Archive for the ‘Understanding’ Category

A very good question. Of course, the reverse question is also good. Do you know any Christians? Or how about: Do you know anyone who believes differently than you?

HT: Middle East Experience

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Rick Love had me at the first line. In his book review of Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America by Eboo Patel, he writes, “Can a Christian learn anything from a Muslim?” Having just posted on this topic, I thought it would be good to link to his book review both because it comes from an interesting site with Muslim and Christian writers we can all learn from (Middle East Experience) and because it exemplifies what I was communicating in “Can We Learn from Others Different than Ourselves?”

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Today is 9/11. Our lives have been so shaped by it that I have no need to explain to anyone who will read this what I mean by “9/11″.

We left for the Middle East in January, 2002, only 4 months after 9/11. I remember being with friends right after 9/11 had happened and listening them to tell me why we surely couldn’t go to “those Muslims” now. There was a lot of fear among Americans then. There still is. Unfortunately, this has caused some non-Muslims to say and even do things that shame us all. The result is that Muslims today feel more fearful than before.

Sumbul Ali-Karamali wrote an enlightening piece on CNN, “American Muslims Live in Fear 11 Years after 9/11″. There has been an increase in anti-Islalmic rhetoric and crimes. This is tragic. It has certainly changed the landscape for our Muslim neighbors.

The Islamophobia that seems to continue to gain steam is unhealthy and destructive to our nation and ultimately our own souls.

For American Muslims, the past decade has been tumultuous. We have emerged from private life to public life, into the public sphere in an effort to aid understanding between the communities of our multicultural country.

We do it not only for ourselves, but because irrational fear of Islam and Muslims is bad for all Americans: it frays the social fabric of our society; it creates divisions between Americans; it affects the health of our democracy; and it affects the wisdom of our policy choices.

It’s not too late to invite your Muslim neighbors over for dinner in order to love them by hearing from them what Islam is about. Such hospitality and pursuit of understanding seems like a fitting tribute to those who died on 9/11.

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Eboo Patel has a thought provoking piece about how Evangelicals could grow to love Muslims. He compares current American evangelical attitudes towards Muslims with the attitudes evangelicals had towards Catholics more than 50 years ago before JFK was elected president. These attitudes are remarkably similar. He notes:

It is easy to draw a straight line between the evangelical anti-Catholic prejudice of previous generations and the Islamophobia of today, essentially saying that “evangelicals have to hate someone.”

What a tragedy that those who believe in the One who so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Gospel according to John 3:16) and follow the One who, in love, laid down his life for the sake of  others (John 10:11) would be seen by some as needing someone to hate. I can understand why my evangelical friends would protest this perception. I can also see why my Muslim (and non-Muslim) friends would feel this way.

Fortunately, Patel doesn’t simply leave it at that. He believes and hopes for better things. The change in many evangelicals regarding Catholics happened when they got to know Catholics. Perhaps this same change can happen as evangelicals get to know Muslims. I hope so. I hope that evangelicals won’t be thought of as the people who hate Muslims (or any other group), but as the group who embody Jesus’ love for Muslims.

Patel closes his article with this:

Maybe in 50 years, there will be no surprise when the loudest cheerleaders for Muslim presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices are evangelical Christians.

You’ll have to read the whole thing to see how he got there.

Related Post:
Love Your Neighbor

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I am pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and that all life is valuable in the sight of God.

I am also pro-pro-choice. I believe people who are pro-choice are created in the image of God and worthy of respect as those whom God loves, even if we don’t agree.

I am also pro-Muslim. I believe that Muslims are created in the image of God and therefore are valuable in his sight, even if we don’t agree on many important things.

I found the following excerpt from Sam Crabtree’s book, Practicing Affirmation, very helpful in thinking about how we talk with those with whom we disagree. I repost it in order to help both Muslims and Christians grow in our ability to affirm others even when we disagree.

Sam Crabtree:

On a very cold Minnesota winter morning I was bundled thick against the icy Canadian wind as I marched with several thousand others to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The march route was adorned by occasional pro-choice protesters with large placards chiding our pro-life efforts as being antiwoman. The setting was cold not only meteorologically speaking, but the air was chilled with icy looks and cold shoulders. In one part of the march a shouting match had erupted and it was ugly. It seemed to me that the pro-life marcher did a particularly poor job of winning friends and influencing people, and a pretty good job of making all of us marching with him appear to be angry, rude ruffians.

Continuing the march and seeing one particularly large and provocative placard, I felt the impulse to ask its guardians about it, but thought it would only erupt into a charged argument, and so I walked on by. Ten minutes or so later, I thought, “No. I’m going to speak with them,” and so I returned to the placard’s double guards, one of whom would not look at me or acknowledge my presence in any way. He looked off in the distance, literally stiff-necked. It had to be pretty hard work for him to ignore me and avoid me. And hard work it is when affirmation runs thin in relationships.

“May I ask about your placard?” I queried with a genuinely respectful tone, for these were human beings made in the image of God. There is more than one good way to jump-start an awkward relationship, and “May I ask you a question?” is one good way. Like a British Royal Guard, the one continued not to make eye contact with me and didn’t even twitch; to him I did not exist except as a threat to his placard and mission. But the second fella said, “Well, what?” (meaning, what’s your question?).

