Joshua Graves
Exploring the Collision of Culture & Faith
May 6, 2016
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April 28, 2015

*Special props to David T. Woodard for his tremendous work on this.

April 16, 2015

Here’s an excerpt from my newly released book, How Not to Kill a Muslim. If you want to listen to two different interviews I’ve done about the book, they are available HERE and HERE. Two different popular religion blogs have also reviewed the book. Those can be accessed HERE and HERE.

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My latest book is HOW NOT TO KILL A MUSLIM: A PEACE MANIFESTO FOR CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS LIVING IN NORTH AMERICA (Cascade Wipf and Stock, March/April 2015).

For the last several years, I’ve conducted research (academically and personally) regarding the way Christians view Muslims. The results should concern people of different faiths committed to truth, understanding, and dialog. While it is easy (as I will demonstrate below) to mix up global Christianity and global Islam with North American Christianity and North American Islam . . .  my primary research interest has been how the tension and stereotypes affect religious and cultural life in the U.S. While Christians (2.5 billion) and Muslims (1.2 billion) make up about half the world’s population, the United States is less than 2% Muslim. That is, there are only about 3-6 million Muslims living in the U.S. There are more Detroit Tigers fans in the U.S. than there are Muslims.

The Muslim male portrayed in cartoon form is predictable. He is the one with sinister squinty eyes, large nose, and kafiyya (Arab headdress) rubbing his hands, asking where he can get a pickup truck and a homemade bomb. Or, he’s the one standing with a sign that reads, Death to All American Infidels next to a minister whose sign reads Pray for Peace. Or he’s pointing to a chart that targets Manhattan, nursery schools, nursing homes, and maternity wards, asking whether there are other nominations before the vote on which to bomb first.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who have been made in God’s likeness,” (3:9). My friend, John Barton, highlights the problem.[1]

Muslim/Christian interactions are often about as rational and helpful as what is depicted in the comedy routine between Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert on the Daily Show in which they argue over which religion is better. Like all good comedy, this piece entertains while it delivers a sharp indictment. It mocks the inappropriate ways Christians and Muslims often employ apologetics or “power encounter” tactics; it belies assumptions that Christian/Muslim interactions must involve political positioning and debates over superiority, or that the primary purpose of interactions is to address conflicting visions of salvation. It also playfully critiques the idea that the only Christian/Muslim alliances that are possible are those built on the shared mistrust of a common opponent (e.g. Jews). As Christians, we need to promote a different posture for Christian reflection and missional engagement with Islam and our Muslim neighbors.

So go the stereotypes: the Christian is a wealthy middle-class white man who loves war, women, beer, NFL football, edgy comedy, fast-food, and even faster cars. The Muslim is the poor, illiterate, angry simpleton who hates freedom, treats his wife harshly, and longs for the day when the United States becomes a fully Muslim nation by way of Shari’ah Law. While the previous might be alarming, it captures prevailing stereotypes. According to C.A.I.R. (the Council on American Islamic Relations), American Muslims face daunting stereotypes in the country of their citizenship.[2]

Think about it. When is the last time you read a book, watched a movie, or enjoyed a T.V. program in which a Muslim character was portrayed as honest, virtuous, and heroic? As I crafting this blog for Scot, I was reminded  of a tweet from a well-known musician (you can’t make this stuff up)[3]:

No wonder middle-east countries are hard to get along with
No NASCAR
No Football
No alcohol
No country music
And they don’t eat pork chops

Fear and stereotype are big business. Don’t believe me? Just watch Fox News or CNN or the television drama, 24. Negative images of Muslims in the media are 16 times more pervasive than positive images. About 1 in 4 Americans believe in anti-Muslim canards (Muslims teach their children to hate; value life less than other people).Those with the most negative attitudes toward Muslims tend to be the following: male, white, less educated, politically conservative. When asked what comes to mind when they hear Muslim, 32 percent of people surveyed made negative comments; only 2 percent had a positive response. A Washington Post-ABC news poll uncovered that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. This same study also found that 25 percent of Americans admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims.

Robert Wuthnow, American sociologist and ethnographer, confirms C.A.I.R.’s findings. In his landmark book, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, he captures some of the troubling attitudes of conservative Christians towards Muslims in America.

55% of conservative Christians believe that Muslims are fanatical.

52% believe that Muslims are violent.

66% believe that Muslims are closed-minded.

58% believe that Muslims are strange.

Only 26% believe that Muslims are peace-loving.

55% indicated that they do not want the Muslim population to increase (whatsoever) in the United States.

79% stated they would object to one of their children marrying a Muslim with a good education from a good home.

