Archives For Interfaith

 

Dialogue, Appreciation, Understanding, and Shared Life

A Review of

How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America
Joshua Graves

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2015.
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead

 

One of the greatest contemporary challenges faced by evangelicals and other expressions of Christianity in the West is the understanding of Islam and relationships with Muslims in America and around the world. Joshua Graves provides a helpful contribution to the conversation on navigating these challenges in How Not to Kill a Muslim. Despite the (strategically) provocative title, this volume presents a fair-minded and peace-oriented exploration of its subject matter.

 

The preface of the volume provides a succinct summary of the book’s focus and approach. The book “is primarily focused on the relationship and responsibility of Christians toward Muslims within the context of North America.” It explores the cultural and religious biases embedded within Protestant evangelical Christianity and demonstrates strategies for dialogue, appreciation, understanding, and shared life between Christians and Muslims living in the United States.

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A Path to Peace.

 
A Review of 
 

Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace
Patricia Raybon and Alana Raybon

Hardback: W Publishing Group, 2015
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead

 

Religious switching is happening more frequently in America according to a survey by the Pew Forum. Pew reports that the choice to change religions may be as high as 42%. Another Pew survey indicates that interfaith marriages are becoming more common, and that new marriages are more likely to bring together spouses from different religious traditions. All of this takes place against a backdrop where mainline Protestant Christianity is declining, and non-Christian religions in the U.S have grown. Although they are a small part of the religious landscape, their adherents are increasingly exercising their rights for expression in the public square.

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Truthful, Kind, and Trust Building.

A Feature Review of

Christian. Muslim. Friend.: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship
David Shenk

Paperback: Herald Press, 2014.
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead.

 

How should Christians engage Muslims? In America Christian-Muslim relations are strained at best. A recent LifeWay survey revealed that a large percentage of Christian pastors view Muslims and Islam negatively. It is likely that these attitudes are found among rank and file church members as well. In the midst of this situation in our post-9/11 world, David Shenk provides suggestions based upon his extensive experience as a Mennonite missionary and peacemaker on how Christians might profitably interact with the Muslims they encounter.

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How Then do we Pray Together?

A Review of

No Peace Without Prayer: Encouraging Muslims and Christians to Pray Together, A Benedictine Approach

Timothy Wright

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Amy Gentile and Liz Strout

 

Notes: This review, a fitting one for the Feast of St. Francis this weekend, was co-written by Amy Gentile and Liz Strout, who grew up in the same Baptist church and later converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and Sunni Islam, respectively. We read and discussed this book together, requesting it for review as we found the topic both timely and personally important.

 

Through the advent of technology, the world has grown increasingly more connected. We no longer have the privilege of remaining in isolated, homogenous communities (ethnic, religious, or sociopolitical). Ultimately, we would argue that’s a good thing, but it is not always easy, especially when there is a long-standing history of conflict and even violence. We must move forward with avenues of dialogue and peace-making, even when it is difficult. It is in this vein that Abbot Timothy Wright writes No Peace Without Prayer: Encouraging Muslims and Christians to Pray Together, A Benedictine Approach. He brings his experiences organizing dialogues between Catholic monks and Shi’a Muslims as well as a generous spirit to this text, setting forward a “framework, adaptable to the widely differing situations in which Muslims and Christians live side by side.” (16) This type of dialogue—whether between Christians and Muslims or any other differing communities—is a necessity in a globalized age, and we should all be echoing the call for dialogue, compassion, and ultimately peace.

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Developing Meaningful Interfaith Relationships

A Review of

What Christians Can Learn from Other Religions.
J. Philip Wogaman


Paperback: WJK Books, 2014.
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Reviewed by Joel David Ickes

 

What Christians Can Learn from Other Religions comes at a time when a lot has been said about world religions. It was not too long ago that religious traditions could easily be insulated from others, but in a world of constant communication and travel, contact and competition among religions are no longer avoidable. A new multireligious environment emerges in the post-Christian memory. Though these faiths have always existed—some before Christianity, others after—we find ourselves more and more “bumping into each other” in our communities. We must consider factors such as globalization, immigration, and urbanization playing into the likelihood of crossing paths with someone from another faith. Increasingly, Christians need to learn to have an interreligious dialogue with one another given this reality, so Wogaman’s book is a timely resource that can aid Christians in learning from other religions. The ultimate goal of this book, I believe, is that we all become a little more knowledgeable of and loving towards our others.

