Culture At Large

A third way for Muslims and Christians to relate

Josh Larsen

Did your church have someone reading from the Quran yesterday?

That’s what organizers behind "Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding" hoped to see in churches across the United States. Co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, the movement encouraged Christian pastors to invite Jewish and Muslim clergy to their sanctuaries to read from sacred texts on June 26.

The goal, as Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Welton Gaddy told Religion News Service, was to let people know that “not all Christians promote hate, attack religions different from their own and seek to desecrate the scripture of others."

Hearing about the initiative brought me back to a session I attended at the recent Q Ideas conference. Q founder Gabe Lyons interviewed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose plans to build an Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero caused a stir last year.

Lyons, author of “The Next Christians,” introduced the discussion by talking about the two ways Christians have historically engaged Muslims: with fear and violence, as in the Crusades; and through interfaith dialogue that is either ineffectual or, worse, leads to theological compromises.

Then Lyons proposed a third way. In our relationships with Muslims – and he stressed that an authentic relationship is at the heart of this – we should focus on those beliefs that both faith groups share and which will benefit the common good. Recognizing that we have exclusive theological differences – essentially agreeing to disagree on these points – we should concentrate our relational energy on those things we do agree on: forging peace, fighting injustice, combating hate.

Lyons positioned his discussion with Rauf as an example of this third way – thought that’s not to say their conversation was all hugs and hand-holding. At one point during the interview, when Rauf seemed eager to place Jesus and Muhammad on the same pedestal, Lyons jumped in to point out that at the heart of Christianity was the belief in Jesus’ divinity. No compromising there.

I wonder, then, where this “Faith Shared” movement of inviting other clergy into Christian churches would fit? Is this a third way, one that can lead to relationships that will benefit the common good? Or does it open the door to compromises that Christians shouldn’t make? Can you imagine your church being a part of it?

(Photo of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf courtesy of Q Ideas.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith, Theology, News & Politics, Social Trends, North America