Monday, December 10, 2007


When 138 moslem theologians come together to produce a piece of writing like A Common Word Between Us and You, it’s not something the rest of us should ignore. We will ignore the discourtesy of the title: common grammatical usage would have it as “…You and Us”. The Common Word between us -- that is, between that party and this party -- is the mutual urgings our two relatively monotheistic faiths propound for love of God(s) and of neighbor. Doesn’t that sound nice? And what could we flaccid Westerners do but turn our foreskins inside out in an attempt to encourage such daring and courage from these representatives of the Religion of Pieces?

The mavens at Yale Divinity School promptly spread their cheeks in response. Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’. First off, let us please beg your forgiveness for the Crusades, and also for our so-called “War” on “Terror”. I kid you not. As you may know, the American War Machine is in possession of a time machine, and has been supplying King Richard Coeur de Leon with materiel with which he might slay the Saracens -- yew for them longbows was getting scarce don’t you know. Lord.

Ah well. So much goodwill and paper flying between us through the air. It's like a parade or a circus or something. Anyway, there are wild beasts and clowns. What are we to expect. The title doesn’t even make sense. “A Common Word”? The only apt word that springs to my mind is enmity, as between the woman and the serpent. We’ll be the woman, our microscopic Ivy League foreskins not withstanding. There’s something of the hermaphrodite to us, after all, so ambiguously defined that we don’t know right from left, or from wrong. We don’t even seem to know the doctrines of our own faith, here at our Yale Divinity School. As we write to our Moslem Instructors, “The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace. If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that 'our eternal souls' are at stake as well.”

"Every effort". I had been previously unaware that interfaith dialog was one of the Pillars of Islam. I had thought that it was conversion, submission or death that Islam required of infidels. And in none of my sundry readings of the Bible have I discovered the saving power of making peace with obdurate foes. How strange that I should have missed that. Every effort. That must then include, from us alone, such efforts as heresy and apostasy.

The Yale letter makes a good start at such compromise. The imams and mullahs quote many repeated Koranic verses regarding the Oneness of Allah, and our divines respond with no New Testament verses regarding the deity of Christ. It might be rude. Both after all cannot be true. How embarrassing. And that whole Trinity thing is after all sort of odd, sort of absurd actually, and best left unmentioned.

So there you go then. Allah achbar.

Christians have the transdimensional absurdity of a Triune God. Moslems think a meteorite is holy. There really is nothing that isn’t absurd when you look at it from some other angle. Worst is atheism. On what ground in a relativistic universe do we find the stability to argue such points? We have to keep the logic human, and trust in our axioms. In such case we find very little Common Word between Islam and Christianity. Their god and ours are virtual opposites. Theirs is capricious, and ours is steadfast. Theirs is omnipotent, transcending even himself, and ours is limited by his nature. Theirs has three daughters, and ours has one Son. A different demographic, then.

As for love of neighbor, this is not so much a divine teaching as something common to every ethical faith. Atheists arrive at the same idea. And I'd hope that by now neighbor would get a broader definition than the one common in the mosques.

It’s time to get serious about this theoretical New Crusade we're accused of but haven't even started yet. Like the moslems are ... taking it seriously. They're not interested in theory. Unapologetic and aggressive. We are more than willing to rein in our coreligionists. The moslems also are willing to chastise our coreligionists. The fact that they are in a far more strategic position to control their own overly-enthusiastic jihadis seems to have evaded their notice. In such case, when it falls upon us non-neighbors to control their brigands, we can do it not with gentle persuasions and mild blandishments, but with force, with violence, and with bloody resolve. The alternative is to let them raze our towers.

The great fallacy is in the assumption that there is any common ground beyond our shared humanity. Our g/Gods have none. As for holy ground, there's hardly any left. God seems to have stopped caring about square feet. He concerns himself with nations, with the Houses of Mankind. On this score, our house is in order, as much as a free place can be. So my open letter to the moslem clerics who would presume to tread our common ground is: Wipe your feet -- you're tracking mud.


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