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May 19, 2005

The Ten Commandments for Inter-Religious And Ideological Dialogue: Can They Be Used As A Guide To More Productive Blog Commentary?

Topics: Commentary

Over the past weeks, BlogsForTerri has seen much dialogue which more often than not became heated and argumentative. Often, it served as much as a discussion board as it did a source of information, and the discussions sometimes became just a little too argumentative. So I asked my good friend and fellow vet, John Kieffer, if he knew of some guidelines that would be useful for not only BlogsForTerri, but for use at most blog sites where posts often draw a lot of heated debate. This post on Leonard Swidler's "The Dialogue Decalogue," with John's accompanying comments, is offered by John toward that purpose. John's academic field is religious studies.

- "Dialogue Decalogue" by John Kieffer.
In a world that is increasing in religious diversity, how can we avoid the usual and predictable pitfalls that have unfortunately led to so much anxiety and conflict both on a personal level and on the world stage? How can we achieve, instead, meaningful dialogue and understanding between our own religious/ideological worldview and the differing beliefs of others? With an academic background in religious studies(University of South Florida), I was introduced early in my academic career to the fact that resolving this question was not only crucial for successful scholarship in this field, but also for evocative discourse in seminar and other group discussion settings.

Of tremendous help to this end was Leonard Swidler's "The Dialogue Decalogue: Ground Rules for the Interreligious, Interideological Dialogue." His essay, published in 1983 in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, provides ten "commandments," or ground rules, to facilitate understanding through meaningful dialogue. The following is his work quoted and paraphrased in brief form:

1. The primary purpose of dialogue is to learn, that is, to change and grow in the perception and understanding of reality, and then to act accordingly.

2. Dialogue must be a two-sided project - within each religious or ideological community and between religious or ideological communities.

3. Each participant must come to the dialogue with complete honesty and sincerity. (Conversely - each participant must assume a similar complete honesty and sincerity in the other partners.)

4. In dialogue we must not compare our ideals with our partner's practice, but rather our ideals with our partner's ideals, our practice with our partner's practice.

5. Each participant must define her/himself (their own religious worldview).

6. Each participant must come to the dialogue with no hard-and-fast assumptions as to where the points of disagreements are.

7. Dialogue can take place only between equals. If a participant representing a differing religion is viewed by the other as inferior, no dialogue can occur.

8. Dialogue can take place only on the basis of mutual trust.

9. Persons entering into dialogue must be at least minimally self-critical of both themselves and their own religious or ideological traditions.

10. Each participant eventually must attempt to experience the partner's religion or ideology "from within."

I recommend that you read Swidler's short essay that elaborates on each of these ten rules. Once you have done this, you can do a little exercise that we, in religious studies, have done in several class settings. Write down which of the ten rules would be the easiest for you to do and why; conversely, write which one would be the most difficult and why. Once you have engaged in dialogue, go back from time to time and re-think/write these most easy/difficult commandments and compare how they have changed as you progress in this venture. It would be interesting to hear from HyScience and BlogsForTerri participants to see how their perceptions and views have evolved.

In the process, "The Dialogue Decalogue" will not only expand your understanding of other religious views, but, more importantly, it will make you an active participant in reducing conflict that results from the natural emotional reaction to the unknown and misunderstood. It is, after all, meaningful dialogue and understanding that ultimately differentiates a civilized humanity from other forms in our world of religious diversity.

Cross posted by Hyscience

Posted by richard at May 19, 2005 8:31 PM

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This is all too open ended. We're not here to "learn". We're here to find direction after Terri, and to coallesce around the cause of thousands of Terris out there. The people who run BlogsForTerri probably would like to define this site for themselves, but I would suggest that BlogsForTerri is now really BloggersAgainstEuthanasia, except for the occasional pro-Euthanasia trolls coming through. Without Terri still alive for us to all focus behind, it does seem a bit like a ship without a rudder around here.

I do like the stories of encouragement, people coming out of comas, and how the fight for the diginity of life is coming along in other countries. However, it is very frustrating for me in the U.S. to read about things in say, England and Australia, where I have no political ability whatsoever to rattle representatives' cages with my e-mails, faxes, or phone calls.

Perhaps in that sense, we can learn from each other, comparing what works in one country with what might be done in another.

