Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Common Word

A few months ago I read a book called The Faith Club. It was written by three women – a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew – who met together in the wake of 9/11 to discuss their beliefs and to try to come to an understanding of each other. It was fascinating to follow the journey each of them made as they learned and reached out to each other. What on the surface seemed like a simple thing – a social gathering, a time to build friendships and learn a little from each other – became a turning point for all three as they struggled not only to understand the beliefs of the other two women but also to gain a deeper understanding and testimony of their own as they were challenged in ways they had never been before. It was inspiring. I have a friend who is an Orthodox Jew, and we’ve discussed our religions, and their similarities and differences. Reading this book made me wish I knew a Muslim woman, too, so I could start my own faith club. Of course, I’d probably include another Christian, of the more mainstream variety (I already have one in mind!), since Mormonism is different enough to warrant some discussion there as well.

Anyway, since reading this book, I have had such a desire to come to an understanding with people of different faiths. I’m not looking to agree with them, or have them agree with me. I just want to understand and find common ground. All three of these major world religions come from the same beginning. We are all Abraham’s seed. There are major doctrinal differences, things that will probably never be agreed upon, but we all pray to the same God, whether we call Him by the same name or not.

This brings me to the purpose of this post. Lately I have noticed that a lot of Christians (Mormons included) still seem to harbor ill will towards followers of Islam. The more I see or hear of this, the more it upsets me. I’ve been having a hard time sitting by quietly and allowing these things to go unchallenged. I suppose I can understand the sentiment behind the mindset; after all, terrible things have been done in this world in the name of Islam. However, I firmly believe that these things are being done by people who either do not fully understand the true message of their religion, or who chose to follow only select words, without giving heed to the full meaning in conjunction with the rest of their religious beliefs. I am no expert on Islam, and cannot even claim to be an expert on Christianity or Mormonism, but I do believe that none of these faiths condone the things that are being done in the world today in the name of God. It makes me sad to see the way all of Islam is being lumped together as a religion that tolerates, supports, and even encourages violent acts.

The truth is that, just like there are different sects of Christianity who hold to different sets of doctrine, there is a small portion of Muslims who believe it is the will of God that they engage in jihad, or holy war, against other nations. But this is not true of the majority of Muslims. It amazes me how we Christians are so willing to believe this misleading information when there is so much out there that gives incorrect “facts” about our own beliefs. There are websites dedicated to informing the world that all Mormons are polygamists and all of Mormonism is of the devil, in the same way that there are sites that would have the world believe that all Muslims are jihadists and that all Islam is evil. They’re out there; we’ve all seen them at some point, and when they’re about our own beliefs we’ve all been disgusted and outraged that anyone could be so misinformed and disrespectful about something we hold sacred. Why, then, can we be so willing to believe things about other religions without doing unbiased research. Ah, the appeal of a Faith Club…

I have been bothered by this for awhile now, feeling like I should say something to stand up for a people, who, in my experience and study, I have come to believe are generally kind and peace-loving, but I haven’t known how to go about it. Until yesterday, that is, when I read this article in The Oregonian. It talked about an open letter to Christians written and endorsed by many Muslim leaders. This letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us”, calls for an understanding between Muslims and Christians, using passages from both the Qur’an and the Bible to make its point. It establishes the fact that the two greatest commandments in both Islam and Christianity are to love God above all else and then to love your neighbors – all your neighbors. Who can argue with that? And, given that, who can really believe that Islam teaches unprovoked war with others?

I’m not writing this to start anything. I’m not necessarily even looking for comments this time (although they’re always welcome!) This is just something that has been on my mind for a long time, and I finally found a way to bring it together and put my thoughts and feelings down in print. I have a great love for my Father in Heaven, and for the faith that has led me to that love. But I also have a great respect for those who are strong in their own faith, even though it may not agree with mine. I want to learn as much as I can about those faiths so that I can understand my fellow men, and grow to love them as my neighbors. Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to take a look at the Common Word website, and to take some time to think a little bit about loving our God and loving our neighbors, and allowing all men the privilege to worship how, where, or what they may.

I will leave you with the concluding paragraph of “A Common Word”:

So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. I would not consider myself an expert on Islam but spending three years in a masters of Middle Eastern Studies program and several months traveling the Middle East I have quite strong feelings on this subject. I find the Islamic faith beautiful and those Muslims I have known kind, charitable, people who have a great love for their families, their wives/husbands (just one wife per husband for those I have known) and their children. I is sad to me that this shouldn't just be a given but it isn't.

    I think that too many people are afraid of what is different so rather than seek to understand they seek to condemn. (A faulty attitude that is shared by those who engage in terrorist acts.)I don't understand this mindset and it scares me.

    I too struggle with a way to address this with people who I feel are otherwise good caring people but uninformed/scared of what appears so different.

    Thanks for the info (Sorry for the long/rambling comment.)

  2. Wait I just read my comment, what I meant to say was, "It is sad that this understanding of the love in the Islamic faith isn't a given." The way I wrote it before is misleading. Sorry.

  3. I worked with a lot of Islamic people in Montreal. When I was a missionary, we were counseled on which ones to visit and which ones not to. "Not to" were the extremists whose lives and families would be threatened for investigating the church (I did have a couple of those - very sad, I won't go into it, but it was a testament to me that the Church really does care about keeping a family together first). The other two groups, mainstream Muslims and college converts, were great. Montreal was the best place for meeting all different kinds of people. No real point to this comment. I went to a couple of seminars at BYU put on by French Africans explaining the difference between the extremists and mainstream. They really seemed to lament the bad reputation the extremists were giving their whole population.

  4. Allie - What is this Live Traffic Feed?

  5. This is one thing that the mission taught me. It taught me to value people who live their religion. Whether they be catholics, or Hindu, or Muslim. You never have to live your religion as much as you do on a mission and it is difficult. I have nothing but praise for those that promote and live the tenets of their faith.

  6. Love it. Love it. Love it! Totally agree with all of it.
    Almost with I were Muslim so I could be part of your Faith Club. I'll have to settle for the Cousins Club.


Will blog for comments

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