What is 'good theology'?
A Christian Science perspective on daily life.
Moez Masoud, the 29-year-old Muslim televangelist, had a powerful message for the 1,500 people who poured into a hall in Alexandria, the ancient Mediterranean city on Egypt's north coast. " 'We will be responsible to God on Judgment Day,' he said, arguing that violence against non-Muslims violates God's will. 'He will ask: Did you represent our religion correctly? If you feel happy that non-Muslims are being killed, this is wrong. They are our brothers.' "
Mr. Masoud and others "promote 'a sweet orthodoxy, which stresses the humane and compassionate' as an alternative to 'unthinking rage,' said Abdallah Schleifer, a specialist in Islam and electronic media at the American University in Cairo" (The Boston Globe, Dec. 6, 2007).
Voices such as Masoud's compete with those of Muslim extremists who espouse intolerance and hatred. With so much debate going on among those with differing perspectives on religion, it's helpful to ask, What is good theology?
That question is discussed by Karen Armstrong, a prolific writer on religion. She maintains that all the religious traditions agree on what makes a particular theology good. In her view: "The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology" ("The Spiral Staircase – My Climb Out of Darkness," p. 293).
Once Jesus was asked by a lawyer, "Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus replied, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:34-40, New Revised Standard Version). Jesus pointed out that these two commandments go together; you can't love God and hate your neighbor at the same time. If you truly love God, you'll love your neighbor.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, made a similar point: "The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we shall regard our neighbor unselfishly ..." ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 9).
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves: Does practicing my religion make me a better person? Does it make me kinder, more loving, forgiving, unselfish? Does it help me see my own spirituality and that of the people I meet and work with each day? Am I conscious each day that all of us are beloved by God?
Each time we affirm our relation to the allness and goodness of God, we are also accepting the expectation that we will behave like Him because we are His children. This brings us back to the need to love God and our neighbor.
Science and Health offers steps on the path to this spiritual love: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" (p. 4). Being patient with someone when we're busy, expressing humility by not thinking that we know all the answers, tenderly encouraging a friend who's discouraged, and doing a good deed such as shoveling a neighbor's walk – these are ways to make a tangible difference in other people's lives. They also provide solid evidence that we're practicing "good theology."
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PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.