Finding Jesus Among Muslims:
How Loving Islam Makes Me A Better Catholic
Jordan Denari Duffner
Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2018.
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
In an age when hostility toward those of the Muslim faith is all too common, Jordan Denari Duffner in her recent book Finding Jesus Among the Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me A Better Catholic, points us in a different – and more Christ-like – direction. Duffner’s approach is grounded, as she notes in her introduction, in the virtues of dialogue. “We are called to dialogue,” she observes, “because God dialogues. As Christians, we believe in one God who is also Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Augustine understood this three-in-one God as a communication – or dialogue – of love, in which the Father and Son give and receive love, and the Holy Spirit is the love between them. God also dialogues with humanity” (4).
It is this desire to be in dialogue with our neighbors of the Muslim faith that gives form to Duffner’s exploration of this particular sort of interfaith engagement. Dialogue, she notes, is more a habit of being, than one of doing. “For the Catholic Church, dialogue is not as much an activity as it is an attitude. More than an event to put on the schedule, dialogue is the open, friendly spirit that we bring to an encounter with someone of another faith. We might not realize it, but we participate in interreligious dialogue anytime we approach those of another faith with hospitality and love, ready to hear what others have to say. This can happen over meals, at the dentist office, in a school hallway, on in the grocery store” (5).
Finding Jesus Among the Muslims not only offers us wisdom about how and why we should be in conversation with neighbors of the Muslim faith, it is also full of insightful stories from Duffner’s experience interacting with Muslims in various parts of the globe. Divided into three parts, the challenges us to explore the interpersonal (“Meeting God in Muslims”), Theological (“Encountering God in Islam”), and transformative (“Reembracing God in Christianity”) facets of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Although Duffner writes from a Catholic perspective, the wisdom she offers here is similarly relevant for Protestants.
The book ends where it began, returning in the final chapter to the theme of dialogue, a way of living and being that draws us deeper into life with God and with our neighbors. By calling us to interfaith conversation with Muslims, Duffner provides an inviting entrée into this deeper life of dialogue. I pray that all our sisters and brothers of the Christian faith would thoughtfully pay attention to her work, and follow her lead into this life of dialogue.
C. Christopher Smith is founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books, co-author of the award-winning book Slow Church. His book on conversation, How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church will be released by Brazos Press in April. Connect with Chris online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com