VIDEO: First Lutheran Church of West Seattle Pastor Ron Marshall’s Quran class still going strong

In our first year of reporting West Seattle news full time via WSB, we received a calendar announcement from First Lutheran Church of West Seattle Pastor Ron Marshall, about a class he had been teaching for years:

Not a class about the Bible, nor anything related to his denomination. It’s a class about Islam’s holy book, the Quran (or Koran).

As far as Rev. Marshall knows – and, he says, others have researched to verify this – he’s the only Christian minister in the U.S. regularly teaching a course on the Quran.

So we interviewed him about it in 2008, and since then, we’ve included the quarterly announcements in the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar. With nine years having passed – and Islam remaining much-discussed – we decided to talk with him again before the next four-session class begins July 6th (one week from next Thursday). First, here’s the entirety of our half-hour interview, recorded on video, unedited:

As Rev. Marshall explains, this is a class he’s taught for 14 years now, in this format – he first took an interest in Islam in the ’80s, but getting people interested in a class didn’t happen until after 9/11, and since 2003, he has taught it quarterly. It’s now a four-Thursday format, usually taught four times a year, 7-9 pm each session, this time starting July 6th, $50 for the course, which includes a book and handouts.

He clarifies that he doesn’t promote the Quran’s message – “I’m a Christian minister” – but neither does he “bash the Quran.” The point of the class is to “compare and contrast between the Bible and the Quran … we’re on a fact-finding mission.” Questions explored include whether one part of the Quran means that it is intended to replace the Bible – scholars disagree, and it leads to “spirited discussions” in his classes, says Rev. Marshall. The class uses one of three authorized English translations of the Quran. The class is not “what (he) thinks about the Quran” – he points to “this is what the best Muslim teachers say the Quran is saying.”

He summarizes, “I want to try to provide a way to appreciatively, kindly, rationally approach a book that you may not like. Is there a way to do that? … I don’t think we have many models for this today.”

MORE INFO … is on his church’s website. He says the class has been taken by people aged 12 to 90+, and the students teach him as well as vice versa. “I have never taught the class without learning something.”

P.S. For groups interested in an abbreviated version, you can contact him about setting up an all-in-one-day course, as long as you have at least 20 people (who will be charged $20 each) – he’s done this all around Puget Sound.

14 Replies to "VIDEO: First Lutheran Church of West Seattle Pastor Ron Marshall's Quran class still going strong"

  • Seattlite June 25, 2017 (10:10 pm)

     Interesting…Through my research, the most important need for Islam is reformation of Islam.  For example, Islam’s Sharia Law (Sharia Law is the law of Islam)  has no place in western societies.  Sharia Law is the antithesis of the USA’s Constitution.    Sharia Law is anti-human rights, anti-freedom, and anti-women’s rights. Islamic sects (e.g. Sunni and Shia) constantly fight each other due to differing beliefs of Islam…really complicated and very Seventh Century. A good article by Andrew C. McCarthy “Islam–Facts or Dreams?” is a fact-based look at the realty of Islam interpretation.

    • WSB June 25, 2017 (10:27 pm)

      And that’s not what the Rev’s course is about. It is about the Quran. If you’re actually interested, the sign-up info is at the bottom of the page linked above toward the end of the story – after a few dozen short reviews from people who’ve taken the course.

    • Mr E June 26, 2017 (9:20 am)

      Maybe if you tried reading the Quran before offering an opinion?

    • neighbor June 26, 2017 (11:37 am)

      Or better yet, you could take the Pastor’s class.

  • psps June 25, 2017 (11:04 pm)


    “Islam’s Sharia Law has no place in western societies.”
    “Sharia Law is the antithesis of the USA’s Constitution.”
    “Sharia Law is anti-human rights, anti-freedom, and anti-women’s rights.”

    Besides the fact that the evil “Sharia Law” is not coming to get you, despite what your favorite talk show host tells you, you can substitute any religion’s dogma for “Sharia Law” and it would be true.

    • WsEd June 26, 2017 (4:46 pm)

      Yes you can substitute any religions dogma for Sharia law and folks in this country have spent the majority of my lifetime fighting against the bigotry and fear wrought by religion on the populous.  Which is even more reason not to give a pass to the newest religion on our block for oppressive dogma where it exists. 

  • LOL indeed June 26, 2017 (5:24 am)

    Here come the “anti-Sharia” Trumpanzees.

    Yes, because Christianity is such a progressive and inclusive religion.

    “Anti-Sharia” is one of those terms like “snowflake”…because you can get away with saying it publicly instead of what you actually mean…

  • Double Dub Resident June 26, 2017 (10:36 am)

     you, you can substitute any religion’s dogma for “Sharia Law” and it would be true.

    DD: Really? So there is a dogma out there in which  there are state sanctioned laws that simply being homosexual is grounds for being put to death, just for example? 

    The confusion in your statement is that there is a difference between passages written thousands of years ago in which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all share and actual state sanctioned laws that put into action what was written 2,000 years.

