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The Table Video

Richard Mouw

Praying for the Moral & Religious Other

President Emeritus and Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
August 9, 2015

“There need to be pastoral models of empathy; the way we pray and who we pray for,” Richard Mouw suggests. What would it look like for people who vehemently disagree not just to get along, but to support and love each other? Richard Mouw reflects on several ways that Christians can make their communities “workshops of civility,” finding ways to love the religious other.


So Richard all of us around this table actually have the luxury of working in Christian institutions. And I think probably where the rubber meets the road more often when it comes to conflict and the need for civil dialogue is for all of our friends and local churches who rub shoulders with colleagues at work who believe very differently or have very different lifestyles or even of course within the church there can be uncivil discourse.

You know if a church were to come to you and say Professor Mal, what is the one or two or three prescriptions you would give us as a local church to foster this kind of convicted civility? These are people who are looking for just a way to begin to grow in this area what would your response be?

Well I think one is, I think there need to be pastoral models of empathy. Even just the way we pray and who we pray for. Wouldn’t it be great to pray for, the sons and the gay and lesbian sons and daughters of this congregation? A lot of parents out there are really hurting. And just to say, this is the congregation that wants to support people, who are struggling with that and parents of people who are struggling with that. So the way we pray and who we pray for. Pray for your Muslim neighbors.

I mean boy they must be scared. Right after 9/11, that morning our communications person called me as president of the institution and said “What should we do?”, I said well first thing call the Muslim center in Los Angeles and tell them we are praying for them. Because this must be a frighting time for local Muslims. Little Muslim kids got beat up walking home from school in Orange County.

There are some Nuns that went and walked them home from school, just to be safe. What a wondering thing to do. And to think about those kinds of gestures and to lift those up as models. Imagine what it’s like to be a 7 year old Muslim girl. On a day when her nation is at war with Muslim terrorists. And how people look at her and how frightened she must be. And wouldn’t it be great for a Christian just to go and say I’m going to walk along, you don’t have to hold my hand or anything but I’m just going to walk along side because I want to make sure you get home safe, what a wonderful thing to do.

And then I think to model dialogue. To Not necessary in the pulpit but maybe after the Sermon. To have people disagree about some things. Whether it’s the next election or health care or whatever. Just to talk together and to try to do it in ways that honor each other. The gentleness and reverence towards each other. I think the church can be a workshop in stability and it’s a good thing to think of ways in which we can do that.