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Posts Tagged ‘Mediation’

ImageIt is alarming to see how dramatically American society is fracturing and polarizing. I believe this is happening around the world, too, which is why I’ve named it one of “7 Global Currents” that are reshaping missions and churches, home and abroad.

This polarization is evident in all areas of culture — politics, religion, philosophy, and even sports.  I recently read an article which named Tim Tebow –he of the Heisman Trophy, NCAA championship, and game-winning drives — as one of America’s most divisive athletes.  Others on the list included Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, and O.J. Simpson – all who have been accused or convicted of serious or even criminal misdeeds. And Tebow’s crime? It’s scribbling Bible verses on his eyeblack during college years and openly spouting Jesus’ name whenever he’s interviewed. Unfortunately, that is enough to polarize masses.   Whether in traditionally controversial areas like religion and politics, or formerly innocuous areas like food (slow or fast food?), stores (big box or local?), and clothing (sweatshops or fair wage?), it seems that all words are fighting words.

For Christians, it’s increasingly difficult to practice Mediation in a harsh, accusatory, villainizing world. Tebow himself seems to be maturing. During a recent interview after his trade to the New York Jets, he demurred when asked about his faith, pointing out that the event at hand was a football transaction. Tebow is maturing into what Gordon College President Michael Lindsay calls a “cosmopolitan Christian” — one who understands the importance of building bridges and speaks more about what he’s for than what he’s against. That’s a good thing for Tebow and for the Christian community.  In the coming years, Christians in America and around the world will need to find inclusive and gracious ways to give voice to what we believe. We hold to exclusive Truth claims, and we know that those Truths will always be offensive to some.  But we should work hard, as Jesus did, to pursue reconciled relationships and loving dialogue…and hope it never gets to ultimatums and accusations.

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Eboo Patel

I recently met a new friend, Eboo Patel.  I had read  his excellent book, Acts of Faith, at the same time I was reading Dr. Rich Muouw’s definitive book, Uncommon Decency. I was struck by the two authors’ similar perspectives on interfaith dialogue, even though Patel is the Muslim founder of InterFaith Youth Core and Muouw is a Reformed Christian and President of Fuller Seminary.   Eboo was nice enough to  spend a few hours with me over breakfast in Chicago, and my takeaway was his admonition for evangelical Christians to hold confidently to our faith–whether dialoguing with Muslims or others.

And then I read an article by Christianity Today’s Skye Jethani about an unusual class at a Christian seminary.   Unusual, because the professor was Dr. Eboo Patel, whose main point was to encourage Christian seminarians to “be more Christian.”

Patel feels that when we Christians are true to our faith, it allows him as a Muslim to live out his own faith authentically.  The article quotes Dr. Patel as saying:

‘If you enter a ministerial gathering as a Christian minister and downplay your Christian identity in an attempt to make everyone comfortable,’ says Patel, ‘as a Muslim leader, I’m immediately suspicious. I don’t trust you. Embracing your identity as a Christian creates safety for me to be a Muslim.’

Throughout the course Dr. Patel admonished the seminarians to learn to use the narrative framework provided by scripture and apply it to their surroundings.

Remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race. You cannot afford to forfeit that territory by talking about economics or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Don’t be afraid to be Christian ministers. If you don’t use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative.

I suggest that, if Christians don’t like this advice coming from a Muslim, then they should read Muow’s book.  Uncommon Decency truly helped to reframe my perspective on this issue.  I quote both men extensively in The Meeting of the Waters, in Chapter 7 on Mediation.

See article:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/buildingleaders/ministrystaff/ministrylessonsfromamuslim.html

Bonus material:  Video of Dr.  Eboo Patel speaking about Interfaith Dialogue at the Q-Ideas Conference

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