Zealous for Zealots

30 07 2013

How I wish Lauren Green worked for NBC . . . not because she is such a gifted and talented religion correspondent – I don’t know enough about her to say that . . . but because right now she works for FoxNews, and I do NOT want this to be an anti-Fox blog!

For the past several days I’ve read about and watched several clips of Lauren’s interview with Reza Aslan, author of the book, “Zealot: The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.” Aslan is an internationally known religion scholar and author, who is fluent in New Testament Greek, and who actually claims in the opening pages of the book that his “two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made (him) a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus.” He made that clear again last night in an interview with Pierce Morgan when he stated that he passionately tries to follow Jesus’ example . . . and oh yeah, Aslan is also a person of the Muslim faith.

(By the way, did you also know that Ayaan Hirsi’ Ali, author of “Infidel” and “Nomad”, books that claim to expose Americans to the evils of Islam, is a devout Christian; and that Pat Robertson is a male heterosexual, who has a great deal to say about transgender issues and homosexuality; AND, that there is absolutely no record anywhere of Dr. Seuss, author of the classic Green Eggs and Ham, as ever having eaten green ham?)

Now most are in agreement that Green probably just asked the questions that she had been given. Her greatest failure was simply not doing the research needed for the interview. (The same kind of research she not surprisingly, failed to acknowledge in Aslan’s book!)She made the same mistake we’ve all made at some point in our careers and she shouldn’t be hung out to dry for it! Never the less, I still believe that her conversation with this brilliant and devout man of faith reveals several unfortunate attitudes that reign in too many segments of American Christianity today. And the attitudes leave me extremely confused.

Why do so many Christians think that every Muslim has an agenda that involves discrediting or maligning Christianity? Why do so many people treat education and educated people as the enemy? And why are so many so quick to see those who have different beliefs, as propagators of evil rather than fellow pilgrims on a similar journey?

As any religious scholar will affirm, and as most thoughtful people of most religious traditions will confess, Jesus was a great prophet, who has changed and continues to change the course of human history. Certainly this is true of people in the world’s
three great religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In his selfless life and senseless death, we have in Jesus a model for what can truly be said to have been a ‘Godly’ life. And I know countless people of all faiths who can and do affirm this – as well as many who claim to atheists! Our only disagreements, and I intentionally use the word ONLY because they were so unimportant to Jesus that he failed to ever address them – involves doctrines and laws created by men to control people, and to divide and separate nations and cultures. And frankly, these doctrines and laws – like Jesus’ being born of a virgin, his claims to be God, and his bodily resurrection – are issues that have divided even the Christian community since the first century!

So why do we think that a Muslim is not qualified to write about Jesus, or that if s/he does, it is with an agenda to discredit Jesus’ ministry? Further, why do we think that one who ‘studies’ faith, is somehow denying or negating the ‘experience’ of faith, and thus has little to teach us? And finally, why are we so afraid to acknowledge that even if someone does have a faith that is radically different from our own, they may still be moving closer to the same God that we love and serve?

How ironic, that so often these days, I find that I have more in common with people of other faiths, than I do with so many who claim to embrace the same faith that I do. I guess that’s why I’ve become a ‘zealot’ for progressive Christianity – because it’s the Christianity that I see in the life of Jesus.

Thanks Reza, for pointing that out!

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