From the Pulpit: Seeing Christianity through new eyes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I spent last week in Hartford, Conn. in a class with Christians, Jews and Muslims from across the country and even the world.

It would have been easy to have felt as though I was the only one like me in the class, since my cultural background and my theological beliefs separated me from everyone else in some way or another.

Nearly all the Muslims were unfamiliar with a Christian who was not a Catholic. Few of the Jews had met Christians, especially protestants, who were not harsh and condemning, on the one hand, or very uninterested in their own faith, on the other. Few of the Christians had a clue about the Muslims, even though we were very aware of our own strong

differences among us as Christians.

I learned a lot in this class, in this laboratory of the world, called, &8220;Building Abrahamic Partnerships,&8221; led by Professor Yehezkel Landau, along with three of his colleagues from Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths.

We didn&8217;t resolve a single major issue among us. I left there still believing in Jesus Christ.

I didn&8217;t become Jewish or Muslim, but I think I came away a better Christian.

We laughed a lot. We learned a lot. We also wept a lot.

The tears were for myself, for my family, for my father, for our church here, for my friends in the class, for the world in so much heart-breaking conflict and for God.

I could not imagine how God could stand to hear all the violent, cruel and unjust things we humans have done to each other, sometimes in God&8217;s own name and sometimes in spite of God&8217;s name.

The people in the room, Jews, Christians and Muslims, never merged into a single theological block but I saw tears on the faces of Jews, tears on the faces of Muslims and tears on the faces of fellow Christians.

I heard music from Muslim voices that spoke to me of such deep humility and gentleness that I didn&8217;t need the Arabic translation to know the human spirit underneath them.

I left behind a lot of my fear in Hartford, and I brought home a deep bond with the people who still see God differently than me.

Robert Montgomery is the pastor at Cahaba Valley Church