We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Interfaith Choices

Mother Mosque of America, Cedar Rapids, IA
If current trends continue, American Christians will increasingly be facing crucial choices concerning their neighbors of other faiths and no faith  Those choices are to embrace them, passively accept them, ignore them, passively reject them, or actively reject them.  While American churches are trending rightward and downward, growing numbers of Americans (especially younger Americans) are choosing "no faith" as their religious preference.  And the numbers of people of other faiths is growing, apparently rapidly in some cases.

For example, last year a group of research organizations issued a report entitled, "The American Mosque 2011," which indicates that American Islam is growing rapidly, is largely moderate theologically, and has become much more broadly accepted by the general public.  The number of mosques in the United States increased by some 74% between 2000 and 2011 while the number of worshippers also increased from roughly 2 million to 2.6 million, and increase of 30%.  The report estimates that there could now be as many as about 7 million American Muslims.  This survey also found that some 56% of mosque leaders practice a moderate faith that combines traditional approaches to Islam with a desire to adapt their faith to contemporary circumstances.  Only 11% hold to a very conservative and literalist faith.  Finally, where in 2000 some 54% of mosque leaders felt that American society was hostile to Islam in 2011 that number had dropped to 25%.  The report also shows that mosque leaders are overwhelmingly committed to active participation in American society and involvement in the political process.

Christianity is the faith of choice of the great majority of Americans and will remain so for decades to come, but it will be less and less so as those decades pass.  One way or another, we will have to decide how we want to relate to our neighbors of other faiths.  As usual "not deciding" is itself a decision.  Will they be our friends or our enemies?  Will we see in them our neighbor in the way that Christ saw the Samaritans as neighbor?  Decisions, decisions.