Monday, April 07, 2008

Muslim-Christian Dialog Regarding The Veil and Beyond

A Muslim writer, Al-Muhajabah, has an article The Veil in Christianity, I would assume it to be directed toward his fellow Muslims as a defense of Muslim practices and possibly as a way of showing of Christian practices do not line up with our own Scriptures. I may be wrong in assuming this because there is also indications of a desire for multi-faith dialog. It was also reprinted in the Pakistan News website Pakistan Daily. The Pakistan Daily edition is how I found it in my Google News daily news cruise.

1 Corinthians 10:3-10 is a highly problematic passage about head coverings for women during worship and the husband being the head of the wife. We Christians who regard the Bible as God's Word must deal with the passage by asking if the passage must be taken as a prescription for women and men in all cultures and all ages or is the passage dealing with a cultural situation that must be interpreted. Al-Muhajabah in interpreting 1 Corinthians 11:3-20 takes this as prescriptive which certainly many Christians have also. My interpretation would say this passage is not prescriptive in the same sense that the commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me." The first of the 10 Commandments is prescriptive for all time. According to the biblical commentator Anthony C. Thiselton (page 170) that in Roman society there was a custom that women wore their hair one of several ways to communicate whether they were single and available or married and respectable. The head covering would have communicated intent to be faithful to one's husband or not, as I understand it. So a young woman of marriageable age would not have worn this until she was married is how I read it. The idea of man being the head of the woman would mean within marriage where love for one another in a mutual respect reigns, not society in general as a harsh pecking order. The shaved head, again according to Thiselton, means communicates that the woman is of low reputation such as a slave. The woman at Corinth seem to have been experimenting with their new freedom in Christ but did not think through all the logical implications of that freedom and new found status. Clearly from Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:11 the relation between a husband and wife is one of mutual love, mutual respect and mutual interdependence. The application in the US would be a man or woman not wearing a wedding ring in order to say they are free in Christ but everyone around them interpreting it to mean that he or she is available for a sexual liaison. Clothes communicate many things. The head covering for the early church had a meaning that does not translate into modern western society. Even if a Christian woman wore a head covering like the Roman women did, it would not communicate the same thing. The head covering would be mistaken for communicating the woman was of a different religion than she is or it would be seen as an odd way of declaring that she was of an exclusive sect of Christianity. By the way, most of the sects that practice head coverings for women are exclusive sects.

I do welcome interfaith dialog. I'm not sure the parting shot at Christian women is in the spirit of interfaith dialog. But at the same time, I find when I am in dialog with those of another faith, my most common type of other religion with whom I am in dialog is the skeptic who believes there is no way to determine one religion over another, I think we often misunderstand each other. This is the hard part of interfaith dialog. When I say that the God of the Bible demands my exclusive loyalty and desires to be known as a Trinity, I am being narrow and perhaps a bigot to some. When the religious inclusive say they accept all religions including mine, I hear something different than what they may mean. I hear that God's command for exclusive, faithful worship is subsumed in modern attempts at peace. I hear the opposite of the command to worship God faithfully. I'm sure that is not what is meant, but I'm also sure how I see the issue. When I see the Jewish man worshiping God who is not the God of the Trinity, I think he is attempting to obey the Scripture. If he worships the Trinity without believing in the Trinity, he would be breaking the first commandment. In that sense, I respect him though I count his holding to the one God without a full understanding of nature of the one God.

Religious dialog is interesting, it helps to clarify issues and can help with peacemaking, even if we disagree on everything. Let us talk; skeptic, Jew, and Muslim. I'm listening.
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