But the learning is for the purpse of DOING. Without the DOING and making a difference in the world, the learning is useless.

Posted by: Suzanne. at May 20, 2005 12:49 AM

First of all - I would like to thank the above post regarding "discussion". While my views may differ with some on this board, I come with the intent of trying to learn what makes everybody tick. I am touched by some of the stories we have had here - and now understand why some hold so steadfast to their beliefs and opinions. And - I hope what I have said might have shed some light on opinions.

I have not posted in awhile but I feel that Suzanne's comment deserves a response. If we go into any situation with the opinion that we cannot learn, we are shortchanging ourselves. There are always going to be people who do not share our point of view. But, maybe by hearing them and trying to learn something, we can affect a change for everybody involved. Why is it that when someone dissents with an opinion on this board - they are automatically a death monger - pro-euthanasia? I am in no way of that but I disagree with many of tactics employed by this board.

Suzanne - we do have every ability to change the leaders of our government. But, there are a myriad of issues that surround each election - not just the pro-life movement. Sometimes we have to way the lesser of two evils. And, unfortunately, we have no control once we put them in office. But, we can vote them out in 2 or 4 or 6 years. That is the beauty of our system.

Regarding other countries - we should not poke our noses into their politics. We would not want them doing the same. People choose, for the most part, to live where they do.

In every situation we can and SHOULD learn. Remember what they say about history!

Posted by: Blogging Beth at May 20, 2005 7:12 AM

Okay, now. Let's see. This post was about civil interideological dialoging. Hmmm. Sounds like a good thing, and in a civil setting when speaking about philosophical subjects it is a very sound ideal.

Of course learning is important as is civility and respect, but on this site we aren't just discussing the weather. People have lost or are in danger of losing their very lives - THAT is what we are discussing.

Now, I'm sure that Blogging Beth means well but "it is a very complicated issue" is a cop-out excuse to do nothing. Everything worthwhile in life is complicated. Suzanne is right. We should be DOING everything in our power to halt the advance of easy-death-by-government-decree. It is a very real danger.

Posted by: Tom Spence at May 20, 2005 10:12 PM

Now here is the rub. I am a participant on this forum and I am from Australia. I am not poking my nose into the business of U.S. citizens even though some might think that this is the case. My interest has come about because the implications of the ordered murder of Terri Schindler is of international significance.

It is true that I am a Catholic. By participating in a forum such as this one I have come to respect the views of those who are not Catholic but have an equally strong understanding of the right to life. It is an understanding that crosses international and religious boundaries. I hope that I have been able to find some common ground with my fellow Christians.

It is worth noting that there are people who tried to help Terri who do not fit the stereotypical Christian fundamentalist. I am one of those people. I do not belong to either the right wing or left wing of politics. Some of the people that I have met during the past few months have been of a more liberal mindset. There are some who do not fit my typical family stereotype and it has been a pleasure to correspond with two particular individuals (RD is one of them).

To Suzanne, it is a good opportunity to learn about what is happening in both England and Australia. Yes, we should be concerned about Charlotte Wyatt. Why? Because she is a preemie and if she were allowed to die, then doctors would be emboldened to continue the secret slaughter of premature infants. If it happens in Britain, then Australia and the USA are sure to follow in the steps of their British counterparts. I may not have any political clout in your country, and in fact it is not needed, but I can contribute in other ways, and I have attempted to contribute in those other ways. One thing is certain, if you cannot get busy with a fax machine, then simply decide to pray for the situation that has arisen.

The other case, that of Maria Korp in Melbourne Australia, is one that requires some attention and it is an opportunity to explore the differences in the handling of two similar but different situations. Terri's case is similar because her collapse is unexplained, whilst we do know that Maria was based before being placed in the boot of a car. The similarity comes from the fact of a head injury.

Maria is probably in something less than a minimally conscious state if the neurologist is not one of the jocks who is intent upon killing those who are severely disabled. This is yet another similarity to Terro's situation.

The biggest difference is the way in which Maria's fate is to be handled. A public guardian has been appointed on behalf of the family. That means, the husband, who has been charged over her attempted murder, is denied the right to be a guardian of her. Yet another difference is that the husband, who maintains his innocence over the bashing, wants her to live and refuses to allow anyone to stop feeding and hydrating her. This is the exact opposite of Michael S's behaviour, and is probably worth a closer look.

