An evangelical case for pluralism
If you were looking for an argument for welcoming strangers of another language, religion, and race, you probably wouldn’t seek it from an American evangelical Christian. But that is precisely what Matthew Kaemingk gives us in his startling new book. Given the political harm American evangelicals have recently wrought in the world, it is thrilling to find this counternarrative.
The background of the book is familiar: while political correctness demands that people speak no ill of cultural newcomers, frustration and resistance to this stance erupts in xenophobic vitriol. But Kaemingk isn’t writing about Latino immigration to the United States. His topic is Muslim immigration to the Netherlands, rooted in his doctoral research in Amsterdam. The Dutch, proud of their reputation for being liberal and inclusive, run face-first into the conservative Islam adhered to by immigrants in ways that are both nationally traumatic (as in the 2004 assassination of filmmaker and critic of Islam Theo van Gogh) and quotidian (hijabs on the streets of Amsterdam).
By Kevin Singer, Chris Stackaruk, and Usra Ghazi
This wasn’t the first time Evangelical leaders participated in the largest annual gathering of Muslims in the United States. The Islamic Society of North America Annual Convention has for many years included panel sessions, discussions and even celebratory events on interfaith relations with religiously diverse leaders. Perhaps because of the unique relationship between the current U.S. presidential administration and Evangelical leaders, and because of a heightened political climate of partisan and ideological divides, this was the first ISNA convention to feature multiple conversations about bridging these divides and a majority Evangelical panel, live recorded for a predominantly Christian podcast audience.
Neighborly Faith is an organization that seeks to help Evangelicals become better neighbors to people of other faiths. On September 6, 2018 Neighborly Faith partnered with America Indivisible, a national organization that addresses anti-Muslim bigotry by strengthening neighborly ties, to make the case for better Muslim-Evangelical relations directly to Muslims in Houston and Evangelical podcast listeners all over the country.
The panel, titled “Reaching Persuadable Americans: Why Engaging Conservatives Matters,” featured Neighborly Faith co-hosts Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk, Texas megachurch Pastor Bob Roberts Jr., president of Islamic Relief USA Anwar Khan, and Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. What was especially intriguing were the questions and comments during the Q&A. They provide a window into what everyday Muslim Americans are concerned about when it comes to their relationships with Evangelicals and conservatives. As we shuffled through the question cards, we noticed a couple of themes emerge.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ISLAMIC MONTHLY
Lebanon (MNN) – The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) seeks to change discussions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. In a country that still feels the effects of a 15-year civil war, people often mistrust those outside their own groups. But the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and its department, the Institute of Middle East Studies, equips leaders to go back to their communities and build peace in the middle of chaos.
Peace-building and the Gospel
Martin Accad, the Chief Academic Officer at ABTS and the Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies explains the goal of ABTS. “We feel very much that our role is not only to develop theologically-thinking leaders, but to also develop leaders that can do works of transformation in society within the area of reconciliation and restoration of communities.”
These students go back to areas where Christians feel out of place in society. As a minority in their country, Accad says there is a sense that they don’t have a place in their culture. But this is not the message of the Gospel.
Christ calls his people to be peacemakers in whatever place they live.
Accad explains, “Peacemaking or peace-building first of all looks at conflict not necessarily as a problem, but as an opportunity. That would be the first aspect of being a peacemaker, but also peacemaking is something you do proactively rather than reactionary, as peace-keeping sounds.”
ABTS seeks to build peace proactively with five key initiatives, three of which are currently in progress.
Initiative 1: Bread and Salt
This unique program brings together both Christian and Muslim youths between the ages of 14-17 who live in the same neighborhood. Though these young people live close by, they may never have dialogued about their faith. ABTS gives them the tools they need to connect on a deeper level as they talk about their personal beliefs and break down stereotypes.
FULL ARTICLE FROM MNNONLINE
From Fuller Seminary’s reflections on Christian-Muslim relations
Colonial Americans had no idea that many of the slaves on their shores were actually Muslims. The famous Boston pastor Cotton Mather once quipped, “we are afar off, in a Land, which never had (that ever heard of) one Mahometan breathing in it.”2 Yet they felt themselves to be knowledgeable about Islam through the proliferation of sermons and books on that topic. The other source was the reality of Americans, along with Europeans, who were enslaved by the “Barbary Pirates” of North Africa.3 Already in the 1670s, several stories of North American captives caught the attention of the colonists, but especially that of the appointed royal governor of Carolina, who was abducted in 1679 and later freed by ransom. His narrative has only survived in fragments, but what stands out is “the cruelties of the Muslims” and the power of his prayers, which also influenced his captors.4
Captivity stories from North Africa were so common that many beggars on the streets of colonial America claimed to have been captured by the Barbary pirates, hoping to elicit more sympathy. Yet these stories also fueled a longstanding industry within Christendom including polemical writings about Muslims and Islam. One particularly influential book, Humphrey Prideaux’s, The True Nature of Imposture Fully Displayed in the Life of Mahomet, was published in London in 1697, with seven subsequent editions. Years later, American editions appeared in Philadelphia (1796) and Fairhaven, Vermont (1798), no doubt connected to the nascent U.S. government’s troubles with the Barbary powers at that time.5
We know that Prideaux’s book was widely read in the American colonies, because from the early 18th century on, and for the first time, Muhammad’s name in print rarely appeared without the epithet “impostor.” Prideaux’s message was hardly new, but this Anglican theologian’s main target was the Deists, whose central critique of Christianity was that it was fraudulent. By holding up Islam as a plain case of religious forgery, he hoped to defend Christianity’s integrity. From the start he anticipates accusations of demonizing Islam, but he promises to “approach Islam judiciously.”6 That said, he had little first-hand knowledge, and what he did think he knew was often wrong—but wrote he did, and people on both sides of the Atlantic absorbed it as truth.
FULL ARTICLE FROM FULLER STUDIO
There’s been a lot of negative campaign language about Islam this election season—calls for banning Muslims from entering the US and for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. But there are also serious attempts to oppose anti-Muslims rhetoric. Correspondent Kim Lawton reports on efforts in Nashville, Tennessee to counter hateful speech by building personal relationships between Christians and Muslims. She talks with Rev. Josh Graves, pastor of an evangelical megachurch and author of How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America, along with Muslim community leaders who are participating in the bridge-building efforts.
LINK TO PBS VIDEO HERE