Monday, June 25, 2007

"i am both a muslim and christian"

A recent story in the Seattle Times deals with the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding who has been an Episcopal priest for over 20 years and Muslim for the past 15 months... simultaneously. The piece, "I am both Muslim and Christian" reminds me of the pastor of the Presbyterian church near my house who, in a conversation we had a few years ago, not only questioned the divinity of Christ, but blamed the dogma of Christ's divinity for distracting Christians from striving for social justice here on Earth. During the same conversation he also explained how he didn't believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and he expressed a great deal of heartfelt sympathy for a local Muslim activist who was deported in the wake of 9/11.

To be honest, as someone who came to Islam from an evangelical Christian background, I continue to be surprised by the extent to which many self-identified Christians seem to reject what I was raised to think of as basic and fundamental doctrines of Christianity. So I'm more shocked by the fact that Redding would call herself Christian than the fact that she calls herself Muslim. For a long time I've realized that the most liberal ends of the Christian spectrum are tolerant enough to include someone who embraces the shahada. But the amazing thing is how the parameters of Christian orthodoxy seem to have gotten so fuzzy.

But questions of orthodoxy aside, I should say that I respect Rev. Redding's intentions and in the current political climate I definitely appreciate that someone like her is making serious efforts towards peacemaking between Christians and Muslims.

past posts:
robert karimi
islam and christianity blending in africa


Bin Gregory said...

The story didn't bother me either, for reasons you touch on, which is that for a lot of Americans, even dedicated Christians, theology is just not a very significant factor in their faith. It's all about where you feel the love. So if she's cultivating love for Islam and Prophet Muhammad, why harsh on that simply because she hasn't given up her Christian attachments? A lot of dawah efforts are so misguided in trying to rub people's noses in their theological inconsistencies. All that does is make you look like a jerk. Give her time and I'm sure she'll sort it all out.

Bin Gregory said...

I just started reading Sherman Jackson's "On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam". What a great book. Just a few pages in, I started thinking about the issue of the good Reverend. Jackson writes: "...unlike the data and instruction revealed to the Prophet from beyond human history, theology develops within the context of human history...religion both can be and often is atheological or even anti-theological. ...religion (i.e., in its original sense) is purely a matter of sustaining a conscientious commitment to a set of rituals and obligations based on the recognition that one is bound or indebted to a divine or supernatural power (or powers) outside oneself." In the footnotes to that paragraph he has this delicious quote, "Theology moves no mountains; it rarely moves people; it is something most people put up with, something they do not take seriously, something good manners requires one to respect - and not to think about."
Granted, Jackon's not talking about quite the same thing as basic doctrine (body and blood, trinity etc), but I thought it still had a lot of relevance to her situation. salams.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

that book (a translation of a work by Al-Ghazzali) has actually benn on my to-read list for a long time. i haven't read it myself but a friend of mine was telling me that Ghazzali (by way of Jackson) basically set the bar for inclusion in the Muslim community remarkably low. The way my friend summarized it, basically anyone can be Muslim as long as they don't call Muhammad (saaws) a liar. Actually, it is funny you mention the book now because it was actually in the back of my mind when I was thinking that it was easy to accept her as a Muslim but surprising to think of her as a Christian.

sondjata said...

This individual is not a Christian. I can get with the whole errancy of the Bible as well as the issues of Dogma but its pretty clear that accepting Jesus as the Son of God is a if not THE prerequisite of being a Christian. By rejecting that notion this individual is not a Christian.

That doesn't mean she can't adhere to "universal" teahings of either faith, but IMHO it's disengenious to state things that one knows full well wouldn't fly in 99% of Christian churches. Personally she should have done what I did when I rejected the dogma as well as the tenets of Christianity: Left the churchh and stopped claiming Christianity.

Anywhoo. Reading the article she's another Black person seeking roots and the contradictions in the seeking are readily apparent.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

sondjata, i think you are right if the frame of reference for what Christianity is, is something worldwide. But I think that "Christianity" in college towns or in comopolitan urban areas (like Seattle) is going through some kinds of changes. I think these changes have been going on for a long time now... at least as far back as the Scopes trial... I've seen at least one church for example, which made a sign in order to attract members loudly announced "Heretics Welcome". I'm honestly not trying to argue (at least not now) whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. But I think one can fairly say that a non-trivial chunk of churches are pretty theologically tolerant (or non-dogmatic, or ambiguous, or ... )

Anonymous said...

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