attempts at conversion. I’m not going to push my Jewish, Moslem or Hindu friends into the liquidiser, nor are they going to attempt the same with me. We are components in a salad; and we like it just like that.

The Reverend Alan Morris, Holy Angels, Hale Barns

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