Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brian McLaren Celebrates Ramadan


From Brian McLaren's blog:

We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness. Each of us will have at least one Muslim friend who will serve as our partner in the fast. These friends welcome us in the same spirit of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.

We will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends. For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran.

Among the core values of Ramadan are self control, expressing kindness, and resolving conflicts. For this reason, if we are criticized or misunderstood by Christians, Muslims, or others for this endeavor, we will avoid defending ourselves or engaging in arguments. Instead, we will seek to explain ourselves humbly, simply, and briefly when necessary, connecting with empathy to the needs and feelings of others as we express our own.

Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions.

May God bless all people, and teach us to love God and love one another, and so fulfill our calling as human beings.
So what do you think? Is this syncretism, nice-ness, or just silly?

26 comments:

Harley A. said...

I vote for "just plain silly".

How ironic that an iconoclast of the traditional Christian faith would seek to honor the traditions of Islam.

But it gets him attention, which is the main goal, I think.

Todd Pruitt said...

Okay, Harley votes for "silly". Any takers on either "nice" or "syncretism"?

Like you Harley the irony of McLaren's honoring of Islamic tradition (from the man who wrote of Christianity, "Everything Must Change") was not lost on me.

Bev G said...

McLaren is the 'shock jock' of evangelicalism. Seems he'll go to any length to rattle the cages of traditional evangelicals in the name of contextualization and what I would call neo-missiology. I simply vote "silly" along with Harley.

Belle Geary said...

I can understand silly but there is also a dangerous side to this. Isn't he in a way validating Muslim beliefs by saying "...join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness."? Last time I checked Allah was not our God and while I am all for reaching out to them in the name of Christ, I am not sure how appearing to accept their beliefs fits into that.

God Bless,

Bill

Todd Pruitt said...

Can you imagine a Muslim "coming along side" in a spirit of neighborliness and celebrating Easter with us?

Now, my point is NOT "they won't celebrate Easter so we should not celebrate Ramadan.

My point is that the average Muslim knows that observing Easter with a Christian would be blasphemy. And the Christian ought to know that it would be ridiculous for our Muslim neighbor to observe Easter unless they are prepared to confess Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Otherwise their observance of Easter would be to mock Christ!

Jase and Melissa said...

My vote is for "nice". McLaren clearly possesses a keen and sensitive insight into the famously indulgent pluralism of Jesus' teachings- His passionate persuasion only deflected by the cleric's confounding refusal to conversely commemorate Easter ...coupled with a historical penchant for Yom Kippur attacks.

Todd Pruitt said...

Indeed!

Wasn't Jesus refreshingly pluralistic?

Mike said...

To be honest I don't know what to make of McLaren's observing Ramadan. I am not sure what his point is unless he is emphasizing some core values that we share with Muslims..."self control, expressing kindness, and resolving conflicts"...but this is not what I find interesting about his observance. The question I like to pose to Christians is how many Muslims do we really interact with? I think we isolate ourselves from having to think about our faith in challenging ways by not interacting with others who do not share out point of view. While I don't know what to make of McLaren's celebration of Ramadan I do applaud him for interacting with the Muslim community and thinking about his faith in relationship to it.

I don't think of McLaren so much as a "shock jock" (although I understand why some might think that). I look at McLaren as an "outside the box" (and some would say outside orthodoxy) thinker.

Sharon Comly said...

Funny, I just had a long conversation with a muslim yesterday, who told me Muslims were required to celebrate Ramadan....to fast, pray five times a day, and that the "more they read the qaran" the more they would get good things when they asked for them. She also explained that she must teach her children to be afraid of God, for he will punish them if they do not do what he says. I gently explained, her, "I love to go to church, to pray, because I have been cleansed.....God is soo kind and mercificul, I can't help but obey (however imperfectly). Jesus told us not to "practice our righteousness before men, to be seen by them" and "to ask" because your "Heavenly father knows what you need before you ask" and to "pray without ceasing" as a response to who He is. There could not be more of a contrast between Islam and Christianity. To somehow link the two in any way is a total sham and disrespectful of the God of the Bible.

kevcyp said...

Mike,

I completely disagree with your statement: "I do applaud him for interacting with the Muslim community". You can interact with the Muslim community, but not by validating their beliefs by joining them in their religious events.

Mike said...

kevcyp,

OK with me if we disagree...question I would have for you is what is validation versus interaction? who draws that line and why? Some would argue (from scripture) that even entering the house of a Muslim is crossing the line. While that may seem extreme these are questions that are not easily answered.

kevcyp said...

Mike,

God didn't take it too lightly when Baal was worshiped. I'm sure he feels the same way about worshiping Allah. I would not risk offending God for the "benefits" McLaren states.

Mike said...

kevcyp,

You didn't answer my question regarding validation versus interaction...is participating in Ramadan worshipping Allah? Is participating in Christmas worshipping Christ? I am not justifying McLaren's actions...the point I am trying to make is that we arbitrarily create these lines based upon our view of where the line is. It is not that easy.

bennyg612 said...

What if a Muslim convert to Christianity chose to continue to observe the traditions of Ramadan (i.e. fasting, prayer, etc.)?

What if pagan converts to Christianity continued to participate in their spring celebration, which was in honor of the moon/fertility goddess Eastre and used eggs and rabbits as symbols of fertility?

If you visit a house of an unbeliever for dinner, and the family offers a prayer for the food, should you abstain from praying?

Should we go to funeral services or weddings that contain non-christain religious elements? How much participation is permitted? What if a prayer is said for the family of the deceased or the bride and groom? Should we not participate?

Though religious in its roots, Ramadan is also heavily cultural. Can we participate culturally in a way that honors Christ? Can we come alongside others in their activities in order to show them how Christ would look in their life?