No one should get upset if they cannot use political clout in a given situation. Rather, the situation should be used as a vehicle for learning about the situation and what can be done to overturn justice.

Posted by: Maggie4life at May 21, 2005 1:16 AM

A comment on Maggie's post -

[1]Charlotte Wyatt is an interesting case. Here is why - and I would welcome the comments oF all. Being a premature infant, her survival has been assisted by the use of medical methods developed over the years. It is truly a miracle that babies like this can live. I am very familar with these technolgies as I have been a volunteer for the March of Dimes for close to 20 years. I have toured Neonatal Intensive Care Units - looking at babies who are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The "rub" is this - I am also Catholic and have had many a lecture directed my way as to the evils of the March of Dimes - in particular, its neutral view of abortion. It neither condemns nor condones it. So, Baby Charlotte is essentially alive due to technologies developed by an organization who is decried as "non pro-life." Its this whole does the end justify the means question.

[2] The guardian issue - no doubt in my mind that this is justified in Maria's case. But, in Terri's case, a guardian was appointed and he found sufficient evidence that her wishes were not being carried out by these extraordinary means. Now - whether you believe him - believe he was manipulated by the courts, Felos, etc. - that is another story. But this was carried out. So maybe a guardian doesn't work. What then?

[3] Regarding political clout and learning. I believe to effect real change - learning does have to take place. Think of the major changes that have occured in our country - the right of women to vote, the rights of blacks. Education had to take place that these individuals were not second class citizens. Change happened. Sometimes at great costs and after a great length of time. But it occured - and it was permanent.

I heard an interesting comment on Bill O'Reilly recently - speaking about educating others on issues - particularly those regarding religious beliefs. He said - if we look at an issue like abortion and argue that it is wrong because the Bible says so, or the Pope says its wrong - you will never win any argument. But, if we argue from the side that, we are aborting babies at terms where, if they would be delivered prematurely, they would have an opportunity to live, then something is wrong.

Posted by: Blogging Beth at May 21, 2005 10:25 AM

Well, it all comes down to this: is BlogsForTerri a debating society? Or is it a call to action society? Frankly, I was rather offended by the posting of the condescending article "10-Commandments of Intereligious and Ideological Dialogue".

The implication is that we are on different sides of this issue and need to learn to be 'polite' to each other. Gimme air.

We're not in kindergarten, and we don't need a kindergarten lecture.

I had been persuaded that endlessly debating on the minutia of euthanasia, for the purpose of pursuading others by increments that killing was sometimes ever more OK, was NOT what BlogsForTerri was about.

Learning? Sure, I'll learn what works in other countries for stopping euthanasia so that I will be more empowered for fighting euthanasia on my own country. But I've heard all the arguments favoring just a little bit of euthanasia (like being just a little bit pregnant), in other parts of the net already, and I'm not buying it. We don't need more of that schlock here.

Just tell me who's in danger of a being sentenced to a death like Terri's, and I will move to act in whatever way I can by lobbying authorities that it is outrageously wrong.

BTW --- It is very MUCH everyone's business what goes on in other countries. Didn't we learn ANYTHING from the Nazi era?

Posted by: Suzanne. at May 21, 2005 1:00 PM

Might I make a suggestion. One of the really big things you have to fight in the first place in order to have a crack at fighting euthanasia in the second place is socialized medicine. No to the Hillary Clintons.

Posted by: mary et. al. at May 21, 2005 8:59 PM

A further comment regarding the guardian issue relating to Terri. There were two guardian ad litems appointed at differing times. The first guardian ad litem, Brian Pearce stated that Michael Schiavo should not be the guardian due to conflicts of interest. He was removed and his report to the court disregarded.

Jay Wolfson, the secon man appointed on a short term basis looked at only the documents presented to him. He did not, for example take note of the attempts that MS had already made on Terri's life viz the refusal to allow the administration of antibiotics that occurred on at least 3 occasions, the latest being 2003.

The only other guardian ad litem was the self-appointed George Greer. Again there was a conflict of interest and this was disregarded.

