Throughout this piece I will be using the words “Church of Interfaith”. This ironic, but I believe accurate, phrase refers to what I take to be the fact that most interfaith Christians – this is much less so for other interfaithers’ religions and not at all for Muslims - effectively see “the interfaith movement” as a substitute for Christianity. Thus it’s not just that they explain and justify Christianity to the members of other faiths (which I doubt they do much anyway); but that the notion of interfaith itself has become a kind of religion. After all, there is all long history of “syncretic religions” - especially in the West. (Though because most religions are syncretic in nature it may be best to compare Interfaith with the Theosophical Society whose primary normative role was to “break down the barriers” between religions.)
The prime motivation appears to be that these interfaith Christians take Christianity to have had a bad history (the Crusades against innocent Islam/Muslims and all that), bad traditions, as well as bad theologies. Because of this they feel the strong need to justify everything Christian only in reference to other religions. Without that interfaith “outreach” to other religions, Christianity, and therefore these interfaith Christians, would buckle under the burden of an enormous guilt. Thus Christianity can only justify itself through interfaith – through making connections with other (better?) religions.
And it’s because all this has been taken so far, and has become such a fundamental part of so much contemporary Christianity, that the Church of Interfaith has become a substitute for the Christian Church.
The Christian Members of the Church of Interfaith
I believe that many Church of Interfaith Christians are primarily appeasing Islam and the negative/destructive behaviour of Muslims (as Muslims) because they may see themselves as tapping into the various Christian traditions of ‘tolerance’ and 'turning the other cheek'. (I also believe they are being "morally self-indulgent", as the moral philosopher Bernard Williams once put it. They are grandstanding their own piety or extreme goodness vis-a-vis all Islam, as well as all Muslim behaviour.)
Specifically on Christ's "turning the other cheek" and, I suppose, his ostensible pacifism. I know that there have been millions of words written on this subject; but there is a sort-of logical point which can be made here. Surely Jesus would have realised, quite readily, that there’s a limit to his - or anyone else’s - turning the other cheek.
For example, the logical outcome of turning the other cheek for Christ is that he might well have been killed for so doing – before his message had been spread. (Maybe that's what did happen in the end.) Not only that. Turning the other cheek might have resulted in his beliefs, his relation to God, etc., being expunged from human history and human consciousness. There might have been a kind of Year Zero for Christ as well as for Christianity.
It seems obvious to me that Christ could never have turned the other cheek to such an extreme degree. Yet this is what many – or all? – Church-of-Interfaith Christians are doing. Or, at the very least, their turning the other cheek to Islam’s imperialism (religious, political and geographic), and to destructive and negative Muslim behaviour, could literally result in the effacement of their own religion, Christianity, from the face of the earth. Surely, just like Christ, they could/should not accept that.
But maybe that’s the ultimate example of Church-of-Interfaith tolerance. The ultimate turning of the other cheek. That is, these ultra-pious Church-of-Interfaith Christians (pious only in relation to Islam/Muslims) may well be happy to see their own religion annihilated by Islam. Could you be more tolerant and peaceful than that? Could there ever be such an extreme Christian inversion of Islam’s imperialism and jihadism?
It has been suggested to me, by a practising Christian, that the Christians, usually of the Church-of-Interfaith variety, who stress Christianity’s tolerance and its turning of the other cheek would change their minds, suddenly and radically, when their own lives are threatened. And that’s the crux of the matter when it comes to Interfaith Christianity. Most C-of-I Christians, whether in the UK or in the US, are members of the secure and prosperous middle class whose lives have never been threatened in any way. But the terrible and absurd thing is that they judge Islam, and the behaviour of millions of Muslims, from this secure and prosperous position.
But the world in not an interfaith meeting. Millions upon millions of Muslims, even some of those Muslims who use Church of Interfaith meetings for Islamic dawah, are nothing like the friends they talk to at dinner parties when they discuss the exotic charms and innocence of Islam. Millions upon millions of Muslims would like to kill these Church-of-Interfaith Christians because they are still, well, Christians (to them). Millions upon millions of other Muslims would either like to convert them or impose a dhimmi-status upon those who don’t convert.
Part of the ideology of Church-of-Interfaith Christianity goes like this (if simplistically and ironically stated):
Christianity/Christians = white = imperialist, etc. = like mummy, daddy, granddaddy, etc. = bad
Islam/Muslims = brown = exotic = holistic [totalitarian], spiritual, etc. = not like mummy, daddy, granddaddy, etc. = good
In any case, Church-of-Interfaith Christians, amongst other lesser things, are the main reason why Christianity is dying in the UK. It has very little, if anything, to do with ‘secularist groups’ or the Richard Dawkins of this world. These pampered members of the English middle class are also responsible for the fact that the beast of Islam is feasting and burgeoning on the death of everything but itself.