I turned on
the television the other day to hear a Christian American say: "Our enemy
is Islam and our enemies are Muslims!" Disturbed by his tone, I shifted to
my computer, where I opened the Internet only to see an equally alarming
message from a British Muslim: "Islam must crush Christianity, the false
religion!" These men are from different religions, but their motives are
strikingly similar: oppress those who do not think as they do; use violence, if
necessary, to put down other faith groups; and never consider the beliefs and
practices of other religious communities to be valid or useful to society.
Needed now more than ever is a new manual for Christian-Muslim relations which
does not resort to name-calling, exclusion, and violence.
Jihad of Jesus: The Sacred Nonviolent Struggle for Justice" (Wipf &
Stock, 2015) is a compelling new book which calls on Christians and Muslims to
embrace the peaceful example of Jesus and unite in a strong yet nonviolent
movement to counter bigotry and violence. Dave Andrews, the author, is a peace
activist, community organizer, theologian, and facilitator of harmonious
coexistence among human beings. He is a Christian in the purest sense. Andrews
believes "all people are loved, equally, by God, regardless of colour,
class, caste, or creed." It is this egalitarian spirit which oozes out of
the "The Jihad of Jesus."
Andrews acknowledges the theological differences between Christians and
Muslims, he intentionally tries to "focus on those beliefs about [Christ]
that Christians and Muslims have in common as the place for [them] to start
[their] conversations." Andrews sees "'common ground' not as suspect
compromise, but as 'sacred ground' on which [they] can stand and speak to one
another." The common ground on which he wants Christians and Muslims to
meet is one based on justice, love, and peace. He requests that Christians move
away from their arrogance and aggression and Muslims to embody the
compassionate and merciful spirit of Islam as exhibited in the bismillah, the
Arabic phrase meaning "In the name of God, the merciful and
compassionate." Andrews posits that Christians and Muslims must reflect
the kindness and humility of Christ, who they should follow "with every
beat of [their] hearts, through every vein in [their] head, and [their] hands,
and [their] feet."
Jihad of Jesus" is anchored in the theory that Christians and Muslims
erect impenetrable boundaries around their communities in order to exclude
people who they perceive as being different from their co-religionists. Andrews
argues that by constructing these barriers, Christians and Muslims show
symptoms of hatred and fear. This kind of "closed perspective"
towards religion, he claims, is harmful because narrow-minded people tend to be
dogmatic, judgmental, and intolerant of dissent. Andrews challenges
"religious fundamentalists" to open their hearts and minds and turn
away from their "unchanging and unchangeable" ideologies, which leave
no room for diversity, disagreement, and interfaith encounters.
the example of Jesus, Andrews prefers an "open perspective" towards
Christian-Muslim relations because it replaces cold-heartedness and
hard-headedness with warmth and compassion. According to him, the "open
perspective" fosters inspirational personal growth and transformational
social change by opening people up to positive elements of other religious
traditions. In doing so, Christians and Muslims leave behind the "ideology
of religious supremacy," and acknowledge the "mercy of God,"
which clears the way for Christians and Muslims to heed Jesus' call of tearing
up prejudices and trashing stereotypes of others.
finishing "The Jihad of Jesus," I realized how important it is for
Christians and Muslims to continue building bridges of understanding and
goodwill. Andrews makes an excellent point:
... it is absolutely
vital for the future welfare of the human family that [Christians and Muslims]
examine [their] frequent utter disregard for human rights, diabolical
persecution of unorthodox traditions and heterodox religions, and total
destruction of "infidels" in genocidal "Holy Wars" waged in
the name of our "great God."
Andrews offers practical and spiritual guidance by reminding Christians and
Muslims to engage in the ever-important process of self-reflection. The time is
ripe for Christians and Muslims to find their "inner-Jesus" and
accept the call of non-violent revolution. As Christians and Muslims continue
to encounter each other in the future, it is crucial for them to remember that
God does not favor any particular group of people simply because they call
themselves "Christians" or "Muslims." All of us need to
move away from the idea of our religious tradition having a monopoly on the
truth. This is one of the key messages of Andrews' philosophy.
Jihad of Jesus" will inspire you to work alongside your Christian and
Muslim brothers and sisters in the struggle for mutual understanding and
this is our shared jihad.