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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

Monday, January 31 2005

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

A religion of peace?

Sallie Covolo, a member of the Nanty Glo email forum, wrote on Sunday: "Jon, you write quite a bit about Christian theology and/or doctrine, and I wondered if you would favor us with your understanding of the Muslim religion. Is it a religion of peace that has been hijacked? Or do they want to kill all Americans? Is it just an extreme few that are doing the beheading and all? Did we do something like this to them? It seems as if an article on this would be great...and timely."

I'm far from an expert on the topic but will share some impressions, mostly based on my extensive reading on Orthodox Christianity over the past 10 and a half years, since I first got interested in becoming Orthodox. As you probably know, Orthodoxy and Islam overlap in many nations. Modern Turkey occupies what was Asia Minor in New Testament times, the part of the world that the Apostle Paul evangelized, and that same territory was the seat of the Byzantine Empire, the "New (or "Eastern") Roman Empire," which was established by Constantine circa 300 A.D., the first Christian emperor, and which lasted until the Muslim Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453. The Ottoman Empire died at the hands of the Turks early last century (Muslim versus Muslim...but then there's the American Revolution and the Civil War, for that matter, so we don't have much to brag about on that point). The Byzantine and Ottoman empires sparred for centuries before the Ottomans took over Byzantium. After they were conquered, the Orthodox said the Ottomans treated them better than the Roman Catholics had when they sacked Constantinople during the crusades several centuries earlier.

I believe, in short, the answer to the question is "a 'qualified' yes." Yes, Muslims have lived in peace with Christians, Jews, Zoarastrians and others for centuries, mostly in lands that the Muslims have controlled, in most of which time it could have annihilated the "infidels" if it had wanted to. But this is "qualified" by saying Islam is not as inherently pluralistic as Christianity is. I'm not sufficiently acquainted with the Koran to know what it says if anything about love for non-Muslim neighbors, but the Christian basis of pluralism is Jesus' "Golden Rule": "do unto others what you would have them do unto you." And the fact that Sunday's elections in Iraq were the first in the history of that part of the world, perhaps the most ancient part of the whole world, is indicative of Muslim attitudes toward sharing power among the people. The Muslims have not forced members of other religions to convert, though in many cases they have made it almost impossible to continue living independently in the countries they control

In recent years there has been scandalous mistreatment of Christian Copts by the Muslim majority in Egypt, and most of the Christians who had lived in the Middle East a generation ago are now gone, emigrating to the United States and Europe mostly out of fear of their Muslim governments and the Israelis (who see "Palestians" or "Arabs" even if the people they're seeing are part of the Christian minority in their midst). On the other hand, the top bishop of my own Orthodox "jurisdiction" (roughly the equivalent in Protestant terms to "denomination") is in Muslim Syria, and despite the U.S. strained relations with Syria, our church leaders there say everything is fine; there's no persecution of the Syrian Christians. On the other hand, it is Muslim practice to require all minoritiy populations in their countries to support the government, so maybe they have no choice but to say that if they want to live in peace and with a modicum of autonomy.

One of my favorite Muslim/Christian stories is a tale of Mohammed (the original one) fleeing through the Egyptian Sinai desert and coming upon an Orthodox monastery at the foot of what Jews and most Christians believe is the Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments (Muslims and some evangelicals believe that Mount is in what is modern Saudi Arabia, but I digress). The monks took Mohammed in and restored his health and kept him from being found by his pursuers. He wrote about this and declared that no followers of his teachings (Islam) should ever bring any harm on that monastery. It (St. Catherine's) is still there, still thriving, in the center of many miles of Muslim-ruled territory. There are many similar stories from the past millenium; Monasteries in remote parts of Southern Egypt are regularly visited by Muslim neighbors, who even often celebrate the Christian feasts with the monks.

As to whether "we" have ever done anything comparable to "them," I'm assuming you mean whether the United States has mistreated Muslims. No; but the "Palestinians" have legitimate claims of persecution and displacement from their homeland by the Israelis, and the Muslim world generally feels (most probably correctly) that Israel would not have survived without American and British (but especially American) support. I think our support of Israel is right morally, but I can also see why the Muslims in that part of the world have a different perspective on that.

Sunday's Iraqi elections (which seem a great success as of this writing) may herald the beginning of a new era in improved American-Arab relations. Let's hope. And pray.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

A complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonals for 2001 - 2005

Classic Hollywood Squares, 7

If you remember The Original Hollywood Squares and its comics, this will bring a tear to your eyes. These great questions and answers are from the days when "Hollywood Squares" game show responses were spontaneous! Peter Marshall was the host asking the questions, of course.

Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?

A. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head, he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?

A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark? .

Thought for today

Every good act is charity. A man's true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellows.


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