Good Links: The Deep Level of Our Shared Humanity

(Spectrumbot) #1

The links throughout this blog post were selected as worthy of engaging on their own merits. However, rather than presenting separate threads in a weekly list of interesting links, they have been woven together into a thoughtful tapestry which highlights insights and connections so that together the links and the post enhance and support one another. Welcome to Good Links. -Ed.

I once wrote that while the Great Reformation led opposing followers of Christ to literally kill one another, we have at least limited ourselves to violent language during our own reformation which some have called the Great Emergence. But, focusing only on my Christian context is too small a thing. I wasn’t thinking broadly enough. We actually are killing one another--through war in astonishing numbers and through terrorism at an accelerating rate.

Some point to mass casualties and spreading violence as evidence that a reformation is required. The specifics of this call to reformation vary widely from inspiring 'moderates' to become reformists and engage in reinterpreting religious texts to delegitimizing the religious motivation of extremists, to even erasing the very idea of God. However, these responses miss the true significance of fundamentalism and religious violence.

As during the Great Reformation, the current retrenchment into fundamentalism and the proliferation of violent extremists is a reaction against and a revelation of reformation which is already in progress. Reformations occur as current authority is brought into question by scientific revolution, sociological disruption, political upheaval, philosophical bombshells, and technological surges. All of these spheres have undergone meteoric transformations around the globe in just the last century or two. As a result, not only Christians but religious believers and nonbelievers of all types have been unmoored and we are grasping at the void for new anchors of authority.

All of the proposed reformations and more are already in progress and, far from being the cure, they are a catalyst for increasing fundamentalist extremism. Fear of the unknown causes many to cling ever more tightly to the disintegrating sources of traditional authority and kick against the pricks with rhetoric and acts of violence. What then is the cure?

Given the complexity of the situation, there is no single cure. However, Reza Aslan echoes the wisdom that perfect love drives out fear when he suggests, “the key to all of this is relationships.” When we realize that people from multiple religious faiths, and people with no faith at all share identical values, similar struggles, common hopes, and complementary aspirations, not only have we alleviated our sense of unmoored isolation but the communities that emerge might even help us find new sources of shared authority.

In his recent TED talk, Aziz Abu Sarah suggests a related though admittedly unusual approach to peace-making: Be a tourist. Interestingly, Samir Selmanović, an Adventist pastor in New York City, is offering similar immersion tours in a religious context. Or, if tourism is not your thing, each of us can at least follow William Johnsson’s advice at the close of his Sabbath sermon at the 2014 Spectrum/AF conference to befriend someone from another religion, “Not just a casual acquaintance but to get to know them at the deep level of our shared humanity.”

Brenton Reading is a pediatric interventional radiologist practicing at Childrens Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

Betty and I now live in a senior center. Our fellowship is broad, cheerful, but there is a distance that one does not cross. We have a funeral of the week.A period of support. Meal time is community time.,The chatter is almost a bane to one with hearing aids…There are book clubs, Bible studies, and works projects and games. The Chaplain is a hardy Baptist, who mingles with the morning coffee regulars…Tell someone you are 90 and they will top you by 3 to 10 years.Of course the women dominate. I have a letter of the month to the local paper, that gets read and makes for conversation…I also teach a Sunday School Class, with enthusiastic response.,This month will be The Road to Emanus. The Lord willing the next will be a giant Fish Story. It is new, but it is the frosting on the cake, to see all and be not afraid. Tom Z

(Carrol Grady`) #3

As a 15-year missionary in the Far East, I have traveled in many countries and learned to know different cultures. But I think the things that really helps us to be not only tolerant but interested in knowing people who are different from us are 1) realizing that we don’t know everything, and 2) reading widely about topics we don’t know much about. At least, that has been a catalyst for me.

