Across the Great Divide | Sojourners

Across the Great Divide

I can remember it like yesterday. It was three weeks before my wedding day -- Sept. 10, 2001. The next morning my brother woke me up just before the first tower crumbled.

Since 9/11, I've traveled the world many times over. Some have called me a "freelance missionary," since in any given year I can end up visiting just about any country on the planet. Out of all the places that I've been and all the people I've met along the way, one experience stands out that continues to shape my attitude toward how Christians should (and shouldn't) engage Muslims today.

It was shortly after I moved back to the U.S. from Senegal. A filmmaker named Stephen Marshall was looking for a zealous Christian missionary to participate in a feature-length documentary film about the role that religion plays in the post-9/11 clash between Christianity and Islam. I was the zealous Christian missionary.

Marshall came to my home, interviewed me along with my family, and asked us about how our faith affects our views on capitalism, democracy, Iraq, Afghanistan, the so-called war on terror, and everything else under the sun. A few weeks after the interview, I accompanied Marshall to Pakistan to demonstrate to him the plight of Christian minorities living in predominately Muslim countries. I was glad I got that point across. I thought my work was done.

Then Marshall told me about Khalid.

Khalid is an Irishman who converted to Islam in a Saudi Arabian prison. Khalid believes that democracy is human-made law, and that the hope of the world lies in Islamic sharia law. He also believes that 9/11 was "defensive jihad," a just retribution for the presence of U.S. troops in Muslim lands, U.S. support of Israel, the sanctions in Iraq that (according to UNICEF) killed 500,000 children, and U.S. support for dictators throughout the Muslim world.

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