The next person who did an evaluation was Dr. Chesire. He began his study with the belief that Terri was in a condition that meant she was comatose. He changed his mind after a visit during the period in which she was being starved to death. Wolfson also spent a little bit of time with Terri, but if MS was aware that he was coming he had ample opportunity to ensure that Terri could not respond to Wolfson. On the other hand what did become clear from the Hammesfahr report is that Terri only responded to people when she felt comfortable with them. There are witnesses who have stated that Terri would turn her back on MS and refuse to interact with him. This is quite significant if only he was present when she was examined by some of the not so professional pro-euthanasia doctors who were called in to examine her.

The guardian issue is of extreme importance in this and other cases. Michael Schiavo was the only court appointed guardian. The guardian ad litem was not her guardian as such.

Blogging Beth you have totally misrepresented the issues involved in the case. I do not know if this is because you are ignorant of what really went down or whehter you want to just believe whatever is stated in the MSM without doing the hard yards of investigation. Either way the comments show that you do not know enough about the issue to make logical comments.

Posted by: Maggie4life at May 23, 2005 3:10 AM

A quick comment on the damage done by the women's movement. Yep, that is right, some of the changes have not been for the better, they have made our society a lot worse off.

The only good thing that women ever did was to push for the right to vote. Other than that they have been quite foolish in a lot of situations. Hilary Clinton and Geraldine Feraro are two names that come to mind and neither of these women have made a lasting good impression on society as a whole.

Posted by: Maggie4life at May 23, 2005 3:14 AM

Mary you have made a very good point about socialized medicine. Great Britain is one of the countries that has made this experiment and their health system is an absolute shambles. There have been attempts in Australia to follow the British example. Those attempts have also been a disaster and have placed so much pressure on the hospitals that there are constant mistakes being made by staff who are not getting adequate periods of rest.

Before the experiment with socialized medicine we had a system that allowed for those who were poor to receive treatment for free due to a pro bono type system. The surgeons used to have their private patients and they did not knock back those who could not afford to pay for treatment. In those days we used to be able to claim a maximum amount of benefit. Then the government interfered and the system has not been the same since then. The cost of a doctor's visit has risen quite significantly meaning that people who need treatment often cannot afford to pay the doctor's bill. The system is erratic and a lot of doctors refuse to bulk bill and that causes hardship for people who are unemployed or on low incomes. This in turn has led to people who should be visiting a doctor attending the hospital emergency department instead. They are wasting the hospital resources with their petty complaints, expecting treatment ahead of those who are in real need of emergency care.

The pressure on the hospitals is so bad that there are now too many deaths due to doctor and nurse errors. I have only just been informed that the husband of my late MIL's sister died unexpectedly in hospital when he was only there for a review of his medication due to his Parkinsons disease.

Only a few years ago I heard of a cases in Britain where patients were dying as a result of the golden staph infection, or for other reasons that mean the deaths were very unexpected.

Socialized medicine has caused a number of pressures on the hospital system. The reason that this occurs is because people who can afford to pay for their treatment now believe that they should also get any hospital treatment for free. That means public beds are not always available. At the same time the hospital systems have become bloated with administration costs. There is a lot that could be said on the subject. If the USA HMOs are dictating what treatment you may or may not have, then that is no different from what happens in a socialized system. The difference is that the dictation is coming from government. It means that detrimental decisions will continue to be made in the future.

Posted by: Maggie4life at May 23, 2005 3:32 AM

Suzanne, you need to create the opportunity for the education of the public at large so that the lies of the culture of death will be exposed. Getting on the phone and the fax is all very well but it is only something that is fleeting. You need to look to the big picture and to become savvy so that we can counteract the culture of death by playing them at their own game.

We have some very powerful people on our side, including Wesley Smith and Ralph Nadar. We should be taking the time to learn from these people, reading what they have to say and informing ourselves about the euphemisms that are being used by bioethicists in order to confuse society about their full intentions in regard to the culture of death.

Educating the public about what it means for a person who is not dying to be starved and dehydrated to death is a necessity. We need to counteract comments by the likes of Michael Schiavo that the process is quite painless. That might be true for someone who is ready to die, but not for someone who is not dying.

This is why we have to ensure that people such as blogging beth do get re-educated and that they learn the truth instead of just taking notice of the MSM.

When I first heard of this case I was not in the slightest bit interested in it. I believed the MSM but when I started to do extra reading I was staggered over what I had learned. I cannot remain silent over this issue and I am prepared to learn everything that I can in order to help educate the public so that the culture of death cannot take hold. An educated population should be able to at least get its act together and prevent further murders.

