Transformational Forgiveness

In March 2010, 19 year old Conor shot and killed his 19 year old fiancée, Ann. Conor  had never been in serious trouble before that day. It was the final moment of an argument and fight that had stretched over the course of three days. It ended with Ann on her knees with a shotgun in her face. Conor then turned himself into the police.

That is not the story to be told today, only the beginning. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to deal with the tragic death of a child at an age still full of life, hopes and dreams.

Ann was still alive when emergency crews arrived that afternoon; she would remain on life support, unresponsive for several days until her parents had to make the decision to let her go. As Andy sat with his daughter in the hospital, he kept hearing her voice, “Forgive him, forgive him.”

Andy didn’t think that he could ever forgive anyone for this, even Conor, someone that had grown to be part of the family, someone he loved. It wasn’t possible, not realistic, too much to ask. Yet he kept hearing her voice, “Forgive him.”

It was his faith that finally allowed Andy to listen to her voice. It was Christ’s call for him to listen that allowed him to begin the process of healing and forgiveness. If only we could all hear that call, the world would be a different place.

While Ann was still in the hospital on life support, Kate visited her daughter’s murderer in jail with a message of forgiveness, and the two cried together. Her faith led her to a place Conor never deserved and could never earn.

True Christ-like forgiveness and compassion by Andy and Kate paved the way for a healing process unprecedented in our court system. A restorative justice process seeks to open the lines of communication between the offender, the victim(s), and their community. Justice then is restored through accepting responsibility, making amends and forgiveness rather than traditional punitive measures.

In the case of Conor’s actions, few would even attempt a path of restoration, and no amount of reparations can restore justice. Andy and Kate, however, were called to forgive, and with exceptional compassion they refused to define Conor by this one moment (or allow their daughter to be defined by that single moment). In a restorative justice community conference, Conor shared his entire story, each parent expressed their loss and hopes for moving forward.

Jesus stood next to a broken and guilty woman and asked for compassion and forgiveness from her community. As Jesus hung on the cross, he asked forgiveness for those responsible. I don’t pretend to understand the compassion necessary for those words, but Andy and Kate offer us an example of how it transforms lives and how forgiveness speaks louder than any words.

Christianity is defined by Christians and their actions. Our community is transformed when we strive for forgiveness and compassion that shocks the world around us. This is the example set for us in Christ. This is our call, “Forgive him.”

Read the full story of Ann Grosmaire and Conor McBride written by Paul Tullis in the New York Times Magazine, 6 January 2013.

A version of this article was published in the Maple Ridge News, 8 February 2013.

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God is a Mystery

While talking with the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu commented on the greatness of God, saying, “The glory of God is a mystery.” In a world where lives, families, communities and nations have been built upon our knowledge of God, where this information determines our politics, our ethics, our beliefs, and how we treat our sisters and brothers of humanity, Tutu reminds us that God is a mystery.

It is his following reflections that really begin to make us think: “God is actually quite incredible in many ways. But God allows us to misunderstand her…but also to understand her.”

“He can watch us speak, spread hatred, in his name. Apartheid was for a long time justified by the church. We do the same when we say all those awful things we say about gays and lesbians. We speak on behalf of a God of love.”

It is the Christian that can do (and has done) the most damage to the faith of another, or the faith of multitudes. We have watched Westboro Baptist Church drag Christ’s name through the mud, and we’ve watched Christians committing hate crimes, burning down mosques and treating the LGBT community with the kind of hatred only found in the self-righteous Christian.

As Tutu reminds us that part of God’s glory is in God’s “incredible reverence for [our] autonomy,” we are reminded that we can use this freedom and our knowledge of God to oppress God’s people, or we can use this freedom to liberate God’s people.

In these instances and thousands of others, Christianity is used and abused for the sake of power, to control, to maintain the status quo, to promote and sustain the elite. Isn’t it ironic—a little too ironic (sorry)—that God has created a world in which we are given autonomy of thought, belief and speech even at the hindrance of God’s work, yet we use this precise freedom to control and create power structures over others, stifling this God-granted autonomy.

Our God is omnipotent and chooses to love us in a way of pure sacrifice. We, in turn, choose to run with this love and freedom to create and gain power, which our loving God is relinquishing. Ironically, these are our feeble efforts to imitate our loving God…to hate, to oppress, to attack. These are our efforts? This is our legacy? This is our impact on our communities?

