I mentioned yesterday that Samir Selmanovic’s book Its Really All About God is the most challenging book I have read this year so I thought that it was time to tell you why.
Though Samir has a strong Christian faith he believes that God must also be found outside the boundaries of our own particular faith tradition. In other words he believes that Christians need Jews and Muslims and even atheists to stretch their understanding of who God is. Looking for and finding God in others who are very different from ourselves is meant to be at the centre not the outskirts of our religious experience he contends.
Selmanovic has an amazing life story. He grew up in a Muslim family in Croatia and was converted to Christianity while serving as a soldier in the Yugoslavian army. Though his family were not particularly religious, they shunned him after his conversion. His subsequent struggles deepened his Christian faith but also taught him to value the worldview of others. He is now co-leader of Faith House Manhatten, hich brings Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists and humanists together to explore and find ways of living interdependently.
My favourite quote from the book:
In Jewish thought and belief, God first provided empty space for life to be created and continues to provide empty spaces in which creation can continue. According to the rabbis of old, one of the ways the creation continues is through spirited conversations in which we are in a disagreement – the highest form of discourse. When we take a stand and pull the argument in our own direction, we create an empty space between us, a possibility for the emergence of a truly new idea, an unexpected solution, a way forward.” (p175)
I love this concept that implies that all humanity needs to be included in a conversation that creates rather than destroys. We need people in our midst of different religious perspectives and cultures so that in the creative tension between us new ideas are created and new understanding of God emerges. A God that is revealed only through our own perspectives is a very small God.
The struggle is that this kind of creative dialogue requires an attitude of humility and a posture of learning. It is a real challenge for all of us who have grown up to believe that we have the corner on truth about God and religion.
Western culture has trained us to believe that we are here to teach the world how to live and we do it out of an arrogance that says our way is the best and only way to live. However I agree with Samir. The pinnacle of success is not becoming a teacher but becoming a learner, particularly learning to live with the creative discourse that is present in the midst of disagreement.
This is a very thought provoking book. I think that it is a must read for all of us who want to deepen our faith in a way that moves us towards peace and understanding in our complex world. Breaking down the barriers between peoples, religions and cultures should be at the heart of our faith and Its Really All About God is a great place to start in moving toward this understanding.
Also check out this interview with Samir