Internationally-known Islam expert and ordained Baptist minister Charles Kimball says religion can inspire people to their highest and noblest best — but it can also be used as justification for some of the most evil events in history. “When Religion Becomes Evil,” Kimball’s book published on Sept. 11 by HarperSanFrancisco and named by Publishers Weekly as one of the top religion books of the year, outlines the five signs that a religion has become corrupt.
Kimball, professor and chair of religion at Wake Forest University, was tapped as an expert by numerous national and international media during the coverage following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He says despite the religious corruption that often makes headlines, religion still provides the best hope for the future.
“We need to recover what is best and healthy in all religious traditions,” says Kimball. “As flawed as they can be, religious traditions and institutions are absolutely necessary in an increasingly interdependent world community.”
Kimball, the grandson of a Jewish immigrant and a Presbyterian, says common belief in slight variations of the two greatest commandments — love for God and love for others — is universal in the major religions. Corruption begins when either of these two commandments is broken in the name of the religion, he says.
Kimball says the five major warning signs of corruption are claims of absolute
truth; blind obedience; establishing the “ideal” time, especially with Armageddon
scenarios; when the end justifies any means; and declaring holy war. He uses contemporary and historical events and people to illustrate each of the warning signs. Current examples include the terrorist actions of Sept. 11 and the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Other examples include the Christian Crusade beginning in the 11th century, and cults and sects like the hundreds of Jim Jones followers in the late 1970s.
Kimball is also the author of “Striving Together: A Way Forward in Christian-Muslim Relations and Religion,” “Politics and Oil: The Volatile Mix in the Middle East” and “Angle of Vision: Christians and the Middle East.” He has written articles for numerous publications, including The Christian Century, The Los Angeles Times and The Christian Science Monitor.
Kimball has significant media experience with national daily newspapers, live television and radio programs. To arrange an interview with Kimball or receive a copy of the book, contact Sarah Mansell at 336-758-4393 or Kimball at 336-758-5465.
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