Bill Bruening of Fort Wayne is a retired philosophy professor from IPFW.
The piece by John Gross (“Suggestion to Muslims: Finish journey to Christ,” Jan. 1) demands a response. He is responding to a piece written by Ahmed Abdelmageed titled “A Muslim's wish for Christmas” (Dec. 21, 2017). When I first read Abdelmageed's piece, I was impressed with his simplicity and caring attitude to both Muslims and Christians. I read his piece as an attempt to build bridges between two faith traditions that have a very long history of bigotry and misunderstanding.
As I read the piece by Gross, I understand him to be saying that Muslims should reach beyond their own religious beliefs to become Christians. His view is patronizing, insulting and extremely unchristian. There is no argument to substantiate his view. He quotes the Christian Bible several times but appears to reject the Quran on the grounds that the canon of the Christian Bible is closed. There is no argument that the canon is closed; there are cheap shots taken at Mohammed, Joseph Smith and Sun Myung Moon. To lump these three people together as if they are all alike in their beliefs, practices and history does not do justice to any of the three religious leaders. To lump them together does no justice to the differences between and among them. Just reject all three of them because they all fall outside the canonical Christian Bible. Gross does not see the possibility that one or more of these belief systems might make some sense while another one does not.
His argument against other religious books seems to amount to saying, “My sacred text is better than your sacred text.” If you ask him why, his answer seems to be, “Because it is my sacred text.” My dog is better than your dog. Why? Because it is my dog!
Christianity has a very suspect history of treating non-Christians in ways inconsistent with the basic teachings of its founder. In the name of pseudo-Christianity, Jews, Muslims, first nations and African slaves have been persecuted, forced to convert to Christianity and killed.
Abdelmageed is absolutely correct when he refers to the saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are no qualifications on who this neighbor is. The Good Samaritan story follows this text and is Jesus' answer to the trick question, “Who is my neighbor?” It is not accidental that a Samaritan is picked to exemplify the essence of love. Two religious figures pass by the man in need of help. It makes no difference who the victim is; it makes no difference who is commanded to come to his aid. We all are required to respond – regardless of religious creed, regardless of sacred text. It makes no difference who is a Christian, a Muslim, a Mormon or a non-believer.
As a devout Muslim might say: “Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illallah (I bear witness that there is no god except Allah)/Wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasululllah (And I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah).”
The problem with the view that Gross proposes is that it is not what Christianity requires. As the Christian Bible says, “The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me' (Matthew 25:40).” Nothing precludes a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Buddhist or someone of no religious faith to love a neighbor.
Abdelmageed gets the point of the love commandment; Gross does not. Abdelmageed understands the commandment even though he is a Muslim. Gross does not understand the commandment even though he claims to be a Christian.