Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Selective Tolerance Leads To More Violence

The tug-of-war with Christians who are committed to making lists of all the ways that Islam is wrong and Christianity is right continues.

After my previous posts about how Christians are too "right" for their own good, I received even more comments about - you guessed it - how wrong Islam is and how right Christianity is.


And on and on it goes.

Are Christians really unable to set aside their religious differences to embrace someone of another faith?

Not exactly.

For example, most Christians I know fully embrace Judaism. They love the Jewish faith. They use Jewish terms for Jesus and Messiah ["Yeshua", "Mashiac", etc.]. They wear the Star of David proudly. They observe the Jewish Passover meal. They even pray for the peace of Israel.

But why?

The Jewish faith denies that Christ is the Messiah. They refuse to accept that Jesus is born of a virgin. They do not believe that Jesus performed miracles. They do not believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven. They do not believe that Jesus is alive today or that Jesus is returning to judge the world.

But none of that matters to most Evangelical Christians today.

They are totally capable of enthusiastically overlooking all of that for the sake of what we have in common with Judaism - which is namely the Old Testament scriptures.

Now, just imagine that the Jews DID believe all of these things. Could you imagine American Christians rejecting the Jewish people?

But they DO reject Muslims who happen to affirm all of these things about Jesus!

Islam teaches that:

- Jesus is the “Word of God”
- Jesus is the “Spirit of God”
- Jesus is “the Messiah"
- Jesus creates life
- Jesus cured a man born blind, and a man with leprosy.
- Jesus gives life to dead people.
- Jesus went to heaven.
- Jesus is still alive today.
- Jesus will come again to judge the entire world.

[See chapter 3, verses 45-55, the Qu’ran]

Can you imagine rejecting someone who believed all of these things about Jesus?

Can you imagine refusing to engage in a dialog with someone who already had such an amazing foundation of faith in Jesus?

Yet, somehow, Christians feel totally ok embracing one faith which denies all of these things about Jesus while rejecting another faith which affirms all of the same things about Him.

Does this make any sense?

Not to me it doesn't.

You have a choice. You can either:

A) Keep making lists of all the ways you are right and Muslims are wrong


B) Look for how much you have in common with them about Jesus and enter into a fruitful dialog with a Muslim about Him.

One path will result in more division and violence.

The other path will result in an amazing conversation of Jesus with a Muslim and the opportunity for understanding and peace.

So...what are you most interested in here?

As long as you are only interested in seeking a path for opposition and division, you will keep on making those lists of how "wrong" they are.

But, if you are ready to start seeking a path for peace, and for reconciliation, you will take full advantage of an amazing opportunity to talk with a Muslim about Jesus.

What would a religion of peace really teach you to do here?

If you really belong to a peaceful religion, then take the path of peace: Engage in an open dialog with a Muslim about all you have in common about Jesus.

I dare you.



Keith McLachlan said...

Hi Keith. I really do appreciate your views on this subject. I've been a follower of Jesus for close on 40 years and have been in the full time ministry around 30 years. My Specialist Physician is a Muslim. We have had amazing open discussions around our faith, and I believe our hearts have been truly warmed in our open and non-judgemental discussions in which we have spoken about God. His response has always been to do further research into the matter of salvation especially regarding the assurance of eternal life. He, like many of us, struggles with Muslims who go to prayers and do all these good works, yet there lives don't reflect love and tolerance. When he mentioned that to me, I had to state that that is also all too common in the Church. Thank you for these articles. They are stimulating and I commend your openness and boldness in sharing them, especially in your American society which shows very little tolerance. I'm South African and we too have our fair share of intolerance when it comes to politics and religion. Every blessing. Keith McLachlan

Ralph Westfall said...

A letter to the editor of the Long Beach Press Telegram, published in a slightly abbreviated form on May 26, 2017:

The strongest defense against terrorism by members of any social group is from other members of that group. For example, Christians can and should be most effective at discouraging anti-abortion violence by people who have some association with Christianity.

Similarly Muslims can and should be the most concerned about violence by people who claim a connection to their religion. First, for basic humanitarian reasons as so beautifully expressed in the Quran (5:32), "if anyone killed a person, it would be as if he killed all mankind."

Second, because the great visibility and incredible savagery of many of the attacks causes some to view such violence as characteristic of Muslims rather than of a small number of fanatics. Women and children who were no threat to Islam were recently killed or severely injured by nails and ball bearings in a bomb in Manchester, England. Frequent occurrences like that do not encourage tolerance for the Islamic faith.

But the question remains: How best to encourage Muslims to take effective steps to discourage violence by people identifying with their religion? I suspect demands Muslims be "good believers" like Christians would not work very well. Here's a suggested alternative to that kind of self-righteousness.

As a Christian since 1971, I'd like to see my pastor, and ones in other churches, acknowledge that there has been a lot of violence in the history of Christianity-—for example anti-abortion murders and bombings; Catholic and Protestant violence and terrorism in the 20th century; religious wars in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries; Christian violence against non-combatants in the Crusades; etc.

If we first own up to our own history, we could then acknowledge that some Christians might nowadays engage in violence too. And point out that each member of the congregation has a responsibility to prevent it from happening. Only after that, pastors and individual Christian would be in a position to promote interfaith efforts to encourage Muslims to do the same.
I suspect my letter is not going to get a lot of traction. Many fundamentalists, and some evangelicals, are opposed on principle to inter-religious efforts. Some might also blow off the concept of Christian-associated violence as irrelevant to their particular flavor of the faith--"We'd never do anything remotely like that, and violence came from other denominations--not us--in the past."

On the more liberal side of Christianity, there might be a reluctance to acknowledge that Islam-related violence is a problem. Or a feeling that it would be impolite (or much worse) to even suggest that Muslims should have any responsibility at all to try to discourage violence by people identifying with their communities.

I did see a hopeful sign recently--a mosque that the Manchester bomber had attended previously reported some suspected extremists to the authorities. See http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40079948 Hopefully efforts like that will become widespread and effective in the future.