If you’ve browsed elsewhere on my site you may have come across a note saying that I was working on a new ‘Conversation’. This one has been inspired by my visits to my dentist. She is a Muslim and I am a Christian. While she poked around inside my mouth we chatted, as best we could, about most things but importantly about faith and the way we tried to live our lives. I learnt a little about her faith and, I hope, she learnt something about mine.
When the course of treatment came to an end I began to realise that I needed to know more. A long while ago, while sat in Regent’s Park in London, someone said – pointing at the nearby Mosque – that there was the greatest threat to Christianity in this country. Asked for a further explanation he went on to ask how would it be possible to square one faith that said ‘love thy neighbour’ with another that proclaimed they must ‘kill the unbeliever’.
Now, I did say this was a while ago. When we look at what is happening on the wider world stage, particularly at this time of the year, it might be easy to assume that conflict is in full swing. However, over the times since that conversation, I have met several Muslims and learnt a little more about their traditions. Since the conversations alongside the dentist chair I have learnt more – particularly since researching for the play I hope one day to complete.
I have found many things in common between the two faiths – as well as some that divide us. I am not a sufficient academic or expert to speculate about that sort of thing, but one aspect has struck me this week which I’d like to share with you.
From my reading the Qur’an is written and studied in Arabic. This is because this is the language in which it was revealed to Mohamed. Any translation is not acceptable to some or all followers of Islam. I do hope I’ve got that right.
The Christian Bible is also proclaimed as the inspired word of God. Despite the fact that the earliest texts of the Old Testament are written in Hebrew and those of the New Testament are recorded in a version of Greek, both were translated into Latin around the 4th. Century C.E. One reference I’ve just read said the motivation for this was so that ordinary people could read it. For ‘ordinary’ read educated or, more simply, those who could read!
The point I came across this week was that it was written in Latin because it was thought that was the language God spoke. This reflected with early accounts where the power for proclamation and interpretation of the word was into the hands of those who were educated and trained to understand that language. Of course, all this came to a head at the time of the reformation and has led to the diversity of translations and versions of the Christian ‘word of God’ that we have today. And, naturally, there are equally as many, if not more, interpretations.
But I want to get down to the personal level. I want to look at the way we talk – or are seen to talk – to God. Many of you who read this will have heard or said what is called the prayer that Jesus taught us – the Lord’s Prayer. You know the one. It begins “Our Father, who art in heaven …” If you attend or listen to any broadcast act of Christian worship I’m betting you’ll hear the same sort of language used in the less formal prayers. I’m not saying they’re be full of thee’s and thou’s, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they were. Nearly always we seem to use a special language to talk to God.
However, as a follower of Jesus I always remember that he tells me that I’m to call God daddy. That’s what the first two words in the Lord’s Prayer actually mean if traced back to the Biblical Greek. Unless you are truly unfortunate you don’t use a special set of words to talk to your daddy. You tell him how much you love him, how much you’re hurting and what you think are your desperate needs are in an everyday personal way. And you know that he is listening. And you know that he cares.
It’s the same with God. You don’t need to use any special way of talking or some formal words to talk to him. Just be yourself. Know he listens and cares as well.