This article was written by Kristin Reed Klade, a senior Master of Divinity student at our seminary. She is a candidate for ordained ministry in the ELCA and is originally from Fort Worth, Texas.
From the outside, it looked like any old interfaith dinner. Religiously moderate people of various faith traditions smiling and getting to know each other, a picturesque panel of four faith leaders smiling on a stage, ready with speeches about unity and love—the works.
That night turned out to be a bit different for me, though. This time I was experiencing it as part of the minority.
As a Lutheran seminary student from Chicago, I was attending a conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), learning about how emerging Jewish and Christian leaders could work to become allies with American Muslims in their fight for equality, and against hate and Islamophobia.
I got a little nervous when I read in the program that a pastor from a large evangelical church in Fort Worth (my beloved hometown) was going to address the crowd. Being from North Texas, I am well aware of typical megachurch theology, with its emphasis on evangelism and conversion. So I was unsure about how the pastor was going to come across to a room of mostly Muslims. I was certainly willing to give him a chance, though. Maybe he’s different, I thought.
He started off by recognizing the Christian obligation to love and protect our Muslim neighbors, and furthermore to be in relationship with them, to know them on a deeper level. But as he went on I began to grow uncomfortable. He spoke about the importance of being “real” with each other in interfaith dialogue. He praised his Muslim friend for being honest in sharing his belief that Christians will not go to heaven. The implication was that this was a mutual belief of damnation to hell of “the other,” a belief which I do not share. He also made some questionable comparisons between the New Testament and the Qur’an, implying that the New Testament alone teaches peace.