A Christian Response to Islamaphobia

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This past Sunday, Charisma News published an article by Gary Cass, the CEO and President of DefendChristians.org.  The article was entitled, “Why I am Absolutely Islamaphobic.”   They subsequently removed the post, no doubt in response to a #takedownthatpost campaign.  Because the article was focusing specifically on formulating a Christian response, and because of the gravity of the article’s proposal, I will persist in my response.  The article can still be found on the defendChrstians.org website.

Gary Cass’ Three Options

The article surveys many examples of Islamic extremism around the world, including ISIS, and argues that Christians are faced with only three options, two of which he dismisses.  The first option is Conversion.  Cass argues that Muslims will not be converted because “The Arab Muslims are God’s sworn enemies, and are ordained by God to be against everyone.”  He cites Genesis 16:11,12 as support for the impossibility of converting Muslims to the faith. The second option is, D.A.M.N. – meaning “Deport All Muslims Now.”  Cass favors this idea but believes that American politicians do not have the courage to do this.

Finally, Cass lands on the only remaining solution, violence.  He calls Christians to “trust God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and defend yourself.”  He asks, “How many more dead bodies will have to pile up at home and abroad before we crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus’ Name?”

The fact that Charisma magazine would publish such an article in the first place demonstrates anew how the Christian church has not articulated a proper response to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

Raymond Lull

We just might have to go back to the 13th century for a little perspective. Raymond Lull lived at a time when Islam was, quite literally, on the move around the world.   Half of Spain had fallen to Islamic armies.  Most of central Asia had turned to Islam and the Holy Land had been sacked and burned.  The church’s response, like Gary Cass today, was to take up arms.  The result is the legacy of the Crusades, which lasted from 1095 to 1291, leaving a tragic history from which the church has never fully recovered.

Over the course of the Crusades 700,000 Christians took up arms and sought to defeat the armies of Islam.  However, the crusades ended in bitter defeat, with not only Islamic victories, but putting an end to the hope for a reunification of Eastern and Western Christianity.   It is estimated that between five and six million people lost their lives as the result of the Crusades.

Raymond Lull wrote,

“I see many knights going to the Holy Land in the expectation of conquering
it by force or arms; but instead of accomplishing this object, they are in the end
all swept away themselves.  Therefore it is my belief that the conquest of the
Holy Land should be attempted in no other way than as Christ and his apostles
undertook to accomplish it; by love, by prayer, by tears, and by the offering up
of our own lives.  It seems that the possession of the Holy Sepulchre can be
better secured by the force of preaching than by the force of arms…”

Jesus calls for us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:43-48).  Cass seems to forget that there is a fourth option; namely, to bear witness to the in-breaking rule of God.  We may be martyred for the sake of the gospel, but we must learn to love, even in an age of hate.  What we must not do is respond to violence with more violence. We must not return hate with more hate.  We must face hate with the power of love. We must face violence with the power of the gospel.

We, of course, encourage governments around the world to act.  Violence even in the name of Allah must be stopped.  ISIS must be defeated.  Relief must be given. Justice must prevail.  Christians, Muslims, Yazidis and other innocent people in the region must be protected.  But, the long-term solution is not military action, but the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our hope is in the faithful witness of the church and the return of Christ who will vindicate His people and set things right.  In the meantime, our role is to find extravagant ways to bear witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Christians should not take up arms to defend ourselves.  We are never called to hate.  Even the Just War theory of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas was not designed to support Cass’ views.

There is no greater testimony to the power of love to overturn hatred than our Crucified Savior.  As God in Christ hung with his hands outstretched He was showing us a better way.  “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). We remember anew his words, “In this world you may have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Raymond Lull was stoned to death in Algeria on June 30, 1315 at 80 years old.  As Christians we are not called to stand with those with the words of hatred and vengeance on their lips.  Rather, we are called to stand with the Apostles, the prophets and the martyrs, remembering that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).  This is the faith which overcomes the world.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Very grateful for this word: “As Christians we are not called to stand with those with the words of hatred and vengeance on their lips. Rather, we are called to stand with the Apostles, the prophets and the martyrs, remembering that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). This is the faith which overcomes the world.”

    I remember weeping outside of church when we went to war for a 2nd time against Iraq… That congregation was cheering, I was heart broken. I said what if we responded to our enemies with overwhelming mercy and aid and love…what if forgiveness was poured out. He said it would never work. My heart broke a second time that day and I said,
    “then what was the point of the cross?”
    The way of the cross is foolishness to many… Thanks again for this helpful post.

  2. I love it when hand-wringing Western liberals who are NOT Muslims pretend to know more about “true Islam” than Muslims who have spent their entire lives memorizing the Koran and studying the Hadith and the Sunnah, the three texts which define Islam. The Caliph of the Islamic State (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, holds a masters and a PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Baghdad. I’m pretty sure he has a better idea of how to define Islam than liberal Western dilettantes and other apologists.

    • The fact that “al-Baghdadi” has a PhD just means he can back up his interpretation of the faith better. To say so doesn’t mean that moderates like Ziauddin Sardar or Ramin Jahanbegloo wouldn’t be able to debate him point by point. You’re right, true Islam isn’t a unanimous monolith, but we can’t be dismissive of moderates simply because they’re making less noise and don’t have field artillery.

      • Sure, but the guys who follow the literal Koran, Hadith and Sunnah win the theological debate every time, when they chop the heads off the takfir/apostates who dare to disagree with them. The threat of being declared an apostate by the head choppers keeps most “moderate Muslims” very quiet about their beliefs.

