A Christian and a Muslim Walk Into a Restaurant …

That was Eboo Patel and I a few weeks back in Chicago. We both released books on religious identity and hostility recently – his, Sacred Ground, and mine, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? He was kind enough to come out for my book tour event in the windy city, and we had some time to talk about our books and our shared work after my lecture.
John W. Morehead is the first (that I’m aware of) to review the two books together – and I hope he won’t be the last to see the many commonalities between Eboo’s sensibilities and my own. As I read Sacred Ground recently, I kept underlining quotations that I could have written, and I hope Eboo felt the same way when he read my book. Yet neither of us is advocating putting our respective religions in a blender and hitting puree to create a religious smoothie … we are advocating for strong, distinct religious identities … but identities that see in the other not an enemy to be feared, not a competitor to be vanquished or colonized, and not a demon to be exorcised, but rather a neighbor to be known, understood, appreciated, loved, and collaborated with for the common good.
In the coming weeks I’ll be posting some of my favorite quotes from Sacred Ground. I highly recommend this excellent book … especially in the aftermath of an election season that has managed to whip up some of the most unsavory elements of our national and religious psyche. Here’s one fascinating sample. Frequently in the book, Patel contrasts voices of hostility to the other (like Peter Stuyvesant in the 17th century) with more encouraging voices, such as that of Edwart Hart:

In the mid-seventeenth century, the Dutch director-general of what was then New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, banned Quaker prayer meetings. Quakers were viewed as … “seducers of the people” who posed a threat to his city….
But Edward Hart, the town clerk of … [Flushing, Queens] was determined that this land would be different…. The Flushing Remonstrance of 1757 [said]: “The law of love, peace, and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sons of Adam… Whatsoever form, name, or title hee appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist, or Quaker, but shall be glad to see anything of God in them…. Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses.” (13)