Francis Kalifat, the newly elected president of France’s Jewish communities, said this: “The fight against anti-Semitism is our main cause because French Jews are in the most difficult situation they have experienced since World War II.” I wonder why? My goodness, don’t we need to build religious harmony!
Who could possibly object to building harmony? Well, unless I am mistaken, harmony is what appeasers have sought down the ages. So count me as one of those who retains a healthy degree of scepticism about pursuing harmony. Don’t misunderstand me. I am all for harmony between those of goodwill. It’s harmony with the bad guys and the perpetually precious that worries me.
Interfaith dialogue is about harmony. One description of the process is Christians kowtowing to discordant Muslims. What else is it about? Without Muslims, interfaith dialogue these days would be a movement with a substantive cause. Here are just a few of the many examples of Christian overtures:
Established in 2003 by the National Council of [Christian] Churches in Australia, the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews provides “opportunity for the national bodies of each faith to come together to build understanding and harmony in the Australian context.”
In 2014 Pope Francis called for interfaith dialogue to help end fundamentalism and terrorism during his first visit to Turkey. And only with considerable distaste is it possible to bring to mind Pope John Paul II kissing the Koran in 1999 at the Vatican. No doubt this was observed with satisfaction by his Muslim visitors.
In October, 2015, Justin Welby joined the Anglican Archbishops of Wales, Scotland and Ireland to mark the 10th anniversary of the Cardiff University’s Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK. “We have unequivocally to condemn those who misuse our own Scriptures for their own ends … The mainstream of each faith needs to generate a counter-narrative that acknowledges our differences and commits to resource and support one another in defiance of those who wish to divide us.”
“[And] support one another” – really, in their respective faiths? The Archbishop might just occasionally want to refer to Christian scripture rather than engage in kumbaya. The lesson from my church on Sunday was from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “There are some who are confusing you to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven [even the Archangel Gabriel visiting Mohammed in a cave] should proclaim to you a different gospel contrary to what we have proclaimed, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!”
Is there anything remotely unclear about Paul’s statement? Is there anything unclear about Christ’s warning that false prophets will arise? Maybe someone should warn the Pope and the Archbishop: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16) Fine, dismiss these scriptural passages if you are not a Christian. But if you are a Christian leader where in the world does this leave you?
For my part as an Anglican, I keep on reminding myself that the Anglican Church is run by flawed people (as are we all) and in this case, so far as Islam is concerned, by the lily-livered who have mistaken Christ for a doormat.
A story – unfortunately only the ending is a tall tale – is instructive. Upon a time, a predominantly Christian society by heritage has living within it a productive Jewish community; and for that matter numbers of Hindus and Buddhists and followers of other religions. Everyone (criminals apart) lived peacefully together. All recognised parliamentary law and respected each other’s religious affiliations and views. A large number of Muslims sought asylum. However, it was known from experience that they would bring with them an unknown number who would want to establish their own laws, impose their own religious practices, be intolerant of those of other religions and be hateful towards Jews. They were refused entry. Christian leaders were asked where they stood. They said they agreed with the policy. Where, they said, does Christ say that we must invite destruction upon our values and upon our friends? We Christians are not doormats, they added defiantly.
Some hope, hey! I will end by querying the position of Christian clergy. Mohammed seems to satisfy the conditions for being a false prophet. He denies the divinity of Christ and His crucifixion and the Trinity. Bitter fruits are everywhere evident. So, if Mohammed is a false prophet, he deserves to be accursed; does he not? His disciples could not be part of any inter-faith dialogue. His book (the Koran) must surely be treated as a farrago of lies; not kissed.
Maybe I have it wrong. The least the clergy could do is to explain why Mohammed is not a false prophet (and what therefore he is). Or, if they think he is a false prophet, why they think it appropriate to ‘harmonize’ Christianity with Islam; rather than, out of loving regard for Muslims trapped in a false faith, to openly condemn Islam and invite Muslims to convert to Christianity. And, by the way, you can’t tar other mainstream world religions with the same brush as Islam. They all predated Christianity. None has sought to defile Christian scripture.