Buddhist leader Thich Naht Hanh speaks of DIALOGUE being a key to peace in his book, “Living Buddha. Living Christ” while making the following statement:
“Different religious traditions can engage in dialogue with one another in a true spirit of ecumenism. Dialogue can be fruitful and enriching if both sides are truly open. If they really believe that there are valuable elements in each other’s tradition and that they can learn from one another, they will also rediscover many valuable aspects of their own tradition through such an encounter. Peace will be a beautiful flower blooming on this field of practice.”
We do NOT do dialogue well at all in our western world. Americans royally suck at having a meaningful conversation across differences. Screw peace and blooming flowers. We’ve created a nasty bed of thorns. And we really can’t blame the right or the left (as if scapegoating ever worked toward progress).
This process starts with looking in the mirror. The western world has been conditioned to behave in such a way that if someone believes in a different deity or interprets a religious passage in a differing light, we absolutely freak out. We have become polarizing, black and white, binary thinkers, and it’s affected our ability to connect with other humans. But what would happen if we simply sat down, took a deep breath and listened without feeling so damn threatened? Our identity must not be susceptible to the fears of pluralism and seemingly strange nuances within a particular religion whether it’s streams of Christianity or flavors of Atheism. We must slowly appreciate the other as a fully loved and accepted human, a person who shares this same planet and breathes in the same precious air.
In addition, Thich Naht Hanh makes the following statement about appreciating the other:
“We have to appreciate that truth can be received from outside of – not only within – our own group. If we do not believe that, entering into dialogue would be a waste of time. If we think we monopolize the truth and we still organize a dialogue, it is not authentic. We have to believe that by engaging in dialogue with the other person, we have the possibility of making a change within ourselves, that we become deeper. Dialogue is not a means for assimilation in the sense that one side expands and incorporates the other into its “self.” Dialogue must be practiced on the basis of “non-self.” We have to allow what is good, beautiful, and meaningful in the other’s tradition to transform us.”
I absolutely love the fact that I (Ryan) rarely write the content anymore for our Denver Brew Theology gatherings. I did for the first year, but soon realized that there were other gifted and intelligent and simply diversified views out there… and guess what? It worked! I get super excited when we bring in speakers who have content that I’m clueless about… I’m fully open, and it’s a beautiful thing! I thoroughly enjoy it when my friend, Liz, who is a Buddhist, writes content on Buddhism because I get to learn from her. I am opened to being transformed and my Christianity doesn’t feel threatened by it. Quite the opposite: It’s amazingly liberating!
People across the western world visit pubs and coffee houses in droves. And fluid conversation always happens in a bar or a coffee house. That being said, I have had multiple people tell me that the kind of honest and raw conversations being held at these venues are lacking substance and intentional focus for many individuals. Sure, there’s a lot of prosting going on (and maybe other things. Wink. Wink.). What happens in pubs is a lot of good-times fun, but there’s something missing. On the other hand, there is another kind of prosting going on in religious circles, but it often lacks diversity. And it is often one tribe doing its own echo-chamber, self-gratifying service without any attention or priority toward the “other.” These venues often lack the rawness, honesty and diverse vulnerability that are typically offered in a pub or a coffee house.
Brew Theology brings both worlds together. With fierce loyalty amongst friends and strangers across open tables, we passionately PROST with beers held high and crazy, diversified hearts in one prosting-accord. We have tapped into the secret that Thich Naht Hanh calls a key to true peace: Dialogue!