Take a look at the New York Times today*. I’m willing to bet you can find something in the front section about religion. A bombing at a church in Egypt. Violence in the West Bank. Members of a new Gay-Straight Alliance being called “satanists” and “diseased” in a largely religious Utah.
As a Christian, reading the headlines almost always proves disheartening. Religion appears in the public discourse most often as the subject of bickering, the negative side of a controversial social issue, the motivation for violence and destruction. Yet my faith emphasizes peace, compassion, and mercy.
Faith Line Protestants is meant to be a discussion of Christianity in the real world. And the reality of the real world is that it’s a place of religious diversity. As Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core says: religious diversity can tend one of two ways – cooperation or conflict. As a Christian coming of age in the 21st century, my religious upbringing certainly did not teach me to resolve difference with conflict – but did it really teach me how to do cooperation across boundaries of religious difference?
Patel speculated that the problem of the 21st century was going to be the “Faith Line” (for more, read The Faith Line) – the line that divides our country and highlights our conflict. So what does it mean to be a Christian in a religiously diverse world? What relevancy does the Faith Line represent to a follower of Jesus? How does an exclusivist theological tradition and a call to evangelism reconcile with a charge to love your neighbor and be a peacemaker? To use a cliche of my childhood: what would Jesus do in a world where people are being killed and killing because of faith?
My friend Adam, an atheist, once said something to the effect of: I’m getting so sick of reading the headlines about violence, economic turmoil, and political bickering. It’s time we do something. It’s time we create headlines that are about peace, cooperation, and action for the common good.
I’m with Adam on this one. And I believe that, as a Christian, I have a role to play. Faith Line Protestants is a discussion as we journey to understand what that role looks like – and I invite you to join in along the way.
* – This post was originally written in early January, 2011