Thursday, June 14, 2007

Confronting the "other"

So how do you talk to someone of another religion -- not just another Christian sect, but someone of a very different tradition -- without arguing or trying to convert each other? It's harder than it sounds, but about 25 people of varying traditions are trying to learn in a class offered through the Catholic Diocese, "Muslim-Christian Dialogue."

I decided to take the eight-week class and after the first night my brain is already churning. It's taught by Dr. Peter Huff, chairman of the religious studies department at Centenary, who teaches classes in comparative religions and has some expertise in this sort of dialogue.

Right after the introductions, we got to what are the two most difficult questions that any Christian has to wrestle with when dealing with Islam:

* What do you do with Muhammad? He claims to be a prophet after Jesus, and most Christian denominations reject that possibility.
* What do you do with the Quran as revelation that Muhammad says came from the God of Abraham through the angel Gabriel (the same angel from the annunciation)?

He said it's easy to come up with two obvious answers. One, Muhammad was right and Islam is the correct path. Or two, it's all false claims and evil. Well, Huff asked the class to think of a third way. What if you said some of what Islam teaches is true and therefore Christians could see the faith as partially inspired by God?

That's certainly not the final answer to the questions, but it's a good starting place as we explore relationships with people different from ourselves. Acknowledge the differences and the similarities and proceed forward in charity. That doesn't mean backing down from your beliefs but just being open to seeing truth dressed up in different ways.

4 comments:

Tom said...

Simple, every tenet of Islam that is compatible with Christianity (the virgin birth, the God of Abraham, monotheism, etc) is true. Everything else is false.

There are certainly "rays of truth" in Islam, and we can live together is harmony while recognizing our differences.

But I hold to my statement of the Truth.

MS said...

When and where?

Diane Haag said...

The class is at 6:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans, 939 Jordan St., Shreveport

Diane Haag said...

Tom,

You should hold to your statement of Truth. But also expand that beyond the mere "facts" of religion. Islam also teaches about giving money to the poor and the importance of families.

Those ideals give us avenues for building stronger communities in general. Cardinal Arinze talks about it as the "dialogue of action."