This is Heather, and I would like to elaborate on Ross’ post below by listing some key points we learned from the “Muslim-Christian Encounters” class we went to last weekend (Dr. Huffard was the teacher, see details below). See this as a few suggestions for Christian interactions with the Muslim world (especially on the mission field).
Western Christianity emphasizes individuality, Islam emphasizes community. Therefore, if Christianity is to be relevant to Muslims, Christianity must begin to care about social justice, the health of the communities.
How does one gain credit with Muslims (especially non-western Muslims)? One must look as a holy Muslim person looks: no car, no movies, no camera, no J Crew clothes…
We’re not listening to their questions, we’re just giving answers to our questions. (One of their main questions: “What can I do to remember?” One of ours: “What must I do to be saved?”)
Ritual is very important in Islam, with an emphasis on the form of the ritual. In Protestant Christianity, we throw out the form of ritual, and hang on to the meaning of the ritual only. One reason Islam values ritual and form of the ritual is because ritual holds together communities. What can the Christian community do to identify with Muslims by re-thinking our stance on ritual and form. What rituals should we rediscover or create in order to hold our communities together?
Live a life of submission (Islam means to submit).
Focus on building community. (For example, think family conversion instead of individual conversion.)
Don’t confuse your motive with your message. (“God so loved the world” does not resonate with them. We value love, they value honor. So, don’t use communication loaded with your values, but enter into their worldview and relate to them using their value system.)
Be honest with both Christian and Muslim histories. (We have both been very offensive to each other.)
The religion of Islam has to do with politics, family, and all spheres life. Therefore, a Christianity that only has to do with the “eternal” matters of being “saved” and “lost” may not appeal or even make sense to the Muslim. Instead, how does your faith relate to your politic, your pots and pans, your family?
* Please remember that this list is the collective work of the class members of Dr. Huffard’s “Muslim-Christian Encounters” class at Harding Graduate School of Religion, Memphis on Oct 2-3, 2009. This list was developed through conversation after reading and research done by class members before the class and as a result of Dr. Huffard’s teaching.