Neighborly Faith Dialogue: Hamza Yusuf and Eugene Cho

Transcript Details

Event Name: Neighborly Faith Dialogue: Hamza Yusuf and Eugene Cho
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/24/2022
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

ght I'm gonna hit broadcast and we'll be live are you guys ready to go do it alright okay everybody I know a
lot of you are just joining right now as you are joining I am going to really
quickly just introduce myself and then we'll jump into a an icebreaker question
my name is Kevin singer I'm co-founder director of neighborly faith our organization is really interested and
excited about how we get Christian conservatives in in France ship and honest and authentic friendship with
people of other faiths and primarily Muslims a group that has been a bit
misunderstood by our community of evangelicals and how can we better our
dialogue and increase our understanding and appreciation of one another but
again as people are trickling in I'll start with an icebreaker question before we do official introductions and that
icebreaker question is this what has been your go-to activity or hobby maybe
to calm your anxiety in this season or just to keep you entertained during this
time and Eugene if you don't mind I'm going to go ahead and start with you well that's a good question because not
everything that is typically my go-to are possible during this current health
pandemic I love the outdoors and I love fishing and hiking and that's been
closed and different seasons here in the state of Washington a home is Seattle
for me but it just recently opened up and so I am looking forward to going hiking and fishing this upcoming weekend
and are you the type of person who like catches a huge fish and puts it like on your wall behind your band or like like
what kind of fishermen are you you know my wife would not allow me to do that
wouldn't having said that I release all
of my fish with the exception of salmon I have a hard time releasing salmon
just because our family enjoys eating salmon okay
and I'm sorry you were gonna say something I just he's supposed to be a fisherman of man um what are you doing
to keep yourself entertained these days I you know I things are pretty normal
for me but to be honest the only the great thing about what's happened for me
is just it's shut down all my travel which is yeah very nice so yeah I'm
pretty much have a reading schedule and I keep to that I have plenty to keep
busy with so and then Ramadan I tend to just shut off all almost all activity
with the outside now I've been told you
have read some books about Christianity do you have a book maybe outside the
Bible that you've read about Christian theology or Christian thought or history that that you've liked that you really
enjoyed reading well I mean I've spent a lot of time in Christian traditions very
familiar I let's see probably Joseph's
peepers my favorite writer in the moderns and then I was just reading a
very interesting book on the early church fathers I just read a book on a
Catholic book on called the noonday devil on acedia which was very
interesting so yeah I Aquinas I like Aquinas a lot I mean I'm more in the
Orthodox Catholic tradition than the evangelical tradition so although I'm
having this line with this line I mean I always say somebody you know I was with
with Bob Roberts right you know passing out oh yes and we were with the we were
with the patriarch of Jerusalem and Bob was telling him you know that we need to
convert this guy on this lawn back to Christianity and I told him you know I
told the patriarch that I told Bob several times because Bob says you know

I want to make you a Christian I said Bob I don't want to make you Muslim I want to make you an Orthodox Christian
or a Catholic because you're a heretic right now my prick another patriarch love that Wow okay well we'll just let that lay there Yasmine my wonderful co-moderator today
I let her introduce herself formally in a second but what have you been doing to keep yourself busy during the season
I don't know if it's necessary to keep myself busy but I always had this at home yoga practice yoga with Adriene and
she has a bunch of stuff on YouTube and Quarantine is kind of made me anxious at times there's like a lot of bad news and
so I've been doing a ton more yoga with Adriene I highly recommend if you don't
need a lot of equipment you can have hard workouts you can relax you can meditate it's been extremely helpful all
right awesome all right well I'll do some a formal
introduction now again I'm Kevin singer co-founder and director of neighborly faith our organization began in 2015
when my colleague Krista Crick and I were studying theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton Illinois our mission
is to help evangelical Christians or Christian conservatives to be good neighbors to people of other faiths if
you want to if you want to learn more about neighborly faith go to our website they really faith that or follow us on
Twitter or Instagram or like us on Facebook this is the fifth dialogue in a series we're doing in April and May
which gives evangelical Christian leaders like Eugene as well as Muslim leaders like Hamza an opportunity to
share their unique perspectives on various topics since a model honest and respectful dialogue