(Allen Shepherd) #4

Ah, the frosting on the cake? What a wonderful comment from a senior center! Your post made me both happy and sad. I am sorry your illness has made you move to a straiter place. But your great soul has led you to engagement even in such circumstances. My father moved to such a place when he could not longer take care of the home he loved. He did not want to go, but knew he could do no other. We wished we could have allowed him to live with one of his children, but it was not to be.

I have taught Sunday schools before myself, for he Methodists, and enjoyed the experience. I had a much greater knowledge of scripture, as I sense you do, than they did, and they loved to hear the wisdom the Bible imparted to a carful student. You are being a blessing even in a narrower place. That is one of the delights God gives to his children. Some blessings are lost, but others are poured out to refresh the soul. Blessings on you.

We have not heard from Edgar for some time. Does anyone know what is up?

(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

Allen Thank You. Betty have a birthday yesterday. she was well recognized by the community as well as family.We are fitting in. we eat in the dinning room for dinner only, It could be better. I miss Betty’s dinners but the kitchen is small and we are old. So we have a limited choice and attempt to enjoy what we can. life is not perfect but it is grand. Tom Z

(Thomas J Zwemer) #6

Adventism is trapped by its history. The original Adventists were former Millerites. as such they were disfellowshipped by their home churches, often Methodists. Many returned, but handful felt their experience was real but their understanding misplaced. They found a solution in a mis-reading of Hebrews.

So they had no reason to confess an error. they were more right than those who disfellowshipped them. So they turned the tables, the reformation was progressive, those who didn’t follow the new light were falling back into Babylon. The scorn heaped on them just months before was returned in kind.

Instead of jointly rejoicing in the glory of the empty tomb. They decided to undo the error of Eden all by themselves and called all others the sons and daughters of Cain.

Yes there is a gulf, but Adventism widened it. Tom Z

(David Read) #7

It is exactly right that Islam is undergoing a revival and reformation. It started in the 1920s in Egypt when Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the ideological mother of Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Islamic State, and every other Sunni Muslim terror group in the world. The biggest breakthroughs came in the 1970s, when OPEC made the Saudis extremely wealthy, allowing them to export the Wahhabi version of Islam all around the Islamic world, and when the 1979 revolution made Iran a Shia theocracy. The Islamic revival and reformation is one of the most important developments in the world today.

The problem that no one wants to come to grips with is that Muslim terrorists are acting in an impeccably Islamic manner, according to the source documents of Islam, the Qur’an, the hadith and the Sira. I just wrote an article on how the Charlie Hebdo murderers were following Muhammad’s example to the letter:

But don’t take my word for it, watch Islamic law in action in Saudi Arabia:

Or in Egypt, where even a secularist general who threw out the elected Muslim Brotherhood government is obliged to enforce Muslim blasphemy laws (at least to a limited extent) or see his regime overthrown:

I marvel at how liberal Christian always insist that the problem is “fundamentalism,” i.e., those who try to live by the teachings of the source documents of their religious tradition. But different religions teach different things. Christians are asked to emulate Christ, who ordered his disciples not to fight in his defense, whereas Muslims are asked to emulate a warlord who took slaves and other booty in piratical raids, expanded his domain by warfare, urged his followers to expand the territory of Islam by jihad warfare, and solicited the murders of those who criticized or ridiculed him. It makes a big difference what the fundamentals of your religion actually are.

(Kim Green) #8

David, why do you fear the Muslims (and/or their religion) so much?
It is clear that you have spent quite a bit of time researching and reading…what has it to do with anything in particular? I have yet to come to an understanding why this topic is so utterly captivates you. Perhaps you could explain it in a short paragraph because it baffles me.

(Bill Garber) #9


The source documents of Christianity and Islam do not change, of course. And this apparently is what brings you to celebrate as ‘exactly right that Islam is undergoing a revival and reformation.’ And in closing you celebrate Christian ‘”fundamentalism,” i.e., those who try to live by the teachings of the source documents of their religious tradition.’

