Tag Archives: Council on American-Islamic Relations

How Do Christians Find Common Ground With Muslims?

When the director of liturgy for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., planned a worship service for Muslims to pray to Allah within the sanctuary of the cathedral, the fraud that is the pseudo-virtue tolerance was clearly shown for what it is. Suicide. Surrender. Self-immolation.

Every Christian knows that the God we worship, the Mysterious Three in One, is one God in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Every Muslim knows that the god he or she worships is “Allah,” who is one and only one and Mohammed is his prophet. Christians and Muslims have no common ground on which to pretend that they share something except for the genetic connection of Ishmael and Christ with Abraham. Both Ishmael (ancestor of the Arabic families that founded Islam in the 7th century after Christ) and Isaac (ancestor of the Jews through whose genetic line Christ was born) were sons of Abraham. The genetic connection is no foundation for any interfaith dialogue, because there is no common ground between Christianity and Islam. Mohammed himself made that clear. He thoroughly believed that Christians had become polytheists and idolaters, and if he were alive today, he would call the idea of interfaith dialogue with Christians “anathema.”

Explaining the decision to open the doors of the cathedral to such a service, representatives of the Cathedral said, “Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral . . . demonstrates an appreciation of one another’s prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions.” Such a statement is completely without justification, because it implies that the core of the two religions is Abraham. Abraham is not the point. Abraham is a human being whose genes have migrated through descendants such as Mohammed and Jesus. Never at any time did those descendants worship Abraham. Mohammed spend part of his life claiming to be a Christian, but he felt that Christianity had become polytheistic. If he had ever understood Christianity, he would have known better, which calls into question whether he could ever have been a Christian at all, but that is not the real issue. The issue is that Mohammed founded a religion that worships a god it calls Allah, and that god is not the God by whom the world was created and through whom Christ came to bring salvation to the world.

Therefore, the notion that Islam and Christianity have something to discuss is ludicrous, since they do not worship the same God. When factions in a Christian group such as the Catholic Church have disputes over whether women are to be ordained, they discuss their differences in the context of listening to the same God for guidance. When Muslims and Christians discuss prayer, they do not have any common ground on which to stand, because each stands before a different god. In the eyes of Christians, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one approaches God except through him. In the eyes of Muslims, there is no god but Allah. This difference is irreconcilable. The only way there can be any discussion of prayer is for one party or the other to reject its own god.

The sad part of the whole story is that in the eyes of the Muslim world, Christians have rejected their own God. Muslims would never permit Christians to pray in a mosque, because to do so would make the mosque unclean. Muslims have such a strong perception of the “uncleanness” of Christians that when Pastor Saeed, a prisoner in Iran, was taken to an Iranian hospital for medical treatment, the doctors and nurses refused to touch him because he was “unclean.” To Muslims, to be Christian is to be unclean. Muslims are taught to regard Christians the way Brahman Hindus regard the Dalit (the untouchable caste).

The people who are leaders in the National Cathedral have abdicated their right to be called Christian leaders, because they clearly believe that it is fine to reject Christ in order to be hospitable to Muslims. They have, furthermore, demonstrated complete ignorance of Islam by permitting such an event inside a Christian church building. If they do not yet know that Muslims around the world now believe that Islam has conquered that building and subjugated it to Allah, they are not paying attention. No Christian prayers are or ever will be permitted in Muslim holy sanctuaries, and when Muslim prayers are offered in a sanctuary, it is henceforth subject to and dedicated to Allah. Mark Christian, a former Muslim who has been disowned by his family since he received Christ as an adult, says, “In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity or Judaism once reigned. This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions. It is a conqueror’s philosophy.” Watch for continuing efforts for Muslims to worship and pray in the Cathedral. Watch for Muslims to attempt to expand the area they use. Watch for enhanced efforts to shield their view of the cross or the stained glass windows or any other Christian symbolism in the gradually expanding space where they will be allowed to worship Allah in a house dedicated to worship and service to the Triune God under the guise of tolerance.

Americans are bombarded daily with demands that they show tolerance. This word is touted as the opposite of hatred and bigotry. Actually, it is the tool of hatred and bigotry. In the name of tolerance, affronts to religious liberty, freedom of speech, and other personal liberties are being accepted culturally, because in the name of tolerance training, activists for a variety of agendas are permitted to club their opponents with arrest, fines and even re-education. Expressed this way, tolerance simply becomes hatred and bigotry expressed by the winning agenda.

The opposite of hatred is actually love. It is love that transforms people and relationships from confrontation to respect. People who have suffered insults and been treated as less than human do not really want to be simply tolerated. That is what Hindus do with the untouchable caste in India. To this day, and Americans may find this very surprising, a Hindu of the Dalit caste, the untouchables, need not aspire to a middle-class life, let alone to political leadership or national acclaim in any field. Yet the Dalit are tolerated. It is against the law to shoot one down in the street, for example, or to force one into slavery in a household. The days of unfettered abuse of a Dalit are over, more or less. Still, the Dalit are pointed out as Dalit and recognized as Dalit. All citizens have heightened awareness of what a Dalit is. To initiate interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians is to accede to the necessity that Christians become the Dalit in a culture operated by sharia law. This “historic” prayer service is interpreted by some as a step forward in cordial relations between Christians and Muslims. Those who think that way ought not to plan to hold their breath until the Muslims extend an equivalent invitation.