In following his thoughts through, Tutu sheds light on religion, “And you have to remember that religion is of itself neither good nor badReligion is a morally neutral thing. It is what you do with it…Religion is good when it produces a Dalai Lama, a Mother Teresa, a Martin Luther King.

He asks, “What does your faith make you do? Make you become?

This is the question to ask of our faith. The fruit of your vine is your witness and the glory of God.

 

Find the full story of Tutu’s interaction with the Dalai Lama in THE WISDOM OF COMPASSION: Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan.

Peculiarities of the Fiscal Cliff Deal

Photo Credit: Flickr user rogerblake2, used under CC license

Photo Credit: Flickr user rogerblake2, used under CC license

We’ve watched repeatedly as the conservative right sheds concern for the “least of these” to improve the lives of wealthy Americans. Like any other financial bill making its way through Congress, there are a few items that we should take note of in the “fiscal cliff bill” that reveal the true powers of our society. Spoiler alert: It’s not the people.

Given the GOP’s close ties to conservative evangelicalism and the overall religious bent of those in political offices, financial decisions that impact our community are closely tied to our religious ethics.

As you work your way through the fiscal cliff bill, it is not difficult to see the compromises made by each side of the senate, but you’d be surprised by some of the winners of the bill that result from these partisan compromises.

These are a few items that Brad Plumer discovered at the Washington Post; you can read the full bill here.

You’re probably already aware of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for household incomes under $450,000, but how about the $9 billion in tax breaks to multinational companies to compete overseas? According to a report from Dan Eggen, companies like JP Morgan and GE receive breaks for certain types of overseas business (read job creating overseas). It’s not a coincidence that they also spend a great deal of time and money lobbying for this lucrative tax incentive.

We’ve come to expect big business and Wall Street to insert itself in financial policy and to receive special treatment, so that one probably didn’t catch you off guard. But how about NASCAR?

The fiscal cliff bill extends tax breaks for NASCAR to build new racetracks to compete with theme parks. This inclusion is expected to cost more than $40 million this year.

Another $75 million will subsidize Hollywood film industry when they film %75 of a movie on US soil.

Almost $550 million will be taxed on rum this year, and then the money will be returned to the rum industry in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Seriously.

All of this money looks suspicious when conservative congress members fight to keep tax breaks for the wealthy, NASCAR and JP Morgan. Then, to cover for the big business, they toss under the bus those who really need it: those in poverty, seniors, unemployed, underemployed, etc.

Our Christian call is to care for these people in need that Jesus calls “the least of these,” so why do so many support the policies and political figures working to do them harm?

Is the Church Radical? Jesus Was

Reposted from my Maple Ridge News article July 27, 2012.

Jesus was radical, but you wouldn’t always know that by looking at his followers. I am consistently amazed at how Jesus re-envisioned the heart of the scriptures.

Radicals are scorned, hated, attacked and persecuted. Jesus was, as were the early Christians, but most of us today (save those facing intense persecution in places like China) are generally unaware of persecution due to our radical Christianity.

If these are true statements, we need to ask two questions: what was radical about Jesus? and, what isn’t radical about our Christianity?

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he replied with two. Both of them came direct from the legalistic laws of his misguided adversaries. “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbour as yourself.”

This is not new information to his audience. They know these laws forwards and backwards. The message, however, has been re-envisioned and radicalized. Jesus expands neighbour to include the broken, the impoverished, the outcast foreigner, and even your enemy.

Jesus consistently asked his audience to pause and rethink the religious order, not to refute the law, but to challenge his listener to a higher authority found in the author and the intent.

He was scorned and hated, because his message challenged the status quo and threatened authorities. Jewish leaders feared the passion and challenge, and Roman authorities feared the threat of disruption to societal order.

Christians do have a growing sense of persecution in North America, but I’m pretty sure it’s not because we love our neighbour in a way that threatens the fabric of society.

What if it was?

A recent Nat Geo documentary (When Rome Ruled: The Rise of Christianity) had an interesting story to tell of the early Christians. The radical Christianity, inherited from Christ, which led to their persecution and scorn, may also have had an impact on the growth of the church.

They even suggested that Christians lived longer, fought off diseases more frequently and survived better in harsh times. This documentary attributed much of Christianity’s growth to how they cared for their community, the poor and the outcast.

