Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.... Luke 6:37
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8
The Facebook post from a rabbi friend startled me: a news story about a Dallas church whose promotional flier for a summer series on "Dangerous Isms" included Judaism. For a moment, I thought it might be an attention-getting tactic to remind us of the power of faith being dangerous to the power of evil.
But the bald accusation was true. The events in the series were on Denominationalism, Pessimism, Islamism, Materialism, Atheism, Liberalism, Alcoholism, Emotionalism, and Judaism. The obvious intent was to consider each of these to be a negative threat to a Christian existence.
Fliers were left on neighborhood doors, causing much anxiety for people who saw the message as a threat, not an invitation. The local media quoted a response from the church's minister: "We are not here to criticize or be antagonistic toward people and to beat them down".
The response from a local Muslim leader was: "It just makes people scared and anxious about the world around them when people who normal are painted as dangerous", and suggested that there are more productive ways to discuss differences among religions.
Community groups are trying to set up some communication between the church and other religions in an effort to raise awareness and defuse the negative impact this has had on the community.
As Christians, we enjoy the ultimate privileges of our faith, and we take on the heavy responsibility of Christ's mission at the same time. We are to be like the Samaritan who ministered to another human regardless of faith.
My rabbi friend's synagogue houses a space where local Muslims can worship safely. This illustrates to me the perfect way we invite people to be part of our faith community. Many churches have outreach programs to extend to all members of their communities, and to people throughout the world. This is evangelism in action.
We are in a period of time when Christianity has been betrayed by so many who profess to be part of it. We should expect great things of ourselves through the grace of God, and we should fully exert the power of our faith in our lives to shine for everyone around us. But when we defend something from a narrow point of view as being part of our duty to Christ, we are working to extinguish the very faith that feeds us.
I hope that positive things come from the response to the flier that alarmed people far beyond the community that first read it. Perhaps it will awaken a desire for more exchanges that will benefit the movement of people coming together to protect and support one another, instead of feeling hurt by the dangerous exclusionism of a misguided interpretation of faith.
This prayer is by Thomas Merton:
O God, we are one with you. You have made us one with you. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, you dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you, and we love you with our whole being, because our being is your being, our spirit is rooted in your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world, and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.