>St. Francis, Islam, & Competing Versions of Christianity

>Saint Francis in the Parish church of St. Ulri...Image via Wikipedia

This is from an Associated Baptist Press opinion piece by David Gushee called “Competing Christianities:” It’s an article that says there is not just one kind of Christianity, but that there are versions of Christianity that “teach hatred of the religious/ethnic other and versions that teach sacrificial and inclusive love.”  And, for some, survival is dependent on knowing the difference and knowing how to identify those who embody each of them.

But, what I wanted to get to is what he says about St. Francis, which has made me think in the wake of our current discussion about Islam and the “Ground Zero Mosque” (really the “Near Ground Zero Mosque”).

My current book project on the sanctity of life reaffirms this theme for me. I just finished writing a section on the competing versions of Christianity exhibited by Christian Crusaders and Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. During the 5th Crusade, a typically bloody mess involving outrageous “holy” violence on both sides, Francis actually trekked unarmed through a war zone to meet with the Muslim sultan. While the crusaders — egged on by the papal representative, Cardinal Pelagius — waged war relentlessly, Francis engaged in a peaceful audience with the sultan and his religious advisors. He apparently hoped that if he could convert the sultan then all the killing would end. He failed, of course. But he seems to have won a friend in the process, and returned unharmed. His visit is today honored by both Christians and Muslims who know about it.

Somehow, I like Francis’ version of Christianity a whole lot better than the cardinal’s.

What I think is of great importance here is that this is not an article that is saying whether the mosque should be built or not, but saying that there are distinct differences within Christianity in how we view this event (or non-event) and, therefore, it is not correct to assume we just have one perspective out there.  We don’t.  But…neither do Muslims.  There is not just one perspective out there or one version of Islam — although like with most Christians I assume most Muslims will believe that there perspective is right and that the competing versions of Islam are wrong.

Therefore we, as Christians who understand that we have diversity of belief and practice and perspective in our own faith, must remember that there is a diversity of belief and practice and perspective within those faiths we come into contact with in this world. 

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2 thoughts on “>St. Francis, Islam, & Competing Versions of Christianity

  1. >Francis' ministry, it seems to me, was based in a deep and abiding respect for the real presence of his God in the Other, be it Brother Wolf or Brother Leper or Brother Sultan.

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