Interfaith Dialogue – WWE@Ridge

We’ve kicked off a new Wednesday night program at Ridge UMC and we’re very excited about it. One of our members who writes a column in the local paper every other week even gave us some love yesterday. Below is the text of Bob Birgel’s column.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if being a Christian, or passionate about any faith in today’s world, falls under an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I recall hearing a statement recently about God and religion, something to the effect that the majority of people love God, but aren’t too keen on people pronouncing themselves as His followers or in organized religion itself. Not too surprising when you think about it. How many wars have been fought in His name? How many people proclaiming to be men of God are found to have done unspeakable acts? And how many people have you encountered who try to force their beliefs on you?

I was reminded of this one a Saturday night a few weeks ago. My wife and I were flipping through the TV channels when the beaming face of Kirk Cameron appeared. I remember him as the wise-cracking yet loveable teenager Mike Seaver on the ’80s sitcom “Growing Pains.” Now in his 30s and a devout Christian, Kirk was walking the streets, asking people questions about themselves then explaining to them why they wouldn’t be allowed into heaven.

Sure it’s admirable that he’s trying to spread his faith the best way he can think of, but to be honest, I was pretty put off by his Christian commando tactics. Yes, I did steal that Silly Putty from the grocery store when I was 4 and I’m not above taking the larger bowl of ice cream when scooping out treats for my wife and myself. Does this make me a bad person? Kirk would call me a gluttonous thief and say I won’t be getting into heaven.

Bearing these things in mind, I’m touting Ridge United Methodist Church in Munster and its upcoming program called “Wonderful Wednesday Evenings” beginning tonight at 8607 Columbia Ave. Associate Pastor Jeff Clinger summed up the ambitious program as “an opportunity for us to come together as a congregation and as a community to enjoy food, fellowship and religious study for all ages.” This program solves many of the hurdles of trying to gather people together in today’s hectic world. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with dinner catered by P.J.’s Catering at a cost of $5 per person or $20 per family. Afterward, programs will be offered for ages 4 and older with childcare available for children 3 and younger. Youth activities will include craft time, music time, stories, games, videos and discussion time. The adult classes offer different study opportunities including a three-part series beginning next week titled “Being a Good Neighbor.” At this unique series, leaders of different faiths including Judaism, Hinduism and Islam, will speak on relationships with people of different faiths. I know next to nothing about these faiths, so I’m looking forward to learning more about them.

Friends easily recommend movies, books and music that have made an impact on them, but rarely speak out on things of a deeper nature like religion. I think this program at Ridge just might be a great opportunity for those looking for more substance in their lives. I even think Kirk Cameron might agree with me.

Bob also forwarded me a response he received to his column yesterday morning. I decided to share it in it’s entirety.

You have misunderstood.
Kirk Cameron and ray comfort do NOT tell people they are not going to heaven.
all they are doing is asking people what they know of the bible, GOD, and JESUS.
no one can tell someone whether or not they are going to heaven, because that is between every person and GOD. alone.
and i will happily and firmly tell you that i follow JESUS CHRIST with all my heart, soul and mind.
and on all those tiny things you said you did, Kirk would not tell you that you were a glutton.
you, like the rest of this lost country are simply that.
you don’t want to hear the truth that JESUS said he is the way, the truth and the life and that no man comes to GOD except through HIM.
why a person would even want to hear anything about Islam or Hinduism is beyond me.
Islam is all about violence and Hinduism is about thousands of made up gods who for the fact of being made up cannot help you.
If you know the truth which is who JESUS is, why would you want to learn about lies?
Christianity is not a religion. Religion is humans trying to work their way to GOD.
Christianity is GOD coming to men and women through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
and one more thing, from 2 timothy 4:3, for the tome will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths, but don’t feel bad, I haven’t singled you out. Joel osteen, Joyce meyer, any of those supposed ministries that supposedly help you by telling you if you follow GOD you will be prosperous. they’re all liars. and on Joyce? i know there are a lot of followers of her here, i used to listen to her too. know what stopped me? i heard her say one day, GOD wants you to drive a nice car.
the only person who is worth even putting in your brain, on any form of airwaves, be it TV or radio, is dr. erwin lutzer. 90.1, 900 am every day. and he never asks for money either,
so remember … the only way to GOD is through JESUS CHRIST alone.
period. that’s not a force of belief, just a statement of the only truth there is. so by that you either accept or reject eternal life.
Thanks.

The response that Bob received to his column strengthens my conviction that we need to learn about and be in relationship with the religious “other.” So, for the next four Sundays you can come out to Ridge Church for our “Being a Good Neighbor” Series as we talk about Christians in relationship with Jews, Hindus and Muslims. We worship at 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00. You are also invited to come out and join us on Wednesday evenings for conversation with leaders from each of these faith traditions. Dinner is at 6:00 – the conversation will begin at 6:30.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Interfaith Dialogue – WWE@Ridge

  1. holly

    woah… that’s crazy! it is obvious to me, by this person’s response, that he, more than anyone, could use a little education about other faiths… this person has made assumptions about other faiths based on what he has seen on tv and heard from other Christians who are also oblivious to the commonalities in world religions… how can we deny other peoples’ experience of the divine? How can we be so sure that God is exactly who we believe God to be? Once we claim to know everything there is to know about God, God becomes so tiny and little… nothing like the God I believe in, who is vast and unexplainably gracious.

  2. Steve Conger

    Thaks Jeff,

    I could not have said it any better!

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