        I’m sure that most average “moderate Germans” from 1933-1945 were fine, peaceful volk, but they didn’t matter much, did they? Not when engaging in “debate” with the Nazis could send them to a death camp. Disagreement meant death then, just as it means death to those disagreeing Muslims who find themselves under the jurisdiction of the Islamic State today.

        What we are seeing under ISIS is how Islam has proliferated from the beginning. That is how Mohammed took control of Arabia in his lifetime, and how his followers conquered most of the known world from Spain to India in one century: in a sea of blood. Today’s Al Baghdadi is simply following the age-old dictates of Islam to propagate by the sword.

        Islam is essentially unreformable, because would-be reformers must delete or abrogate entire parts of the Koran, instantly making them apostates in the eyes of millions of literal-minded Koran memorizers. And subject to beheading or even crucifixion. So don’t bet the farm on “moderate Muslims” putting the fanatics back in the bottle. The best that can be hoped for under Islam is the rule of moderate strongmen, from Attaturk to Mubarak etc. But their reforms never hold: they either die of old age (rarely) or are deposed by another crop of fanatics, and they return to brutal Sharia law with all that it entails for women, homosexuals, infidels, etc.

        • It’s those called literalists who must delete portions of their Qur’an. Not the other way around. Compelling conversion is against the Qur’an, yet Isis is doing just that in opposition to a strict reading of Muslim theology. Isis is a military movement that uses theological language when it suits them, not an accurate reflection of any sound theology.

          • You are delusional if you think that the large percentage of Muslims who adhere to the literal Koran are going to delete portions of it for the purpose of reform. You are saying that the very folks who believe in beheading apostates must themselves become apostates. That is cloud cuckoo land. I go back to how delusional Western liberals are to believe that they understand Islam better than Muslims who have studied the Koran all their lives to the point of memorizing every verse. Including PhD holder Baghdadi.

          • You misunderstand completely. At no point did I suggest that most Muslims must make deletions of their Qur’an in service to reform. I haven’t addressed reform at all; that’s your topic. What I did say is that fundamentalists loudly claim to read their Qur’an literally. In doing so they must always willfully ignore some passages in favor of those that support their actions. Isis is in the position to tell people what is or isn’t important in the Qur’an since they’re the ones with the guns. Religion has always been a cultural sponge and if some group or other needs their religion to vouch for their actions they will find a way to make it do that.

            As a final word, you seem to have read quite a few, “Islam is a religion of the sword” type histories, as evidenced by your tides of blood imagery. Islam, as an empire, was no more or less violent than other empire builders. They did not, however, compel conversions in those they conquered. They simply demanded a tax be paid in the same amount citizens would have paid as Zakat if they were Muslim converts. There are records of Jews flocking to Muslim-controlled areas and away from Christian ones because their treatment by Muslims was fair. Isis is invoking the memory of the former Caliphate, but doing so in their own fundamentalist way, not in any way that reflects the Muslim empires of history.

          • “What I did say is that fundamentalists loudly claim to read their Qur’an literally. In doing so they must always willfully ignore some passages in favor of those that support their actions.”

            Clearly, you are not familiar with the Koranic principle of abrogation, whereby the later “war verses” supplant the earlier “peace verses”. Muslims knows this very well, but practicing taquiyya, (sanctioned deception), they trot out the early but abrogated “peace verses” to bamboozle naive infidels like yourself. Remember, in the Koran, it’s only a sin to lie to other Muslims. It’s fully approved to lie to infidels to further the spread of Islam.

            Since you don’t know the basics, and fall for twaddle such as “there is no compulsory conversion,” etc there is little point in continuing the discussion, but I’ll try anyway. Yes, “people of the book” (Jews and Christians) MAY be given dhimmi status, but there is nothing in the Koran that mandates it. They may also be enslaved or beheaded, as best suits the tactical situation as perceived at the moment by the conquerors.

          • So your suggestion then is that every Muslim, each and all, is just a combination of material want and political dissatisfaction away from actively joining Isis? The fact that 80% of the world’s Muslims aren’t doing that indicates that they don’t really find that particular reading of the faith to be all that compelling.

  3. Hmm if you are saying i should watch my family be butchered by Muslims Jews or burglars it will not happen i will fight for their lives and then call myself a martyr.

    • No one is making or has ever made that suggestion. Having understanding doesn’t imply that. If you know a bear’s diet and behavior you’re not any less likely to shoot one if you have to.

  4. Very thankful for this article. Some powerful words and a powerful reminder of what makes Christians, Christians, that is saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

  5. But Jesus DID tell his followers to sell a cloak if they had to and buy a sword. When they told him they had 2 swords he pronounced that sufficient. Lk 22:36-38.

  6. […] I see many knights going to the Holy Land in the expectation of conquering it by force or arms; but instead of accomplishing this object, they are in the end all swept away themselves.  Therefore it is my belief that the conquest of the Holy Land should be attempted in no other way than as Christ and his apostles undertook to accomplish it; by love, by prayer, by tears, and by the offering up of our own lives.  It…can be better secured by the force of preaching than by the force of arms.” (http://seedbed.com/feed/christian-response-islamaphobia/) […]

  7. Within hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we had and invited the community to a spontaneous prayer meeting in the sanctuary of one of the churches where I was pastor at the time. I did something that was very difficult for me to do. I called us to pray the terrorists who perpetrated, supported, called for, endorsed, or were in any way involved in these attacks. This was not well received by all, but I know at least some received it and did pray with me as I prayed accordingly. What is important is it was the right thing to do. Christ does command us to love our enemies and pray for them.

    Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to die protecting my family if our home was attacked by Islamic terrorists, anymore than I would hesitate to protect them from any other intruders. Self-defense is not murder, and the Bible tells us “But those who won’t care
    for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have
    denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” (1 Tim 5:8, NLT).

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