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On Islam and Christianity: Stories Connect Us

August 8, 2016

I have always been a fan of stories.

Stories are like people watching from inside. We get to know what the characters are thinking and feeling and by doing this, we get to live out a myriad of life events and learn to feel what the characters feel when they suffer loss, hardship, love, joy and adventure.

Fables and stories tell the hearts of people. You can know a people and their culture by reading their stories and here is what I find: a good story translates across borders and languages, across faiths, because a good story speaks to being a human being and in the core of our humanity, we are the same.

I have had a book sitting on my shelf for years, a gift from my dad, titled: Creative Mythology The Masks of God by Joseph Cambell. The book is  hard read, jam packed with information on mythology. I have picked it up several times and put it back down, overwhelmed with too much information. Learning is hard. Stretching my brain hurts. I would often just go back to reading Facebook posts because Facebook posts are easy. They give that rush of information and meet the desire to people watch inside other people’s heads, but besides a few posts that seek to delve into the real struggles of being a human being in our world, they don’t often go all that deep. When words go deep, you are forced to go deep with them, and that is difficult. Avoiding depth is much easier.

However, I closed my Facebook account and because of that, I have the mental energy left to go a little deeper. I pulled Cambell’s book of the shelf and decided to just skip around to find something to digest. I skipped to the chapter titled: The Legacy of Islam because Islam is a big deal right now. The division between the Western world and the Muslim world is deep and causing immense suffering on both sides.

What I found brought me to tears.

In the midst of wars between Christians and Muslims in the first two millennia of the Christian calendar, there was a beautiful sharing happening in the stories. Muslim philosophers and poets inspired some of our most beloved Christian stories. Dante, in wrestling with his understanding of the Divine, connected with the works of Sufi mystic Ibnu’l-‘Arabi (Cambell, 129). The beloved stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, their quests to serve the Christian God and uphold chivalry, are mirrored by similar Arabic stories (136). Muslims and Christians have taught each other and shared ideas on philosophy, science and literature and that have shaped both of our world views.

We are connected. The stories show that we have the same longing in our hearts to know God and to do what is right.

So why all the division?

Soon after my conversion to Christianity I was warned about my faith being corrupted by outside influences. I was encouraged to spend the majority of my time with other Christians, to only seek romantic relationships with Christians and to read the Bible and Christian authors more than others. Having literature from other faiths was discouraged because I may be swayed by the devil to turn away from my own faith by the outside corruption. I know Christians who will refuse to read a book that includes ideas contrary to the dogma they have been taught because they don’t want to give the devil a way in to their minds. I had been advised not to even have artifacts of other cultures in my home, such as a Hindu statue, because demons can somehow hitch a ride on these cultural icons and take over my faith. This advice solidifies a division between Christians and other faiths. Currently there is a specially strong division between Christianity and Islam,  but all non-Christian world views are seen by fundamental Christians as dangerous to the purity of the faith. Isolation is a tool of control and systematically used in faiths to turn the innocent desire to serve God to other nefarious goals such as world domination. The Christian church is every bit as guilty of this as Islam.

When I was advised to avoid outside influence, I complied. I was young and naïve and believed these more mature teachers on how to preserve the purity of my faith.

They were actually right because as I have explored the faiths of others, listened to my friends of all faiths speak about their love for God, and read the stories of other cultures, my idea that Christians are the only ones to have rights to the one true God has been corrupted.

God is so much bigger than one story.

God has flowed through humanity, every being feeling the touch of the Divine, since the beginning and our stories tell of this. Our desire for Love is universal.

So why is the idea of one Love; one God that we all share; so looked down upon?

Division is a powerful tool. Fear of “the other” can unite people of one faith to kill their brothers and sisters of another. Division allows for innocent people to be exploited by their very real and pure desire to serve the source of Love.

Do not be afraid to be inspired by other faiths or to love your brothers and sisters of other cultures. We can and must learn from each other.

The mythology and stories of Christians and Muslims have overlapped from the beginning. We are more alike than different and the way to combat the growing quarrel between our faiths is to refuse the exploitation of our fears and seek to find the truth.

Education can end this war.

 

Bibliography

              Cambell, Joseph. The Masks of God. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982. Print.           

 

 

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