Bert Montgomery: Singing ‘Father Abraham’

September 15, 2009 9:29:00 AM

Bert Montgomery -

 

As a child growing up in the Church I learned the cute little children''s song "Father Abraham" (and it''s corresponding physical movements): 

 

Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham 

 

I am one of them and so are you, so let''s just praise the Lord! 

 

Right arm! Left arm!  

 

And so on . . . 

 

This past Friday marked the eighth year since the terrorist attacks on our nation; attacks that have unfortunately led some to view Islam as the enemy of Christianity; much like how in other lands some see Jews as the enemy of Muslims.  

 

Thursday evening, Sept. 10, I attended a wonderful interfaith dialogue on Mississippi State''s campus. In stark contrast to stereotypes, we all sat together - representatives of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity - and not one person was hurt. In fact, the entire evening was very peaceful and a call to focus on our commonalities.   

 

Which brings me back to that cute little children''s song, which has stuck with me as I''ve grown older; and perhaps that cute little children''s song isn''t such a cute little children''s song after all, but a song of profound truth for God''s children of all ages. 

 

The reasons some folks in the name of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam don''t care much for other folks in the other faith traditions is not out of allegiance to some great religious truth, but out of allegiance to political, military and cultural forces that may have claimed the name of some great religious truth. They are operating in ignorance of the very religious truths they claim to defend. 

 

In other words, we could all use a refresher course in introduction to religion, particularly as it relates to the three great monotheistic traditions of the world. Christians respect the Jewish Scriptures and add a New Testament. Muslims respect the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and add the Qur''an.  

 

And we ALL tell the stories of Moses, David, Esther, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Amos. 

 

And we ALL pray to and praise the God of Abraham. 

 

Now there are significant differences, practices, traditions, to be sure. But the three great monotheistic faiths of the world proclaim ONE God, the Creator of all that is, and God is a God of love, compassion, justice, and peace.  From there our unique experiences, teachings, and practices go in all sorts of directions shaped - for good and for ill - by territories, experiences, cultures, and even politics and economics. 

 

But can we respect each others'' differences and unique traditions, while celebrating our common ancestry? Sure we can. 

 

At first glance, an outsider could easily assume that my parents have little, if anything, in common with me; in fact, we could easily stand in total contrast and even opposition to each other. When I was a child, my parents took my sister and me to a performance by Lawrence Welk, his orchestra, and everyone else associated with his show. I responded by becoming a die-hard KISS fan before I even hit the pre-teen years. My parents still prefer the clean-cut, presentable look; I wear an earring and I prefer longer, scraggly hair.  

 

In 1974, we spent one evening of our family vacation in a hotel room watching President Richard Nixon resign; my parents cried. Even as early as 1972, at only 4 years old, I think I knew I was going to be a McGovern kind-of-guy. 

 

In spite of all of our many tremendous differences in terms of values, beliefs, politics, and concert preferences, my family and I also have a lot in common. We share great life experiences, strong emotional bonds, and of course, genes. I love my family and they love me. And these days, when we get together, I treasure every moment and have learned to respect and appreciate our differences. 

 

My parents and I share our faith tradition, but even there we find lots of differences. I think my parents prefer the nuggets of wisdom found in the Proverbs. I prefer the existential angst of Ecclesiastes. I think my parents have a natural lean toward Paul''s epistles; I am naturally inclined toward the book of James. 

 

But I''ll never forget that they raised me in my faith and taught me about God. And, in the church of my parents, I learned the song "Father Abraham." 

 

Which brings me back to Muslims, Jews, and Christians - all of us who trace our lineage directly back to Abraham and to the God of Abraham.  

 

Maybe we should sponsor some sort of interfaith sing-along in a public place, inviting more and more people around us to join in. Each of us wearing the symbols of our particular traditions, but in a huge circle dancing and singing and celebrating together:  

 

Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham 

 

I am one of them and so are you, so let''s just praise the Lord! 

 

It may seem a bit hokey, but it is far more true to our respective faith traditions than blowing each other up. 

Bert Montgomery is an author, MSU religion/sociology instructor, and pastor and lives in Starkville. His e-mail address is misfitmusings@gmail.com.