I saw this report the other day. Perhaps you saw it, too?
Islam, the world’s fastest-growing faith, will leap from 1.6 billion (in 2010) to 2.76 billion by 2050, according to the Pew study. At that time, Muslims will make up nearly one-third of the world’s total projected population of about 9 billion people.
Christianity is expected to grow, too, but not at Islam’s explosive rate. The Pew study predicts Christians will increase from 2.17 billion to 2.92 billion, composing more than 31% of the world’s population.
The day I first saw this report just happened to be one of those days when the headline story was about Indiana’s now amended Religious Freedom Law. The mayor of Portland and several other West Coast cities banned travel to Indiana over the RFL. Of course, once Indiana’s governor realized the economic fallout from such a law, he quickly back-pedaled his previous defense of the RFL. Can’t say I blame him.
I have come to loathe the polarization of issues that make the headlines. Social Media has made us even more ugly in the way we talk to each other and about each other online. This is odd to me because in my daily living, my friendships, my community, this is not the case. I find that people who 20 years ago might have dug in their heels and declared homosexuality depraved, are so much more willing to listen and dialogue thoughtfully in ways they (we) never could have prior.
There are plenty of reasons behind all that. You likely have formulated your own thoughts as to why Social Media has created this place of intense outrage. I didn’t write about the RFL when all that arguing and posturing was going on. Not that I didn’t have my thoughts about it all.
It’s just that I’ve come to realize that outrage rarely gives space for thoughtful discourse.
And thoughtful discourse is what interests me most.
It has taken me some time to figure all that out. Some of my worst writing has happened as the result of anger and self-righteous justification.
I’m trying to do better.
But here’s one thing that occurred to me when all the talking heads and news pundits were weighing in on the RFL: Invariably the argument over homosexuality is cast by media as a fight between homosexuals and Christians.
Which left me wondering why NPR didn’t interview someone from the Islamic faith to talk about the RFL and homosexuality. If Islam is the fastest growing religion worldwide, wouldn’t it be important to have their voices on the RFL?
Being the curious person I am, I went searching for just that very thing. Because, let’s face it, Islam, like Christianity, has its share of fundamentalists and bigots. Happily, I found a thoughtful dialogue :
The task of confronting those who are bent on distorting Islam, Christianity or any other faith in order to hurt, harm and reject people on the basis of their race, religion or sexual orientation is a difficult one. But whether it is in Indiana, Arkansas, Syria or Iraq, the best way to counter such spiritually bankrupt ideologues is by exposing their singular political motives and manipulation of faith to amass power. Faith communities should use the debate sparked by Indiana’s law to recognize that while they do not worship the same God, they nevertheless face similar challenges.
It probably won’t surprise any of you that the Quran, like the Bible, condemns homosexuality, leading one to wonder, do God and Allah actually agree on something? My understanding is that Sharia law teaches that homosexuality is punishable by death. You don’t suppose the culture at the time influenced that position, do you? I mean that whole “punishable by death” thing touted by the Quran and the Bible isn’t really embraced much outside of the Middle East and Texas anymore.
I keep thinking about how difficult it is to be a LGBT person of faith anywhere in the world. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in 20 years from now the biggest defenders of LGBT community are Christians opposing fundamentalist Islamics?
Perhaps before that happens, we will all come to realize faith isn’t the problem – fundamentalism is.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining how fear erodes our faith. (Zondervan).