Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Muslim-Christian Relations, 10 years after 9/11

This article - which quotes several of my friends - highlights the challenge of Christian-Muslim relations in our post-9/11 world.

There are lots of strong and different opinions on all sides of this critical issue. Personally, I see the matter - how we relate to the "different others" - as a test of faith, reflecting on the quality and nature of our faith, and the God we believe in. How are we who claim the name of Jesus doing, in reflecting His example of loving our neighbors and even our enemies?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Culture Quote of the Day - different views of God, more likely to fight?

 “...the more different the gods worshipped by various peoples, the more likely, all other things being equal, that their respective worshippers will come into conflict and the less likely that they will find peaceful resolution of conflict”

The claim that Muslims and Christians worship radically different deities is good for fighting, but not for living together peacefully.”
Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response

I'm not sure.

Volf's book is excellent, and I agree with most of his arguments and his main points. I'm not sure, though, that I agree that there is a correlation between how different peoples' conceptions of God are, and their likelihood of experiencing conflict.

Some thoughts:
1. I wonder if closeness in concept of God may be even more of an irritant, at least in some cases. Take (at least in certain times and places) different groups of Christians, e.g., Catholic and Protestant. We're talking about the same God, or at least a fairly close conception, and yet, plenty of conflict.

2. It seems to me more significant, whether a group's concept of God is one that tends toward peace and forgiveness and peacemaking or not. E.g., Jesus teaches us to forgive, to make peace, to love our neighbors and even our enemies. Regardless of whether Muslims or anyone has a close conception of God to mine, as a follower of Jesus, I should - if I follow the teachings of Jesus - do everything possible to live in peace with those others.

On the second quote, I think that the correlation is that in times of tension (like those between Muslims and Christians, post-9/11), both communities are more likely to emphasize different concepts of God, in a knee-jerk reaction to push away those different others that they are in conflict with. One could also say (reinforcing my point #2) that the view of God of the extreme Muslims, is a violent view, and leads them to their violent actions. But their view is considered by the vast majority of Muslims to be extreme and not representative of the true teachings of Islam.

In any case, I recommend Volf's book as a good and critically important read in these days of Muslim-Christian tensions.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Culture Quote of the Day - Questions God Can't Answer

"Can a mortal ask question which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that."
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I guess what strikes me about this is that in our human, cultural, world-building endeavors, in which we construct views of reality, and ways of dealing with reality, we do quite a bit (within what we consider our "religion") that amounts to constructing "answers" to questions which may be (from God's perspective) mostly nonsense. We spend so much time and energy, it seems, on what is tertiary, building groups and institutions around minor points of difference, "straining gnats but swallowing camels" (as Jesus said).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Culture Quote of the Day - ambiguity in religion

“Ambiguity in religion is no vice. Those who possess absolute truth are too often those who seek to impose their version of the truth on others. Those who struggle, who see the complexity of faith, are typically far more tolerant of diversity and dissent. For religious minorities such as the Jews, there is an undeniable appeal to finding themselves in the midst of a mature and conflicted majority religion.”
David Brog, Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Culture Quote of the Day - Stuck in ruts or seeking truth? (Maimonides)

"Men like the opinions to which they have become accustomed from their youth; they defend them and shun contrary views: and this is one of the things that prevent men from finding the truth, for they cling to the opinions of habit."
Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed

This is so true. How do we overcome this tendency? How do we escape the inertia of living with our customs, habits, traditions, patterns, in short, with our ethnocentrism? How do we escape the tendency to recoil from anything that is new and different and strange to us? How do we develop an orientation toward getting out of our territory, our "bubble," and setting out on a search for truth that leads us into the "territory" (literal and figurative) of others? Can we develop the ability to see the tendency that Maimonides puts his finger on, and to work against it?