That is to say that, “love your neighbour as yourself” was a radical message that caused both growth and scorn, liberation and hatred.

What if we did love our neighbour in a way that threatened the fabric of our society? What if the scorn Christian’s faced today was not because of our piety and condemnation but because of our radical love, passion and care for people?

Is there a problem with that? Sure, in the process we will also disrupt the religious order, the status quo of our churches. In the process of living our faith, we’ll probably give in to all of society’s pressures and fall victim to secular culture. Well, that’s what I’m told.

Radical faith has to constantly fight against the human desire to create a new law that makes obsolete the radical message and love of Christ.

Pink Shirt Day: Lessons from our Youth

Source: pinkshirtday.ca

Source: pinkshirtday.caIn 2007, a 9th grader wore a pink polo shirt on the first day of school, and the bullying ensued. He was physically threatened and called a homosexual (probably not the bullies’ chosen verbiage) because he wore a pink shirt. Two older students had heard enough and decided to buy 50 pink shirts from a discount store for students to wear the next day. They contacted as many students as they could to provide a “sea of pink” the next day in an effort to stop bullying in its tracks. In addition to the 50 discounted shirts, literally hundreds of students showed up to provide a truly unique “sea of pink” to support victims and to stand up to bullies. There was never another comment about the pink polo.

This “sea of pink” envisioned by these two (17/18 yr. old) boys has sparked a movement, and yesterday was the 5th annual Pink Shirt Day, where more than 160,000 students and teachers across Canada will wear pink to demonstrate support and to shed light on the serious nature of bullying.

Fast forward to 2010, when another 18 yr old boy, Dharun Ravi, took a different road when he chose to use the webcam on his computer to view his gay roommate with another man, tweet about it, and invite others to view. As his trial gets underway, it is still unclear if there were any criminal actions involved; however, the intent to mock and bully (regardless of the reason) certainly appear to have been his motivation. Unlike the first story, nobody stood up to this bully. Instead of setting an example to follow, he followed the example that was set.

The truth is that bullying doesn’t stop when you turn 18 or 19. Some grow up and mature, but many more discover that institutions, politics or accepted beliefs can be used to mask their bullying as legitimate responses to minorities and outcast. Disparagingly, the church is often one of these institutions and Christian faith is often one of these belief systems manipulated to mask hate and bullying.

Ironically, it is the central figure of our Christian faith that is most notable for standing up against hate and discrimination. The shame of persecutors who marginalize and bully in the first century is consistently brought to light in our gospel accounts. Whether it be a Samaritan, a child, a sinner, a hated tax collector, a disabled beggar, an unclean disease ridden man or a woman, Jesus teaches through his actions of love that we are not to live with hate and superiority that has captivated the world. It is a constant in Jesus’ ministry.

This may be best exemplified by a woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11. As the story goes, the woman is brought before Jesus, having clearly sinned and broken a Jewish law that is punishable, according to the law, by death through stoning. Jesus calmly receives the crowd, asks “he who has not sinned” to throw the first stone, and tells her to be on her way and sin no more. She is at fault. The crowd has reason to hate. Punishment is written in the law books. Yet Jesus stands in opposition to hatred, even when it is masked by religious tradition.

I don’t know if the two boys with a vision for a “sea of pink” were Christian. I do know that they resemble Jesus better than many Christians. Our youth yesterday stood up against the oppressive powers and the passive bystander. Jesus taught us to learn from our children; however, we often fail to see their value in our society and expect little from them. In response they often live up to our expectations.

Teen Suicide & Glee: What can Christianity Offer?

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/thumbnail_570x321/2012/02/glee_karofsky_a_l.jpg

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/thumbnail_570x321/2012/02/glee_karofsky_a_l.jpgDo I have to admit that I watch Glee to write this post? It’s not my fault, but I might as well get something out of it if I have to watch it.

Inevitably a show about a high school show choir, Glee, is forced to address major themes of hate, discrimination and societal pressures to conform. Glee has taken on a role of bringing to life the realities of bullying and hate that is pervasive in our schools and our society. Is it often done with over-dramatized storylines and unbelievable stereotyped characters? Yes, but due to a growing lack of responsible parenting, a disconnect from others in our community and celebrity (or reality) role models, our youth (and many adults) learn about human relationships, in a large part, from television and other media. With this in mind, one has to respect Glee’s work at better educating viewers in living with dignity and treating others with dignity.

