By: Danny Davis, intern at the Niagara Foundation
David Liepert’s Christian, Muslim, & Jew: Finding a Path to Peace Our Faiths Can Share is an analysis of the three core texts of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and their message of peace and tolerance that the human family has seemed to casually glance over for much of its existence. Liepert posits the following question: If there are far more similarities between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, why is there so much interfaith conflict? To shed light on the matter, Liepert takes us through a focused analysis of the core texts to try and get to the roots of interfaith conflict. Through his work as both a historian and a theologian, Liepert reaches the heart of the issue through the intense scrutiny of Bible, Torah, and Quran passages and enlightening accounts of historical events that contribute to the problem of interfaith conflict.
Liepert asks: why religious conflict? He searches for an explanation and then a solution by examining the three critical parts of what contributes to a religion: The core text of the religion, the interpretation of the text, and the followers relationships with god.
Liepert begins by examining each core text. Each section on the New Testament, Quran, and Torah follows a tight formula, which makes sense, but eventually comes to feel repetitive. He introduces a passage from the New Testament, The Quran, or the Torah that carries a message of being kind to neighbors or foreigners and so on. He then goes on to analyze how just how blatant the message of kindness, peace, and tolerance is in each core text, and just how impossible it is to misinterpret these passages as an excuse for rape, murder, racism, and sectarian conflict. It’s a formula he repeats through approximately half the the book. It is this repetitiveness that is part of the lesson Liepert wants to teach readers. He analyzes countless passages from each core text that have the same message of peace and tolerance over and over. He arms the reader with plenty of material from each core text to bring up in their own dialogues on interfaith relations.
The second aspect of interfaith conflict Liepert examines is the interpretation of the core texts. Liepert argues that one problem with religious conflict is that we are devoted to the teachings of our clergy and not to god himself. Because politics and religion are so intertwined, this leads to religious values often reflecting political goals of the state the religion is practiced in. This is a problem because it is much easier for politics to shape religion than it is for religion to shape politics. Liepert believes the way to solve this problem is for each and every individual to examine their respective core texts for themselves and decide what to take away from the text. That way, people aren’t relying on an adulterated interpretation of the core texts as a primary source for religious guidance.
The final part of his solution is to change the way people view the customs of a religion and their relationship with god. Liepert sees the current state of religious affairs as a result of people losing touch with their relationship with god. If each religion emphasizes one’s devotion to god, why all the fighting? As a theologian, Liepert’s solution is to restore the relationship we have with god. If more people were genuinely devoted to God and not what we think God wants, we could take the first step towards celebrating religious diversity on a global level. Those who aren’t particularly religious or those who have expertise in fields other than theology may find this solution too innocent, idealistic and perhaps narrow. However, as pundits, politicians, and entire nations continue to squabble over different policies to encourage peace, perhaps Liepert is right in suggesting that we all seek God and only God’s guidance no matter what way we chose to do so. Whether Liepert will prompt you to do this is up to you. The message of the book may resonate stronger with those who take their faith in God seriously. Those who do not will still find this book an interesting read. Liepert arms both the religious and secular reader with facts, bible passages, and digestible historical accounts of religious conflict that readers can bring to the table when engaging in interfaith dialogue.
Liepert is a heartfelt, eccentric, and intelligent theologian with a clear point and a sense of humor. Personally, I think many people around the world would love to see more people focus on love and respect rather than sectarian and interfaith divide. It then is just a matter of people learning the ‘right stuff’ to argue that point in a dialogue about interfaith conflict. Bring along Christian, Muslim, and Jew for a long drive or flight. In a brief ten hours of reading, you’ll be a more enlightened and empowered promoter of interfaith collaboration!