27 July 2010

Multi-cultural World: Multi-faith People

We ignore religion, and other religions than our own, at our own peril. To ignore them will not make them go away, nor will it simplify relationships and communication. Understanding and respect is the level ground upon which we can have conversations.

I recently received an email from a friend that traced the story of a Muslim woman from Egypt. The story outlined the injustice she suffered, the struggles she faced and the extremist stance Islam in Egypt can take.

What the article did not say is that much of what the story illustrated is not typical of Islam all over the world. It is typical of some forms of Islam in some places in the world.

I could tell similar extremist stories of Christian sects in an effort to turn all of the undecided or uninformed against Jesus followers. My story might even be accurate and documented, but it wouldn't be a true representation of the faith and life Jesus lived and taught.

I am against any religion being used as an instrument of
oppression of any gender, race or socio-economic class of people.

We all may have the opportunity to sit in conversation with someone very different from us. Asking informed questions will lead to meaningful discourse and possibly friendship. I'm all for that.

Scot McKnight writes, "We need to understand other religions for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is our globalized world is making the world smaller and because some think the differences between the religions is actually, upon closer inspection, shrinking as well.

In his new book, Prothero offers descriptions of the major religions of the world and does so under the following categories: Problem, solution, technique, exemplar. But, thanks to the skill of Prothero, this is not a systematic book but a gentle walk into the land of each of the faiths. It's not textbookish. It's a pleasant read.

His first major chapter is about Islam, and he begins there for reasons: "The nineteenth and twentieth centuries may have belonged to Christianity. The twenty-first belongs to Islam."

Why does he say this? Adherents are growing; its influence is growing; its economic assets are growing. Islam, he is saying, is setting the agenda for the 21st Century worldview.

In surveying his survey we run the risk of simplifying too much, so I will make the claim here that I'm highlighting points made in his chapters and not scanning the whole.

1. Most of us in the West know very little about Islam and know very few Muslims. This means we have a hard time being intelligent about Islam and Muslims.
2. Islam is about submission to Allah; it is about a world of peace through that submission.
3. Muslims, devout Muslims, pray 5 times per day, 365 days per year. . . .

There are 12 points in this list. Read more on Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog.

1 comment:

Ron Krumpos said...

Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter "Mystic Viewpoints" in my e-book at http://www.suprarational.org on comparative mysticism:

Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

Conflicts in Conventional Religion. "What’s in a Word?" outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.