Many excellent scholars study Islam. Many other scholars explore the changing face of global Christianity. Rarely do those experts look at the two worlds—Muslim and Christian—side by side, which is a pity: when we do, we see some remarkable parallels and connections that shed light on both.
In U.S. Protestant circles there is a particularly popular story about the origins of religious toleration. In the aftermath of the Reformation, the story goes, there was an Age of Religious Wars typified by unrelenting repression in all matters religious.
Religion possesses unbelievable power. It can offer meaning, shape culture and transform lives in the best of ways. But when something possesses the power to perform good, it can also contain the power to do harm.
The first meeting at the Vatican of a Roman Catholic–Muslim Forum has affirmed the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and in public, while also rejecting terrorism in the name of religion.
Tables were set for the third annual interfaith Passover Seder meal, a "bring your own wine" event at University Congregational Church in Seattle. There were place settings for 300, fresh flowers, two kinds of charoset (a blend of fruit and nuts), two kinds of horseradish and baskets of matzo. The participants at this event came not only from University Congregational, led by pastor Don McKenzie, but also from Bet Alef, a “meditative synagogue” led by Rabbi Ted Falcon, and from an experimental congregation known as the Interfaith Community Church, led by Sufi Muslim teacher Jamal Rahman.
A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that Americans are quite accepting of religions other than their own. Seventy percent of those with a religious affiliation agreed that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” Among mainline Protestants that figure jumped to 83 percent, and among Catholics, to 79 percent.
A few decades ago Qatar was a tribal society with an economy based largely on fishing, pearl harvesting and camel and horse breeding. In 1995 a bloodless coup set the stage for the modernization of the country’s oil and gas industries. Qatar’s economy grew 24 percent in 2006 alone, and its per capita income that year was $61,540. Today Qatar is on track to become the wealthiest nation (on a per capita basis) in the world.
When Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed an open letter to George W. Bush in May 2006, he invoked Judgment Day, the day when the deeds of all political leaders will be examined. Ahmadinejad asked Bush whether either of them would be accepted “in the promised world, where . . .
Krister Stendahl, a biblical scholar, one-time Lutheran bishop of his native Stockholm and former dean of Harvard University Divinity School, is being remembered for his pathbreaking efforts in Christian-Jewish understanding and his plainspoken support for women’s ordination and gay rights.