62% noted they would not support a mosque built in their community. [4]

I interpret all of the following statistics through one lens. The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.

In a post-modern, post-Christian society like the U.S. the coming test of Christianity is in what we (in the local church) have to offer those who do not consider themselves Christian. Our good news can’t just be good news for us. It’s supposed to be good news for the whole world; the entire cosmos.

That project starts with exposing cheap caricatures. I hope you will consider purchasing HOW NOT TO KILL A MUSLIM.

Dr. Joshua Graves is author of The Feast, and Heaven on Earth (with Chris Seidman). His next book–How Not to Kill a Muslim–comes out in March, 2015 (Cascade Books). You can check out his blog (www.joshuagraves.com) or follow him on twitter (@joshgraves). Josh has writes occasionally for online resources like: Patheos, Jesus Creed, and FOX NEWS. He serves as lead minister for Otter Creek Church.
______________________________

[2] American Muslims: A Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslim, 46.

[3] May 18, 2014: https://twitter.com/CharlieDaniels/status/468187316310142976. Also, I have no idea why football is capitalized.

[4] Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, 56ff. In this section I’m quoting stats from Wuthnow’s heading Christian exclusivists—conservative Christianity.

Top Image from zawaj.com

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/06/18/stereotypes-and-muslims-by-josh-graves/#ixzz3NUkPYMUW

December 31, 2014

 

mm2 2

My next book is HOW NOT TO KILL A MUSLIM: A PEACE MANIFESTO FOR CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS LIVING IN NORTH AMERICA (Cascade Wipf and Stock, March/April 2015).

For the last several years, I’ve conducted research (academically and personally) regarding the way Christians view Muslims. The results should concern people of different faiths committed to truth, understanding, and dialog. While it is easy (as I will demonstrate below) to mix up global Christianity and global Islam with North American Christianity and North American Islam . . .  my primary research interest has been how the tension and stereotypes affect religious and cultural life in the U.S. While Christians (2.5 billion) and Muslims (1.2 billion) make up about half the world’s population, the United States is less than 2% Muslim. That is, there are only about 3-6 million Muslims living in the U.S. There are more Detroit Tigers fans in the U.S. than there are Muslims.

The Muslim male portrayed in cartoon form is predictable. He is the one with sinister squinty eyes, large nose, and kafiyya (Arab headdress) rubbing his hands, asking where he can get a pickup truck and a homemade bomb. Or, he’s the one standing with a sign that reads, Death to All American Infidels next to a minister whose sign reads Pray for Peace. Or he’s pointing to a chart that targets Manhattan, nursery schools, nursing homes, and maternity wards, asking whether there are other nominations before the vote on which to bomb first.

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who have been made in God’s likeness,” (3:9). My friend, John Barton, highlights the problem.[1]

Muslim/Christian interactions are often about as rational and helpful as what is depicted in the comedy routine between Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert on the Daily Show in which they argue over which religion is better. Like all good comedy, this piece entertains while it delivers a sharp indictment. It mocks the inappropriate ways Christians and Muslims often employ apologetics or “power encounter” tactics; it belies assumptions that Christian/Muslim interactions must involve political positioning and debates over superiority, or that the primary purpose of interactions is to address conflicting visions of salvation. It also playfully critiques the idea that the only Christian/Muslim alliances that are possible are those built on the shared mistrust of a common opponent (e.g. Jews). As Christians, we need to promote a different posture for Christian reflection and missional engagement with Islam and our Muslim neighbors.

So go the stereotypes: the Christian is a wealthy middle-class white man who loves war, women, beer, NFL football, edgy comedy, fast-food, and even faster cars. The Muslim is the poor, illiterate, angry simpleton who hates freedom, treats his wife harshly, and longs for the day when the United States becomes a fully Muslim nation by way of Shari’ah Law. While the previous might be alarming, it captures prevailing stereotypes. According to C.A.I.R. (the Council on American Islamic Relations), American Muslims face daunting stereotypes in the country of their citizenship.[2]

Think about it. When is the last time you read a book, watched a movie, or enjoyed a T.V. program in which a Muslim character was portrayed as honest, virtuous, and heroic? As I crafting this blog for Scot, I was reminded  of a tweet from a well-known musician (you can’t make this stuff up)[3]:

No wonder middle-east countries are hard to get along with
No NASCAR
No Football
No alcohol
No country music
And they don’t eat pork chops

Fear and stereotype are big business. Don’t believe me? Just watch Fox News or CNN or the television drama, 24. Negative images of Muslims in the media are 16 times more pervasive than positive images. About 1 in 4 Americans believe in anti-Muslim canards (Muslims teach their children to hate; value life less than other people).Those with the most negative attitudes toward Muslims tend to be the following: male, white, less educated, politically conservative. When asked what comes to mind when they hear Muslim, 32 percent of people surveyed made negative comments; only 2 percent had a positive response. A Washington Post-ABC news poll uncovered that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. This same study also found that 25 percent of Americans admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims.

