We have a problem in our faith community.
One of the world's major faiths is on trial for its beliefs, and for
whether those beliefs are matched by right action. Many people of this
faith feel on the defensive, even persecuted for their beliefs.
I'm talking about Christians.
It's not unusual for Christians to complain to me that they feel attacked
for their beliefs. They say it seems to be OK for the media and other
critics to go after Christians, especially those of the one-way-only
variety. But secularists and people of other faiths, notably Islam, get off
scot-free for their extremist views, some of these Christians say.
Which is interesting, since some Muslims say the same thing in reverse.
They definitely feel under siege, and as if every incident involving a
Muslim with allegedly suspicious motives (see Cat Stevens) gets blown out
of proportion. Christian leaders, meanwhile, routinely make blanket attacks
against Islam and get away with it, they say.
It doesn't seem as if both these perceptions could be true. But they are.
First, Christians are under very real attack in some parts of the world,
such as Sudan where they have been persecuted by a radical Muslim majority.
And yes, they often are attacked verbally for their more exclusive views,
such as those who say only Christ can save one from an eternity of flames.
They are called intolerant, judgmental and arrogant, often unjustly.
Meanwhile, Muslims are constantly under the gun, ideologically and
sometimes literally. Despite much talk about reaching out to Muslims
following the Sept. 11 attacks, a substantial minority still have hostile
views of Islam.
A recent poll of 1,000 adults found about one-fourth believe Islam teaches
violence, that Muslims value life less than other people and want to change
the American way of life…
Did you know, for instance, that CAIR, the country's largest Islamic
advocacy group, repeatedly denounces terrorism? "No injustice done to
Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people," states CAIR's
Another chance to learn comes in November, when a three-week series on
Islam will be offered by the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism.
Yet Muslims also have a responsibility to reach out and speak out. Given
gruesome slaughters and hateful statements by radical Muslims worldwide, a
little paranoia among non-Muslims is understandable, too.
CAIR urges mosques to invite non-Muslims for meals during Ramadan. Local
mosques should take them up on it. And local Muslims need to be more public
in denouncing violence and articulating the faith. Doing so involves risk,
but so does trying to stay under the radar.
Muslims and Christians don't need to agree theologically. We do need to
respect each other and unite against our common enemy -- fear