Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I Love You and Allah Too

The Presbyterian Church approved an overture, "Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between the Christian and Muslim Communities" that originated in Newton Presbytery. As you can see by the lines through old text and the creation of new text, item #2 created debate.

The debate was largely over what we have in common theologically with Muslims. Commissioners got hung up over whether or not Christians and Muslims worship a common God.

For some folks that question is really important. I think it is more important that we do what we can so that we do not annihilate each other. Here is the final text of what was approved by a vote of 547-149.


Final Text:
1. Commend to the church for study the actions of previous General Assemblies calling for tolerance, mutual respect, and peaceful relations between the Christian and Muslim communities.

"2. State that [the PC(USA) affirms that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship a common God, 1 although each understands that God differently] though we hold differing understandings of how God has been revealed to humankind, the PC(USA) affirms our belief in one God, the God of Abraham, whom Jews and Muslims also worship; and that, as children of this loving God, we share the commandments of love for God and neighbor 2 , the requirement to care for the poor; and acknowledge Abraham as an expression of our common commitment to one God."

3. Build on this understanding by calling for further dialogue among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, viewing each other as equals, and learning from one another to

  • promote peace, resolve conflict;
  • ensure human rights, prevent discrimination;
  • develop dialogue, emphasize commonality;
  • recognize differences, celebrate diversity;
  • advocate justice, oppose bias.

4. Commend the First Presbyterian Church of Rockaway and other Presbyterian congregations that have initiated dialogue with Muslim and Jewish communities, and to encourage other congregations to initiate three-way dialogues among Jews, Christians, and Muslims consistent with the Presbyterian Principles for Interfaith Dialogue. 3.

  • To encourage congregations of these faiths to celebrate religious holidays together, setting aside days of worship during which there can be congregational suppers, and dialogue groups. 4
  • To encourage sustained activities that will promote understanding, respect, and good will, using worship resources and promotional materials prepared by the Offices of Interfaith Relations and Theology and Worship, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and other General Assembly Council (GAC) and Office of the General Assembly (OGA) offices as appropriate.

5. Commission a study on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations that would have the same scope and authority as the 1987 study on Christian-Jewish relations, 5 to be carried out by the Interfaith Relations and Theology and Worship Offices of the General Assembly Council.

6. Call for identification of violations of the civil rights of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the United States and other areas of the world, along with other incidents of violation of religious freedoms, as part of the regular human rights report to the General Assembly. 6


This kind of dialogue is so important. I wonder how many other congregations, like First Presbyterian of Rockaway, have initiated conversations with Muslim communities?

14 comments:

  1. Muslims don't worship the same God, John. They would never worship someone that we believe is the Father of Jesus Christ.

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  2. How do you know, Stushie? Have you talked with every Muslim?

    Maybe there are screwed up heretical Muslims out there who are like me (a screwed up heretical Christian) and really don't worry so much about that theological gobbledygook and just hope the righteous ones of both religions don't blow up our planet for the sake of their own true God.

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  3. Commissioners got hung up over whether or not Christians and Muslims worship a common God.

    I think it is really sad that in order to get the resolution passed the text that affirmed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God was crossed out.

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  4. I've talked to Muslims who would agree and some who wouldn't, just like Christians.

    I would actually prefer some kind of statement that doesn't claim we worship the same God (because that's hard to say/determine/agree on) but rather said that we won't destroy each other and that we have a lot in common. The best part of each religion is peaceful and seeking the common good and humble, and the worst part of each religion is...fundamentalism.

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  5. I really don't see anything wrong with the statement that was presented or the statement that was passed. Obviously, neither did the vast number of commissioners, so I really think it is only the fringe that is freaked out about it.

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  6. Stushie, you don't know what you are talking about.

    Muslims take their devotion to Allah very seriously. I'd like to see Christians stop everything 5 times a day to pray.

    Is Allah our God? Linguistically yes. Allah is an Arabic version of ElYah, short for El Yahweh.

