This is probably my final 9/11 thought for a while. Most likely.
Last week I came across this article on the CNN belief blog titled “How 9-11 eroded our shared faith and American identity.”
The writer laments how the attacks of 9-11 distanced the Christian-Muslim-Jewish communities from each other. And obviously he is right. Folks are probably more wary of Islam than when I was in college in 1999. They may see more of a distinction with this religion. If branches of Islam lead people to fly planes into buildings and also kill other branches of Islam, then obviously that doesn’t seem like the same faith.
And the truth of the matter is that he does have a point. Not all branches of Islam, particularly in America advocate violence. Nevertheless some do, and go on killing rampages like the disaster at Ft. Hood. And of course, “Christians” in the name of “Christianity” kill people in Jesus’ name.
Upon first glance, you could argue Christianity and a western form of Islam have some commonalities in regards to ethical claims like loving others and taking care of the poor. The writer goes beyond ethical claims to point out that the two faiths are essentially the same. Writing about his interfaith family:
Our mini “melting pot” succeeded because we focused on the commonalities between Islam and Christianity, the most obvious being that we worship the same God. How could we not? After all, we share almost identical prophets such as Moses, Abraham and Jesus.
If the bible depicted Jesus solely as a prophet, it would be a little harder to disagree with him. But we studied Colossians 1:15-18 in our CD (community/discipleship) group last week:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
If I’m praying to Jesus, who is more than a prophet, but the 2nd person of the Trinity, then its pretty hard to argue that someone who says, “Nope, Jesus was just a prophet, and a heck of a nice lad,” is praying to the same God. If Jesus called Jews who didn’t believe in Him “children of the devil” (John 8:44) and that our shared history of Moses and Abraham did not mean Jews and Christians were “on the same page”-Abraham rejoiced at seeing Jesus (John 8:56) then I don’t think it would be a great leap to think Jesus would have said the same things about a future religion which shared common roots but minimized or disbelieved in His deity.
We can just agree to disagree and still be friends, and extended family members with cordial relations, can’t we? Do we have to agree in order to be friends? While that’s a present American fallacy, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t this way when we started. Regardless, Jesus prayed for those who ignorantly disbelieved in Him, and so can we (Luke 23:24).
The problem is that there is no American paradigm for disagreeing with someone’s religion or sexual preference but at the same time still befriending and getting to know them. What that means is that Christians have an opportunity to prayerfully, lovingly, and patiently introduce and demonstrate that to our culture.