Lecture on The Kite Runner challenges students' reaction to faith differences
So as we begin to talk about our own experience with faith differences, let’s reflect for a moment on Amir’s experience with differences. Think of the different types of human diversity that are represented in the book. We have examples of ethnic and racial diversity, don’t we? We have the difference, even the historical clashes and tension, between the Pashtuns and the Hazaras. We have socioeconomic differences that separate Amir and Hassan, the one who is served, and the one who serves. We have educational differences, touching scenes in the book where the literate Amir reads to the pre-literate Hassan. And then don’t forget the religious differences, the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam that are part of the backdrop of the book, very much a part of the backdrop of much of current events in our globe.
So Amir and other characters in The Kite Runner were living their lives in a context full of different people, people whose lives were formed by all kinds of differences. And so it is with you and I.
Now, Amir, I think, over time as the book develops, learns to handle these differences in a healthier, more positive way. I like to think of the book as being a study in character development. As Amir matures and learns, develops into a man, as he moves from childhood to adulthood, as he moves from a very confused identity at the beginning to the book to at the end a clear sense of his own identity and who he was, he moves from a very defensive reaction to the differences that confronted him to embracing action.
Now this was his experience. But I wonder, how do you and I do, handling differences? How do we do, specifically for tonight, in handling theological and religious diversity or differences?
Some of you come from communities, churches, schools, families, where everyone held pretty much the same beliefs about faith and about life. And perhaps already here at Messiah College you have a roommate or people on your floor or certainly people in your classes who you’ve learned, even though they are Christian, they use different different words to describe their faith than you do. They may look to different books of the Bible more frequently than you do. Perhaps already in your experience here at Messiah you’ve encountered a degree of theological difference that you’d not experienced before. I venture to say if that hasn’t happened to you yet, it will.
Because we are a wonderfully rich diverse community here, and even though our faith convictions, our Christian convictions, are very dear to all of us, we hold to them differently. And so how do we do when it comes to encountering those faith differences? Are we like Hassan?
I suspect we are and at times feel threatened by these differences. Someone holds their faith a bit differently? Uses different words to explain it? And we feel threatened. We may even feel defensive. We may even feel that if we listen to this other person, if we build a friendship with this other person, then maybe we might be guilty of compromising or in some way diminishing our own faithfulness. And so that can lead us to avoidance. I hear this more often than I would like: “you know, so-and-so doesn’t agree with me, or I don’t agree with them, so we just don’t talk about it.” Has that happened to you? Has that happened in your family? Yes, unfortunately it does. Unfortunately, when many of us are faced with differences, that’s the way we react – by avoiding the subject.
There are a lot of problems with that, and I want to mention just a few in a moment. But I wanted to transition here with this wonderful quote by Jonathan Swift: “We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.” I don’t know if that’s true for you, but too often it’s true for me. I have enough conviction about my faith to cause me to feel angry with people who may not share that conviction in just the same way I do. Yet often I don’t have enough of that faith, that Christ-like faith, to love. So how do we handle these differences?
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