I think in a overly secular culture, we believe that there is a great distinction between what is cultural and what is religious. I do not believe the line is that clear.

I am not intending to endorse McLaron's position. I just think the issue is more complicated than it may at first appear.

kevcyp said...

Mike,

I believe validation vs. interaction is very clear. Most Jews will not celebrate Christmas for the very reason you state.

Kevin

Todd Pruitt said...

Mike,

I cannot applaud McLaren for "interacting" with Muslims. Ramadan is a significant part of a Muslim's religious life. It is one of the ways that they secure their way to heaven (and all of its sensual benefits).

As I have already stated, for a thoughtful Muslim, to say, "I will participate in Ramadan with you but I will reject your doctrine," would be seen as belittling Ramadan. If a Muslim said to me, "I will observe Easter but simply as a way to connect with you because I reject the Lordship and resurrection of Jesus," I would kindly tell him not to bother. I can get a cup of coffee with him instead.

Let's be honest. If you have read McLaren, which I have extensively then we know that what is at work here is McLaren's universalism (he is at least a border-line syncretist).

And can we please exercise a little common sense? One can attend a Muslim funeral, show respect for the departed while not participating in pagan religious practice. Do we truly not know the difference?

Mike said...

Todd,

I guess I just don't see things that black and white...if Jews, who become Christian, still celebrate the Jewish holidays when their religion clearly rejects Christ as the Messiah are they rejecting his Lordship? Because of the way that holidays get "culturalized" (e.g. Christmas) I can separate the religious meaning from the cultural. We do this in the church as well because, as you know, Christmas is a christianized pagan holiday. We don't go around telling folks that they can't celebrate Christmas just because they don't believe as we do.

The point I am trying to make (maybe somewhat unsuccessfully) is that it is not that easy for us to make these judgments.

Todd Pruitt said...

Mike,

I have no idea what kind of connections you are making.

Because our culture has made it possible to "celebrate" Christmas without worshiping Christ gives absolutely no justification for someone who claims to worship Christ to participate in a pagan religious celebration. How are you making a connection there?

Also, because the church chose to celebrate the birth of Christ on a day when some pagans practiced their religion means what exactly?

How has anything you have said justify a Christian participating in a Muslim religious practice?

Again, the Muslim world would not see this as something nice and heart-warming. "I reject your prophet but I want to do that Ramadan thing with you." or "I'm a Christian infidel but I can do Ramadan too!" From a Muslim perspective it would be quite insulting I am sure.

Your question about Jewish converts to Christianity continuing to observe Jewish rituals - I would take them to Galatians. Those were signs pointing to Christ. They were the shadows but the substance is Christ.

You know, this stuff really does matter.

Todd Pruitt said...

I keep bringing up the issue of how Muslims would view McLaren's actions because it speaks to McLaren's motives to somehow build bridges. It's hard to build bridges to people to whom you are condescending.

I suppose McLaren, like all the emergent adolescents, assumes that Muslims are as careless about Muslim orthodoxy as he is about Christian orthodoxy.

Mike said...

"How has anything you have said justify a Christian participating in a Muslim religious practice?"

I thought I answered this question with the christmas reference. We participate in a pagan holiday when we do this. correct? Easter also has pagan origins. The fact that we have somehow sanctified it does not absolve us of the fact that these holidays have pagan origins and symbols to pagan gods.

Again I am not trying to justify McLaren...before we go around pointing fingers I would just like us to examine ourselves first...we are not innocent in this area.

Todd Pruitt said...

Mike you are simply wrong.

Christmas and Easter have always been Christian observances. That they are held on days in which pagans once observed their religious rites does not change this. Pagans do not own the calender. Their gods are idols. They are nothing. Let's take all their days and honor the Triune God on those days.

Again, this is simply a distraction from the issue at hand. How does celebrating Christ's birth on December 25th (please check your history on why Christmas is observed on December 25th) somehow parrallel with McLaren observing a Muslim fast?

I'm asking these rhetorically because I don't intend on going back and forth with you on this. Please try to avoid urban legends.

McLaren is not calling for Christians to worship Jesus and pray for the salvation of Muslims during Ramadan. He is calling for us to participate with Muslims in Ramadan. Do you really not understand the difference?

Do you truly not understand the difference between focusing on Christ during a time when pagans observe their rites and observing those rites with them?

Paul said...

So, do folks like McLaren want to be just a little bit close to their Muslim neighbors or are they interested in being really close? If they really wanted to share an "important part of life with them," an effective way would be to work toward sharing life in Christ together.

Worldchristian.com has material for use to pray for Muslims during Ramadan. As part of the material for kids, my wife and I prayed with our girls last night for all of the Muslims named Abdullah (meaning servant of god) that they would become servants of the one true God.

McLaren's appraoch would be silly if the consequences for Muslims weren't eternal.

Mike said...

"It's hard to build bridges to people to whom you are condescending." Amen to that.

Todd Pruitt said...

Good word Paul.

Mike,
I find what McLaren is doing to be highly condescending. It is condescending to Christians because once again he is demonstrating a total lack of reverance and caution for the content of biblical faith.

But he is also highly condescending to Muslims because he seems to assume that they will appreciate his attempt to have a watered down version of their religious rite.

It is also confounding when someone who ought to know better says we are participating in a pagan ritual when we observe the birth and resurrection of Christ.

threegirldad said...

This is neither syncretism, nicety, or just silly. It is, in fact...

[...]

[wait for it...]

[...]

"generous orthodoxy."

Todd Pruitt said...

That's it!

If you want to know what Brian McLaren means by "Generous Orthodoxy" then here it is.