Threat or Opportunity

This morning, the following snippet of news from Ecumenical News International:

Karchi-born bishop warns, Britons must identify with Christian

Canterbury, England (ENI). A senior bishop in the (Anglican)
Church of England has warned that Britain could return to a “kind
of barbarism” if the decline that Christianity is facing
continues. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali,
in a newspaper interview described Islam as the biggest threat
facing the West since communism and called on British Prime
Minister Tony Blair to stop being embarrassed to identify with
the country’s Christian roots. [ENI-07-0125]

There’s a hankering there for a time long past when Christianity ruled the roost – both a denial that Christendom is finished, if not in intensive care, yet a recognition, an admission of that fact. So the conservative battle-cry, becoming shriller: “Fight the war, the barbarians are coming!”

There it is in the Bible – the Joshua story of domination by force, the armour metaphor of St Paul in Ephesians 6:10 ff – easy enough to link “fighting against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age” with an “axis of evil” in this world.

The reality is that most religions have texts that are either metaphorical, and were never intended for such ideological propaganda, or texts which are inapplicable within our cultural context. But we seem to love a fight!

Religious pluralism in our time need not be a threat, but an opportunity to live out the real gospel imperative to love our neighbour, to see in the Gospels, perhaps for the first time, a Jesus who embraces the one who is “other”, not to crush her into an ideological cage, but to set her free to be more truly human, open also to love the other. This is the kind of conversion God yearns.

4 thoughts on “Threat or Opportunity

  1. The Muslims I know are quite happy to co-exist with other people and are by no means barbarians, although they are definitely different to me. I am usually less uncomfortable about the way they practise their religion than I am about the way the Christians who are worried about being overrun by Islam practise Christianity. But maybe I'm stereotyping here, too?

  2. There are many Muslims who live a very spiritual human life. An intersting author is Aayan Hirsi Ali who has written 'The Caged Virgin' and 'Infidel'. She describes her journey of trying to continue living a spiritual muslim life in a world that interprets Islam in a particular way that may not be open.

  3. I agree – the Gospel clearly includes loving everyone as our 'neighbours' This is surely what Christ meant by tending sheep not of this fold. Tending the 'other'. The time of 'us and them' is over. There is just 'us'; God's children. One family.This is the age of complimentary pluralism. Which could also be seen as our progressive education from the One God. Wherein the physical 'law' of Judaism was transcended by Christ's Teachings, and then updated by Muhammad's, and more recently by Baha'u'llah's Revelation, and so on. Wherein the Spiritual law of the Torah, the Gospel, the Quran and the Baha'i Writings etc. remains eternal and unchanged. Every divinely-revealed religion includes the fundamental development of virtues, the Golden Rule, and laws of loving God and all His creation. This is the unifying factor which clarifies the appearance of seeming religious schism, or pluralism. We are all differing, yet progressive, chapters of the One Book of God. No one 'chapter' being a book on it's own. One planet – one people, please. Gathering all the sheep into one fold may not be simply healing the divisions within modern-day Christianity, or within Islam, or Buddhism etc. but recognising the 'Gospel'-similarities of All major religions. As Michael Luenig stated ; to be happy, we need to love one another – it's as simple and difficult as and gratitudedarryl

  4. There remains a tension however in the Gospels; the Jesus who embraced the 'others' was the same Jesus who was scathing in his criticism of other 'others' who differed with him – the Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests & teachers of the Law who refused to accept his teachings or claims to Messiahship and divinity. He criticized them when he saw theIr teachings, laws and lifestyles were having a detrimental effect on people and giving them a distorted view of God.

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