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Finding a Way Forward

By Ray Waddle

Nine years after 9/11, twitchy suspicion and anger against Islam only seem to escalate.

Media time is dominated by the construction of an Islamic community center (it's not a mosque) near ground zero. Or by a minister who wants to make a big show of burning a Quran. Or by a poll saying more and more Americans erroneously believe President Obama is Muslim.

But these are all sideshows that evade and distract from other painful questions – questions that expose contradictions in our own lives. Questions such as:

-- Why are we content to become more dependent on foreign oil, so much of which is Arab-controlled? Our religious and political leaders are more comfortable warning against radical Islam than crusading for energy conservation.

-- Do our Mideast foreign policies promote peace and security ... or confusion and carnage? After nine years of war, there's no clear answer.

-- Didn't Jesus say love thy neighbor? Many prefer to bear false witness against their Muslim neighbor, insulting their religion.

At the heart of 21st-century turmoil is a 21st-century fact: religious pluralism. The existence of a vast world of competing beliefs appears to be a confounding mystery indeed. Is this diversity what God intended? Some Christian believers get so frustrated that they simply denounce all other religions as demonic. Such people imply that God has lost control of the world God created. They bear false witness against God.

One Christian perspective is this: the existence of other faiths, other ways to worship the one God, is a test of Christian resolve to respect other people as God's children. That means building relationships, building trust, being a living example of the gospel faith.

Yes, there is potential evil in every heart. Those who endeavor to stay on the gospel track – and proclaim Jesus as Savior – must surely know how easy it is to lose the path, distort the facts, misspeak, cave in to fear and cheap theatrics and other trespasses that wound or alienate others.

But people of faith must find a way forward with courage, confident in God's purposes, wary of falsehood and self-deception, and willing to add some goodness to calm a nervous world.

--Columnist Ray Waddle, author of two books published by Upper Room Books, lives in Bethel, Conn.

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