Listening to others

I am currently reading this book called 'Listening to people of other faiths' by Claire Disbrey. It is an interesting read and the first of its kind. Most comparative religion books I have came across looked at other religions from a philosophical and most often than not, Christian viewpoint. Claire Disbrey, in this book, chose to interview people and allow them to speak for themselves what their faith means to them and how they interact with their respective faiths, without her questioning too much into the validity of their faiths and the intellectual grounding.

Interesting and amazing as it can be, it simply disturbed me to read what those people said. It is expected that they said what they said in the book, but I think I am being too intellectually grounded in my own that their philosophical inconsistency in their own arguments about their faith and mine stands out so clearly. In some sense, I really give it to Disbrey to be able to really sit down and listen to these. It takes huge amount of patience and perhaps even love to be there to listen.

The book and the interviews are based in the context of UK, where there was a change from a mono-culture to multi-culture over the years, due to its imperial past. As such, people are still struggling with grappling with the multitude of different faiths in UK. It is a similar situation in Singapore and not to mention that we started off from this base, and yet we are also grappling.

And as I read, I can't help but be intrigued by the fact that a lot of these people are rooted in their respective faiths based on their own individual experience. Which makes me wonder, if our testimonies at times amount to the same as well to them. It'll always be 'well, it's your experience but I'm happy for you.' Personal experience often defines their intellectual approach to their respective faiths and it was quite obvious in the interviews that I read. Not that I'm not aware that our worldview can be biased as a result of our personal experiences, but we therefore have to question if there is threshold in the way testimonies help to explain our faith.

At the end of the day, perhaps it's the base/foundation of our testimonies that counts. It seems like a contradiction from what I said earlier. Yet, the argument is whether we have solid grounds to base the conclusion of our testimonies upon. So the question is not so much whether you have any spiritual experience that helps you or whatsoever, but what exactly is the 'solid ground' that you are concluding/landing upon through your testimonies. It may not be enough nowadays to say that 'I experience this, and God helps me blah blah blah'. Perhaps our testimonies and witnesses as Christians have to go further than that. Think about Stephen, Peter and Paul in their witnesses to the people.

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