Hate mail over Muslim event provides opportunity for Christian witness

All Saints Church, an Episcopal church in Pasadena, Calif., is moving forward with its decision to host a Muslim conference … Continued

All Saints Church, an Episcopal church in Pasadena, Calif., is moving forward with its decision to host a Muslim conference sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council despite an outpouring of hate mail about a church hosting a Muslim event.

“This is a teachable moment,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, “to stand against ignorance and bigotry.” The church held a press conference to note this “historic moment” for America’s religious pluralism and interfaith peacemaking.

It’s also a “teachable moment” in terms of shining a light on how the “fear-mongers,” that is, the Islamophobia network in the United States, works to try to disrupt and discredit strong interfaith work among religious groups at the grassroots.

All Saints Pasadena, in deciding to go ahead with this important conference, is modeling a way forward for many churches that engage in serious interfaith work and what they may have to do in the future: stand up against an Islamophobia machine.

The controversy apparently started when the D.C. based Institute on Religion and Democracy posted an article on their blog, “California Church to Become Site of Islamist Convention.”Ironically enough, this blog’s title is “Juicy Ecumenism,” though apparently that ecumenical spirit does not extend to the kind of interfaith mission espoused by All Saints Pasadena.

What is crucial to realize is that this IRD article was originally published at David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine.

David Horowitz and his work in promoting Islamophobia are discussed in a Center for American Progress report, “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” as part of a “small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts.” What are called “single-minded Islamophobia groups” such as Pam Geller’s “Stop Islamization of America” and Horowitz’s “Freedom Center” are analyzed in this ground-breaking report as part of this network.

This is how Islamophobia is churned up in the United States, and it takes the principled witness of spiritually clear faith-based organizations and churches such as All Saints Pasadena to pursue interfaith mission even in the face of such hateful push back. “All Saints Rev. Ed Bacon described the emails his congregation received as “some of the most vile, mean-spirited emails I’ve ever read in my life.”

Principled spiritual witness has been a consistent emphasis in the All Saints Pasadena ministry. I should note that I became an “associate member” of All Saints, despite living and worshipping in Chicago, to demonstrate my appreciation for this church’s witness against the Iraq War.

On Oct. 31, 2004, retired rector the Rev. George Regas, preached a sermon called “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush.”. In 2005, the Internal Revenue Service launched an investigation on the church’s tax-exempt status, using this sermon as the basis.

In 2007, the IRS ended the investigation without challenging the church’s tax-exempt status.

All Saints Church has demanded an apology from the IRS.

Strong interfaith work that builds the bonds of trust among religions is the way forward not only for the future of a healthy and dynamic religious pluralism in the United States, but also for the world.

Where “Fear” is incorporated, so “Love” can be incorporated. In such a struggle, love will, in fact, triumph. As Bishop Desmond Tutu has said, “Good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death.”

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
.

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • SODDI

    Hate mail from christians. THAT is what the baby Jesus is all about.

    “Merry christmas. I’m going to kill you. In Jesus’ name.”

  • Rongoklunk

    And reality is stronger than make-believe.
    Science is stronger than superstition .
    Knowledge is stronger than ignorance.
    Truth is stronger than lies.
    Questioning is stronger than unquestioning acceptance.

  • rcigma

    There is no hope for man, but the Rock of Christ, and those who preach hope in interfaith unity have already submitted themselves to the coming antichrist of this age. Shame on you for not upholding the Gospel !

    Love is commanded to us by Jesus..but Love is inextricably interwined with education, and education must be and can only be founded on the Truth…

    To found it on interfaith trust is to found it on a lie..hence I will conclude that your hope is not in Christ, but it is the same one as the devil’s..

    Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him…John 8.44

    All Saints Church?!…..The great irony is that you would condemn Jesus, your very Master for speaking those very words!

  • rcigma

    ccnl123,

    Your views are bound by what you see. Such an approach to how one perceives the world is definitely a materialistic one.

    The more “progress” we make, the blinder we become to ideals such as Love, Hope, Faith, Courage, Sacrifice, Joy, Truth, Honesty, Trust, integrity, Grace, Mercy, Strength…..