    I am not a religious person, but I do own quite a few different religious texts because I’m fascinated by the psychology of people’s beliefs and it is fascinating the amount of violence that is in the 3  main Middle  eastern religions

  • Double Dub Resident June 26, 2017 (2:28 pm)

    To clarify, I meant violence in the text of the 3 main Middle Eastern religions, though it has transferred to action over the years

    • CAM June 26, 2017 (7:14 pm)

      So if you are offended by state sanctioned violence, than you must also be offended by the ongoing use of the death penalty. And you must also be offended by a society that regularly cheers and makes light of prison rape because “they deserved it”. Or multitudes of other examples. Whether a religious argument or a cultural argument, the United States is no beacon of enlightenment and hope. We are arguably less offensive and extreme than other countries but we should not be exempt from what would be a useful analysis of our own laws and culturally accepted behaviors. 

  • Double Dub Resident June 26, 2017 (6:00 pm)

    Really, that’s the argument? I don’t support Sharia Law, so I’m a Trump supporter? Funny because I am not. 

    I don’t support Sharia Law, so let’s bring in Christianity as a rebuttal. Again, doesn’t work because I’m not Christian. I’m not even religious, though I do own many religious texts from everything from Christianity and its offshoots of Mysticism and Gnostic,  Islam and Sufism,  to Shinto, to Jainism and many in between.  Only because the psychology of beliefs fascinates me. Though if you can read past a lot of what is written, you can find commonalities with most of them. 

    That being said, you accuse Christianity of not being progressive or inclusive. Fine, but let’s not pretend that Islam is any more progressive and exclusive then. 

    It’s interesting that it almost seems to be trendy to bash Christianity and then in the same breath fervently defend Islam. It’s inconsistent and hypocritical and can only result in some kind of cognitive dissonance. 

    If you’re going to be critical of Christianity then fine, be critical, but be consistent. 

    The problem though is that religious tend to cherry pick. There are some Christians who focus on hell and brimstone and the old testament and others who focus on the 4 gospels and the new one. There are Islamic fundamentalists and more progressives. What I perceive is that Muslims tend not to cherry pick the Q’uran as much as the texts they share with Judaism and Christianity they tend to adhere to more. Hence women covering themselves, no eating of pork(swine), and men not shaving as some examples. 

    All three, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all share the same texts that homosexuals should be put to death. The question is, which sects of each religion overlooks this? In fact there is a lot of violence in all 3 texts that must be overlooked to think their religion is truly of peace. In fact, I would argue that texts such as the Dhammapada are closer to giving a more consistent message of this. 

    While there are variants, Sharia Law calls for the death of homosexuals in many Islamic countries. That is not extreme Islam, but mainstream Islam within these countries.  What I’d be interested in learning is how do Muslims in this country feel about this? Do many share this view or do many want to overlook this part of the Q’uran? There are Christians who do not want to overlook these passages and there are those that do. 

    So not being religious, I don’t have patience for anyone condemning gay people in the name of their God, whether it’s Yahweh, God, Allah, Alaha , etc. If you’re going to be critical of one religion in this topic, then be critical to all of them, especially if there are multiple countries encouraging the deaths of homosexuals, because that is hardly progressive or inclusive. 

  • Double Dub Resident June 26, 2017 (8:30 pm)

    @Cam, that is what is called in debate/discussion, a red herring.

  • seaopgal June 26, 2017 (9:33 pm)

    Sharia is a code of conduct for Muslims only. It does not apply to non-Muslims, it is not a criminal code, it does not replace local/state/federal laws, it does not exempt people from prosecution or allow them to commit crimes — and, like all theological or moral codes it is a subject of ongoing  interpretation and debate. Sharia provides a way for Muslims to live, interact, marry, and resolve disputes or issues within their own faith community. It is much like Halakah — Jewish Law, the “path that one should walk” — or the Law of the Lord of the Mormon church, or the Canon Law of the Catholic church.

    Many Muslim-majority states have codified the tradition and principles of Sharia in their legal systems; for example, applying the principle of male authority in family law, child support, divorce, etc., or the principle of sex within marriage to ban adultery and homosexuality. Interestingly, this was done in part at the instigation of the British in an effort to strengthen post-Colonial courts. Human rights violations do occur, and extrajudicial application of Sharia has led to other abuses. Religion, tribal and colonial history, tradition, and repressive nature of the regimes all contribute to human rights issues in these countries, and is important not to conflate them all into the “Sharia law” bogeyman.

    Of course, you don’t need to subscribe to or support any belief system or its code of conduct — and you are free to work against their influence on civil society here and around the world. But please be honest and thoughtful (and consistent) in your critique of Islam. The effort to convince Americans that  “Sharia law” is a threat to non-Muslims or our legal system is a well-funded, well-documented campaign of exaggeration and propaganda designed to intimidate and punish our Muslim citizens.

  • Brian L June 28, 2017 (4:32 pm)

    Andrew C “Obama is a radical Muslim and waterboarding is not torture” McCarthy.  Sounds like a totally unbiased and fair piece.

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