This past Sunday I had to ask our congregation to pray for a 14 year old boy (a friend of one of our students) who attempted to commit suicide earlier in the week, the second announcement of the kind within a couple of months.

Last night, Glee’s storyline included an attempted suicide after, Dave Karofsky, a gay football player, was outed on Facebook and harassed.

With these two stories, albeit one fictional, I began thinking about a Christian response. What does Christianity have to offer?

As strange as it sounds, I believe you have to think outside the box to offer these kids anything of value in such a hypersensitive social awareness. Without wanting to be too simplistic, the world places so many expectations on us to conform to various standards, and these expectations play a large role in our identity, acceptable behavior, contentment and even our future hope. The result is imprisonment.

Glee writers did an excellent job of highlighting various pressures and influences leading up to Karofsky’s attempted suicide. It would be easy to pin this on society’s homophobia, as illustrated by his teammates and Facebook responses. Instead, the show rightly identified the counter pressures and failures from his peers, adult authorities, his mother, and a searing jar, from another gay teen, to “go back in the closet.”

The dialogue covered many of our common reactions to these events.
“I could never do that.”
“That’s so selfish. He not only wanted to hurt himself, but he wanted to hurt his family, his friends, and everyone else that knows him.”
“You just have to let it go.”

In this context of societal pressures and responses, traditional Christianity would simply serve as one more of these pressures. “Let go of your sin,” or, “God doesn’t approve, and we can fix you” is, without reservation, among the worst responses to address the real problems facing teens. I recently observed a woman evangelizing to teens in a mall food court. She had all the right religious jargon and theology, however shallow, to talk a young gentleman through being saved and accepting Jesus. I was shocked to see him actually listening, but he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. It all made sense to me, a lifelong churchgoer, but neither the need for change, the theological jargon, nor the reward of life registered in this teen’s mind – at all. It’s just one more societal pressure expecting him to fit into a social standard.

If we’re going to offer our youth anything tangible in dealing with the pressures and imprisonment of the world, we have to see Jesus for who he really was and what he really did.

Jesus, reflecting God’s own heart, came to liberate people from oppression. Imagine here more the uprising in Egypt or Syria instead of some theoretical picture of a red-devilish figure torturing people with a trident. Imagine women standing up for the right to vote or Rosa Parks on the front of the bus or the Glee show choir defending Kurt from homophobic bullying. Jesus stood up and fought for these people in society…the oppressed…the least of these. We are great at oppressing others and ourselves through the constant imprisonment of desire to conform to others, whether it be peers, reality stars, pro athletes or what we’re told is good Christian behavior. Jesus offered something different.

I hope for a new life, a restored life when the time comes, but if that’s all I have to offer the teenager in the mall facing real-world imprisonment, I have nothing more than any other oppressive pressure she meets. I believe Christianity does have something to offer these teens. Jesus offered real-world liberation, human dignity, love, and gracious community. They have to belong before they believe. We can offer that too.

**There are many resources for teens and their families facing issues of homosexuality, discrimination, crisis and bullying. This USAToday article has some great links (and a healthy perspective on last night’s episode) to some of these resources for teens, parents and families, as well as some research on bullying and homosexuality in teens.

Baby Names: a Prophetic Act?

Giving meaning to baby names and the process of naming babies

Giving meaning to baby names and the process of naming babiesLast week, my second son was born (more on that in an upcoming post), and a long and arduous process came to a conclusion: naming our son. I’ve known parents who didn’t finalize a name until they were asked in the hospital to fill out the paperwork, and I know others who don’t have any kids but have three names chosen for each of their three forthcoming children. Jenna and I are not these parents, but we were both getting worried as we closed in on the “deadline.” Thankfully he wasn’t early, because he would have gone by the Real Canadian Superstore brand name “no name.”

The process of naming a child is difficult for most, and for the two of us, it was extremely difficult. Let me tell you why.

I have long found my favorite biblical characters to be the prophets (Jesus included) for their commitment to issues of social justice and the outcast. They speak out against the wealthy, the powerful, the sources of oppression, and they do so with passion and style. The eccentric and prophetic acts of these were probably what drew me in to begin with, as there is nothing more powerful than demonstrating God’s love and compassion for the oppressed. The old adage is true: actions speak louder than words.

