Abraham haunts me. When I wrote my first Faith Matters column in 1997, I began with those three words. At that time I was in transition—moving from Maryland to North Carolina, and from a faculty position teaching undergraduates at Loyola College in Maryland to a position as dean of Duke Divinity School.
When I arrived as pastor at Beech Grove United Methodist Church, the community was bitterly divided because one member was running against another to be county commissioner. The primary issue in the campaign was whether to zone Beech Grove Road, on which sat Beech Grove Church. Issues of class weren’t far behind.
What has Seoul to do with Kampala? In the 1980s, the term “Global South” gained currency as a means of describing those parts of the planet outside the advanced regions of Europe, North America and Japan. Various writers, including myself, noted the dramatic rise of Christian numbers in that vast region.
With its long coastline, rugged mountains and haunting sand dunes, Oman is a paradise for desert lovers, hikers and boaters. Muscat, the capital city, is a gem—its arched white buildings and flat roofs squeezed between the blue ocean and black mountains. Yet call me an egghead, but what I remember most from a trip to Oman is a booklet I read there with an ominous title: Body Count: A Quantitative Review of Political Violence Across World Civilizations (2009). In it, author Naveed Sheikh claims that “the Christian civilization emerges as the most violent and genocidal in the world history.” Compared to Islam, Christianity is a clear winner: 31.94 million deaths by Muslims to 177.94 million deaths by Christians.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran had his brother hand deliver a check for $400,000 last month to Tehran’s only Jewish hospital with the message that “our government intends to unite all ethnic groups and religions, so we decided to assist you.” In September Rouhani’s administration had issued a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Jews around the world. Though some question Rouhani’s motives, his behavior is a refreshing contrast to that of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a Holocaust denier (New York Times, February 6).