Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: The Jihad of Jesus by Dave Andrews

In many ways, this book would make a great follow-up for those who have already read “Muslims, Christians and Jesus” by Carl Medearis, which I highly recommend.

Medearis’ book is a great place to start, especially for Christians who need to have their illusions shattered about who Muslims are and what they think of Jesus [or “Isa” as they know him best].

This book, by Dave Andrews, is a great book to read after you’ve read “Christians, Muslims and Jesus” because it takes a more academic approach – where Medearis takes a more personal and anecdotal approach to the topic.

Another reason I would recommend this order of reading the two books is that Dave Andrews’ book doesn’t take the time to demonstrate what we have in common with Muslims – other than to point out that both Christians and Muslims have been guilty of bloody, war-mongering and various atrocities in the name of God.

So, for me, Andrews takes a more negative approach, whereas Medearis takes a more positive one.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t find Andrews’ book enjoyable. Far from it. I underlined and highlighted nearly half of the book which typically indicates that I was being challenged by something he said, or that I was marking areas that I wanted to come back to later and reconsider more in depth.

The book is broken up into two parts. The second part of the book is really what I found the most fascinating and insightful. He kicks this section off [in Chapter 4] with “Reframing Jihad as a Method of Nonviolent Struggle”. This chapter unpacks an excellent overview of another book called “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman about how men are not really “natural born killers”. On the contrary, it is the pervasive tendency for men to avoid killing others that motivates the military to systematically re-train [read “brainwash”] their soldiers to overcome.

I covered that in a previous blog [Un-Status Your Quo], but for the sake of this review I’ll re-state this section again:

How Soldiers Are Conditioned To Kill:
Frame killing as protecting or saving lives - The only way to save lives of those you love is to kill others.
Portray the enemy as sub-human - It’s easier to kill people if you don’t identify with them or if you think of them as “evil” or as animals.
Demand obedience to leaders - Men will do almost anything if they are under strong social pressure to comply.
Develop the capacity for collective violence - Accentuate their fear of letting their squad down. Diffuse responsibility across the group.
Increase the distance between the trigger and the target - It’s easier to kill from a distance with drones, missiles, bombs, etc. Talk about firing at targets, not people. Speak of sinking ships, not of drowning sailors. Frame the violence so it is an object being destroyed, not another human being.*

The book goes on to point out how these same methods are being employed by our media to socialize us towards the redemptive qualities of violence.

Violence is an almost inescapable part of our culture today. So, it’s no wonder that most of us view violence as a means to solve problems or to achieve a better world.

Andrews hopes to awaken us to this deception of the age, and I am in complete solidarity with him on this point.

Later on, in this same chapter, Andrews goes on to say:

“Separating religion from politics does not mean we do not bring our faith and the ethics derived from our faith to bear on our politics in terms of our discussions about politics. To the contrary, all real believers cannot help but bring their faith and ethics derived from their faith to bear on their politics…But separating religion from politics means not using our particular religion for party political purposes as a means of manipulation or exploitation to gain or retain power. For our faith to be “non-political” means for it to be “non-partisan” and “not-imposed”.”

I couldn’t agree more!

His conclusion is a masterpiece, in my opinion. Having built a strong foundation for us in the previous chapters which provided details about how both Islam and Christianity have been polluted by those who seek to manipulate the faithful and circumvent the peaceful aspects of their founder’s teachings in order to reframe faith and nationalism as a singular idealogy, Andrews ends with a look at the Sermon on the Mount. He suggests that Christians should return to the manifesto of Jesus if they truly seek to accomplish the will of God and to become peacemakers who follow the example of Jesus.

It was a personal thrill for me to see that Andrews even quoted Erica Chenoweth’s excellent study “Why Civil Resistance Works” to validate the effectiveness of nonviolence as a means to disarm oppressors and end conflict. [Fans of the “Pacifist Fight Club” take note].

Overall, the book was a refreshing and much-needed exploration of Islam and Christianity, without all the over-emotional nonsense that typically permeates most discussions these days.

If you’re willing to lay aside your prejudices about Muslims and enter into a thoughtful study of how followers of Jesus might actually reach out and bring peace to our world today, I think “The Jihad of Jesus” is an excellent place to begin.


FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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