Friday, January 16, 2015

The Children of Abraham at Duke

The path to parenthood was not an easy one for Abraham and Sarah. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, but he and Sarah were childless. So Sarah insisted that her servant Hagar would bear child in her place. And she did. But when Sarah finally was able to bear a child of her own, she demanded that Hagar and her son Ishmael be cast out into the wilderness. Abraham sent them away, with just a skin of water, knowing that they had little chance of survival.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.
Genesis 21:15-20

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their roots back to Abraham. For Judaism and Christianity, that line runs through Isaac. For Islam, the line runs through Ishmael.

Though they share a common ancestry, and are often linked as “the three great Abrahamic religions,” Judaism, Christianity and Islam have an uncomfortable tension built into their stories of origin.

In my last post, I wrote about how in Wahhabi extremism that tension often turns deadly.

But it also plays out in less deadly ways.

Recently the good folks at Duke University tried to foster interreligious tolerance and understanding when they announced that every Friday at 1:00 p.m. the chapel would broadcast the adhan, the Muslim call to midday prayers in Arabic and English.

The response was swift if not surprising. The Rev. Franklin Graham, whose extremist views often seem at odds with his kinder and gentler father, responded with his typical thoughtfulness on Facebook:

Ashley Pratte, writing on, saw it as part of a larger sinister pattern. “As campuses continue to foster political correctness,” she wrote, “they use it as a way to favor religions seemingly at war with Western Civilization and Judeo-Christian beliefs.” She went on to observe, “Frequently, we see students fighting for their religious freedom on campus—especially Christians. We hope that Duke University will also allow equal opportunity for Christian students to gather to pray and respect their religious freedom.”

If Ms. Pratte knew anything at all about Duke, she would know Christianity is alive and well. The chapel has regular Christian worship services Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m., as well as at other times through the week. Every day at 5:00 p.m. they have a carillon concert, audible across the campus, that frequently includes Christian hymns. Duke is also home to a United Methodist seminary, Duke Divinity School, and Duke has maintained a United Methodist connection since its founding.

Ms. Pratte, Rev. Graham and their many allies on cable news can rest easy. Duke has reversed its decision. There will be no broadcast of the call to prayer.

David Graham (no relation to Franklin) reported in The Atlantic on line that Omid Safi, Director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center said that the University’s response was understandable since there had been "numerous verified instances of credible threats" against leaders of the University. "My disappointment is primarily directed toward people who find it acceptable to have recourse to violence, even the threat of violence, to make the point they want to make—particularly if they see these threats as being substantiated by their own religious conviction." he explained. "We all know about the Muslim community having our crazies, but it seems like we don’t have a monopoly on it."

To be clear, neither Ms. Pratte nor Rev. Graham was calling for violence, but in our hyper-sensitized times the threats are not surprising.

In the Atlantic article, the other David Graham comments, “Now, one might argue that while Duke's gesture was well-intentioned, the timing was wrong—why rile people up at a moment when nerves are already on edge about Islam? But I think it's the other way around. There's no time when it is as essential to stand on the side of a minority as when that group is under fire.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for helping us to sort out the "truth" from what the news unequivocally announces as fact! wish reporting was more fact than opinion.