Vibrant Christianity in Multi-Faith Britain
Vibrant Christianity in Multifaith Britain. Reviewed by Ray Taylor in Preach, Winter 2018
This is a very timely book. Contemporary Britain is now a place in which Christianity is no longer the dominant religion, but home to an increasing number of people from different faith traditions. Smith makes the point right at the outset that religion is rarely out of the news, usually for all the wrong reasons, and other faiths, particularly Islam, are much more visible (my stress) in politics, education, and popular culture.
The author is well-qualified to write about this field. He is the Director of Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham; he co-founded the charity The Feast to develop Christian-Muslim youth work; and he led the initiative to create the Ethical Guidelines for Christian and Muslim Witness in Britain. It might be supposed that Smith's interests lie solely in the Muslim faith but this book also discusses Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism. Smith often discusses the Muslim faith in detail, but his conclusions, advice and many biblical examples can equally be applied to other faiths.
What I really like about this book is how accessible it is. Smith has a deceptively engaging style that belies the seriousness of his subject. He adopts a sensible approach to the issues, occasionally provocative and challenging, but always underpinned by scripture and the example of Jesus.
One approach to improvement and developing good relationships is to remain friendly and agree to disagree. The analogy is that of a marriage -- it takes a brave spouse to tell their partner that what they believe is wrong! It is better to listen, ask why they have a certain point of view and then offer a different perspective. One of Smith's golden rules, whenever he is faced with something he doesn't know or understand, is to just smile and ask.
This book will useful for preachers when their message reflects on other faiths, aided by its extensive use of scriptural example.
Review by Ray Taylor