Magazine article U.S. Catholic

More Than Words: Rather Than Threaten Our Christian Faith, Exploring the Language and Spiritual Practices of Other Religious Traditions May Instead Make Us Better Catholics

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

More Than Words: Rather Than Threaten Our Christian Faith, Exploring the Language and Spiritual Practices of Other Religious Traditions May Instead Make Us Better Catholics

Article excerpt

THE BISHOP OF BRUDEN IN THE NETHERLANDS, MARTINUS Petrus Maria Muskens (who goes by "Tiny"), shocked the religious world as summer ended with a daring suggestion. "Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will call God Allah?" he asked in an interview on Dutch television, according to the Associated Press. Bishop Tiny's suggestion was not generally welcomed among Western Christians, despite the fact that Allah is used among Arab-speaking Christians in places such as Indonesia, where it is simply the equivalent of God in the local language.

So apparently outlandish was Muskens' proposal that even the secular media questioned his credibility. The Associated Press referred to him as "a Dutch Catholic bishop who once said the hungry were entitled to steal bread and advocated condom use to prevent AIDS." (The AP is evidently unaware that theological radical Thomas Aquinas said the same about poor people.) LifesiteNews.com, a Canada-based prolife website, put its ad hominem attack right in the headline, calling Muskens a "condom-promoting Catholic bishop."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Editorialized news coverage aside, the bishop's suggestion hardly qualifies him for psychiatric care. On one level, it is no more ridiculous for Catholics to call God Allah than to call God God or Dios or Dieu or any other linguistic equivalent.

But consciously choosing to address God the way another monotheistic faith does could also be a good strategy for interreligious understanding. We Catholics have no problem with Muslim belief in the absolute unity of God, and we could certainly join in a prayer addressed to Allah, as long as its language did not somehow call into question elements of Christian faith. Doing so may actually open us more fully to the divine mystery, allowing us to appreciate elements of faith that we share with Islam--the absolute transcendence of God, for example--more deeply.

There is certainly precedent for this approach to interreligious practice in Christianity's conversation with Judaism. Christians have learned to join Jewish prayer and participate with Jewish permission in services on the High Holy Days and Passover. Jewish rabbis have even been known to lead Seder services for Catholics in church basements. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.