Bethel Library Primetime: “Loving My (Religious) Neighbor”

November 19, 2013 | 7:40 a.m.

By Nicole Finsaas ’13

Marion Larson and Sara Shady present at Bethel University Library’s Primetime.

This fall, Associate Professor of Philosophy Sara Shady and Professor of English Marion Larson presented their paper, “Loving My (Religious) Neighbor: A Pietist Approach to Christian Responsibility in a Pluralistic World” to the Bethel community. The paper explored the pietist ethos in regard to interacting with those of other faiths. Pietism, a Christian faith perspective that emphasizes holy living, actively living out one’s faith, and practicing spirituality, is an important part of Bethel’s heritage. Today at Bethel, pietism’s influence can be seen in things like Vespers and chapel, the Bethel Covenant, and Bethel-sponsored missions trips.

Using a pietist approach to interact with those who are of different religions can mean attentive listening, a genuine willingness to learn from another, and sincere respect of another’s point of view. “It is possible to listen, seek to understand, and even come to appreciate aspects of another religion without compromising commitment to one’s own,” say Larson and Shady. Their paper encouraged educators to engage students in direct interactions with those of other faiths. “As Christian educators, affirming faith as a verb implies a responsibility to extend learning beyond mere intellectual activity to actual engagement with real people in the world beyond our campus,” they say. “Stepping outside of [the campus] bubble challenges students to reflect on their faith in new ways.”

Their paper argues that in order to show God’s love, Christians must cultivate healthy, sincere conversations with those of other faiths, while maintaining their commitment to Christianity. “This [approach] does not mean that we find peace simply by avoiding disagreement, nor does it mean that we must embrace all views as equally true,” they explain. “Rather… we speak our view of the truth with love and sincerity, and we charitably respect the other’s point of view as well.”

Shady and Larson’s presentation was part of the “Idea of a Pietist College” series at the Bethel University Library’s Primetime event. Primetime, held several times each month, features student and faculty presentations about research, teaching, study abroad, and other relevant activities.