It is a fair question, I think, as to why I should choose, at this point in time, to study the Qur'an, the holy text of Islamic faith. And the answer is easy: I intend to convert.
Or, alternatively, I believe that Christians, Muslims, and Jews have more potentially in common than any one of them should share with secular global capitalism. We are all theists. We believe there is more to the cosmos than its visible material. We all believe that humanity does not stop at the border, and we all see the devastating effects of war and famine and plague. And we are all in the world-healing business. The same can not be said of Wal-Mart or Haliburton.
Which is not to say that we are all the same; it is to say that I can envision an odd coalition in the next century. Call us the Servants. Call us the Brotherhood of Widows. We are dissatisfied. We are anxious about the present but filled with the promise of the future. We have seen enough justice to believe that it is possible, and enough oppression to see that inhumanity cannot possibly be tolerated.
And we've come to challenge your conscience. Read these books. Transform your mind. Your choices are, as always, entirely up to you.
Who is else is going to wake you up? The same corrupt and equivocating UN that took a pass on Rwanda and Darfur? The fractured and militaristic legacy of American interventionism? The same corporate citizens who believe that a bad job is good enough for everyone? Who have a monetary incentive to increase, rather than address, your distress?
No, I do not intend to convert, anymore than I intend to condemn. Like any religous scholar, I intend to neither promote or disparage any one religion. But perhaps like very few scholars, I believe that we might promote religion as a whole. I'm simply fascinated by the force of faith in people's lives, and I feel it still has, often despite its history, more to offer the world than the absence of belief.
And I remain compelled by something that every religious tradition has in common: a strand of mysticism, thus my sojourn into Sufi poetry. I am perhaps irrationally fond of this eccentric and ephemeral point of contact between the world's great religous traditions.
So I do intend to learn. This blog has always been more than a little Christocentric. And hardly anyone I know has actually read the book at the center of so much contemporary controversy.
Thus, the opportunity is almost entirely too good, too fitting: as the interfaith work I do through Gethsemane develops into something that could take me to Spain or Israel, my own ignorance is brought entirely to light.
This is not punishment, but opportunity: as this blog swerves toward Religion 2.0, the religious ferment of my generation, and as my own religious studies move toward something as focused as a dissertation, I intend to learn and listen and understand in the broadest context I can comprehend.
I mean, do you ever wander what's beyond the forest that the trees sometimes hide?