Competing Christianities

David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, wrote a very compelling piece last week. The Terry Jones Koran-burning saga was the impetus, but he touches on a number of topics that hit home:

“I remember the first time it became crystal clear to me that there is no such thing as Christianity, but only competing Christianities. It was when I was working on my doctoral dissertation on Christians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. During that time I attended a most remarkable conference in New York on hidden children of the Holocaust. This gathering brought together the now-grown adults who had hidden from the Nazis to survive. Some of these children were saved by Christian families.

The most memorable speaker for me was a hidden child, and now a sociologist, named Nechama Tec. A Polish Jew, she survived the war hiding with Christians. She was asked after her address whether it was Christianity that motivated her rescuers. Her unforgettable response went like this: ‘It wasn’t just any kind of Christianity that would motivate a rescuer. Only a certain kind of Christianity would lead someone to risk their lives for us.’

A certain kind of Christianity — the phrase stayed with me. It is enormously helpful. From hard experience, young Nechama Tec learned the difference between versions of Christianity that teach hatred of the religious/ethnic other and versions that teach sacrificial and inclusive love. Her very survival depended on being able to tell the difference between these competing Christianities and the people who embodied them.”

Read the whole thing. His closing paragraph about competing versions of Islam seems right on to me.

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