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A Faith Identity Rooted in the Love and Example of Christ
 
A Review of

Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk
J. Dana Trent

Paperback: Fresh Air Books, 2013.
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead

 

Read the conversation that Rachel Held Evans hosted with Dana Trent and her husband Fred
 

According to recent research by Naomi Schaefer Riley, the number of interfaith marriages is increasing. 45% of all marriages in the last decade involved couples from differing religious traditions. Riley’s research also shows that these marriages are not easy. Although we live in an age that is calling for increasing religious tolerance, this does not make the daily struggles of interfaith marriage any easier to wrestle with.

 

These difficulties are illustrated in Saffron Cross, where Dana Trent, a Christian minister with connections to the Southern Baptist Convention, shares her experiences in an interfaith marriage with her husband Fred, a Hindu and former monk. This is an interesting volume that provides insights into what the partners in such marriages experience, and it includes lessons for those outside of such marriages. Their experiences navigating such relationships have much to teach us in navigating religious pluralism.
 
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Ascending the Same Mountain.

A Feature Review of

Monks and Muslims: Monastic and Shiˁa Spirituality in Dialogue.
Mohammad Ali Shomali and William Skudlarek, eds.

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2012.
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Reviewed by Richard Goode
 
Moses did it—Elijah too. Even Mohammed and Jesus embraced the practice. Climbing a mountain to encounter the compassionate and merciful God is a time-honored contemplative practice. Timothy Wright, OSB, uses this metaphor to describe the 2011 monastic-Muslim gathering at Rome’s Primatial Abbey of Sant’ Anselmo.[1] Here “followers of the Rule of Benedict and the followers of the Holy Prophet are like two sets of climbers who are ascending the same mountain, the Mountain of God, but from different sides!” (144). The respective vocabularies, practices, and perspectives of the climbers may vary yet their goal is essentially the same, “ever closer intimacy with God.” Toward such a summit there is no jealous competition. Rather co-climbers form a kind of rope team, graciously supporting one another.

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Shedding Light on Fear-Mongering.

A Feature Review of

The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims
Nathan Lean

Paperback: Pluto Press, 2012.
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead.

 

Human beings are wired to be aware of difference. It is natural part of human nature to forge various social alliances that foster senses of “us,” the insiders, in distinction to “them,” the outsiders. Problems arise when the outsiders become the enemy, and they further function in such a way that one’s individual and collective identity is created by way of opposition to the other. In the United States, this dynamic is all too frequently found in the post-9/11 environment in regards to Islam, where a cottage industry portrays Islam as a monstrous entity, wholly a religion of violence, pursuing terrorism and the overthrow of the US Constitution to be replaced with “sharia law.” The result of this narrative is a frighteningly large number of people adopting “Islamophobia,” an irrational fear of Muslims and the Islamic religion.

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Making Progress on the Path of Diversity.

A Review of

Christian de Chergé: A Theology of Hope.

Christian Salenson.

Paperback: Cistercian Publications, 2012.
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Reviewed by Richard Goode.

 

Interfaith dialogue can occasionally feel like a chess match. Participants may be civil enough toward one another, yet an underlying quest is to work rivals into such untenable positions that the adversary must capitulate and concede the contest. For one side to win, the other must lose. In this volume Christian Salenson delineates Fr. Christian de Chergé’s far more robust model for interfaith dialogue.

 

The 2010 award-winning film, “Of God’s and Men,” popularized the plight of de Chergé, prior of Our Lady of Atlas, shepherding his small Cistercian band as they wrestled with their vow of stability. Should they pray and work in Algeria, long wracked by civil war and sectarian violence? Would they remain in Tibhirine, serve their Muslim neighbors and tempt martyrdom, or was God calling them—via the Algerian government and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA)—to relocate to a more secure environment? For all the film’s strengths, it is Salenson’s book that reveals de Chergé’s creative, promising theology for interfaith dialogue.

 

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Abraham's Children - Kelly James ClarkTolerance and Conversation.

A Review of

Abraham’s Children : Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict

Kelly James Clark, Ed.

Paperback: Yale University Press, 2012.
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Reviewed by Matthew Braddock

As I write about the topic of religious tolerance and Abrahamic faith, my local paper reports an escalating shadow war between Iran and Israel as well as Israel’s potential involvement in Syria’s conflict. During an election year, such stories remind us of two important presidential issues that will get little air time from our candidates: US involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process and the rise of Iran as a potential nuclear power and threat to Israel. Can there be peace in Israel? If not, would mere tolerance be enough? These two questions are the skandalon, the unavoidable obstacle, of any Abrahamic interfaith dialogue in which I have ever participated. Sure, Jews, Christians and Muslims can talk about reading sacred texts with generosity and outline a mutual hermeneutic of trust. Then someone brings up Israel and the conversation unravels.

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