And then you reference your belief that it is not fundamentalism, but “what the fundamentals of your religion actually are.” that tells the story.

I’m not so sure …

So was it fundamentalist or liberal Christians who launched the Crusades, later the Inquisition, and after the Reformation burned each other at the stake over attributed errors of belief?

Is it liberal or fundamentalist Muslims behind ISIS? Is it liberal or fundamentalist Muslims who oppose ISIS?

Is it liberal or fundamentalist Christians who believe they are authorized/required to murder MDs who perform abortions … or to disrupt with chants and sign waving funerals of people they believe are dead wrong about something in the source documents, or advertise they will publicly violate a copy of the Qur’an?

Is it liberal or fundamentalist segments of the church that believe people who do not see in the source documents what they see should leave the Seventh-day Adventist church?

And one last question, was Jesus liberal or fundamentalist when it came to Judaism, his religion?

I’m thinking we do well to let go of this liberal and fundamentalist divisiveness, and replace it with a mindfulness that Jesus came as the living Gospel that God so loves the world that He created that though we die we will not perish but by the might and power of Jesus who has swallowed up death itself, we will live again, eternally.

(David Read) #10

I’m not “utterly captivated” by Islam. I’m a man of many interests. I’ve written a 600 page book on dinosaurs and origins, but so far I’ve not written a book on Islam (although it’s on my “to do” list).

The question is not why I’m interested in Islam, but why most other people are so incurious about it. When someone’s trying to kill you, doesn’t it make you a little curious as to why?

(David Read) #11

Bill, I’ve never argued that the split between liberals and fundamentalists explains everything in the history of the world, or in the history of religion, or in the history of Christianity. (But it is a useful analytical concept, and I will continue to apply it where it does apply, even if you find it divisive.) Indeed, I was making a point closely related to your point: one cannot just say “liberals good/fundamentalists bad” or vice versa. Those who want to lump fundamentalists Muslims with fundamentalist Christians, and imply that since fundamentalist Muslims are dangerous, fundamentalist Baptists are also dangerous, are making an argument so absurdly invalid that it can only spring from malice.

(Kim Green) #12

David, congratulations on having many interests. But I think that if a book on the topic is on your “to-do” list than maybe I should just say “captivated” :smile:

You end up sounding paranoid when you say:

I have known many muslims that haven’t the slightest interest in killing me, though I am aware that there is a very small percentage that might.

(David Read) #13

Paranoid? I worked in the Library Tower/U.S. Bank building for seven years, and that was one of the ones Al Qaeda terrorists plotted to destroy:

So maybe it was a little more personal for me. But Muslim terrorism and its theological basis ought to be of interest to everyone who has been forced to do the “shoeless shuffle” through the airport countless times since 2001. And is it really a good idea to be importing Muslim immigrants when their values are so antithetical to ours?:

(George Tichy) #14

Agree with your concerns.

(Kim Green) #15

So, at least your angst has some place in reality, David :slight_smile: Yes, for the reason that you stated it is indeed more personal. However, they were not after YOU…I don’t believe that they (extremists) care who any of us are.

It is not that I have no interest in:

It is just that I don’t believe that we have that much input into what the Federal Government ultimately does or enforces. It seems that they enforce what they want and when they want. France has created a two or three tier society with so many muslim immigrants that live completely separate lives within the greater society. I don’t know that we aren’t far behind them.

But, David, perhaps this forum isn’t the best place to be discussing these issues. I don’t know if/how involved in politics you are but this definitely is one of your “cause celebrae”.

However, above all else, I believe that God is in control and that he will protect and guide. This needs to be reflected as Christians in every thing that we do or say…perhaps no more so than in the case of our muslim brothers and sisters.