Posted by: Maggie4life at May 23, 2005 4:15 AM

> Suzanne, you need to create the opportunity for
> the education of the public at large so ...


The posting of the "10 Commandments for Inter-Religious And Ideological Dialogue" is offensive to everyone here at BlogsForTerri, because the purpose of it was to lecture to us all that we ought to dialogue with, "learn" from, and play nicey nicey with anyone who blows through pushing their pro-death-culture agenda.

Now if you think you can "learn something" from a death-head mush-head, gawhead.

But you tell me who here objects to "educating the public at large" to the truth. Nobody. Frankly, your own condescention is offensive as well.

Posted by: Suzanne. at May 23, 2005 8:37 AM

Sorry, Suzanne, I agree with Maggie. Education is the only way to go. Politicians have other fish to fry having nothing to do with the welfare of the people. Even a little success here and there with politicians is hardly worth the game. What are politicians worth--exactly what they were worth when Terri was dying. They do nothing. Inform the people, help them to make wise decisions and then MAYBE some changes will be made before it is too late, if it isn't already. Maggie isn't condescending. She's just been there and done that. She knows what she is talking about. While I very much respect your sincerity, Suzanne, I do hate to see you waste your passion and energies butting against brick walls.

Posted by: mary et. al. at May 23, 2005 7:27 PM


Check your xyz@... email.


Posted by: Tom Spence at May 23, 2005 11:51 PM

since I have been involved with apologetics for more than 5 years, I know that there is a necessity to dialogue with people without bringing along the personal baggage. Personally, I did not find the article in the least offensive since it served as a reminder that we need to listen to what others are saying in order to digest the comments and then point out the errors, or at least the logical flaws of what the opposition is saying.

Within the last few days we have had yet another one of those people who alleges to have compassion for a certain class of patient, but who has not understood why we were defending Terri Schindler to the extent that we have done. The person, John, might be correct in some instances because he is dealing with cancer patients. He did not seem to have a lot of knowledge about people who are brain damaged as a result of injury, of an unknown type.

We need to learn everything that we can on the subject of euthanasia in order to educate people like John so that they will in turn learn to differentiate between what is best practice for the cancer patient and what is best practice for the brain injured patient.

There are other forms of terminally ill patients but cancer patients are by far the most prevalent in our society. Having gone through the trauma of not being able to do a thing for my own sister who was dying from bone cancer, I think that I finally caught where John was lacking in understanding as far as our own attitudes are concerned.

Men and and women who are dying from cancer are usually in the most excruciating pain imaginable. Their pain is usually managed by medication to give them some assistance during the end stages of life. My sister had been anorexic in the past and when I first heard about her condition I openly admit that I immediately thought that she was anorexic again. It was not the case. She could not eat, and she wanted to eat. Her body, due to the cancer was already at the break down level when her cancer was discovered.

There is where we need to understand when attempts at treatment is futile and it is far better to keep the patient comfortable as he or she slowly ebbs towards the end of life. We all know that we have to die sometime. It is a matter of knowing when the time has come - a time appointed by the Divine Creator.

I mishandled John because he was not relating very well to the subject of what should happen to the brain injured. He understands one kind of patient and does not seem to relate very well to the other situation. People like John need to be educated about the differences between the two situations. If George Felos can go on the lecture circuit, and make money about of giving misinformation, then people involved with Blogs for Terri need to be prepared to learn so that they can give the correct information.

In Terri's case people were misled by those CT scans. The comparison between Terr's scan and that of a healthy 25 year old was so entirely false, but on the whole it went unchallenged because we do not know enough about CT scans, and the evidence that they produce. This is the kind of obstacle that we need to overcome.

I am active on another blog, and I have a very severe opponent. Quite frankly, I would not let him near me for a medical examination because he appears to be a person who makes up his mind in advance and will not change his mind. One of the other participants has begun to be helpful with my own quest for information. You see I am not satisfied with the explanation of bulimia. There is something wrong with that as a dx of Terri's collapse. I am not a doctor and I need to have a medical person lend an expert hand. By asking questions I am learning.

This was the aim of the post on Blogs for Terri. We need to adopt the less hostile approach in order to achieve our objective.

Posted by: Maggie4life at May 24, 2005 6:36 AM