NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When a half-dozen activists and community leaders sat down to address interfaith relations in this increasingly diverse heartland city, one paused before his turn to speak, took a breath and said:
“As a white, male, evangelical pastor on this panel, I guess I represent everything that is wrong.”
The speaker, Joshua Graves, the 36-year-old senior pastor of Otter Creek Church, an 1,800-member suburban megachurch, had a point. Evangelicals like him have had a rocky relationship with American Muslims.
But then again, he may also represent everything that could be right in Christian-Muslim understanding.
The reason can be found in Graves’ third book, “How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America.” Christians, he writes, need look no further for guidance in dealing with Muslims than Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan.
In that New Testament story, a man is beaten, robbed and left for dead on the roadside. A priest sees him and walks by. So does a Levite, a member of another tribe. But the Samaritan — not knowing the stranger’s origin or his religion — takes him up and cares for him.
“This is the creed we should be teaching our children and grandchildren,” Graves writes. “I long for the day when Christian churches are known for being on the forefront of understanding … and appreciation of our Muslim neighbors out of the conviction that we do not get to decide who is ‘neighbor’ and who is ‘enemy.’”