Today's guest blogger is Peter Brown, 23, is a recent graduate from CMU. He recently took a trip to Iran (May 25 - June 15) for interfaith dialogues. He travelled to Qom, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Tehran. The following are some reflections that resulted from the interfaith dialogue.
Women cannot preach. Homosexuality is wrong. Women must cover themselves to prevent men from being led into sinful thoughts and actions. Men and women must be separated in worship to prevent distraction. We must fight our enemies and if they threaten innocent lives we ought to kill them. We can prove that God exists and we can know with certainty how God wants us to live.
Are these statements self-evident to you as truth? Do you find yourself half or wholly agreeing with some or all? Do you reject them all?
I recently took a trip to Iran, in participation with CMU, MCC, and EMU, partnering with Shia Muslim Scholars from Qom in an inter-faith dialogue. Why were we there? Because we were invited. Following the massive 1990 earthquake in Iran MCC made it's way into Iran. When the Iranians saw the Mennonites conviction to relief action, they saw a kind of Christian which they had not encountered before and wanted to know what made them different (and perhaps convert them to Islam). So it was that Mennonite scholars were invited into dialogue with Shia-muslim scholars and this was their sixth dialogue in these many years.
The list above, which began this article, are statements which I heard argued on this trip and I have put them under the title self-evident truths. It is important to note that these are positions argued by specific group and do not reflect all Iranian or Muslim voices. 'Self-evident truths' was a term which was heard early on in our time in Iran, but which left us to grapple with the implications of subverting or supporting faith with questionable rationality.
“First we prove God then we go from there.” Hearing those words unsettled me tremendously. Prove God? To do such a thing not only seems impossible without refusing to challenge ones assumptions, but also denies the role of faith and most terrifying of all if you can prove God what else can you prove? What else can you justify? Whose God are you proving and how does proving God in anyway tell you how God wants humanity to live with certainty?
These are the 'truths' I encountered - but if we hold them as truths, self-evident, we can be sure that we will oppress and abuse those we claim to love. Without ambiguity and self questioning we are all tyrants who propagate the evil we claim to limit through our implementation of control over others. This is why our law must be love, for a law found in unchanging words and imagination cannot help from becoming a prison which limits love rather than evil.
Gifts become curses and passions become demons when we claim to hold truth; we deny space for God, and most importantly for Jesus, who fulfills the law so that we may be free to love. Consider the prison of self evidence and take a moment to see the beauty that God is showing through someone else's capacity to give and receive love. Then ask yourself what you know about truth and see if it is so self-evident.
Thank you, Peter Brown.