Thursday, June 28, 2007

Interesting echo from the past

While we've all been talking about the deeply confused Ann Holmes Redding, the Muslipalian "priest" of the diocese of Olympia, I was interested to read a similar story from about 10 years ago.

In 1997, Rev. Benjamin Chavis, a United Church of Christ minister, converted to Islam and made the same claim that it is possible to be simultaneously Muslim and Christian. I'm sure I didn't notice this at the time, because it was well before blogs, and I'm not a UCC member, so there'd be no reason for me to pay attention. But it is striking how very similar the arguments are - not only to those Ms Redding has made, but to comments by Mrs. Schori and other ECUSA leaders.

Compare Chavis:
Chavis Muhammad got a positive response from the audience when he made such assertions as, "The God who called me into Christian ministry is the same one who has now called me to be a minister in the Nation of Islam"; "If God is one, then why aren't we?"; "Will the church deny me obedience to God when God has called me to Islam? I'm going on, and to God be the glory."
and Redding:
Around that time, her mother died, and then "I was in a situation that I could not handle by any other means, other than a total surrender to God," she said.

She still doesn't know why that meant she had to become a Muslim. All she knows is "when God gives you an invitation, you don't turn it down."

There's the same blurring of just who Jesus is. Chavis:
For instance, when asked about his understanding of Christ and the Trinity, he answered, "For us in the Nation of Islam, we do have a Christology. Our response is to be obedient to Allah. We affirm not only creedal but practical Christology. What do you do when you get up from kneeling? Some can get up and do the work of the devil after they've kneeled.... What do we mean by triuneness? It was God in Christ. Jesus is a perfect example of obedience to God. So Jesus is not just a prophet. He is a son of God and we are sons and daughters of God. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is a Christlike figure. Would we not think that God would send prophets and messengers in our time?"
“We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the ‘only begotten son of God.’ That’s how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal,” she continues. “When we say Jesus is the only begotten one, we are saying he’s unique in some way. Islam says the same thing. He’s the only human aside from Adam who is directly created by God, and he’s different from Adam because he has a human mother. So there’s agreement—this person is unique in his relationship to God.”
And just as they say that human beings and clams have 98% the same DNA, so we don't look at what the two religions are, we look at the rudimentary beginnings and pretend that this proves that they're really just the same. Chavis:
Chavis Muhammad reiterated several main themes: God is one; obedience to God is key; the Nation of Islam "practices what it preaches"; Jews, Christians and Muslims are born of the same root; and one can be both a Christian and a Muslim with no contradiction.
Redding explains that Abraham is the father figure who holds the three faiths together. In the Hebrew Bible is the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. In Islam, the story is the same, but it is Ishmael, not Isaac. In the Hebrew Bible, Hagar, and Egyptian slave, gives birth to a son before Sarah does but Ishmael is written out of the story. Christianity has genealogies of Jesus that also try to redefine the family. Islam reminds us that it was Ishmael who was the firstborn and restores that branch of the family.
There is a happy ending in one of the stories, though. Chavis's denomination saw through his flim-flam and concluded that he had abandoned his faith. A later article described the denouement: he was defrocked. Pity he'd been connected with such a fanatical bunch as the UCC; if only he'd been an Episcopalian, his dreams of "being a facilitator for Muslim-Christian dialog" could have been paid for by the diocese:
Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese's newspaper, hasn't caused much controversy yet, he said....

Redding believes telling her story can help ease religious tensions, and she hopes it can be a step toward her dream of creating an institute to study Judaism, Christianity and Islam."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting post. i found this site talked a lot about surrender to god at from both the Hindu and Christian perspective. thought you may enjoy it.

8:36 am  

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