More Lent Reading: Sharing Sacred Space

I just finished reading Benoit Standaert’s book Sharing Sacred Space: Interreligious Dialogue as Spiritual Encounter.  Unlike some of the spiritual reading I am doing this Lent – reading that is not directly related to anything I am currently working on – this is a book I read in anticipation of teaching World Spiritualities at St. Catherine’s University during the upcoming J-term 2016. Leaving aside my motives for reading it, this is a wonderful book.

Early in the book, Standaert shares the “central intuition” that guided his efforts in writing L’Espace Jesus, only the third and last part of which appears translated here in Sharing Sacred Space.  He write

Any encounter with the great religions of the world is doomed to fail if its staring point is dogma as formulated and transmitted in a given culture, or if it is based on some historical expressions, which are also culturally conditioned.  If we want to provide a level playing field for all the participants, we have to come up with some other approach.  In order to make it possible for us to meet one another as equals, I have made use of the category of “spiritual space.”

Believing that each of the great religious traditions exists in a specific spiritual space, Standaert’s starting point is the concept of “Jesus space.”  By starting there, he believes it will be “possible to move beyond the confrontational impasse that is created when we limit ourselves to dogmatic comparisons or historical reconstructions.”  His discussion proceeds from the premise that “Christians do not have a monopoly on the meaning and richness contained in and radiating out from Jesus space.”

In successive chapters of Sharing Sacred Space, Standaert addresses the encounters between Jesus and Judaism, Jesus and Islam, Jesus and Buddhism and Jesus and Unbelief.  In them one finds, not a treatise on the different faith traditions, but the fruits of his reflection on the relationship of each to Jesus and Christianity.

There is much I could write about the various chapters, but I will limit myself to observing how helpful I found his discussion, in the chapter on Jesus and Judaism, of the major trajectories of Jewish belief from the times of Herod the Great and the beginnings of the Christian movement to the present.  Standaert is absolutely right (and my buddy Rabbi Norman Stein has made the same point) that “for many Christians Jewish history ends with the death of Jesus on Golgotha” and “they know absolutely nothing about the growth and spiritual development of the Jewish people after that.”  How can we possibly engage in meaningful dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters if that is the case?

I’ve talked before here and elsewhere on the importance of interreligious dialogue.  This book is an importantone for those wishing for that dialogue to bear fruit.

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2 thoughts on “More Lent Reading: Sharing Sacred Space

  1. Based on your recommendation a couple weeks ago I got a copy of this book. Although I am just really getting into it I must thank you for the suggestion. To the extent I am able, I fully concur with your what you say — if you have even the remotest interest in inter-religious dialogue or just want a stimulating theological “read” this would be a great book for you!

  2. Reflecting upon the martyrdom of St. Perpetua this day in 203 (she, often referenced as the first woman of noble birth to be martyred for her Christian faith), one can also reflect upon today’s call for ‘New Evangelism.’

    Perpetua sought not the constant shelter and security of her family’s estate or her ‘home church’ after her conversion; transformation came not in interaction with ‘free men’ or slave who served her family, or in interaction with the societal elite of Carthage – transformative was her discernment of patronage and homage afforded wealth, position and deity. Often resplendent in tyrian purple silk, she became a bright light, a “magnate for Christ,” a young woman who sacrificed all for her love of Jesus and in action and word written introduced many to God’s love and mercy. . .

    We are all so ‘called,’ and Standaert challenges our stewardship of the spiritual aura surrounding each of us within “Jesus (or God) space” as we interact with our brothers and sisters during our life’s journey.

    Most sins of humanity are often reported to occur, and temptation reside, within our personal space. While the ‘shepherds’ among us often struggle to retain and control “dogma as formulated and transmitted in a given culture, or if it is based on some historical expressions, which are also culturally conditioned.” – monopolizing doctrine and often hindering a “…possible (to) move beyond the confrontational impasse that is created when we limit ourselves to dogmatic comparisons or historical reconstructions.”

    From a Christian perspective, one wonders if it is our transgressions, as well as, the actions of His ‘shepherds’ that often separate all from God’s love and mercy; illuminating personal witness that often struggles to overcome hypocrisy of monopolized ‘verse’ and message – possibly further delaying His ‘Kingdom on Earth’. . .

    How disheartening that more are invited to ‘God’s Table’ than ‘invitation’ often proclaims. . .

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