We’re halfway through our 2 week session out here at KIVU, and yesterday is probably my favorite day. Of course I love mountain biking, white water rafting, and fly fishing, but my absolute favorite is when we get our Muslim Campers and our Christian Campers together to talk about faith.
I know for some of you, that might seem like a dangerous proposition. After all, history is filled with stories of violence when these two faith converge; but in all reality, we have an incredible time sharing our deepest feelings about God, Faith, and what we think about Jesus. It’s like Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers” and we’re experiencing it right here in our very own backyard.
To start a discussion like this, there’s got to be some ground rules. You’ve probably seen ‘those’ Christians who just can’t have a conversation with someone who doesn’t believe like them. They get angry, defensive, and then they start using their apologetics to argue. And if you’ve ever talked with a Muslim before about the deep nature of faith, there are similar reactions when we cross the boundaries of disagreement. Arguments, Yelling, Insults: It’s just not the way to have a meaningful conversation.
So the first rule is RESPECT. No matter what is said or what question is asked, we give each person the right to defend their way of thinking. If a Muslim says, “Well, we just don’t know if Jesus was actually God.” We ask our Christian friends to respond in kind, “Here’s why we believe He is.”
2. NO CONVERTING: We try to set the stage so there’s no agenda to move someone from one position to another, but rather the exercise is simply to share one another’s story.
When we do this, there’s an unbelievable spirit in the room.
Believe me, I’ve been a part of LOTS of Inter-Faith discussions where people try to search for the common places of all the faiths; and to be honest, it doesn’t really work very well. Common is easy. We all believe in a God. We all believe in Jesus. We all believe in Loving our Neighbor. But if you want to get down to honest discussion, YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCES without fear of offending someone.
And so when we cross the lines of difference, I try to moderate through the tension so we can leave the conversation holding high our relationship full of respect and dignity, without patronizing another; and it’s AWESOME!
Yesterday, I believe the Christian students got to see a side of Islam that can only be learned in conversation with a Muslim. You can’t read this stuff on the internet, and you certainly can’t trust any news outlet to give you the truth. So to have a conversation about violence, peace, heaven and hell, Jesus, God, Jihad, and the most talked about ISIS, and then compare and contrast the differences, NOW THIS IS FUN!!
The Christians learned that Muslims love Jesus. They believe He was born of a Virgin. They believe He never sinned. They believe He is with God in Heaven Right now.
The Muslims learned that Christians talk openly about the divinity of Jesus (not a point Muslims accept, but they listened well and agreed to disagree in the end.)
The Christians learned about fasting at Ramadan, and giving gifts to the poor, while the Muslims learned that Christians believe Jesus was THE atonement for sin.
It was pretty amazing to watch 14-25 year olds wade through practical conversations about faith.
Sure, there weren’t any academic Theologians in the room. But we shared what we learned growing up, and discussed the questions we have about our own faith along with the faith of the other.
The reason I believe this is the best part of the term, is because now I’ve set the stage for deep human interaction to begin. Now that we’ve crossed the threshold of faith, students can feel open and honest about their own faith struggles, and their pre-conceived ideas of someone else’s faith. We can all White Water raft together and laugh. We can all Mountain Bike together, and share a new experience. We can all dance the night away at our high energy parties.
When we feel like we can trust one another, we can discuss the most important questions in life. Who is God? Why am I here? How can I know Truth? And when we center this conversation around the Jesus, the message transcends religion, tradition, and culture.
Yesterday was the BEST!! I wish you could have seen the students walk out of the seminar, arms around each other in friendships. I sat back and watched with tears in my eyes knowing, THIS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD!