similarities and differences

I’ve been so much enjoying my chats with a young Muslim man who’s been attending church for the last few weeks.  He expressed a keen interest to learn more about the Christian religion.  He is doing very well learning English, and having to use simple terms has been a very, very, very good exercise for me – if you know me you’ll know what I’m talking about!

Far from taking an “Islam/Qur’an/Muhammed = wrong | Christianity/Bible/Jesus = right” approach, we’ve explored many similarities between our faith.  When discussing differences, I’ve tried to be very respectful and patient.  But today he emphasized (he’d indicated it less strongly before) that he really enjoys “direct”-ness.  So he thanked me for being able to say, “I think the Qur’an is wrong about Jesus.”  (In the Qur’an (4:157), Jesus does not die on the cross, but rather another person who was made to look like Jesus did.)  It was a bit of a reminder how PC-ism can keep people from having conversations that are wanted by both people.  This guy wants me to be “direct” and tell him where I think his religion is wrong, and not constantly talk about similarities and common ground.  I look forward to future chats with him!

muslim at church

I preached my first sermon at my summer placement at Ponsonby Baptist today.  After the service, I met a young Muslim man from Bahrain.  He was in the country seeking asylum, and said he wanted to come to church because Christianity was similar to Islam.  I agreed – there is much that Islam and Christianity have in common (see previous post ‘god is like… pt 2‘).  I made sure he knew he was welcome.

Here is yet another example of the ‘both/and’ of both similarities and differences between any two religions or even sects (or even worldviews).  People who use religious disagreement to argue against the existence of a God (the argument from contradictory revelations) over emphasize difference at the expense of very real agreement.  And people who use religious agreement to justify a casual approach to belief (‘…ah, they’re all basically the same…’) over-emphasize sameness at the expense of the very real disagreement.

It’s not “watering down” Christianity to recognise that both it and Islam are within the category of creational, ethical (and eschatological) monotheism any more than it is watering down Pentecostalism to recognise that it and Methodism both exist within the Protestant wing of the Church.

easy hard

quick reflections:

  • It’s easy to paint Islam as a) inherently evil/violent or b) docile/dormant and harmless – it’s hard to patiently assess what Islam is actually like.
  • It’s easy to tell a woman considering abortion a) that she’s a murderer or b) that whatever choice she makes is the right choice – it’s hard to journey patiently, lovingly, understandingly, etc-ingly, with not only the her, but the father, her family, her friends, her community in and through difficult and complex times.
  • (repeat with all kinds of issues…)

dialogue

Had another really enjoyable discussion forum today at the Shore Campus of AUT, where I was one of three faith leaders (Christian, Muslim and Buddhist) who presented on the subject of an ‘after-life’.

Not only do I enjoy there discussions for the respectful tone they maintain (normally!  One meeting with some humanists had a little bit of heat in it!?), but also the opportunity to compare and contrast belief systems and understandings, finding – as always – points of agreement and points of disagreement.  There was significant overlap between the Christian and Muslim (both, broadly speaking, Abrahamic religions) perspectives, and even some common points across all three – and of course, there were some very distinct points for each perspective as well.  Very enjoyable, and proof that holding firmly/passionately to a belief or truth-claim does not mean not being able to listen and discuss with differing points of view.