Further Reflections on Christianity and Islam


Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the second reflection on Christianity and Islam from Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS, director of De Sales Service Works in Camden, NJ.


Curious not Furious


I remember after the 9/11 attacks reports about the increase of sales of copies of the Koran in the United States. That made me proud to be part of a culture where many people would respond to such an attack with efforts to understand.Personally, my most frequent interaction with Islam comes just observing women clad head to toe in long black robes, sometimes even wearing dark glasses and black gloves. I do wonder how the anonymity provided by these uniforms could be a good thing. Perhaps women choose this way of dressing chose to stand at an extreme from a way of dressing that often seems better suited for the beach or gym than for business or daily wear. That is a good thing, I think. However, I still do not understand.
I was not one of those who bought and read the Koran in 2001. It remains on the list of classics that I really should read. I did read a good book by Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East that explores some significant interactions between Western European powers and the states that developed from the Ottoman Empire.
I still know very little about Islam, but I do understand that the Catholic faith encourages respect and trust that God’s grace extends out to everyone. Threatening to burn a stack of Korans, or any sort of disrespect directed at a religion, suggests a lack of awareness that the Almighty will not be limited by creed or tradition. The Church has a role to be a sacrament pointing to the fullness of kingdom of God, but God and the kingdom are not any one tradition’s private possession.
This is not to say that all faiths are the same. And clearly not all criticism has to be disrespectful and mal-intended (some of the most devoted Catholics I know are also the Church’s most articulate critics). It is also not to deny that some religions foster some unhealthy attitudes. But God’s desire for good will not be thwarted by the limits of human understanding and articulation of truth.

St. Francis de Sales confronted distorted understandings of God and the Church in his time by doing his best to articulate in his words, and in his behavior, what is good, beautiful and true about the Catholic tradition. He promoted the positive and tried to use reason to point out what was distortion in the Calvinist reformers’ and other rigorists’ arguments.
The Name of God


Perhaps you have heard people say in our recent national debate about the place of Islam in the United States that Allah is not the same as “our God.” Is Allah simply the Arabic language word for God the way the word is Dia in Irish or Dios in Spanish? Or is Allah a Being other than the God of Jesus Christ? The answer is that God is one, and God uses every imaginable way to draw his beloved children to himself and to the life he offers.It is not an accident that the first of the Ten Commandments tells us there is only one God and warns us about false gods. It is not that there are any divine beings other than the one God; but we humans sometimes set up finite things, thinking they have power and truth that they really do not have. The living God is always beyond the grasp of our understanding. But one thing is sure, as St. Augustine observed, because we call God “our Father,” we must look at all God’s children as our sisters and brothers.
Light to the Peoples


In the structure of the Church there is no more sure authority than a universal council united with the pope. I end with a quote from one of the key documents of the Second Vatican Council: Lumen Gentium.


16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their ancestors this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge humanity. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all people life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all people be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all so that they may finally have life. But often people, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.
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