In one of my favorite texts, Hosea is called to marry a prostitute, a woman who left him, as a prophetic act illustrating God’s love that searches incessantly and forgives immensely. She bears him three children, each of whom have their own role to play.

The naming of children is an oft-reported prophetic act in our text, and there is no better example than the harsh names given to Hosea’s children: Lo-ruhamah (not pittied) and Lo-ammi (not my people). In the prophetic tradition, however, pain, suffering, condemnation is never far from restoration and new life. And the names that follow in that community are Ruhamah (pittied) and Ammi (my people).

It was Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination that first led me to thinking about my own (and others’) actions and ministry in terms of the prophetic. Many are speaking out against the paradigm of privilege, but countless more are lulled into apathy by it. It is in this context and in this passion that we named our two sons, Khaim and Teaken.

Khaim is the Hebrew word life. In the context of scripture, it conjures up the breath of God being breathed into humanity. It lingers with the purpose and intent of God in every living and breathing creature. From the saving narrative, it evokes an understanding and hope for new life, renewed and restored in God’s creative process.

Teaken is taken from the Hebrew (Jewish) phrase tikkun olam, which means repairing (or restoring) the world. In the context of our faith, this is our call as followers of Christ, to restore dignity to the marginalized, liberation to the oppressed and hope to the hopeless. God’s power and graciousness is most visible in the restoration and renewal of a world undeserving.

My prayer for these two boys is first that they are able to answer the question, “What does your name mean?” and second, that they live in such a way that they do not have to.

Cheapening Faith for National Debt

Recently, evangelicals have solidified their political seats next to right wing fiscal conservatives through a new avenue that doesn’t fit the traditional social issues they lean on heavily. That issue? National Debt.

As both mainline parties race to offer solutions to the growing national debt in an attempt to gain the support of the wavering American public, religious and moral obligations have quickly been incited to up the ante of this high-stakes debate. It is an interesting shift that is unfolding, to watch first the Tea Party push hard line national debt rhetoric followed by religious rhetoric and biblical usury addressing the same crisis.

The growing U.S. national debt is exceptionally problematic as it reaches the $14.3 trillion dollar “ceiling,” but is it a “spiritual issue” as some television personalities and certain evangelical leaders are wanting us to believe? Turning political issues into spiritual issues can be quite dangerous, and we need to walk with caution when we implore our Christian heritage, our sacred texts and our faith to do our political bidding.  Your Christian faith should inform your political views and actions, as it should the entirety of your life; however, it is critical that the reverse is not occurring, that your political views are not informing your Christian faith.

Before proceeding, we need to take a deep and honest look at our motives, because we are treading the line between faithful theological application and abusing our faith to grasp at worldly political power and to manipulate fellow Christians for political gain. Take this seriously!

Biblical Use

A number of different texts have been used as proof-texts to defend the recent statement equating the national debt with spirituality. This is of primary concern for me as many debates on “theological issues” include the misuse or abuse of our sacred texts.

Nehemiah 5:3-5 is cited by Billy McCormmack, founding member of the Christian Coalition of America, as being the clearest textual guidance in this discussion. Nehemiah 5, however, is a social justice text oriented toward power-laden, unethical and oppressive lending practices. You cannot stop at verse 5 to avoid Nehemiah’s anger with the wealthy and powerful who were charging their own people interest, and you cannot skip verses 1-2 that shows borrowing necessities based on hunger, life and death. The lesson may be applied to predatory lending practices, oppressive powers and others, but it is a stretch to hinge concern for the growing national debt on Nehemiah 5.

Passages from Deuteronomy have been quoted as “borrowing from none, and lending to many,” which is a lovely statement out of context, but it was in reference solely to the prosperity of Israel and not applicable to our current discussion.

Others quote Proverbs 13:22, as a more legitimate source, ” The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children,” and we are certainly failing at that. To be concerned about our children’s sustainability is appropriate and healthy, but even this passage is a long way from the heart of the gospel and cannot explain the intense and immediate passion of conservative evangelicals regarding the national debt.

Christians and the National Debt

Certainly the U.S. should be aggressively attacking the national debt and finding a way to balance annual budgets. It is both responsible and ethical, and it will ultimately make way for a healthier future.

Certainly some Christians have been concerned about the national debt as a religious and biblical sticking point for years. And again it is indeed favorable for your Christian faith and theology to inform your political beliefs and actions, even if we disagree.

