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That, according to the Rev. Peter Whalen of Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and pastor Kent Lewis of Christ Lutheran Church, could be a grave error, and the root of future misunderstanding.
Together, the two churches will be hosting a five-week class about the religion every Wednesday night during Lent except Ash Wednesday. The first class will be March 16, beginning at 7 p.m. at Church of the Redeemer.
"This goes back to when he (Lewis) first came to Shelbyville," said Whalen. "We got together and decided we wanted to do things together as churches."
Episcopalian and ELCA Lutheran churches share many of the same doctrines and Whalen and Lewis share Catholic -- and catholic -- backgrounds.
"We do the Easter vigil together, Fat Tuesday, and the Seder meal to commemorate Jesus' last supper," he said.
The ministers heard about a class in Islam being taught by the Rev. Jill Zook-Jones of Nashville.
"We thought this would be something good," said Whalen. "Islam is attracting people in both ways, good and bad."
He said while some people are drawn to join the religion, others react in anger, suspicion -- and ignorance.
"As long as we live in ignorance, we don't live very well," he said.
Lewis has been involved with the "Welcome to Shelbyville" film and has traveled to Washington, D.C, on several occasions to speak about the movie and the issue.
"It's raised my consciousness level and I've done a lot more reading up on it," he said. "As Peter said, there's an absolute need of knowledge."
Whalen said he spoke with another minister who had hosted the program.
"He said, 'Usually when you have a program, your attendance declines every week. We didn't lose a single person,'" said Whalen.
Lewis said a large part of the misunderstandings Christians have about Islam stem from their concept of it as a singular religion. But, he said, like Christianity, there are many different sects within Islam, just as there are anywhere from 3,500 to 35,000 Christian sects.
"It's so complicated," said Lewis. "There are a lot of different Muslims. Historically, factually, Muslims have been a benign influence."
In fact, he added, during the Middle Ages, when the Jews were being persecuted, they were offered sanctuary in Baghdad -- not exactly something that would happen today.
"Things change historically," he said. "We need to know -- who are these people?"
That history, and the evolution of the religion, are some of the things that the program will discuss. Not only will Zook-Jones explore the differences within Islam, she will show the similarities between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, three major religions that all look back to Abraham as a beginning point..
There are about 5 million Muslims who call America home, she said, and some of them live in our neighborhoods, own stores we shop in, manage restaurants where we eat, and serve our society as doctors, lawyers and engineers.
"Unfortunately, there is another side to Islam around the world," she writes.
"Angry threats, terrorist attacks, and suicide bombings speak loudly in the name of Islam, creating fear and loathing in the minds of non-Muslims.
"How are we to understand these opposing expressions of Islam? And specifically, how are Christians to relate to Muslims?"
The class will begin by directly addressing the issue of "Islam: Violent or Peace-loving?"
"During the remaining weeks, we will look at the history, basic beliefs and practices of Islam," she stated,. "We will conclude with a discussion about how to build bridges to Muslims from the Gospel."
Lewis and Whalen both stress that this does not mean attempting to convert them. Building bridges can only be done when there is respect, said Lewis, and telling them they need to convert is being manipulative.
"It's about conversation, not conversion," he said.
They hope that increased knowledge will lead to increased understanding, if not tolerance.
"You have to learn to get along with everybody," said Whalen. "It's easier to get along with fellow Christians, people you know. But the Gospel tells us to live with love towards everyone."
They realize there will be some negative backlash for all their efforts.
"When you try to love the Gospel, you're going to have persecution," said Whalen. "Goodness is always going to be harder, especially when it interrupts your comfort zone."
Zook-Jones will lead the programs, but Lewis and Whalen will be there, and each class will be followed by refreshments and a question and answer session.
For more information, call Church of the Redeemer at 684-5506 or Christ Lutheran at 684-0202.