It’s always wonderful to see people from my own tradition, Baptists, advocating for respect and understanding of other religious traditions. Baptists historically have been champions of religious liberty and the separation of church and state, and it is entirely consistent for Baptists to stand at the side of other religious groups.
At the 20th congress of the Baptist World Alliance last week in Honolulu, a workshop titled, “Christian and Muslim Siblings: Children of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar” was led by Nabil Costa, executive director of the Lebanese Baptist Society in Beirut, and Robert Sellers, professor at Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene, Texas.
“The vilification of Christianity by Muslim extremists in order to justify militant jihad and the need to convert an ‘immoral’ West to Islam is alive and well,” Costa wrote. “In the same way, political and media voices in the West have used long-standing prejudice against Islam in order to paint a vile picture of a religion that is part of an ‘axis of evil’ and bent on the destruction of a so-called ‘free world.'”
Noting the case of Ergun Caner, former president of Liberty Baptist Seminary (Jerry Falwell’s school), who was recently forced to resign after it became evident that he had been falsifying his previous life as a “Muslim,” Costa noted:
“Based on the Bible’s teaching against slander…we cannot accept that wrong information continues to be propagated about Islam and Muslims. Too many self-proclaimed and self-styled ‘experts’ on Islam have emerged in our circles since September 11, 2001. They have been received and their teaching embraced and idealized in our churches simply because their discourse has been feeding our phobias and they are confirming our suspicions. In other words, they are tickling our ears and captivating our hearts,” said Costa.
Costa and Sellers challenged Baptists to avoid stereotyping and misrepresentation of Muslims, and to seek out a new future with their “spiritual siblings.”