Tag Archives: welcome

Living Christian in a Diverse World

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

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Between the Lines: A Personal Reflection on Interfaith Work

 

“…you know, since he’s black.”

Some variation of these words, the last one spoken usually in a whisper, came to define some of the more awkward and perplexing moments of my childhood. Born and raised in the South, I wondered at statements like the one above, spoken by adults or older folks—sometimes as an excuse, sometimes as an accusation, often as a proof—but never did I understand why one’s race meant anything. Why did it matter that someone was black? To me, the Civil War had ended a long time ago, and we should have moved on by now. Yet there were still moments overheard in conversation where someone would define an area of town because, well, you know, that’s where the black people live. It infuriated me, the way that “black” meant “other,” reduced sometimes simply to “they” or “them,” as if “black” and “crime” were almost synonyms, as if no white man ever committed a felony.

Because of my identity as a devout Christian, I felt especially awkward at these occurrences. Many in the South are Bible-believing, avid church-going people, yet, despite this fact, I sometimes felt that the Jesus I followed wasn’t the same one that the speakers of the above quotation followed. I had been taught that all people were God’s children—and that included those that humanity considered “other.” Indeed, it was with those on the margins of society that Jesus spent the most time. He had little good to say of the Pharisees and Sadducees or the rulers of the day, but plenty to say about the poor prostitute with an honest heart or the ostracized leper who longed for community again. I had thought at length about the significance of Jesus himself having been a Jewish man, a member of a people who had found, and would continue to find, their identity best defined by the word “other” for many hundreds of years.

Make no mistake, I don’t mean to mischaracterize the South—I’ve encountered enough of that during my time in the Midwest—as some of the kindest and most accepting people I have ever met are Southerners, and I absolutely loved growing up there. Generalizations in any form are dangerous. However, whether between races or religions, the underlying principle in what I have said is the same: ignorance and insularity only bring about strife and misunderstanding, never peace. We must be intentional in order not to label a certain group as “other,” reducing and disrespecting them as fellow inhabitants of this earth. My experiences with racial tension are why I am passionate about interfaith work, and why I look especially forward to working with Greg on Faith Line Protestants. To me, Patel’s “faith line” holds such personal significance because du Bois’s “color line” holds such personal significance.

Greg and I make no claim of expertise on the things we write about—we’re just trying to facilitate the discussion. We want Faith Line Protestants to be a forum of openness and honesty, where all of us can join together and shape the place of the evangelical Christian in a world of interfaith cooperation. In this spirit, I hope that each visitor to this blog can take something positive away from it (and add something positive to it!) as we embark on this journey together.

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Faith Line Protestants 101



Welcome to Faith Line Protestants 101!  This is a short overview of everything you need to know about navigating and following Faith Line Protestants.  We launched on January 13, 2011 and were featured on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog the same day, broaching this conversation on the involvement of Evangelical Christians in interfaith work.

But before you dive in to the conversation, familiarize yourself with the vocabulary and background on which our blog relies.  See our “pages” (a menu of pages is at the top of each page and in a list on our homepage) for background on topics like:

The Faith Line – a term coined by Eboo Patel, founder and President of the Interfaith Youth Core.  In the spirit of W.E.B. DuBois and with insight on one of the difficult social issues of our time, Patel writes in his book, Acts of Faith, that the faith line divides out society between those who believe in the possibility of cooperation and those who feel that difference must be settled with ignorance and violence.

Pluralism – we recognize the danger of theological pluralism, a concept inconsistent with the Christian tradition and the teachings of the Bible.  When we discuss pluralism, we refer to sociological pluralism: the vision for positive cooperation in the midst of religious difference.

Evangelism – a central and irremovable concept in most Christian traditions that calls for telling others about the core concepts of the Christian faith, which presents every individual with a choice to accept them as truth or reject them as fiction.  There often seems a tension between evangelism and interfaith cooperation, which keeps many Evangelicals out of interfaith activities.

The Faith Line Protestant – A new term that describes the authors: Evangelical Christians who have found their faith impacted by interaction with people of other faiths and seek to live out their faith with awareness of the religious diversity that exists in our world and how that relates to evangelism.

What We Believe – in a religiously diverse world, it is essential to clarify theological assumptions.  Christianity both relies on immovable theological principles and exhibits disagreement, diversity, and even controversy in the concepts that expand upon these principles.  Our theology page elucidates the theology that is considered essential to Christian beliefs.  If you are a reader from another faith or philosophical tradition, use this page as a resource for understanding Christianity better.

Authors – Cameron Nations and Gregory Damhorst are students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  They are Evangelical Christians and interfaith leaders.  Faith Line Protestants is both a description of these authors and the title of this blog, which is motived by their experiences in interfaith work.

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