Talking with Jews and Muslims

Religious symbols of Judaism, Christianity and Islam
By Szczepan1990 19:14, 22 July 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(Another blast from my past. This article was originally published in The Banner, September 14, 1998. I graduated from my MA at the U of Alberta, Edmonton the previous year and just started work as an Admissions Counselor at Redeemer University College back then.)

A few years ago the University of Alberta held an interfaith forum on faith and learning. The panel consisted of three students, each representing one of three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As the Christian representative, I was pleasantly surprised at the almost unanimous agreement between the three faiths as to what hinders our faith from integrating with our studies. However, we disagreed as to a possible solution. This experience seems like a metaphor for the relationship between the three faiths. There are agreements and disagreements, continuities and discontinuities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

In this age of religious pluralism we need to consider our attitude to other religions. Judaism and Islam have more in common with Christianity than other faiths. We can each trace our spiritual roots back to Abraham and the God of Abraham (via Isaac for Jews and Christians, via Ishmael for Muslims). Yet, do we all mean the same thing when we say “the God of Abraham”?

Are the Jewish Yahweh and the Muslim Allah the same as the Christian God? Is “God” a continuity or discontinuity between the three religions? I believe the answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, we are all responding to and groping after the same God. But on the other hand, our conceptions of God are radically different.

To explore these questions, we need a biblical framework for thinking about the religious impulse in humanity. Secondly, we need to consider Judaism and Islam within this framework. Finally, we also need to consider how and why we should dialogue with other faiths. Continue reading “Talking with Jews and Muslims”

Lessons from a Controversy

lessons-learnedIt has been a while since I last blogged due to a variety of reasons. But nothing like a little controversy to stir up the blogging urge!

Last week, news broke all through the Canadian media of a religious accommodation request at York University, where I serve as a campus minister, which violates women’s rights.

Here’s the story: In an online sociology course, a student requested to be exempted from a group assignment, the only in person assignment, because his religious beliefs prevent him from interacting with women, who make up the majority of the course students. The professor, Dr. Grayson, after consulting with religious scholars, and his own department, denied the student’s request with a written explanation. The student accepted the decision and complied.

Continue reading “Lessons from a Controversy”

Muslims Love Their Children Too

Image by bismikaallahuma via Flickr

During the height of the Cold War, pop singer Sting released a song, “Russians”, with the following refrain: “the Russians love their children too.” In the midst of last month’s hullaballoo over the Ground Zero Mosque and the Koran burning controversies on 9/11’s annivesary, my mind drifts to paraphrasing Sting’s refrain into: the Muslims love their children too. Much has been written about the whole debate on the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, even though it is actually a few blocks away from Ground Zero and technically not a mosque. Many leaders, including Christian leaders, have denounced the Florida Pastor Terry Jones for his plan to burn the Koran. I don’t wish to re-hash all that. Rather, I want to take a look at the tendency to demonize the enemy, or the Other, in all of this.

Continue reading “Muslims Love Their Children Too”