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Christian Responses

Response from Prof. Kenneth Vaux

Comment on the Document “Common Word”

Cambridge University, where I am now a Fellow in Interfaith Studies, has just released (October, 2007) a remarkable document from world leaders of Islam entitled ‘Common Word’ which affirms the deep spiritual and ethical affinity it has with Christianity based on the ’Common Bond’ of the ‘Love of God and Neighbor.’ The mischievous Enlightenment phrase, usually joined with something like ‘upward and onward forever and ever’ may bind these two global faiths together, but the ligature is regrettably mostly in wish and hope and not in fact, Still the goal toward peace and justice is commendable especially as we hold ourselves accountable to the same God—the same One and Only God, the God of creation and redemption—the God of the whole world and the future. How will this encouraging declaration be received in these ‘Apocalyptic Times’ when ‘wars’ and ‘rumors of wars’ are rife, especially in the sacred lands where it is said and believed , that Jesus walked, Muhammad ascended to heaven and, here’s the catch, Abraham offered his son to God the Father. The document is markedly silent on the paternal faith of these two sibling movements which now constitute well beyond half of the world’s population.

This is to be expected when this world—Abraham’s seed— now in faith become his dream of the multitudinous stars of the sky and sands of the seashore—is gripped by ‘Fear and Trembling’ as the heritage of this father and the mischief of these sons terrifies the earth: Israel holds Muslim Palestine in seemingly permanent oppression and exile; the dispensationalist (countdown to Zion) Christian Right holds its American administration, feet to fire, in its invasion and occupation of Iraq with the promise of more to come (Iran?); All the while Muslim suicide bombers keep the world on edge each night where Woody Allen’s Peaceable Kingdom is all too present where ‘Wolf and lamb lie down together and the lamb doesn’t get much sleep.’

If the document’s ominous silence on Judaism is innocent of the charge that Hebrew faith is a ‘past number’— like DH Lawrence’s JESUS, a minor player thanks to Christian fratricide which has achieved the blasphemy of killing one of every two Jews born since Jesus the Jew walked the earth, through Conquests, Crusades and ‘Final Solution’—nevertheless let us celebrate it’s tenor and truth.

I’m afraid however, that we may have, in this long overdue document, subliminally, at least, the wish that Israel would wither away passively to the force of supercessionism, like the statues on the cathedrals in old Gaul Nord, where Judentum shrivels while Christentum thrives. Such Nietzschean deicide yearns that the denoument of ‘the God of Israel’ would hurry along and Feuerbach’s apotheosis would get on with Hashem’s now orphaned two younger swashbuckling sons and let the elder brother wallow away his resources in the pig-stye wastage of post-sacred history. We earnestly hope for the eventual full-orbed Abrahamic declaration promised in this preliminary piece. For now we will celebrate and go to work on it’s implementation.

I believe that these three sibling faiths belong to the same father. I believe that they will and must endure out into world history and people Israel will remain as avant garde of the Lord’s Tikkun Olam (repair of the world). Israel’s presence and her testimony to the God of Israel must not be lost in this dark night of the world’s travail toward redemption. And as the younger sons of the ’Common Word’ we, together with Israel, must find fraternal bond in the universal truth given the world in HER scriptures which we now share: “You shall not avenge, but love your neighbor as yourself, I AM THE LORD” ( Leviticus 19:18).