Hanna de Jong-Markus

Chapter 6 116 6.5 Conclusion and Discussion We set out to answer the following research question: “What do OPPS teachers believe about religious others, and how can this be related to their beliefs about the Christian faith?” The teachers in our study did not deliberately create interactions with religious others. Their experiences differed, and they defined the “religious other” in different ways. They believed that the Christian faith was distinct from that of other religions in three ways: Christians do not need to do good works in order to receive salvation; there is one God, and the qualities of God described in the Bible cannot be recognized in the images of the god in other religions; and religious others do not believe in the Trinity, specifically the divinity of Jesus and his role as Savior. This last belief makes the distinctiveness of the Christian faith a very serious issue because the acknowledgment of Jesus as Savior was seen as decisive for the eternal life of people. Meanwhile, the teachers regularly showed reluctance to statements about whether the religious other would be saved or not, sometimes appearing to show that they were searching for what to believe about religious others. The beliefs of teachers about religious others could be classified into three categories: beliefs about distinction from, identification with, and recognition of the religious other, each with several subcategories. When the teachers described the relation between themselves and religious others, they not only referred to themselves and religious others but also explicitly or implicitly to God and sometimes also to society. The relation between teachers with religious others did not stand alone: it was also about the relationship with God and society. The teachers highlighted either the connection to or distance from God in relation to the religious other. Beliefs about religious others and the Christian faith were related because of similarities in the content and nature. In both sets of beliefs, God and whether people can have a relation with Him were depicted as central issues, and ambivalence was shown to exist. Ambivalence surfaced when the religious other came into view. Beliefs about the distinctiveness of the Christian faith (i.e., salvation by Jesus’ sacrifice) and its importance were remarkably unequivocal, reflecting the belief that adherence to God was central to orthodox Protestants. However, when applied to religious others, the teachers were more reluctant; they expressed counter-voices, searched for what they believed, or vacillated. We could interpret the unequivocalness as the echo of a strong formal and/or normative theology. This voice also echoed in the long quotation provided earlier, when the teacher said, “I maybe ought to…” and first mentioned some beliefs about the distinctiveness of the Christian faith before articulating her counter-voices. The consequences or interpretations of a formal and normative theology in the practice of perceiving religious others were less straightforward,