In an era of growing divisiveness between cultures, I love the hope that this photo represents. The photo came up the other day in my class when we were discussing interfaith relationships, and our discussion turned to how people of such different faiths can protect people they believe to be ‘led astray’. I teach at a Christian college where many students come from conservative evangelical backgrounds. Sadly, the goodness of evangelical theology in the US has been inextricably tied to conservative politics in the past few decades, and one of the challenges I see young evangelicals facing is how to sort out this overlap of faith and extreme right-wing politics. To exacerbate this, the current generation came of age in a time of great tension between the Christian and Muslim worlds, and this became many students first introduction Muslims. However, this shouldn’t be the end of the story.
Some historians suggest that the US is the most diverse religious country in history. As we grapple with this reality, we desperately need people who are able to facilitate moderate conversations about differences in religion. In a symposium on Christian Muslim relationships and religious pluralism at Wheaton College, Christian Skye Jethani (author, The Divine Commodity) and Muslim Eboo Patel (founder, Interfaith Youth Core) discuss the current tendency for the dominant narrative about religion to be a clash of civilization. They assert that we need to “recast the narrative away from conflict and toward coordination” with other, even if we disagree theologically. They call both Christians and Muslims to find the common ground we do share as a means of combatting the story of religious conflict that the media so frequently presents.
What is your experience with forming friendships across faith? What works? What hurts?