Robert Wuthnow, American sociologist and ethnographer, confirms C.A.I.R.’s findings. In his landmark book, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, he captures some of the troubling attitudes of conservative Christians towards Muslims in America.

55% of conservative Christians believe that Muslims are fanatical.

52% believe that Muslims are violent.

66% believe that Muslims are closed-minded.

58% believe that Muslims are strange.

Only 26% believe that Muslims are peace-loving.

55% indicated that they do not want the Muslim population to increase (whatsoever) in the United States.

79% stated they would object to one of their children marrying a Muslim with a good education from a good home.

62% noted they would not support a mosque built in their community. [4]

I interpret all of the following statistics through one lens. The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.

In a post-modern, post-Christian society like the U.S. the coming test of Christianity is in what we (in the local church) have to offer those who do not consider themselves Christian. Our good news can’t just be good news for us. It’s supposed to be good news for the whole world; the entire cosmos.

That project starts with exposing cheap caricatures. I hope you will consider purchasing HOW NOT TO KILL A MUSLIM.

Dr. Joshua Graves is author of The Feast, and Heaven on Earth (with Chris Seidman). His next book–How Not to Kill a Muslim–comes out in March, 2015 (Cascade Books). You can check out his blog (www.joshuagraves.com) or follow him on twitter (@joshgraves). Josh has writes occasionally for online resources like: Patheos, Jesus Creed, and FOX NEWS. He serves as lead minister for Otter Creek Church.
______________________________

[2] American Muslims: A Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslim, 46.

[3] May 18, 2014: https://twitter.com/CharlieDaniels/status/468187316310142976. Also, I have no idea why football is capitalized.

[4] Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, 56ff. In this section I’m quoting stats from Wuthnow’s heading Christian exclusivists—conservative Christianity.

Top Image from zawaj.com

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/06/18/stereotypes-and-muslims-by-josh-graves/#ixzz3NUkPYMUW

September 10, 2014

 

Rosary

Symbols are all around us

Vying for our affection and allegiance

Nike. Wear this. You are legit

Warby Parker

BMW –like a NISSAN only better

We put 26.2 on our car (or 0.0)

My kid’s an honor awesome super blah blah blah

An American flag

Apple Stickers 

Our favorite football team

Because symbols are important 

Symbols are symbolic of what we think is important

Symbols are also symbolic of our incessant need to be important

To matter

To be a winner

To scream at the end of life, “I didn’t waste my life.”

***

Then you have the cross

A foolish symbol

A symbol of defeat, loss, shame, hopelessness

Like walking around with a noose on your necklace

What are you doing with a noose?

***

I wear a cross often; a necklace really  (pictured above)

It’s a rosary prayer bead from former Bosnia-Herzegovina 

It reminds me that there is power and then there’s power

When it’s hanging in my car

Draped around my neck

squeezed in my hand at the hospital bed of the sick and dying

There’s power and there’s Power

***

Which brings me to the many verses in the NT regarding the cross (there are many)

Did you notice that they all talk about the cross but that they talk about the cross differently?

A verse about the cross and sin

The cross and righteousness

The cross and humility

The cross and reconciliation

The cross and sin

The cross and death

So which is it? 

Cause it can’t be about more than one thing . . . can it?

The oldest view of the cross (according to people who study is this stuff) is a Latin Word that rolls off the tongue

It’s called Christus Victor

If there was ever a phrase worth tattooing on your body it’s 

CHRISTUS VICTOR

It means that Jesus started the death of death

Sin, shame, violence, evil … those are all death’s servants

Jesus came to end death. Of course he took of all death’s friends. 

We’ve lived as slaves to the fear of death. And we’re sitting in a prison and the door’s not even locked.

 

***

Someone asked me a great question recently

Why do Catholics present a cross with Jesus still on it?

And why do we Protestants have a bunch of cross’s with no Jesus?

The answer is pretty simple.

The Catholic Church understands that Jesus is a Suffering Servant

And calls men and women to enter into the suffering of the world (think Mother Teresa)

Protestants know, historically speaking, Jesus didn’t stay on the cross

He’s alive

So both are right

It’s not this one or this one

It’s “yep.”