today's topic is where do we go from here the next chapter a religion of politics in America our next dialogues
next Thursday at 3 o'clock Eastern it will feature Jen Mitchell who's
a popular Christian speaker and author of a book called surprised by paradox the promise of and in an either/or world
she's an amazing speaker and then yeah Yasmine al-hadi who was a Muslims human
race a lawyer stand-up comedian and a relationship consultant based in DC and
they're gonna be a dialogue about self-care healthy relationships and making a home so you won't want to miss that we'll make sure to put out some
information right at the end of this dialogue for you to register for our next dialogue but for now I'm gonna have
our panelists today introduce themselves will start with Hamza tell us who you are what you do and why participating in
this dialogue was important to you we're appealing to you well first of all I
thank thank you for inviting me on I'm lying Hamza Yusuf Hanson and I'm right
now the president of a small liberal arts college in Berkeley called Zaytuna
College which is the first accredited Muslim college in the in the United
States and we have a BA and master's program it's it's a it's very similar
for people that know a Christian liberal arts tradition it's very similar we have a great books curriculum we focus a lot
on the Trivium the quadrivium classical what would be classical learning in in
the West alright Eugene you I'm a next yes thank
you again for the invitation my name is Eugene and as I shared earlier I live in
Seattle Washington I'm married to my wife and we have three kids two kids in college our youngest is a junior in high
school I was born in Seoul Korea immigrated to the United States when I was six years old and I have pastored
for the past 30 or so years I recently stepped down from a church called quest
Church that my wife and I started about 20 years ago I also run a humanitarian
organization called one day's wages in which we seek to inspire people around
the world to give up one days of their wages at least once a year as we seek to
invest all of that in carefully vetted projects around the world and starting on July 1 I'll also be assuming a new
position in Washington DC called bread for the world a Christian advocacy
organization that seeks to end hunger both here in the United States and around the world the screen and yes
hi I'm Yasmin aureus mean depending on your pronunciation I was born and raised
here in North Carolina my father is Algerian and my mother is Iranian so I always grew up with an interesting mix
here this is the second time I've come muttering with Kevin I'm really happy to be cooperating with neighborly babe it's
been a lot of fun and the conversation is really going great so I'm hopeful that that will happen again today and I
think one of the reasons why he invited me was I am a host of a podcast called me and my Muslim friends my producers
our radio producer soulish Limor works for WNC and Durham and ah be cheap on the Moody works for KQED in San
Francisco I have to give him a shout-out because they work so hard on it and they are non-muslim so it's been a really interesting collaboration with them we
talked about everything on our podcast from growing up post 9/11 to being a black Muslim and facing racism or if
you're a Latina convert like that what that is like for your identity if you're interested in that we're on a podcast
Spotify you can also go to me and my Muslim friends calm I didn't study journalism at UNC Chapel Hill so it's my
thing and I also studied anthropology undergrad at Wake Forest which is where my loyalties always are so for whoever
is listening go Deeks and that's it for me I'm excited how this conversation you are awesome well we're super excited
about homes on Eugene here who are obviously very influential leaders in their communities and the fact that
they're willing to jump on this call and have this conversation together I think is already a win it's already a victory
in our country where I don't think these conversations frankly happen enough where we're willing to talk across our
differences and see what lessons we might learn from even having these conversations so thank you again both
for being here let's jump into the dialogue I'll go ahead and start with the first question
Eugene you just released a brand new book entitled thou shalt not be a jerk a
Christians guide to engaging politics right on the heels of this pandemic I
think what was it March 1 that was the publication date of the book but I mean a highly anticipated book a lot of
people talking about it a lot of news coverage a lot of media about it I have a couple of questions just to launch us
into this conversation one sure what makes the message of your book distinctly Christian but also do you
think that the message of the book will still be applicable this new sort of this brave new world
were entering into well thanks again for
having me and for the question it's been an interesting time to release a new book the book launch became a book
quarantine and so it's been disappointing on that level but it's been encouraging to see people engage it
and read it certainly those that consider themselves Christian and others as well you know I am NOT someone that
would be considered an expert in politics even though I get occasionally invited to these kinds of conversations
I'm not obsessed about politics I don't watch cable news constantly around the clock my only personal foray into
politics was in middle school when I ran for middle-school president and got crushed I got less than 10 percent of
the votes but over the years both as a pastor and as a Christian and as a
citizen I've learned that I need to care about politics because it informs policies that affect people and the last
time I read the Bible and I read it often is that God cares about people especially those who are often
marginalized or ostracized in our larger society that's part of the message that I shared in this book and so to answer
one of your questions directly Kevin yes I do believe that people that are not
but wouldn't identify themselves as Christians would find value in the book and I hope that they do but also because
maybe it would help others better understand Christians in a time right
now where there's a lot of confusion sometimes I'll be watching these and I
have no idea what folks are talking about when they're speaking about Christians or about this broad umbrella
