Munther Isaac,  The Other Side of the Wall

Study Questions for Chapters 7 & 8

Trinity UCC
Lent, 2024


Chapter 7: My Muslim Neighbor

[Definition of “Islamism:” “[It] is not a form of the Muslim faith or an expression of Muslim piety. Rather, it is a political ideology that strives to derive legitimacy from Islam. … It can be best described as an ‘anti-‘ ideology, in the sense that it defines itself only in opposition to things. That is, Islamism stands not for but against” (i.e. anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-capitalist). …It is a dystopian ideology that distorts religion and reality to fit its ‘anti-‘ platform.”:

1. What are your impressions of Islam and/or Muslims? What has shaped these impressions? Have you personally known anyone of the Islamic faith?

2. Identify some ways in which religious extremism – connected to any belief system – puts all of us at risk. Why do you think some Muslims hate Christianity and the West? (Hint: consider historical contexts.) How might we avoid stereotyping Muslims?

3. Consider this example of Islamic theology from Imam Yahya Hindi, Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University: “The Islamic vision of justice is premised on mercy and compassion, and the absolute sanctity of human life. Regardless of the moral achievements and failures of the past, the burden is always on Muslims to strive continuously towards a greater fulfillment and attainment of the Divine charge, and to achieve new levels of magnanimity and sanctification of human life. It is exactly the magnanimity and sanctimony of human life that perhaps today calls upon us, Muslims, to reconsider the morality of the killing state.”

4. Pastor Munther writes: “how do we love our neighbor if we have judged them in advance and painted them with the ugliest images? We must fight the culture of isolation and replace it with a culture of openness and love.” Are you aware that there are several mosques and Islamic societies in Cabarrus County? What do you think about Trinity reaching out to one of these groups and inviting a speaker to come and share about Islam with us? Perhaps we might even consider some ongoing ways to enjoy each other’s fellowship (especially food!) and to learn from each other’s teachings and experiences.

5. What new learning or insight did you gain from reading this chapter? What might you take into your prayer or devotional time

[Note: a short video on some of Imam Hendi’s views is here:  ]


Chapter 8: Blessed are the Peacemakers

1. Do we really believe that the radical teachings of Jesus have the power to reshape our world? (p. 170) Can living out the Beatitudes really challenge power?

2. Reflect on the following statement: “to be peacemakers, we must engage the humanity of the other who is different than us. To be a peacemaker means we must cross to the other side of the wall” (p. 174).
How do we do this in our daily lives? Under what circumstances is the Gospel “bad news?”

3. Reflect on Pastor Munther’s belief that “knowing God and doing justice are the same thing” (p. 175). What does it mean to thirst for justice? Consider also his assertion that “our silence towards injustice is a political statement in itself; it is saying that we approve of this injustice” (p. 177).
4. Pastor Munther teaches that for Jesus, caring was not about charity, but about solidarity with the marginalized. How are these different in terms of what they call us to be and do?

5. How do we truly mourn with others, especially those who are marginalized or who live far away in Gaza or he West Bank?

6. In the section on “The Noisy Church,” Pastor Munther presents some harsh realities for us in Western churches to consider. For example, he notes that too frequently, our worship, liturgies and prayers are empty of meaning, and do not lead to “a change of heart, to sensitivity towards sin and an orientation to holiness.” In fact, how might “church” keep us in our comfort zones and avoid the hard work of doing justice? “Real justice challenges unjust structures,” he writes. How does all of this sit with you?

7. What new learning or insight did you gain from reading this chapter? What might you take into your prayer or devotional time?


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