(Bb Yeaton) #16

Adventists refuse to validate other Christian faiths, and go so far to say they have the mark of the beast, and the pope is the Antichrist. They declare them to be unclean because of something they may eat or the fact that they wear a little jewelry. And now this strange courtship with Islam. This awkward “deep level, shared humanity” affair…

Wake up Christians, for Christ is your Husband, you are His Bride. There is no other legitimate pairing for you! Sure…be a good neighbor, be salt and light, be a city on a hill and always be willing to share the hope that is within you. For the love of God, don’t equate your heritage, your identity in Christ with ANY other!

Reza Aslan has preached from the mountain tops that Christ was just another man prophet. He flatly denies the Messiah element of Him. Aslan says that “the Christ- identity of Jesus is mythological, legendary, offensive and difficult to swallow”.

The following are from 1+2 John; Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist- he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.

People from multiple religious faiths do NOT share identical values. This is a lie. To me, it’s a slap in the face of Christ to say so.

The author feels a sense of unmoored isolation; that’s too bad. I wouldn’t assume that is the experience of very many others, or that it can be fixed by coalitions with Christless religions.

(Elaine Nelson) #17

There are separate sources for “beliefs” and acknowledged history. Reza Aslan has arrived at his conclusions just as Christians like you have arrived at your beliefs. Beliefs are apart from evidence, although true believers consider those as facts, with support from the Bible.

Historically, we do know the evolution of religions; and Christianity, just as Hinduism, Buddhism and other world religions were evolving beliefs that became sacred for those followers. They are more ancient than Christianity and have just as faithful followers who fully believe as do Christians. Quoting from sacred texts to support one’s beliefs can be done by other religions; but what does that prove? Only that each believer is convinced that his alone is the true religion and all others are false.

It’s like the little boy in the school yard who proudly says: “My dad can beat your dad.”

(Bb Yeaton) #18

I’m not objecting to the fact that different people arrive at different conclusions about what to believe. As a Christian, I’m not going along with this idea that we should set aside our profound differences in order to celebrate whatever else there is left that we have in common.

In the case of the Christian, there is strong evidence! The Jews and Romans unwittingly made sure of that! The mobs of Easter weekend bore witness to the supernatural events that unfolded. Just think how different history would be had those soldiers not been ordered to guard the tomb. But they did, right? Body goes in, opening is sealed, body is missing! What do you think is the best explanation?

(Elaine Nelson) #19

The facts? No one wants to realize that the Resurrection story was written at least a generation after the time of Christ’s death. If one checks the Gospel descriptions they are all so different that they cannot be harmonized. In fact, no one is said to have actually observed the Resurrection; only that the tomb was empty. Was it the women, as reported in Mark who were afraid to tell anyone?

Or was it an earthquake the opened the tomb and an angel spoke to them, but they did not observe the Resurrection (Matthew). Luke writes that the women "returned from the tomb and told the others.

John writs that Peter reached the tomb first; but Mary stayed outside and two angels asked whey she was weeping and then Jesus appeared as the gardener and she recognized her Lord.

That NO ONE actually saw the Resurrection as recorded by the Gospels; and He appeared to them as a stranger; walked through locked doors, apparently in a spirit form not as before.

Also, it was also much later that the doctrine of the virgin birth was written about; there is absolutely no record that during Jesus’ lifetime that anyone thought he was different than all humans. Some alluded to this illegitimate birth, indicating that the father was unknown.

The Creation story as well as the virgin birth and Resurrection may have been believed by the Bible writers, but they can only be accepted by faith, not evidence. Isn’t that what faith is all about? Theological beliefs are not based on historical evidence as there is no access to the supernatural. Roman Catholics believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also raised and is heaven now.

(Bb Yeaton) #20

If the gospels were identical, wouldn’t that be suspicious? Variations in insignificant details shouldn’t be cause to disregard the Pearl of great price. Would you throw away a beautiful diamond because you can’t recall if you received it for an anniversary or birthday? If you are wrong about the authenticity of the Bible, you are breaking His heart. If I’m wrong, what of lasting value do I stand to lose?