The central enemy of God in scripture is the central enemy of God in real life

God’s central enemy is death and all his friends

Jesus knew this

It’s why he went out of his way to be life everywhere he went

You are hungry? If you don’t eat, you will die. Here’s bread

You are sick? If you are not healed, you will die. Here are new legs

Life oozed out of Jesus because God is life and Jesus is from God 

So wear that cross

Rock it

And don’t be afraid of death

Because death is dying

Haven’t you heard?

June 11, 2014

Blogging has come to a screeching halt.  Chalk it up to writing some posts for Scot McKnight (here, here, and here), a deadline for a book I have coming out in 2015 on Islam and Christianity in North America, church life, life life, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it hard (since starting a blog in the early 2000s) to blog on a consistent basis. I’ve had seasons in which I’ve blogged 15-20 times a month, and others seasons in which I wrote one post per month. The people who do it regularly (like this BEAST of a BLOGGER, OMG) simply amaze me.

Here are some random musings, stories, observations, books, and updates.

Kara and I celebrate 10 years of marriage in July. Boom. She’s a special, special woman.

Frank Viola responded to a series of posts written about disappointment with the local church. I think Viola was responding to me and some other friends. I obviously don’t think he “heard” what we were trying to say. UPDATE: Frank reached out to me and clarified he had not read any of the pieces on McKnight posts. I was wrong. Mea culpa.

I am currently in the middle of an Otter Creek Church teaching series on work and calling. I have enjoyed this series as much as any teaching series I’ve ever done. Not just because I did a series on death prior to but I love seeing the myriad ways God calls people into full engagement and creativity.

Detroit Trip. I just spent 3 days in Detroit with my twin brother and three friends. It was incredible. There’s no city in America that has my heart like Detroit. I love Nashville (#realtalk) but Detroit is so hard to explain. The ultimate paradox. We ate Lebanese food, debated the meaning of life with our Muslim waiter, watched baseball, talked life, sports, and more sports. Full. Very full.

We are almost to the point where we can play family 2×2 baseball and basketball games. I. Love. Nothing. More.

How has Fred Gray stayed anonymous? He’s a hero from the Civil Rights Movement. Virtually unknown. Member of Churches of Christ.

New book, with Cascade is slated to release March 2015-How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Islam and Christianity in North America. Nothing kills a room like someone saying, “So, what is the title of this new book?” Then I respond, explain and weather becomes a hot topic of interest. Don’t be afraid, America. No fear.

Michael Gerson’s Op-Ed (of which I’ve read 25x, I’m not exaggerating) slays me each time I read it.

Ever since I wrote THIS PIECE for FOX NEWS, I can’t stop thinking about it (the story, not that I wrote the piece). And THIS PIECE still gets me in trouble from time to time. Here are the archives for the other pieces I’ve written for FOX NEWS.

I recently spoke to a group of academic deans at the Christian Scholars Conference in Nashville.  A little different than teaching in a local church. I spoke about creating intentional space for Sabbath, creativity, and joy. Crucial IMO.

The Well. Otter Creek Church has a partnership with The Well which just opened it’s second location in Nashville. You need to know about this business that is turning coffee sales into water wells all over the world.

You MUST READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. The book will ruin you. You’re welcome.

This guy left my life! It’s a grieving process.

Family vacation in July. Beach. Books. Ocean. Laughter. Great food. I. Can’t. Wait.

I thought this interview with Brian McLaren was fascinating.

The NBA Playoffs have been incredible.

I think Popovich is the best coach in the modern era of the NBA. Better than Phil Jackson. #isaidit

May 23, 2014
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May 14, 2014

For those of you who constantly wrestle with work, calling, your passions, and fulfillment. Drink deeply from this wisdom.

In An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor writes: “In a world where the paid work that people do does not always feed their hearts, it seems important to leave open the possibility that our vocations may turn out to be things we do for free. I know an attorney whose vocation is dressing up as Santa Claus every Christmas so the children in his small town can tell him their heart’s desires. I know a teacher whose vocation is ironing sheets for hospice patients so their beds are as crisp as those in any four-star hotel. While it is sometimes possible to turn your love into your work—especially if you can figure out how to live on less—that is not always the best idea. When the music you love to play becomes the music you have to play to pay the rent, your heart can suffer from alienation of affection. The poet Wallace Stevens worked for an insurance company by day. T.S. Elliot was a banker, and Philip Levine was a Detroit autoworker.”


 

May 7, 2014

Check out THIS PODCAST (18:00) in which I discuss U2, the Black Church, Hip-Hop, Gospel, public theology. I enjoyed recording this podcast with Luke Norsworthy. Check out some of the remarkable podcast conversations he’s hosted the last several weeks. Conversation opens us up in unique way. Dig this.

April 4, 2014
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