Wednesday, May 25, 2016

John Allen on Pope Francis and Islamic Dialogue

As usual, Mr. Allen comes in with some balanced and fair insights regarding the recent meeting between Pope Francis and Ahmed el-Tayeb.

I only have one thing to add.  The question of what el-Tayeb meant when he said the violence in the Middle East is not really a Christian problem, but a general problem.  There has been speculation on that, and several I've read have been wondering how he could miss the obvious.

Again, I don't know for sure, but I have been reading up on Islam for the better part of last year.  Including actually reading the Koran.  That doesn't make me an expert or scholar, but I have picked up on a few things.  The main thing I notice is that, like most of the non-Western world, Muslims  generally don't spend their time hashing, trashing, and re-trashing the re-hashed trash of their own heritage.  Like Asia, like Japan and China, like India, like many Latin American cultures, Muslims don't deny problems in their past, but they don't dwell on them.  And they aren't afraid to blame others if they have to get too deep into discussions about their own culture's foibles.

Depending on the Islamic author, the acknowledgements have ranged from a brief mention before moving onto the awesomeness of Islam, to spending a little more time unpacking certain dark periods, but always with an eye to how Islam is the antidote for such abuses, and it was only by ignoring the Prophet that such problems or catastrophes happened.  Nonetheless, the accounts typically moved on to regale the reader with tales of the awesome contributions Islam made to the world despite any unfortunate actions on the part of misguided Muslims.

For us Christians, especially in the Western post-Reformation era, it's almost impossible to fathom that there are other cultures that don't routinely beat themselves down, blame themselves and their ancestors, and hold their very religious and philosophical traditions to blame for the world's problems. Because of this, we sometimes seem shocked to find others, like Muslim leaders, reluctant to do what we would do in a fast heartbeat.  In fact, I believe to date there only have been about three confirmed cases of violence against Muslims in America since 9/11.  Violence based upon them being Muslim that is.  And yet, to hear Americans talk, mostly liberal and in the media, you'd think we had death camps and Muslims were dying by the millions every day.  That's because it's what we do; partly because of the revolutionary tendency the Left has of wanting to drag our traditions into the street and beat them to death, partly because of our Christian heritage of confession and penance.  We can't go a day without blaming ourselves, blaming ourselves for slavery, genocide, imperialism, bigotry, sexism, racism, homophobia, nuking babies, death camps, environmental destruction, you name it.  Heck, many Americans blame us for 9/11.

But when we see other cultures or nations, like Japan or China or the Islamic world seem reluctant to point out the obvious, we become confused.  I'm sure there's a balance there.  I'm sure there's a way we Christians, and Americans in particular, could come around and stop beating senseless everything to do with our heritage.  Likewise, we could be a little more forthright about insisting others, like Muslims, don't think they can get away with 'Hey, Christians are to blame, Americans are to blame, but Islam is never to blame.'  Time will tell I guess.

Anyway, that's my take on the good Imam's statement.  Islam isn't to blame anyway, so the obvious reason why Muslims are dying more than anyone simply goes to show that it has nothing to do with Christianity either.  If we accept all of the other premises Islamic leaders insist upon, I see no reason to disagree with him now.

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