Sayyid Syeed, left, and Rob Sellers were part of a panel at the Baptist-Muslim dialogue outside Boston in January 2009. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
ABC-TV stations will begin airing our documentary on Baptists and Muslims in early January. We're proud of the piece, though we know any project about interfaith relationships – especially between Baptists and Muslims – is bound to bring criticism.
Some quarters of Christianity, let's say, will want us to distance ourselves from Muslims. They will cite a comment by a Muslim that may well be inaccurate, irresponsible or even hateful and call for a cancellation of Baptist-Muslim relationships.
Any such comment must be called out and dealt with, but if the suggestion becomes that we must end relationships with all Muslims because of what one said, we must reject that as well.
For to be morally consistent, we would have to stop being Baptist and Christian, wouldn't we?
It was a Baptist who said, "God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew."
It was another Baptist who said, "I think Muhammad was a terrorist."
Baptists have joked about AIDS, beaten civil rights workers and molested children at church.
No need to go on. But if you say, "Well, the guy who did that wasn't really Baptist," then allow room for Muslims to say, "Well, the guy who did that wasn't really Muslim."
Stop saying the extremist of the other faith defines that faith, while implying that your own extremist is the exception.
I'm not sure if God's children are more dangerous when we're unloving or illogical.Either way, surely it's a shame to God.
John, one of Jesus' disciples, did quote Jesus as saying that others will know Christians are Christians by their love.In fact, one of the men featured in the documentary – Kenny Anderson, pastor of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Columbia, Tenn. – has that verse from John 13:35 on his church sign: "They will know we are Christians by our love." Jesus' command to love is unmistakable, and Anderson acted on it. Watch the documentary and see how.
I believe that if we truly love God and neighbor, that love will elicit not only the best our hearts have to offer, but the best of our minds as well.
Our documentary, "Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims," shows both Baptists and Muslims whose hearts and minds have been opened. Light shines around them.
Lives they touch improve. Rooms they enter buzz. Words they speak ignite with the truth.
Sayyid, Sam, Farhana, Bruce, Ishtiaq and all the rest in "Different Books, Common Word" – they aren't interested in building walls. They have neither the desire nor inclination to be the Baptist or Muslim who embarrasses their faith community or shames God's holy name by behaving belligerently, as a person of faith, in the public square.
Instead, they take the commands to love God and neighbor seriously, and we look forward to introducing them to viewers in the new year.