In the book Muslims, Christians, and Jesus Carl Medearis writes to Western Christians, specifically Christians in America, about Islam. He notes that due to politics and national security issues, especially since 9/11, many Americans hold views about Muslims that perpetuate stereotypes and promote fear and hate. Medearis seeks to write a book that will assist Christians in understanding their Muslim friends and neighbors, help Christians to share the Gospel with people in the Middle East, and live lives that are good news to Muslims.
In this communication analysis report I will be examining Medearis’ communication strategies with Muslims as is displayed in Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. I will examine his methods in this book in light of Kraft’s, Gudykunst’s, and Smith’s work on communication. We will briefly look at three aspects of his communication methods: 1) the importance of involvement with Muslims, 2) his understanding of Muslims, and 3) the receptor oriented nature of his communication.
Medearis the Communicator
Smith claims that “the communicator’s personality and experiences modify the form of a message.” Since the communicator himself drastically affects the message and the method of communication we must understand who Carl Medearis is. Medearis is known for his extensive experience in the Middle East, especially among Muslims. He lived in Lebanon from 1992 until 2004 ; and in these years he spent time working with international leaders from various faiths. He teaches these leaders to bring change to their nations through the teachings of Jesus. One can tell that he is committed to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to those living in this region.
Involvement with Muslims
The mere fact that he has lived in the Middle East for twelve years, and that he has committed his life to working with this group of people shows that he understands that “communication is involvement, ” that communication involves relationships, and that building relationships is the foundation of all communication. Similarly Kraft says that the personalness of the communicator must be visible to the receptor. It is apparent that Medearis understands the importance of involvement and personalness in the communication process. He advises that Christians form real friendships with Muslims . He suggests that Christians get involved in the lives of their Muslim neighbors. For instance, Christians can get to know their kids, invite them over to their homes for dinner, and involve them into significant events of their lives. Medearis asks Christians to let go of their agendas when interacting with Muslims . Instead of treating Muslim persons as the means to an end, Christians should treat the person as an end in and of themselves. In teaching Christians to let go of their agenda when befriending Muslims, he shows that ‘we do not get involved in order to communicate, but we communicate by being involved.”
Another aspect of the communication process that Medearis seems to be aware of is that a person’s perception of an out-group drastically affects communication between groups of people. Gudykunst notes that stereotypes can often create breakdowns in the communication process. He goes on to explain that in holding one’s culture as the normative culture, the more likely it is that one will misinterpret a stranger’s messages. Medearis understands these principles and seeks to get a better understanding of Islam and Middle Eastern Culture. He does this by studying the Qur’an, visiting mosques, living among Muslims, and building relationships with them. We see how important it is in his eyes that a communicator breaks down stereotypes and false perceptions by the mere fact that he commits five chapters to topics that serve as foundations for understanding Muslims.
In addition to understanding the culture, Medearis advocates for breaking down stereotypes by getting to know individual Muslims. He says that “the preconceptions you may have about Islam need to be discarded… if you want to have a genuine relationship.” He suggests that one look as at Muslims as individuals, not as groups, and that once one has done this communication will be more effective.
Receptor Oriented Communication
One final aspect of Medearis’ communication method is that it is receptor-oriented. Kraft suggests that to “love communicationally is to put oneself to whatever inconvenience necessary to assure that the receptors understand.” This receptor-oriented approach to communication can be contrasted with an approach in which the communicator insists that the receptor operate within the communicator’s frame of reference. A good communicator will “seek to reach his receptors by entering their frame of reference.”
There are several ways that Medearis displays a receptor-oriented communication method. For example in communicating with Muslims, he advocates for using Jesus’ name Isa instead the Arabic version of Jesus, Yesua. He suggests that we use the name Isa because it is the name for Jesus used in the Qur’an, and that it does not carry western baggage along with it. Also, Medearis suggests that we should not import our culture and religious traditions to tell people about Jesus. By importing our own culture in sharing the gospel we force others to enter into our own frame of reference in order to be reconciled to God. Finally, Medearis claims that “it doesn’t matter what we think we are saying- it’s what others hear. ” By saying this he shows that meaning is internal, and that it cannot be transferred from the communicator to the receptor. Because he understands that meaning is developed in the receptor’s mind, and that it is shaped by the receptor’s experiences and worldview, he can tailor his message in such a way that it can be grasped and understood by the receptor.
Medearis makes use of several other important communication principles when he communicates with Muslims in the Middle East; however we have only chosen to look at three of the principles that he uses. It is evident that he understands these principles and applies them; one can see that this is so merely by looking at the results of his communication. The many stories that he tells about Muslims moving toward Christ and following the way of Jesus is evidence that Medearis is a good communicator.