Interfaith benevolence

Interfaith Misunderstanding in America

By , 09/10/2012 12:30 pm

 

It’s been a great year for interfaith misunderstanding in America.

There was a U.S. senator’s wild allegation about Islamic extremists infiltrating the American government.

There are the ridiculous — and ongoing — claims about a conspiracy to “impose sharia law in America,” starting in Kansas and North Carolina, of all places!

And then there’s the persistent myth — like many other myths, strangely popular among Fox News viewers — that Barack Obama is a Muslim, accompanied by the belief that being so, if it were true, would be a scandalous thing.

Then there were debunked claims — purveyed by the website of a Christian organization ostensibly pursuing justice — that the Muslim Brotherhood was crucifying their Christian opponents. The post is still up, with the words “Stop Christian Genocide in Egypt” prominently displayed.

And then there’s the perpetual news about the latest hijinks of this or that crazed pastor, imam, rabbi or priest who — despite their different traditions — manage to mirror one another’s stellar misunderstanding of “the other.”

Muslims, of course, feel the heat of these misunderstandings. The Sikh community feels it as never before.

Whatever our faith tradition, we all should take the dangers of interfaith misunderstanding seriously because all of us  — Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, agnostics, everyone — are affected.

Interfaith misunderstanding is a contagious disease. Misunderstanding among “us” begets hostility against “them,” and hostility against “them” begets more hostility, which eventually circles back against “us.” As the global fever of interfaith hostility rises, everybody potentially finds himself in somebody’s crosshairs.

But beyond practical reasons for countering interfaith hostility with interfaith benevolence, there are powerful moral reasons for doing so.

For me, as a Christian, at the core of my faith is the call to love my neighbor as myself. Jesus makes clear that my neighbor is not merely my sister or brother — someone like me who likes me. From his Sermon on the Mount to his parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes the audacious claim that my neighbor includes the stranger, alien, outsider, outcast and even enemy.

But I notice among many of my fellow Christians a strange and deep-seated resistance against this clear teaching of Jesus. It’s as if we think he was a little overly idealistic on this one — so we’d be better to stick with something more realistic: “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

I’ve been researching and writing on this subject for a long time now, and I have a new book this month that grapples with it in depth and detail: “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World).” My conclusion is — among my fellow Christians, and I imagine in other faith communities as well — that interfaith misunderstanding flows from misunderstandings within our own faith. When we fail to understand the dark sides of our own history, the heart of our own doctrines, the purpose of our own liturgies and the thrust of our own mission, we will project our misunderstandings on our neighbors of other faiths.

In other words, hostility doesn’t begin when we encounter the other. It begins when we’re gathered together among us. It’s an identity thing. The path to greater interfaith understanding begins in a fresh reformulation and deeper understanding of our own faiths. Those of us who have a voice in each of our faith communities can become agents, activists and examples of that better understanding.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-d-mclaren/interfaith-misunderstanding-in-america_b_1861921.html or http://huff.to/OC4zcU

Image:  http://www.rollins.edu/multiculturalaffairs/orgs/interfaith.html

Related Posts

Be afraid! Well, dear friends, it's a lot worse than we thought...  I was blissfully ignorant about the threat to America until today, when an angry reader o...
None of this is new The Road to “All Muslims are Terrorists” By Gefilte, 07 July 2011 ... It’s been travelled before. Aside from the fact that real democracies ...
This is a good start?   Really?!  A friend of mine wrote me early this morning, clearly angry about some outrageous Facebook flummery she had just been exposed ...
Embracing hysterical paranoia Rand Paul’s strategic Islamophobia By Alex Pareene, Friday, Oct 11, 2013 12:57 PM CDT   For normal Americans, the annual Values Voters Sum...
Original insights Is Religion 'Religulous'? By Kabir Helminski, 07/7/11 10:11 PM ET ... I was having a conversation with Bill Maher the other day -- in my own mi...
Evangelism 101 ... ... ... This is from part of President Daniel Bliss' speech when the cornerstone of College Hall was dedicated at the Syrian Protestant C...
Alarmist and deeply hateful Ayaan Hirsi Ali's War By Anthony Alessandrini, Feb 09 2012 ... For a couple of centuries now, we have had to make due with Samuel Johnson’s f...
On the wilder shores of American Christianity George W Bush's new 'crusade': converting Jews to Christianity By Andrew Brown, November 14, 2013   Some people think George W Bush did ...
Gristle in your tea This darling piece, another in the ongoing saga of "reasons to hate Muslims" (Sentinel Record, October 27, 2010, page 25), was a jewel of illogical br...
We have Jesus all over The Muslim Story Of Christmas By Jawad, December 16, 2013   She was alone, as she was wont to do, worshiping in the eastern section of t...

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2012/09/12/interfaith-benevolence/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.