Measuring Transformation in Multifaith Engagement

An interesting article was published today at State of Formation by Jenn Lindsay. It is titled "Methodolocial Challenges to Measuring Transformation," and it refers to the context of interfaith dialogue. In the essay Lindsay identifies two categories of people who participate in such dialogue. The first believes that interfaith dialogue "must accomplish something" and be productive in making some kind of measurable change in the lives of participants. The second category is "those who are not overly invested in efficacy" and who largely want good personal experiences through the process. Lindsay states that both types of categories are needed, and then goes on to discuss issues related to measuring transformation among interfaith dialogue participants, an issue of concern to the people in the first category.

I agree with Lindsay that both categories of dialogue participants are important. For me an ideal type would be the combination of the two. I also appreciate the difficulties related to measuring transformation in the multifaith dialogue process. However, I think I disagree with Lindsay in that this is a far more important issue than she is willing to grant.

Some criticism has been leveled at interfaith dialogue that is worth considering. It tends to attract people of a particular perspective on religious issues and a particular personality type. For this reason it can be viewed as "preaching to the choir." But when it comes to reaching outside the traditional interfaith dialogue fold to involve people with conservative religious convictions and irreconcilable differences with those in other faith traditions, interfaith dialogue falls short. Therefore, we should be asking what steps might be taken to produce a state of affairs where people are transformed so as to be able to live in peaceful tension with their multifaith neighbors which would then result in better management of religious conflict and a reduction in violence. This is especially important with a religious diplomacy approach that contrasts with interfaith dialogue.

But regardless of whether we are talking interfaith or religious diplomacy, determining ways in which to measure transformation in multifaith relationships and conversation partners is crucial. This would mean that such efforts move beyond good intentions to achieve real results in the world. This should be of great interest to non-profit organizations, and those grant making institutions which fund them. If we are to see the investment of much-needed funding into multifaith conflict, one of the greatest social issues of our time, then we must identify and utilize appropriate measurements of transformation in our work.

John Morehead