While I was a seminarian studying in Sewanee, I had the distinct pleasures of sitting in on lectures regarding Jewish-Christian relations from one of the best – Amy-Jill Levine. “A.-J.” continues to be a friend of the School of Theology in Sewanee and I will never forget a most gracious offer she extended to those of us who would leave the Mountain to become priests and preachers of the Word. She told us that while we are working on writing our sermons, if we had any questions regarding difficult texts or concerns that our message might be perceived as anti-Semitic, that we could email her and she would give us her guidance. The little time we had learning from A.-J. was very rich. She is a strong, brilliant woman of faith who has studied both the Old and New Testaments inside and out. You will not want to miss out on this dynamic speaker!
Below is a passage from one of A.-J.’s books that speaks towards public prayer. This passage, I believe, hits to the heart of inter-faith relations. I myself have found it difficult when Christians deny Jesus or apologize for being followers of Christ while engaging in inter-faith dialogue. It’s as though we as Christians don’t trust that our brother or sister of another faith tradition can handle it, which demonstrates a “watered-down faith.” At the same time, I have found that friends I have met along the way who practice a faith other than Christianity don’t apologize for their faith, so why should we. Let’s respect the dignity of our brothers and sisters of other faiths by being our true selves, followers of Christ.
Some Christian ministers resort to a watered-down, generic invocation that satisfies few. Some insist on praying in the “name of Jesus,” which prevents Jews and other non-Christians from saying “Amen.” Atheists are ignored in any case. . . Since public religiosity is not going to go away, then the person offering the prayer needs to find a way of invoking the deity in a way that both affirms distinct confessions and recognizes the existence of alternative truth claims. Ending a prayer “in the name of Jesus” keeps the prayer parochial. Ending it “as I pray in the name of Jesus” is a bit of an improvement. “As I pray in the name of Jesus, and we all pray to the God who has many names and many children” is even better. The fundamentalist Christian should have little objection, since the God of the Bible does have many names: El Shaddai, El Elyon, Jehovah, Elohim. In turn, Jews may choose to pray in Hebrew, but then they should provide a translation so the people in attendance know to what, exactly they are saying “Amen.” Atheists, of course, are still left out, but at least the theists in the group are all included. (Amy-Jill Levine, Misunderstood Jew, 222-3)
I hope to see you at Amy-Jill Levine’s lecture on May 3!
In the Name of Our Crucified and Risen Lord,