Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I thank David Halla for his recent letter (June 27, 2017). It reflects his spirit of dialog especially when he disagrees. I apologize for misattributing the sermon “Be holy in your conduct”. I was reviewing the titles of Mr. Hallo’s sermons and then clicked “All sermons”. “Holy” came up first and is attributed to I Peter on the website of Manteca First Baptist. I chose to listen to it assuming that it was one of Mr. Hallo’s audio files. Rechecking the source I see that it is most likely Pastor Pope’s sermon.
My mistake retaught me the importance of checking assumptions. As a Christian I do not assume that I have access to the historical words of Jesus. We have no access to anything like audio files or even his own writings. The same is true of Muhammed.
The messages of peace by both founders have suffered much through our fallible retelling. Chief among these sufferings are the ongoing religious wars within and between us followers of Abrahamism. I indeed could not sing “All you need is love” at Mecca as a Christian. However a Muslim could sing such a song.
One of us ‘People of the Book” traveled the path from Baptist belief to Muslim belief. His Hajj to Mecca converted Malcolm X to a message of love: “America needs to understand Islam, … on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, … We (are) truly all the same ...” (4/1964)
A Hindu follower of God stated: “I do regard Islam to be a religion of peace in the same sense as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism are. No doubt there are differences in degree, but the object of these religions is peace.” (Mohandas Gandhi, (1/1927).
David Halla asks us to “check your own sources”. This is excellent advice and I try to practice it. Given my limited understanding of Islam, I choose not to answer his specific points in the Bulletin. I would welcome the opportunity to do so in person. I am sure the disagreements would be both spirited and fruitful.
I am more familiar with my own faith tradition and thus found many parallels with how the Quran is misused as I checked his past and current points. The Bible as a source comes to us from oral traditions, through many translations and with countless controversies. Our religious expansion was driven by unholy alliances with expanding empires. Words attributed to God have been used to justify war, slavery, sexism, poverty and many other denials of love.
As a Catholic Christian I grew up with stories of religious violence in Ireland and Mexico. Fortunately the conflicts seem to have evolved to debates about who is saved. I remember my mother’s joke about St. Peter showing Protestants heaven and asking for quiet near one group. When asked why he whispered “Shh, those are the Catholics and they think they are the only ones here.” Perhaps one lesson of the joke is that distancing is not God’s way.
I appreciate that David Halla is open to “discussing … opposing viewpoints in a peaceful manner.” I believe that this is indeed God’s way: “To show the way of peace to those who seek His pleasure, to bring them out of darkness into light through His will and to guide them to the right path.” (Quran 5:6). “God will help those who live in darkness, in the fear of death. He will guide us into the path that goes toward peace.” (Luke 1:79)