August 26, 2010

Christians and Muslims

In an article I wrote for my church's newsletter this week, I talked about the importance of interfaith work.  Because of what's happening in this country right now, today's blog post will include much of what I shared in that article.

Before coming to Bixby Knolls Christian Church in the spring of 2008, I had very little experience in interfaith dialogue or programming. However, after arriving here, I discovered that BKCC has a long history with interfaith work. As a result, I soon found myself involved in the Long Beach Religious Leaders Association (LBRLA), the South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC), and the annual Unity Bike-a-Thon.

Needless to say, I quickly discovered the value and importance of interfaith work. I am now a co-president of LBRLA, a board member of SCIC, and am on the committee that organizes the Bike-a-Thon. Thanks to the ministry that BKCC has shown me, I have found a new calling within my own ministry: a call to interfaith work.

In recent weeks, I’ve realized something: there has never been a more important time for interfaith dialogue and understanding. That may sound like an overstatement, but it’s not. Two-thirds of Americans believe that it is wrong to allow the building of an Islamic community center two blocks from “Ground Zero” in New York, even though America is the land of freedom (including freedom of religion). A church in Florida has declared September 11, 2010 “Burn the Quran” day, and thousands of Americans are in support of that. There is clearly a negative attitude toward Muslims in this country, an attitude that, if left unchecked, threatens the liberties we all cherish.

Let me be clear: Islam is a religion of peace. It is no more violent a religion than Christianity. In fact, it could be argued that Christianity has the more violent history, when one considers the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, racial lynchings, abortion clinic bombings, and so on. Yes, there are Islamic extremists who advocate terrorism; yes, there are Christian extremists who believe God calls them to kill. But that does not mean that either Islam or Christianity is a religion of violence.

It is, however, an act of violence to burn sacred books, whether they be Qurans or Bibles. Burning books is one of the tactics used by the Nazis in the last century (and soon after they burned books, they started burning people). Burning the Quran or any other sacred text is wrong.

As Americans who cherish liberty and freedom, we must speak against such acts. As followers of Jesus, we must live for peace and understanding. I am thankful for BKCC, through which I have become connected to SCIC and have gained a wider understanding of and appreciation for various faiths.

On Labor Day, I will once again ride in the Interfaith Unity Bike-a-Thon. The purpose of this event is two-fold: 1. to increase peace and understanding through interfaith fellowship; 2. to raise money, both for SCIC as well as for local congregations.

I am currently seeking sponsors to support me. Both SCIC and BKCC (like many other worthy organizations) rely on the voluntary support of members and friends to carry out their ministry. With rising levels of fear, prejudice, and even hate in our country, ministries that promote peace, freedom, and understanding need all the support they can get.

It is my hope that America will show to the world that it truly is the land of freedom, where no one is judged because of their religion, and where no religion is judged because of the actions of a few extremists.  It is time for healing.  It is time for understanding.  It is time for peace.

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