I took it as an invitation to continue. In strained relationships it can be very important to not proceed without an invitation, like playing “Captain, May I?” or “Simon Says.” Show deference to the captain and heedful respect to Simon. “I’m noticing your placard, here. I don’t know who designed it, but its graphics are strikingly attractive and its message is powerful.” There were no words on it, just a huge rendering of a coat hanger encircled with a slash through it. It was a graphic not hastily thrown together by some amateur, but was colorful and simple, and though we were on opposite sides of a controversial issue, I could affirm the graphic skill. So I did.

And then I took another figurative step forward, “I take your poster to mean that you oppose self-inflicted coat hanger abortions, am I right?” In tense situations, it can be good to not jump to conclusions, even when you’re pretty sure you already understand what the other side means. Slowing down to confirm the other party’s meaning is another way of affirming them as human beings who might like the opportunity to correct me if I have misunderstood. I am not beyond the possibility of misunderstanding, a healthy and humble admission to make.

“Right,” he replied, meaning that his poster was explicitly against coat hanger abortions.

Proceeding I said, “Well, I think we have something that you and I can enthusiastically agree on.” He looked at me as though I had forgotten which side of the issue I was marching on. “We both are in favor of the safety of women. We are men, and the safety of women is important to us, even though we aren’t women ourselves. I appreciate your willingness to come out here on a very cold day, seeking to protect women from a procedure that will never threaten you personally. That seems altruistic to me.” I’m not sure that he understood the word altruistic, but I am sure he took it as a compliment, which it was.

“May I ask another question?” While his sidekick still stood stiff as a poker, this man was opening up to me. By asking permission to pose another question instead of just charging forward, the conversation was kept from shutting down, like the shouting match that had erupted elsewhere on the march route.

“Sure,” he replied. The first time I asked permission to ask a question, he gave me a tentative “well, what?” because he was uncertain about what I might do. In response to my second request to interview him further, he replied casually with a “sure.” The cold was thawing. The door was opening.

So I asked my next question: “Could you tell me how many women have been injured by coat hanger abortions? Do you have that information, or could you point me to somebody who does?”

His stammering response was something like, “Hmm . . . nooo . . . no, I don’t.” His pokerfaced partner offered nothing, not even a flinch. “I suppose you could check at the library or somewhere,” was the best he could do. He wanted to help me do my research and get the facts. He was warming up.

On to my next question, “Well, can you tell me now many women have been injured by legal abortions in medical facilities?”

Same answer: “Hmm . . . nooo . . . no, I don’t, uh, have that information. I would think you might be able to get it at a library, or you could try to go online.”

He’s conversant now, and I moved on to my last question: “What do you say to the person who does have that information—the person who knows approximately how many women have been injured by coat hanger abortions in the United States and how many young women have been injured by legal abortions—what do you say to the person who has that information and knows that the number of woman inured by coat hanger abortions is less than one percent of the women who have been injured by legal abortions?” Checkmate. He looked embarrassed, which is appropriate.

He hung his head and looked at the ground. But he wasn’t angry, not with me. That is, he didn’t see me as his opponent; he saw the data as his opponent. He was awakening. Do you see how affirmation—looking for something to commend—opened the door to talk about the issue that divided us? And he was backing away from his hard stance. His partner walked off, having never said a word; we won’t win them all, and the practice of affirmation is no ironclad guarantee. Our conversation ended when the public address system fired up and the rally program began.

I hasten here to say that beautiful graphics should not be used in the service of killing defenseless children. But if I started my conversation there, I suspect our discussion would have quickly gone in the direction of the shouting match. My goal isn’t just to protest, but to persuade.

—Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), pp. 76-79.

HT: Justin Taylor

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Bias in the News

Fox News is too conservative.

CNN is too liberal.

Al Jazeera is too . . . ?

Interestingly, a new study shows that American viewers believe Al Jazeera English is unbiased, that is, when the Al Jazeera logo is replaced by CNN’s logo.

So much of what we believe is conditioned by biases and presuppositions that we bring with us. How well do we recognize this in ourselves? We’re fools if we think we can see anything with absolute pure objectivity, but that isn’t an excuse to be blind to our biases.

HT: Omer Subhani

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From Unity:

Bismillah. Received today from rom Imtiaz Wajih:

I am a 49 year old Muslim living in London. I thought it might be a good idea to set up a Meetup group to focus on the shared ground between Christians and Muslims.

We would be delighted if you could join us (even if you are too busy to attend our meetings). Please see the link below:http://www.meetup.com/christianmuslims/

Also, please see our website: http://www.christianmuslims.co.uk

Your comments and feedback would be most welcome. It’s all about peace …

Warm regards,

This looks interesting and I am glad for Christians and Muslims to gather together in order to better know one another. However, this particular group seems to be of the kind that glosses over all differences between the religions. That is one of the mistakes of modern day dialogues between religions. (The other side of the mistake is to see ourselves in a battle that must be won against those we view as enemies). I still think we can be genuine peacemakers while at the same time standing for truth. We don’t have to pretend we all agree in order to be at peace with one another.


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