Being Inter-religiously Baptist

Currently in the United States: Muslims and mosques all over the country report an increased rate of assault and vandalism. Many people from Muslim nations are being refused entry visas for pursuit of legitimate and meritorious endeavors in the U.S. Similarly, many foreign Muslims are being detained in this country for technical visa violations that are not being uniformly enforced. Persons of Middle Eastern descent and those belonging to other faith traditions, e.g. Sikhs, are mistaken for Muslims and subject to increased incidences of prejudice and discrimination. An increased number of Muslim women, whose dress makes them easily recognizable as belonging to a non-majority faith, are fearful of venturing outside their homes even for simple errands or to attend worship services for fear of the prejudice they encounter outside their doors. Strident voices make increasingly inflammatory public statements and unfounded verbal attacks.

Because in Christ we are graciously accepted and given new life and freedom in discipleship, it is our mandate to defend the liberty and freedom of others, for the sake of Christ who first loved us. “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

As disciples, we seek to testify to the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord, to embody that love in the world, and to respond to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. We seek God’s grace in our common effort to understand ever more fully how to love as disciples in this religiously plural and culturally diverse time and place.

Scripture teaches us that our responsibility extends not only to a brother or sister, but also to the sojourner in our midst. Hebrew Scriptures celebrate the wider community to which humanity is called in the stories of Melchizedek, Jethro, Rahab and Ruth, and the Hittites who offered hospitality to Abraham. In the Torah God enjoins the Jewish people to treat the sojourner as part of their own community. Throughout the Bible, hospitality to the stranger is an essential virtue. We recall both the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews (13:2), “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it,” and the example Jesus gives in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

In the churches’ long history with people of other religions, as the church has struggled to make actual God’s gift to community, we have sins of which to repent and faithfulness to celebrate: While Christians themselves have suffered persecution at the hands of those of other faiths as well as at the hands of each other, Christians have persecuted Jews, and crusaded against Muslims. Christians have enslaved Africans and other peoples, and have participated in subordinating indigenous peoples and seeking to erase their spiritual traditions. Many Christians have accepted or perpetuated the use of their religion to validate the imposition of western culture and economic domination. Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim biases, together with racism and ethnic biases have flourished among us.

On the other hand, we rejoice that Christians, especially Baptists, were leaders in the anti-slavery movement, and have worked for the human and communal rights of many people. Christians have fought oppressive economic and social systems of many societies, including our own, and have resisted injustice without regard to cost. Christians have also invited transformation of those ways of living that damage others and undermine the one human community. In many of these efforts Christians have worked closely with people of other faiths.

We recognize that scripture speaks with many voices about relationship with men and women of other religious traditions. When Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he, referring to his Jewish traditions, answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:25-27). Love of God and love of neighbors cannot be separated. We rejoice in our common conviction that Jesus calls us to ministries of reconciliation. We look forward together to see the manner and the making of this miracle in our times.

(This article has been adapted into a blog post. It was original posted as the American Baptist Resolution on Interreligious Prejudice)

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