The proponents of the interfaith dialogue initiated by allowing Muslims to pray in the National Cathedral while being protected from all the signs and symbols of what that cathedral is about are simply heightening our awareness of the Muslims. At the same time, they are unwittingly heightening Muslim awareness of the weakness of Christian affection for their God. Those who believe that we must surely have something in common with Muslims and we must exert ourselves to uncover and work with that something are clearly willing to create something for common ground if none exists. They have made common ground out of a section of the cathedral sanctuary where Muslims cannot see the cross of Christ. It will be enlightening to see what Muslims do with that common ground.

Christians who want to prevent anyone from seeing the cross of Christ have, in my view, a very strange way of expressing their faith. The Bible teaches me that the cross is evidence that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom. The Bible teaches me that all of us find our common ground at the foot of the cross, not out of sight of the cross. The Bible says that the mission of every Christian is to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them all the things Christ taught his disciples. When we do that, I believe that we will all find common ground in the heavenly throne room of the God who dwells in ineffable light, where the slaughtered Lamb sits at the right hand of the Father, where the Holy Spirit reigns and calls forth the praises of angels and myriads of myriads of the faithful in heaven. Now that is what I call common ground!

 

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Under Siege

The very real threat that secular thinking poses to Christians in the USA is an important topic for this blog. Secular thinking is slowly building a fence around the expression of faith. If not stopped, secular definitions will ultimately succeed in suppressing all public expression of any faith in any form. Secular thinking, however, is not the only threat Christians face in the USA. Islamic pressure to incorporate sharia law into the jurisprudence of the USA is also rising. Secularism and Islam stand at polar opposite positions on the spectrum of religious faith, but they apply cultural pressure which coincides at the point where their very different objectives conflict with Christian faith expression. For the moment, they are not in head-to-head conflict. The battlefield looks more like a garden under siege by two competing species of weed. Ultimately one weed will defeat the other, but wherever either species is found, it will be hard for vegetables desired for food to thrive.

In a recent article in an Egyptian magazine, Rose El Youssef, translated and published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism, it was alleged that six ardent Islamic activists have been appointed to powerful posts in the current administration. Al Gore sold his network, Current TV, to Al Jazeera, a news service devoted to the Islamic worldview. The director of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, advocated aggressive activism against any criticism of Islam or Mohammed, including the application of Sharia law. These reports do not constitute a threat in themselves, but they add weight to reports of such things as schools that construct footbaths for Muslims and a Muslim woman’s attempt to pose for her driver’s license photo wearing a burqah.

Americans have been accustomed over the more than two hundred years of the history of the USA to assume that Christian ideas and values were normal for everyone. Until recently, most people simply accepted the Christian idea that there was a heaven and a hell, and God made the decision about who went where at death. The culture showed respect for the Christian day of worship, Sunday, and even government showed respect for those who worshiped Christ by designating Sunday as a day for stores, schools, and government offices to be closed. These behaviors reflected the demographics that showed that somewhere around 80% of the citizens self-identified as Christians. In general, even people who self-identified with other religions or no religion mostly behaved and spoke as if Christianity shaped the culture.

The comfort level of the culture with the assumptions accompanying Christian faith has decreased dramatically over the past twenty years. Secular thinkers take offense at government recognition of any holy day. Islamic thinkers take offense that their holy days are not generally recognized. Christians feel blind-sided by the simultaneous pressures from two different directions to bend in two different ways. Their confusion is only heightened by the way governments at various levels respond to these pressures, but confusion becomes actual fear when those pressures erupt at the level of the Supreme Court and the White House.

American Christians need to be alert to the way subtle pressure becomes aggressive activism. The transition from efforts to reduce the social stigma of homosexuality to aggressive activism to declare that a homosexual union is a marriage proceeded at a breath-taking pace over the past few years. For that reason it makes sense to take seriously comments about incorporating sharia law into American legal processes and practices. It sounds like unreasoning paranoia to fear the imposition of sharia law in a nation with more than two hundred years of precedent in the line of English common law as shaped by our Constitution. However, when the pace of social and legal change over the past twenty years is laid beside the pace of comparable changes before 1990, the difference is startling. Viewed that way, the mere mention that some American believes sharia law should be applied in the US deserves attention.

People whose objectives are political and social in nature have methods and practices that constitute their “toolbox” for accomplishing the change they desire. In the political and social realm those tools work. Christians are just like any other citizens in their desire that law and culture reflect their values, but Christians have the additional call to a mission of spiritual transformation. Christians do not take on political and social projects for their own sake; the projects have no meaning or value to the Christian mission of global spiritual transformation if the political or social objectives are not responses to Christ’s call to discipleship. The implementation of the political and social objectives cannot be pursued single-mindedly, because a Christian is called to express discipleship to Christ in every word and deed. Hence, no matter how vile or vicious the opposition is, a Christian is not justified in vilifying or flaying the opposition. A Christian must trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit and obey Christ’s law of love no matter how ugly the fight becomes.

For secular thinkers, the battle will be won when all religious thought is finally bottled up out of sight. In fact for some, that battle won’t be won until the only mention of religion is found in books about ancient history. For Muslims, the battle will be won when everyone has either converted to Islam or died. It is quite true that many Muslims do not advocate suicide bombings as a tool in the battle, but all Muslims advocate a world in which Islam is the only religion left. Christians pray for a day when all people come to know Christ, but take wisdom from the book of Revelation that makes it clear that till the end of time, God himself will leave human beings free to choose him or reject him. Christians do not believe that the battle will end until Christ comes again to dwell with his people on earth. As we engage in the battle for the very survival of our faith, let us remember that great promise and hold fast to our testimony, shooting darts of love at all enemies as Christ taught us to do.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

For this week’s news about the persecuted church and the culture wars in the USA, read Living on Tilt the newspaper.