With memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks still raw, Charles Kimball, a professor, Baptist minister and expert analyst on the Middle East, drew on three decades of experience to write a book released in 2002 about why people do bad things in the name of religion.
In When Religion Becomes Evil, Kimball, at the time a professor at Wake Forest University, identified five warning signs common to all religions – absolute truth claims, blind obedience, the impulse to establish an “ideal” time, belief that the end justifies the means and the declaration of holy war – and gave advice about how to recover what is best and healthy in all religions.
In his latest book, Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies about Islam, Kimball explores a new development in Christian-Muslim relations – the mainstreaming of Islamophobia as a pathway to political success.
Now presidential professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, Kimball discussed ways Christians and Muslims can work together in this Q&A about the recent release of the new 180-page paperback published by Westminster John Knox Press.
Why did you write this book?
The 21st century may well be defined by interfaith relationships. The most dangerous and widespread flashpoints center on relationships between adherents of the world’s two largest religious communities: Christians and Muslims.
This book grows out of more than 40 years of work focused on my vocation with a teaching ministry and constructive interfaith cooperation in the U.S. and the Middle East. Speaking in more than 500 colleges, universities, seminaries, divinity schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, civic organizations, etc., I have a clear sense of the kinds of questions and concerns about Islam that foster widespread fear in the West.
While there remains a lot of goodwill, a large majority – including a large majority of Christian clergy – still lack the resources to address growing Islamophobia or pursue constructive programs with Muslims (and others) in their local setting.
This book seeks to address this urgent need by providing a new paradigm for how Christians and others of goodwill can better understand Islam as most Muslims live out their faith. And, it offers an accessible guide for positive initiatives individuals and congregations can take to work toward a more healthy future between Christians and Muslims.