It is on the other hand unacceptable to misuse and abuse Christian faith and theology to push your political agenda. The rise in Christian concerns for the national debt as a “spiritual issue” appears in large part to be informed by partisan politics and political gain. The “action alerts” to evangelicals regarding the national debt were absent while President Bush was making large tax cuts for wealthy Americans, and they were absent when he waged costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When your faith informs your life, values, politics and actions, it illustrates consistency, non-partisanship and integrity. When your political agenda informs your faith, it cheapens my Christian title and reputation. When you implore Scripture for political gain, you cheapen the Gospel and the life of Jesus. Take this seriously!

The King’s Speech & Expectations

Saturday Jenna and I saw our first movie in a theater since Khaim was born, only our second date night…Yes, it’s been more than a year. It was bliss! Our movie of choice? The King’s Speech. It was quite an inspirational story, but in reflection I’ve thought less about the internal motivations of the individual and more about the external expectations.

None of us can escape the expectations of our family, friends and others in our circle, and in turn we often expect great things from those around us. Communicating and responding to these expectations appropriately is pivotal in our development and growth as individuals and Christians.

Spoiler alert: Although historical dramas are by nature already spoiled, I’ll give you an opportunity to not read on.
Read on anyway

Protecting Faith in Egypt

Egyptian Coptic Christians and Muslims raise a cross and Koran

Egyptian Christians and Muslims Protesting Together (source: NYDailyNews - Abed/Getty)

One of the most uplifting stories I have ever read:
The NY Daily News reports that Egyptian Christian protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square joined hands to encircle and to protect praying Muslims on Friday, the holy day of Islam. When Sunday came, Muslim protesters returned the gesture to Coptic Christians so that they could observe Mass.

You may have to read that again to allow it to sink in. Muslims put their physical bodies between danger and Christians in an act to protect their commitment to faith. Christians stood between danger and Muslims to protect their fellow protesters’ time with God.

Given the less than cordial history between Islam and Christianity, the mutual respect shown this week is a testament to the promise and love that each of our religions calls us to. Always thinking in terms of ‘the other,’ Jesus called us to redefine our neighbor to include also the stranger, and we are to love, care for, protect and respect everyone…regardless.

Community plays a significant role in my theology. As I read and understand the Bible, God’s acts in creation and salvation and the relationship with humanity throughout the scriptures illustrate God’s passion and longing for community. As a relational God, and we being made in the likeness of God, I understand community to be the call of humanity, that is both a community with God and community with God’s creation. In fulfilling our call to community, we are to “love our neighbor as ourself.” When that plays out in the real world around us, our community (local and worldwide) is enhanced with every act of faith as we lift up, help out, encourage, liberate, offer mutual respect and discover ‘the other.’ Not to be lost in that process is our commitment and call to be in community with God. Without doubt when we offer our servitude and humility to all we come in contact with, we also serve and come closer to God.

The events this past weekend provide the epitome of illustrations in living out humanity’s call to community. As Christians on Friday protected the faith and prayer time of ‘the other,’ they extended an unprecedented bridge to community between Muslims and Christians. Furthermore, they were able to provide for that group time to deepen their community with God. Their actions worked in sort of a threefold manner by deepening their relationship with God’s creation, their own relationship with God and allowing others the opportunity to do the same. When Sunday came, the Muslims present were given the opportunity to reciprocate the act of community, and likewise their actions worked threefold in creating and extending unprecedented community. This all of course is without even mentioning their shining example to the world, as this is a story we need to tell again and again as examples of true faith in a world void of the radical respect for one another that we are called to.

It is easy for those of us in the U.S. and other Western countries to dehumanize all Muslims, to strip them of their faith and theology because of our experiences with fundamentalist terrorist groups. It is easy for us to abuse those experiences for political, social and religious gains. It is difficult and trying to “love our neighbor as ourself” and to see the faith and commitment of devoted Muslims. It is difficult to hear and answer God’s call to community through radical respect and love.

Few and far between are the stories of reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, but these faithful followers who understand the theology of community and neighbor give us hope for a more peaceful tomorrow. These Christians and Muslims remind us that we are capable of this respect and community, and our influence can be immediate and far-reaching. How can you display this faith in your community? What would our community or our church look like if we could muster the courage to have this faith daily?