Self-Disclosure: What Do You Think?

self-disclosureOver at The Jesus Blog, Anthony Le Donne has posted a preliminary response to my Part 1 on problem Bible texts. In this post, Anthony offers up a few personal “rules for the road” that he follows in Jewish-Christian dialog, and I think his rules are well worth reading. Anthony’s rule #1: “self-disclosure is necessary”. Following his own rule, Anthony stated that he is Christian. This will come as a surprise to few of us.

Anthony suggested that those who participate in this discussion might also self-identify. I’m not sure what to think about this. I think that folks feel enough reluctance as is to get involved in faith discussions, let alone interfaith discussions. On the other hand, it would be helpful to me to know who I’m talking to.

I’d like to open this up for comment. Do you think it’s a good idea for commenters here to identify themselves as Christian or Jewish, or even to self-identify more explicitly?

For the record, I’ve self-identified here, here and here, and I have a more detailed self-identification in the works. But I’m not suggesting that this is appropriate for anyone else.

  • Aaron Smith

    I think that self-identification adds context to what people might say in this discussion, and that it could help with interfaith understanding–especially for those who might benefit from understanding viewpoints from faiths different from their own. Respectful interfaith discussion attracted me to read this blog. Having said that, I wonder if simply self-identifying as either Jewish or Christian is enough.

    I self-identify as a Christian. But I understand that Christianity comes in many flavors. A Christian whose orientation is a cocktail of Conservative/Southern Baptist and ELCA Lutheran (such as myself) might hold a different perspective than someone who is Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

    Somebody self-identifying as Jewish in his or her comment may also be helpful because a Jewish perspective on the New Testament is likely different than a Christian perspective. My Judaism “training” consists of a couple of Joseph Telushkin books, Torah For Dummies, Schmuley Boteach’s Judaism for Everyone, many Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg YouTube videos, and the movie The Chosen. I don’t think for a second that I can make truly educated conversation about Judaism, but I do know enough that within Judaism, different streams (e.g. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc) may have differing perspectives.

    Is it hair-splitting to suggest that people give specific Christian and Jewish orientations? Maybe. Mostly, I’m looking forward broadening my perspective from a good discussion.

    • lbehrendt

      Is it enough to self-identify as merely Christian or Jewish? Probably not! But I don’t want to ask for too much. Thanks for your self-identification.

      While this site is devoted to interfaith dialog at the intersection of Christianity and Judaism, I find that I’m talking here to people who may be Christian or Jewish, but are more than that. Most want to speak from their individual perspective and not as representatives of a religion. I think this is fine and good.

      Your Judaism training is light years ahead of the Christianity training of most Jews, including mine until a few years ago.

  • AJ

    Hi – sorry to nitpick…

    From your blog: Anthony offers up a few personal “rules for the road”
    From Anthony’s blog: nor do I offer these points as “rules for the road” for anyone else

    I see how saying “personal rules” could make it square with Anthony’s statement – but still it struck me as a sort of misquote.

    But to address the post… Self-disclosure is clearly helpful in terms of understanding where we’re coming from, giving our ideas some context, but I think it’s also important on another level. My sense is that while the content being discussed in an interfaith dialog (Scripture, beliefs, history, etc.) might be stimulating and enlightening, that’s not in fact where the REAL action is. That, in my opinion, is the part which generally remains unspoken – the feelings behind the words. Are the interactions generating greater trust, friendship, comfort in one another’s presence? Or are they doing just the opposite? At the end of the day, how are people feeling about each other? It’s the conversation going on beneath the conversation, and it’s the one which people carry with them long after the conversation’s over.

    Self-disclosure makes the interaction more personal, and that in turn engenders greater openness and trust. So regardless of what’s said on the level of “ideas”, by saying something about ourselves we’ve already increased the odds for an interfaith dialog where we leave feeling better about each other than when we first entered. And as much as I love discussing ideas, to me that’s the real goal.

    At the same time, I don’t think self-disclosure should necessarily be “mandatory” either.

    • lbehrendt

      AJ, nitpicking is never a problem on this site!

      To clarify: while Anthony’s “rules for the road” were offered up as personal rules, for himself only (as you noted), he described these rules as applicable to Jewish-Christian dialog. He also added this endnote: “If you’d like to chime in on our comments, it might be helpful if you self-identify too. Up to you.” I wanted to know what folks here thought about that.

      It is an interesting question, as you put it, where the REAL action is. Is the real goal to feel better about each other? It may be that this is an area of Jewish-Christian asymmetry. I’ll need to choose my words carefully here, because I think I’m venturing into an area where it’s easy to cause offense. So, let me start by saying that just about everyone enters into interfaith dialog hoping to feel better about the other. But I think for Jews, this hope ties into the experience of anti-Semitism, as well as present-day concerns about issues such as evangelical efforts targeted at Jews. I was told by my Rabbi that this is the primary reason Jews enter into dialog with Christians, with the goal to be treated with greater respect and understanding. I think this is an important goal for Christians as well. But at the same time, the Christian view of salvation history (and I’m speaking in VERY general terms here) takes Judaism into account, in terms of such matters as God’s covenant with the Jews and (quoting Romans 1:16) the gospel coming to the Jew first. If you read my posts here about Cardinal Koch, you have an idea of the Christian questions surrounding salvation where Christians may seek a kind of partnership with Jews.

      To close this asymmetry, I might take note of Anthony’s second “rule for the road”: “I tend to understand myself and my people better when I understand an outsider’s view better.” I’ve already noted here that my appreciation for Christianity has strengthened my commitment and devotion to Judaism. But to articulate this goal at this early stage may be taking things too far, too soon. I think the REAL action comes simply with listening, understanding and trying to “get it”, as well as speaking with the greatest possible honesty and devotion to truth. I’m not saying that we don’t need rules for the road. Interfaith dialog carries with it a great potential for misunderstanding, and even injury. We need to proceed carefully. But that being said, I’m reluctant to state “real goals” in advance — not that I don’t hope that we’ll all feel better about each other, but because I hope for even greater things to emerge from good dialog.

      Thanks for your comment. I think you’ve perceptively focused on important issues that need to be discussed.