Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Muslim And Christian? In One Body?

Perhaps the solution to the Islamist war on the world is to bring up Rodney King and do a global "can't we all just get along?" If Christians could also be Muslims, and Muslims could also be Christians, then couldn't we all just settle down to some smores and folk songs?

Could be ... could be ...

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding (right) ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved. (Seattle Times)

As, I'm sure, female genital mutilation and honor killings would move her. But let's keep a happy face on this because after all, there are bad Christians, too. Not Christians who cut off one's clitoris, or kill daughters as a routine expression of displeasure, mind you, but bad Christians nonetheless.

Redding is a smart woman, the Seattle Times article tells us, a Brown U. graduate with a Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in NY. Her dad was a lawyer on the Brown side of the Brown v. Board of Education case, and for two decades, she's been an Episcopalian priest. If someone so intellectual can embrace both religions, is there a chance the rest of us could follow and find a way around all this jihad vs. crusade nonsense?

But aren't there some rather irreconcilable differences?

Redding doesn't feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can't even agree on all the details, she said. "So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

"At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word "Islam."

"It wasn't about intellect," she said. "All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

"I could not not be a Muslim."

Well. As a Christian, aren't you supposed to believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God, a very part of the godhead Trilogy?

As much as she loves her church, she has always challenged it. She calls Christianity the "world religion of privilege." She has never believed in original sin. And for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus' divinity. ...

She believes the Trinity is an idea about God and cannot be taken literally.

She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

Oh, she's that sort of Christian, at the faith cafeteria, picking up the Jell-O of Jesus Loves You but passing by the steaming piles of Original Sin and the complicated meringue of the Trilogy.

Since I picked up a plate full o' Christianity when I passed through the cafeteria line, it would actually be easier for me to be a Satanist -- at least they believe Jesus is the Son of God -- than a Muslim.

But then, I'm hardly as intellectual as Redding. Maybe I'm just a dupe to the simple faith that's been around for 2,000 years saving souls, and should be more modern and learn to accept flexi-faith since it will make me feel better. After all, that's what drew her in, this feeling good thing:

In fall 2005, a local Muslim leader gave a talk at the cathedral, then prayed before those attending. Redding was moved. As he dropped to his knees and stretched forward against the floor, it seemed to her that his whole body was involved in surrendering to God.

I get moved by Hallmark commercials; that doesn't mean I'm devoting my life to the Church of the Greeting Card.

Then there's this one other little thing: Islam.

Redding has found friends among intellectual Muslims who think it's fine that she's a Muslim and a Christian. None have invited her to visit Egypt, where Christians are often murdered for their faith, even if (I suppose) they may have a bit of Islam wrapped up in the package. And there are many Muslims who don't curry to her little spiritual adventure at all:
"The theological beliefs are irreconcilable," said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. "For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy."
Blasphemy is a word we Christians still use, but not nearly with the impact it had during the Salem witch trials or the Inquisition. In much of the Islamic world, it still has that centuries-old weight, so Redding would do well to keep her religious fervor firmly grounded in liberal Western Washington. A missionary trip to north Africa and the Middle East might lead her quite quickly to the ultimate understanding we all will achieve when we die.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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