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How the over two billion Christians of the world respond to their religious neighbors is one of the most important questions of our time. In a world that seems increasingly hostile to faith, it can seem easier to remain in bubble of religious community rather than building bridges to other faiths. But according to Marion H. Larson and Sara L. H. Shady’s new book, “From Bubble to Bridge,” Christians everywhere can dialogue with those of other religions without watering down their own—and in fact, they must, if they are to continue affecting the world in a positive way.

A quote included in “From Bubble to Bridge”—from Amber Hacker, vice president of operations and communications at Interfaith Youth Core—sets the tone for the book’s message.

“To me, interfaith cooperation means we have a basic respect for religious and nonreligious identities, that we build on that respect to form mutually inspiring relationships, and that we come together based on our shared values to serve our communities.”

Note that Hacker is not advocating the idea that everyone needs to believe the same thing. Rather, she’s advocating respect, and a focus on those values those of different faiths do share.

This is the key to building bridges, to engaging in productive interfaith dialogue, and ultimately, to a more peaceful world than what we know today.

Trapped in a Bubble

For many Christians, fear is what creates bubbles—fear of watering down one’s faith, of being seen as “weak,” or of somehow losing the love and favor of God. These bubbles can be communities, churches, university campuses, and even neighborhoods and towns. But they’re all marked by one thing—homogeneity of thought.

Bubbles, according to Larson and Shady, form “whenever we draw clear boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and focus most of our time and energy on the safety of ‘us.’” And while these bubbles do provide support and safety to Christians, they provide little challenge. They don’t provide the tools needed to navigate a modern world filled with a multitude of faiths, nor the tools to build constructive relationships with a diverse population.

And because of this, when many Christians—particularly evangelicals—encounter neighbors of different faiths, their reaction is one of fear and hostility. But in a densely populated and religiously diverse world, this kind of reaction not only holds us back as a collective people, but also as Christians.

Jesus didn’t live in a bubble. And neither should we.

Breaking the Bubble

Here’s the problem with moving from bubbles to bridges, as posed in “From Bubble to Bridge.”

“How to we genuinely listen to and respect those who have different religious beliefs while retaining commitment to our own?”

Many Christians have no experience as bridge-builders. Because they’ve been in the bubble for so long, they haven’t had many opportunities to talk about their faith with people of diverse worldviews. They also haven’t learned to listen well when people of other religions share their own faith experiences, according to Larson and Shady. They have no idea of how to even begin breaking out.

So what’s the solution?

Be a Christian.

That’s right—to pop the bubble, all we have to do is embrace our Christianity to the fullest.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, writes “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Those are strong words, and a strong endorsement of community. But let’s go even farther and look at the example of Christ, Himself.

“Matthew 22:37-39, Christ gives two commands: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Engaging in interfaith dialogue means following both of these commands to the fullest.

The life and example of Jesus Christ was marked by concern for those not of the faith. Yes—His heart was broken over their disbelief, but He showed His concern not through insults and wall-building, but through meeting them where they were, by feeding them, speaking with them, and healing them. He built relationships with nonbelievers and participated in His community in a positive way.

And so if Christ, Himself, wasn’t afraid to leave the bubble, should any Christian be?

Building Bridges

So you’ve decided to move out of the bubble, but you’re not sure how to start building the bridges. What do you start?

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