With the recent terror attacks in Paris and Africa, it becomes all the more important to be vigilant in not letting Radical Islamists destroy the reputation of Islam. Creating a world at peace requires seeking understanding and building relationships with those whom we may not have had much interaction — especially those who are dehumanized and excluded by voices of hate and bigotry.
The Jesus Fatwah is a five-session DVD and web-based series that will introduce you to Islam through input from both Muslim and Christian scholars and provide a reader’s guide that will help you gain a broad understanding of what Islam is, what it’s not, and how you and your community can resist the urge to demonize your Muslim neighbors out of fear and unfamiliarity.
One of the contributors to The Jesus Fatwah is Dr. Rami Nashashibi, Visiting Assistant Professor in Sociology of Religion and Muslim Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and Executive Director of Chicago’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Named one of the “500 Most Influential Muslims in the World” by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, Nashashibi is a straight-forward and passionate voice of reason in the midst of often heated Islamophobic arguments. In The Jesus Fatwah, Nashashibi offers insights into the practice of Islam that are a catalyst for conversations about the common values held by Christians, Muslims, and Americans of all faiths.
“The way the vast majority of Muslims understand Islam revolves around the prophetic values of mercy, compassion, humility, and service. The idea of mercy in and of itself is so supreme in Islam that every chapter in the Qur’an (with the exception of one), begins with “In the name of God most gracious, most merciful.” There’s a prophetic kind of understanding that out of all the attributes of God — the most giving, the most loving, the most just — that out of all those characteristics the most supreme characteristic is mercy. And that’s how Muslims are supposed to think of the divine. Since every human being is so utterly in need of God’s mercy, that’s really the driving ethos of the Muslim community. If you want mercy, be merciful.”
— Rami Nashashibi
Dr. Rami Nashashibi has served as the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) since its incorporation as a nonprofit in January 1997. He has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago and has lectured across the United States, Europe, and Asia on a range of topics related to American Muslim identity, community activism and social justice issues, and is a recipient of several prestigious community service and organizing honors. In August of 2014, he began as Visiting Assistant Professor in Sociology of Religion and Muslim Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary. His work with IMAN have been featured on many national and international media outlets including the BBC, PBS and the Chicago Tribune. Follow him at
There’s no small amount of confusion around the notion of heaven and the Kingdom of God. Much of it probably derives from the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew writes to a Jewish audience for whom the word “God” is unutterable, so he changes “Kingdom of God” to “Kingdom of Heaven.” In the Gospels according to Mark and Luke (and Thomas), Jesus’ expressed purpose is to embody and proclaim the Kingdom of God as a lived reality here and now – “not in some heaven, light years away.” So “The kingdom of heaven,” (to use Matthew’s designation) isn’t about an otherworldly heaven – it isn’t a concept of the afterlife at all.
As Dave Tomlinson says in his book, How to Be a Bad Christian (and a Better Human Being),
It’s a “state of consciousness – a different way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that anyone may sense from time to time. Every truly joyful (I don’t mean ‘religious’) experience is a taste of heaven. Every kindness is a taste of heaven. Every loving partnership, every real friendship is a taste of heaven. Every expression of beauty, every new discovery is a taste of heaven. Every selfless act, every attempt to create justice, every hungry mouth fed, every homeless person welcomed, every difference celebrated is a taste of heaven.”
The real danger comes when Christians become “so heavenly-minded that they’re no earthly good.” Again, Tomlinson says,
“There is a stream of otherworldly spirituality within Christianity that tells us not to feel too much at home in this world; that we are exiles or aliens here, awaiting removal to our true home in heaven. I think this is mistaken. Yes, of course, there are things in the world that we shouldn’t feel at home with – injustice, poverty, prejudice, greed, abuse, disease and the like – but it is these things that are alien and need to be eradicated, evicted and exiled.”
In Living the Questions’ new series on Science, Evolution, and an Evolving Faith, Painting the Stars, Australian theologian Michael Morwood says,
“It is my utter conviction that the dream ‑ the intensity ‑ of Jesus of Nazareth had nothing to do with people getting to Heaven. It’s about the Kingdom of God. It’s about the here. It’s about the now. It’s about us being empowered by the presence of the divine with us; that the Jesus story is our story. The Jesus reality is the divine emerging in the human, giving voice to that ‘presence’ in the universe and on this planet ‑ and saying, ‘This is what it is to be human.'”
It’s not about getting to some otherworldly heaven, but about how we embody the Jesus story in our own lives, here and now. May the coming New Year offer us all opportunities to live out the Jesus story wherever we find ourselves!
Does Scripture have relevance for the 21st Century? Are there lessons in the parables that speak to us about loving our enemies or even labor relations? Amy-Jill Levine says yes. What do you say?
Dr. Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences.
Her Vanderbilt bio calls Dr. Levine “a self-described ‘Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.'”
“LtQ Clips” offer thought-provoking observations and comments on spirituality and religion from prominent authors, scholars, and thinkers. These excerpts from“Living the Questions” curriculum are designed to spark conversation in questioning the dominant pop theology of American Christianity.