    Consequently, we are bound to become objects…to be enslaved, bought, sold and ultimately shrouded in utter darkness and dumped in the rubbish pit of time.

    When we search the record of famous atheists, ones that remade their world to their image, we see the likes of Stalin, of Mao, of Pol Pot, the ones in the French Revolution….and they all sought to treat millions and millions of people as rubbish in the way of their “reforms”…Mind you, these were the founders, not the followers(who could have misunderstood the message)…but the very founders of what was then perceived as a new “brotherhood” of man… made in the image of these…who would kill any that would doubt them.

  • rcigma

    Muhammad was no different with those who distrusted him…I suspect that you know the record well, but if you don’t, you will see how fear and jealousy brought him to seek the death of his critics, and the destruction of those who doubted him…

    You point out that Jesus was “touched,” that Jesus would be allocated to an insane asylum by today’s standards…and yet, you are brutally bound and blinded by your ghastly ideology..

    Christians set up the first hospitals…the first asylums as well…but they did so in order to sustain life, not end it.

    The hundreds, if not thousands of abortions that are committed yearly in these very hospitals(balance that with the lives that they save) and clinics are a testament to what atheism does…It turns life into death, and hope into despair…

  • rcigma

    Yet, you concur that Jesus was “touched, ” was “beside himself…”, …. why…?

    because He changed water into wine…

    because He gave life rather than took it…

    because He commanded Christians to love… even their enemies…

    because He commanded that those who wish to lead, must be the servants of the rest…not the other way round…!?

    because He objected to the very MATERIALISM that you concur with, by responding to the devil …“It is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

    because He is The Word of God and call Himself The Bread of Life….THE SOURCE OF the very meaning and the FOUNT of life itself…..

  • rcigma

    Jesus was doubted by His very family……

    but this does not invalidate Jesus’s character….it only establishes the facts as they were…It validates the very Word. They believed! how different is that from those who doubted Stalin, Mao, Muhammad….

    we know from the same writings that James, Jesus’s brother, who previously doubted Him, then believes in Jesus…and writes…”my brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality…James 2. 1…

    and this..written because James had seen and walked with the resurrected Jesus…and not only James, but Jesus’s apostles as well, all testify and witness that Jesus died and is resurrected…this they confessed to their very deaths, brought about because of their faith in the risen Christ.

    Yet, much like the case of Joseph, Jacob’s son, who was sold to Egypt by his very brothers(due to his dreams)…was to be seen and restored once again to them in their dire need …as they sought bread in Egypt

  • rcigma

    You also note that these Christians were illiterate, were magicians, spoke mumbo jumbo…and I see only how utterly blind you are…

    The very context from which you blindly draw and live your life is one founded, established and built from Christian principles. From the law (the very notion of freedom) to the very science that you claim to be established in…it was the Judeo – Christian understanding of God (not the atheistic one, nor the one by islam) that has thrust Christians like Cromwell forward into the masses wanting and fighting for freedom of conscience, freedom to be governed by law than the whim of man…and science based on the well understood notion that the Judeo Christian God (not the islamic one) is a God of order, of law, and consequently man can find out His consistent laws, even by testing them….

    Hence, back to our topic…our God is HOLY, OUR GOD is JUST, and our GOD is true. HE is Our Hope and Salvation…and we have seen Him and know this to be true…

  • rcigma

    For He is the Emmanuel..the very God who walked in our midst and died in our stead and by His resurrection we know fully that we too shall see Him face to face, eye to eye..and walk joyfully by His side…

    To trust in the wisdom of interfaith dialogue is to turn our eyes away from Him and hope in a hollow and shallow hope…

    Rather, I am commanded to thrust Jezebel from her tower and remain faithful to the end than trust in the compromise of hollow men and their gods…

  • rcigma

    note: to those who may misunderstand my metaphor with Jezebel…I mean only to reject dialogue that leads my mind away from Christ and His work…

    Jesus commands us to speak out and to challenge using His Word and by His Spirit, those ideologies that lead men into enslavement. Jesus did not call for anyone’s death, but preached life…

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