The Rev. Jan Fuller is an Episcopal priest and the University Chaplain at Elon University.
Recently, I was forwarded a hateful email which characterized Muslims — all of them — as un-American, un-Godly and violent, among other unfounded negatives I refuse to repeat. Fortunately, the forwarder wanted my opinion on the claims in the unsigned, unattributed, and frequently re-forwarded email.
I am a lifelong student of Islam, although not a Muslim. I know that the way of submission to God called Islam is a religion of peace and concord, even though it is different in many respects from the religion I practice. Christians and Muslims worship the same God with many similar attributes, with distinct emphases and differences. I know that Muslims want what Christians want — to live in freedom and in peace in civil communities, to raise children, to pray in God’s will, to go and come in safety and respect, and to be patriotic citizens. I also know that there are challenging exceptions, people who go too far in every faith….
…On Sept. 2, as ISIS horrified us in the name of an “Islam” that is unrecognizable to Muslims and others, the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) wrote: “No words can describe the horror, disgust and sorrow felt by Muslims in America. … The criminal actions of ISIS are antithetical to the faith of Islam.” Despite complete repudiation by Muslims, some Christian leaders have very publicly withdrawn their support of, and dialogue with, Muslims in their own communities. Others simply say or write what is ugly and untrue about Islam. To watch this happen, to hear disdain from Christian people is deeply painful and un-Christian. I see the rift of misunderstanding, intolerance and disrespect in this country growing wider. The honorable Islam is being hijacked by a few ignorant and even disturbed individuals. Muslims are horrified by terrorism too. For Christians, though, this is not a moment for hate, but for compassion.
The words of Jesus, from the Hebrew scripture, call us to love God completely, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I cannot think of a better moment to put this ancient law into a new practice. And who is my neighbor? Christians, Jews and Muslims, among many others, are our neighbors. We don’t have to agree in order to love; we don’t have to be the same. The way we love others demonstrates the way we love God.