RELIGION ROUNDTABLE

We asked two local faith leaders to weigh in on the question, "How should you react when a friend embraces terrible beliefs?"

Offer love and compassion to all

As an Episcopal priest, my calling is to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others – both in the pulpit and in my daily walk. It is not my place to force my beliefs on anyone.

There are countless religious affiliations, some Christian and many of other persuasions, and I think we need to get away from the often automatic assumption that everyone is a Christian.

When I offer a prayer in a public setting, I thank God (the God of Abraham) for the goodness of creation and the grace that is freely offered to everyone.

We need to work on respecting the beliefs of others, whether we agree with them or not. Whether someone has “terrible” beliefs is highly subjective.

I am called, as an ordained servant of God, to offer love and compassion to all those who cross my path. If someone, for whatever reason, is feeling removed from God, I may choose to share a passage of Scripture with them as a reminder that God’s love and grace are available to all.

Feeling a separation or distance from God can happen to any of us, at any time, and that may be the very opportunity to grow our faith.

My hope is that all people, whether they choose to worship or not, in a formal church setting or elsewhere, can come to know that they are valued as unique human beings and that they have something special to contribute to God’s kingdom. 

-- Robert Fowler, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Jacksonville

If they are hurting, help them to heal

Terrible beliefs can lead to terrible actions, and terrible actions can lead to destruction and failure in the eyes of both people and God. Terrible beliefs can be extremism in religion (any religion) or in view on race, such as white supremacy.

Any kind of abnormal belief is basically a disease, and any friend like that should be treated as if they are mentally and psychologically unwell. That person should not only be handled carefully, but all efforts should be made for their treatment so that they can be rid of the disease.

Psychotherapy, professional counseling, taking them to meet various people and individuals and, most importantly, making them read and understand the Quran will help them.

The Quran emphasizes modest behavior in every aspect of our lives: “Do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors” (2:190). “Do not exaggerate in your religion” (4:171). “Eat and drink and do not be extravagant. Surely, He does not like the extravagant” (7:31).

The Quran also teaches that no race or color is better than others. “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in God’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” 

-- Muhammad N. Haq, Anniston Islamic Center

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