Sunday, July 01, 2007

Just What Are They Thinking?

Several years ago someone came up with a slogan describing their church as one where "you don't have to check your brain at the door." One can find a variation on that from the Church Ad Project (originally called the Episcopal Ad Project), where one popular display ad they offer churches says, "He died to take away your sins. Not your mind."

Then there's the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, who was referred to in my previous entry. In case you haven't heard about her case, the Journal Star's Mike Miller describes it on his Faithfully Yours blog as Episconfusion Part Deux. Rev. Redding is an Episcopal priest (ordained some 20 years ago) in Seattle who recently revealed in the Diocesan newspaper that she is a Muslim, having confessed that faith "early in 2006." (Note: her interview is on page 9 of that last link, which is a nearly 1 megabyte pdf file.) That made the Seattle Times and has been all over the blogosphere. She's also been director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop for the Diocese of Olympia. Which brings to mind the old Olympia Beer slogan, "It's the water. And a lot more."

According to the Times' article, "Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting." Indeed, it must be the water. Or the priest and bishop have indeed checked their brains at the door. What else can one say about her explanations of the place of Jesus Christ in the Christian Faith and Islam? Here's Rev. Redding in the Diocesan paper:
“We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the ‘only begotten son of God.’ That’s how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal,” she continues. “When we say Jesus is the only begotten one, we are saying he’s unique in some way. Islam says the same thing. He’s the only human aside from Adam who is directly created by God, and he’s different from Adam because he has a human mother. So there’s agreement—this person is unique in his relationship to God.” Christianity also says that we are all part of the household of God and in essence brothers and sisters of Jesus. Muslims take the figurative language of “only begotten,” make it concrete and contradict it: God neither begets nor is begotten.”
So much for the Nicene Creed's declaration of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of the Father.
“I agree with both because I do want to say that Jesus is unique, and for me, Jesus is my spiritual master,” Redding says. “Muslims say Mohammed is the most perfect. Well, it depends on who you fall in love with. I fell in love with Jesus a long time ago and I’m still in love with Jesus but I’d like to think my relationship with Jesus has matured.”

She added that what Islam does is take Jesus out of the way of her relationship with God, “but it doesn’t drop Jesus. I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam, and he didn’t drop me off at the door. He’s there, too.”
Yeah. I won't claim to be an expert in Islam, but I took a course in it from Prof. Benjamin Weir while in seminary at the GTU. She is just wrong. And any Christian -- especially one who has studied Christian theology (as every Episcopal priest has done) -- ought to be able to recognize that. Granted, there are things that Islam and Christianity can share. Arabic-speaking Christians pray to "Allah," and both faiths have roots in the Jewish patriarch Abraham.

But to confess, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet," (the "First Pillar of Islam") is an explicit rejection of Jesus Christ being the Messiah, whether Rev. Redding thinks so or not.
“The renunciations [of Satan, evil powers and sinful desires] any Muslim can say,” Redding says. “The affirmations are tough for any Christian who is at all progressive because there are certain of us [Christians] who have taken these and made them in to something like fraternity hazing—you have to say these words in order to be part of the club. I see them as taking Jesus as the human example to follow toward God. Most Muslims see Mohammed rather than Jesus as the pattern of life to follow, and I do not see him as the only example. I just am not willing to put ‘onlys’ in front of all those affirmations about Jesus.
For more of Rev. Redding's bizarre (for a Christian priest) "thought," see this Seattle Times reader Q&A.

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