This coming week I will be getting down to work on expanding the paper I gave at the Lincoln Theological Institute conference on Post-liberalism, Individualism and Society back in the summer. This is for a volume my friend Benjamin Wood is editing that is due to be published later this year. Its title then was Individuals: our autonomous selves or the loved others http://tinyurl.com/loex9zx. The task is to consider the historical formation of these two perspectives. As I’ve been contemplating this I’ve been reflecting once again on how much our deep-seated mindsets influence the way we respond to practical political issues, and our ability to communicate our perspectives to others. Practical evidence of this can be found in conversations that continue on this blog arising from comments on my post several months back on “What’s the alternative to meeting ISIS violence with violence?”
A big thank you for all who have engaged with what was a very serious post on how to respond to violent enmity, and especially the one or two who took time to enter into robust discussion. One such is Sidney Cordle of the CPA http://www.cpaparty.net/ who seemed to agree with a lot of what I had to say up until the point that I suggested the need for dialogue between Christians, Muslims and other people of faith who have a heart for peace and have some understanding of what makes the ISIS extremists tick. It seems that his perspective on the Muslim scriptures simply does not allow him to believe that it is possible to be a true Muslim and a person of peace. He presented a list of Koran quotations to prove his point. My attempt to point out that this approach to relegating all Muslims to fundamentalism was foreign to the testimony to Jesus and his kingdom of peace simply elicited more of the same.
As I understand it Jesus’ approach to the ‘other’ whose faith was not the same as the Jewish tradition was not to argue theoretical points of belief but look for the fruit of their lives. Witness the story of the woman at the well, his commendation of the Roman centurion and the parable of the good Samaritan. With due respect to Sidney, a mindset on truth that holds people to the propositional statements of their scriptures rather than looking for the image of God and potential for the revelation of the Spirit is a sovereignty approach to God and truth rather than a loving kenotic one. The latter refuses to regard anyone from a human point of view, as Paul puts it “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer” (2 Cor 5:16 RSV).
I contend that many Muslims are among those that Jesus identified as people of peace (Lk10:6). In any case on my reading of the testimony of Jesus even my enemies are the loved other and this includes ISIS extremists. Muslim friends who pour their time and energy into community action and cohesion and search with me for kenotic sources of love for the other in their scriptures and faith tradition are no way to be lumped together with violent extremists. Sidney particularly takes issue with the Koran’s teaching about the cross and the resurrection, and of course I agree with him that their position leaves them with a diminished Jesus and loses the heart of the incarnation. Those familiar with my research on Church, Gospel and Empire will be familiar with the view that the partnership of church and empire in Western Christian history did something pretty similar (See Church, Gospel & Empire and The Fall of the Church). Nevertheless, the interest that my Muslim friends locally have in the person and life of Jesus seems to me full of exciting points of synergy for peace-building and nonviolent ways of dealing with ISIS. My participation in the recent Christian/ Muslim Encounters Jesus Conference organized together with the Richardson Institute for Peace Studies of which I am the external partnerships coordinator only served to confirm this.
So let’s continue this important dialogue please!