Tim LaHaye’s endorsement of Mike Huckabee for President took the form of a battle cry.
“America and our Judeo-Christian heritage are under attack by a force that is more destructive than any America has faced (since Hitler) … Defeating the radical jihadists will require renewed resolve and spiritual rearmament by the evangelical pastors in America.”
Is Mr. LaHaye’s notion of America’s ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’ expansive enough to include the tens of millions of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Bahai’s, secular humanists and others who live here? Does Mr. LaHaye (who co-authored the mega best-selling Left Behind series) understand that the radical jihadists are just as dangerous to me and other mainstream Muslims as they are to him?
If Mr. LaHaye is preparing a “spiritual rearmament”, I hope he is clear what he is fighting for and who the enemy is.
Like Mr. LaHaye, I believe the central challenge of the twenty-first century will be the question of the faith line. But in my view the faith line does not divide Muslims from Christians, or Jews from Hindus, or believers from nonbelievers.
I think the faith line divides pluralists from totalitarians. Pluralists are people who want to build societies where people from different backgrounds live in equal dignity and mutual loyalty. Totalitarians are people who want only their group to dominate and everyone else to suffocate.
There are Muslim pluralists, Jewish pluralists, Christian pluralists, Hindu pluralists, secular pluralists, the list goes on. And there are Muslim totalitarians, Jewish totalitarians, Christian totalitarians, Hindu totalitarians, secular totalitarians … that list goes on too.
Because the correct definition of the faith line is a matter of war and peace, we have to use language that is accurate and hopeful, welcoming and generous. As William Stafford wrote in his poem “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”:
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
And so I recommend to Mr. LaHaye, and to all people of good faith, two historic documents: A Common Word Between Us and You, a statement signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars to the Christian community, and Loving God and Neighbor Together, the Christian response.
A Common Word opens with the following lines:
“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.”
It goes on to state:
“The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.”
The Christian response reads:
“What is common between us lies … in something absolutely central to both (Islam and Christianity): love of God and love of neighbor. Surprisingly for many Christians, your letter considers the dual command of love to be the foundational principle not just of the Christian faith, but of Islam as well.”
Peter Ochs, Professor of Modern Jewish Thought at the University of Virginia, wrote that the publication of A Common Word was “a blessed moment in the history of God’s work on this world” and “will prove to be of profound significance, as well, for Jews and Judaism.”
Islamica Magazine, my favorite publication on Islam and Muslims, has an extensive treatment of the context and implications of A Common Word.
Signatories to Loving God and Neighbor Together include several prominent Evangelical leaders and institutions, including Fuller Theological Seminary, Rick Warren (Saddleback Church, The Purpose Driven Life) and Bill Hybels (Willow Creek Church).
They took seriously the line in A Common Word that reads: “The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.” And they understood that being agents of peace – indeed, being Christians – required them to clearly affirm their support for pluralism, even if (perhaps especially if) the invitation came from their Muslim brothers and sisters.
I hope Mr. LaHaye follows the lead of Warren, Hybels and the dozens of other Christian leaders and scholars who signed Loving God and Neighbor Together. I hope he passes on the message to Mike Huckabee and all his followers: to be a Christian, to be an American, to be a person who believes in peace in the 21st Century, you have to also be a person who fights for pluralism.
The stakes are high, Mr. LaHaye. Some seek a common word, others a world war.
Which side are you on?