    Do we worship the same God? Islam is concerned with their perception that Christians are polytheistic instead of worshiping the one and only God. Truth is, hundreds of millions of Christians openly worship Mary the mother of Jesus as if she were God. And even Evangelicals have divided devotions. Chief among the gods I hear them worship is Mars, the god of War. Just listen to people's vocabularies and tell me if they are students (disciples) of the god of War, or students of the Prince of Peace.

    Do Muslims believe that God became a human being in Jesus? No.

    Why should they?

    My congregation has invited both Jewish and Muslim scholars to come as guests to present their views of the Universe and what they wish Christian knew about their faiths.

    Not to argue about who is Jesus Christ.

    The theory is that if we vilify others in ignorance we will end up killing each other in war. Mutually respectful dialog is essential to living in peace.

    How better to represent the Prince of Peace than in the same Spirit in which he first presented Himself to us, not as a conquering warrior, but as a humble servant, riding on a donkey.

    If Islam is our enemy, we should do them good, bless them, and pray for them. If they are not our enemy, should we do anything less?

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  7. I can only imagine that when people get hung up on insisting that Muslims don't worship the same God that Christians do, this comes out of a need to denigrate Islam or characterize Islam as an inferior religion in some way. The fear is that by saying that Islam worships the same God, one is engaging in too much tolerance and respect and one is acknowledging the validity of other paths besides one's own. The editing of the statement is basically saying that "we respect Islam, but we want to make sure to make clear that we don't respect it that much."

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  8. "The editing of the statement is basically saying that "we respect Islam, but we want to make sure to make clear that we don't respect it that much.""

    Good point. Stushie's comment was this:

    "Muslims don't worship the same God, John."

    What are we really talking about here? What is the level of realism in all of this? If we assume that we are talking about more than linguistics or metaphor, than to say that Muslims don't worship the same God, means either:

    1) Their God doesn't exist.
    2) Their God and our God co-exist (so we are therefore polytheistic).
    3) Only logical answer in my opinion: We all have a limited understanding of how God self-reveals, but the Reality (God) to whom the revelations point is common to all humankind.

    Seeker is exactly right. We are talking about respect for other human beings rather than seeing humans as good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, holy vs. profane, saved vs. unsaved.

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  9. So it would be equally correct to say that

    Jews "don't worship the same God, John. They would never worship someone that we believe is the Father of Jesus Christ."

    If you would like to jump on the Stop Talking to People Who Don't Believe in the Divinity of Christ bandwagon, you're about 22 years too late.

    There's a lot of misunderstanding between the Christians, Muslims and Jews of the world, and we need all the civil dialogue we can get.

    As some dude once said, "blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Incidentally, Muslims believe in both the virgin birth and second coming of Jesus.

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  10. "Incidentally, Muslims believe in both the virgin birth and second coming of Jesus."

    That's funny. I believe in neither.

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  11. why is it that we get all hung up on Islam, but no one has trouble saying Jews and Christians worship the same God? Jews don't believe God begat Jesus either...

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  12. That's funny. I believe in neither.

    That's hilarious. :)

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  13. why is it that we get all hung up on Islam, but no one has trouble saying Jews and Christians worship the same God? Jews don't believe God begat Jesus either...

    My point exactly!!!!

    It was claimed in an earlier discussion in this blog that it all boils down to what scriptures you use. Christians and Muslims don't use the same scriptures--hence their God is different. On the other hand, so the argument went, Jews and Christians worship the same God because Christians use the Jewish scriptures. I pointed out that, by analogy, the Mormon canon includes the orthodox Christian scriptures, and yet the Mormon concept of God is really much more different from the orthodox Christian, Jewish, or Muslim concept of God than any of those concepts are from each other. The whole idea that the scriptures determine whether it is the same God or not really makes no sense at all.

    When people talk about worshiping different Gods, it sounds as if they were talking about a polytheistic pantheon. "What, you worship Athena? I worship Thor. So your god is different from mine!" But we aren't talking about gods, are we? We are talking about God. So then if someone assigns different attributes to God than I do, does that mean that they don't worship the same God as I do? Yet Christians can't even agree among themselves about many of the details of God's ineffable nature.

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