of evangelicals even though I'm ordained through a denomination called
Evangelical Covenant Church I no longer understand what that word means in our
current climate because it's been bantered and thrown around in a variety of ways but as you said the subtitle of
this book is a Christians guide to engage in politics and I'm speaking directly to the church the capital C
Church and all of its variety of stripes and streams and I'm speaking to the church because
sometimes within Christianity within Christendom when we're speaking about
issues or problems and I suspect that it's not just for Christians our tendency is we want to point a finger at
others we want to blame others I'm a danger is over there those folks are bad people and those
folks are evil and so my hope with this book is to challenge and encourage the
church to be more introspective to think about ourselves and perhaps our
complicity maybe in our silence maybe our idolatry with politics or something
that I call cultural Christianity where we're more enamored by privilege or power but not always a life that
parallels the life and ministry and ethics of Jesus so I'll end right there
I'm doing thoughts on that was just yes
yeah I mean it's obviously something that concerns all of us we're long ago
were political animals we we live in aggregates that the demand a type of
cooperation and when when things break down they can get very very ugly and I
think people tend to forget how fragile political institutions are States can
fail things things do break down and we have a history of an immense amount of
suffering because of political breakdowns so I think engaging to some
degree we have to be politically engaged I think that the people that founded
this country with all their faults had had a lot of really really spot-on ideas
but one of them and the only private institution mentioned in the
Constitution is the press because they really understood that a well informed the population was absolutely necessary
for a republic to work and that if you had people that were not well informed
then you're in trouble and and and one of the I think really interesting has
facts about that early period is there are bad articles are now considered
classic literature so you know people study these things now at the university
level and a lot of people a lot of average Americans don't even have access
to something like the Federalist Papers because they don't have the language skills to get into complex compound
sentences anymore so I think we're you know overall I think our society is in a
lot of trouble right now and there's there's a there's a lot of crises it's not like I don't know enough about
history to know that this is not something new we've been through many
crises before but I think there's certain aspects now mass control is one
of them I think people don't realize how massively controlled people's thoughts
are in this country the people that watch the same programs and those
programs are controlled by a very small group of people that have a lot of them
have agendas some of them are business agenda doesn't some of them are political agendas and probably one of
the best antidotes for that is the traditional study of rhetoric and I'll just end with one little anecdote my
grandmother great-grandmother who studied rhetoric in a high school in
Wisconsin I actually inherited her rhetoric book by a it's called Bane's
rhetoric and there's a chapter on the emotions and on the section on fear and
that remember these are high school students in America so in the section on fear it said that politicians will
always use fear to to to create a type
of docility in the population because when people panic they tend to lose
their critical thinking skills and and and and and and the book says generally
they want to take away your civil liberties with the use of fear so this
isn't way into the next question that we have Hamza and as you mentioned you've been no stranger to political engagement
yourself you recently joined a 12 member panel called the Commission on unalienable rights organized by Mike
Pompeo in the State Department while the Commission has faced some controversy and main focus is on the right that you
mentioned religious freedom granted in the US Constitution given the current virus pandemic and the
public health concerns that have come with that there have been mandated quarantines across the country needs of
limited gatherings and that includes religious gatherings and as a result some have voiced feeling that their
religious rights are under threat in this moment and these ordinate these ordinances do affect all religious
groups however and they have been highlighted for example in New York City with the restrictions affecting the
practices of Hasidic Jews just wanted to know what are your thoughts on this yeah
there's a lot of back there but I mean first of all yeah they the Commissioner on human rights to me was you know I see
it as if you're invited to to the table I have a teacher Shelby who always says
an empty chair is not a strategy if you're invited to the table it's always
good to Muslims often complain about how we're never heard and our voices are
heard and then when you're actually invited to the table where your voice can be heard then then a lot of Muslims
will condemn you for being at the table so it's one of those catch-22 situations in our community it's unfortunate but
but it is what it is in terms of what's happening now this is unprecedented even
in 1918 they did not do the type of quarantine that we're seeing so this is
the first time I think in human history apparently 65 percent of the global
population is now under house arrest technically I mean fortunately in this
country we're still have to go out and and exercise and do things outside so if
you keep your social distancing but in some places and I've talked to friends in different countries right now it's
much more severe and so I think the danger
is is clear and present personally that governments tend to really enjoy this
the type of power that comes in in situations like this and and we have I
think our founders were very concerned about the importance of being vigilant
which is why we have the Second Amendment I mean it was it was actually
because they they were worried about government encroachment and if we know history well enough we know that
governments tend to to overstep and in fact a book that I teach on YouTube on
Liberty there's