Tag Archives: Islam

What is the Point of Interfaith Dialogue?

There are people in the world who will take extreme umbrage at this question. There are others who will laugh. This question is not intended to evoke either response. This question is absolutely real: Why engage in interfaith dialogue? 

A report of a recent gathering at the University of Chicago entitled “Coming Together 6” led me to this question, because the author asked how people with multiple spiritual and religious identities participate in interfaith dialogue. It was the first time I had ever considered the possibility that someone might choose not to choose a faith at all – that someone might choose to attempt to glue together a number of different religious or spiritual worldviews. Choosing whom to serve has always appeared to be a rather exclusive decision because as Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters.” It appears that there are a number of people who try to do exactly that. 

That choice appears at first glance to be an irreconcilable contradiction. How can someone, for example, be Christian and Muslim and pagan all at once? Yet the author of the report quotes a friend who is studying in the Master of Divinity program at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her friend says, “I identify with whatever moves me. Sometimes that means Islam, sometimes that means Christianity or Buddhism. Sometimes it’s not even a religion. Wherever I find something that impacts me deeply, makes me wonder about my own identity, that’s spiritual to me. I’m looking for truth where I can find it, via the Vedas or a physics book. And I claim that openness, that exploratory urge, the seeking for “the more,” as my spirituality.” After reading this statement several times, it is still difficult to imagine what this person means by faith when engaging in interfaith dialogue.

The key word may actually be not faith but identity. This man starts talking about religious pluralism (the focus term in Jem Jabbia’s report) by saying “I identify with whatever moves me.” This response is not the way converts to Christianity, for example, describe their experience. The teaching of Christianity is, first of all, that Christ calls people to confession and forgiveness of sin through Christ, and then if people receive Christ and his forgiveness, the ensuing relationship is exclusive. It isn’t about choosing a club to belong to, and wearing those colors on the club meeting day while being free to belong to other such clubs and to wear the colors of other clubs on other days. The same exclusivity applies to Islam. The idea of a spiritual decision as the recognition of identity does not ring true for Christianity or Islam, the first two religions or “faiths” named in the friend’s response.

The notion of loyalty based on identity is more commonly expressed in politics. During the recent presidential campaign, two women were talking about the candidates, and one said to the other, “I can’t identify with some rich guy who doesn’t live on a budget like I do.” Some of the political announcements were testimonials by people who made comments to the effect that they found they could identify with some candidate because of the candidate’s views on a topic that was important to the voter. In other words, the voter appeared to be choosing the candidate most like himself. The identity mentality of voters might well explain the degree to which candidates sometimes contorted themselves in relation to certain subjects; they may have been trying to express identity rather than commitments.

Is it easier now to answer the question: What is the point of interfaith dialogue? If people connect with a faith, which in the context of the term interfaith dialogue is more commonly called a religion, on the basis of the way they identify with it, then it appears as if the religions are all in a campaign for the favor of people. If a religion wants to grow in numbers of adherents, then it would need to find ways to express its identity with a lot of people. In fact, it might need to find identity with many different views, just a politicians campaigning for office seem to think must be done. It is a very different way of looking at religion. If Jem Jebbia speaks for the 120 participants at Coming Together 6, then those people are not looking for someone or something to serve. What, then, are they talking about?

The report listed some organizational questions that came up. That is understandable. Any conversation needs ground rules, even if they are more or less assumed. The easiest way for a conversation to be transformed into combat is for the parties to operate according to different rules. This sort of questions calls forth images of navel staring, but it is more or less necessary.

There were a few meatier issues:

  • What does it mean to be spiritual and not religious? Are these concepts mutually exclusive?
  • How do I represent my own faith at the table when engaging in interfaith dialogue?
  • What about those of us who inhabit multiple spiritual and religious identities?

It is fairly easy to imagine the group discussing the first two topics, although neither question will get to the answer of the title question: What is the point? The third question brings up an issue that is likely not very familiar to many people. How many people “inhabit multiple spiritual and religious identities?” What does that even mean? 

The story of the Israelite escape from Egypt and from slavery, the trek through the wilderness, and the subsequent invasion of the Promised Land under God’s leadership is replete with moments when they were expected to make choices. After they had made some headway in conquering the inhabitants that had been in residence in the Promised Land, Joshua called them to Shechem where he said, “Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) There is plenty of evidence that even though the people had been led through the wilderness by the Lord, their loyalties to their Provider and Protector were not unwavering. Joshua, however, called them to make a choice. He said they could serve whomever they chose, but they could not serve all the different gods that might appeal to them. The relationship with God Almighty who had taken them out of Egypt was an exclusive relationship, just like marriage. In fact, in other places in the Bible, the relationship between God and his people is precisely and exquisitely described using the model of the relationship between a man and a woman – a marriage, an exclusive relationship.

Islam calls people to the same sort of exclusivity. In fact, in Islam-dominated countries, the very idea of someone following two religions, of which one is Islam, would be considered blasphemous. In such countries, nobody is permitted to convert away from Islam, either. Being a Muslim is not about finding a god with whom a person can identify. It is about serving one god.

There are religions in the world that have no barriers to pluralism. Buddhism is often the religion people turn to as a model for tolerance and open-mindedness, but then Buddhism does not actually claim to be a religion and does not actually worship a god. Religions that worship a pantheon of gods are not usually exclusive, either, but the gods want what they want and are usually reputed to take terrible vengeance if they are offended. Where do people pick up the idea that it is their job to approve the religions that they identify with rather than that religion involves obedience and transformation?

It may actually be a product of cultural changes associated with rising secularism. Among the attendees at Coming Together 6 were people who self-identified as agnostic, seeking, or even none. In a traditional view of religions and conversations among people of faith, it would look peculiar to include participants with no connection to any religion. However, in the context of the interfaith dialogue at Coming Together 6, nobody seemed to think it odd. Does any of this information answer the question: What is the point of interfaith dialogue?

This gathering is likely a sign of things to come, maybe even a sign of things that have already come, things that have slipped into the culture while Christians were not looking. It appears that some people have scrapped the whole idea of religious faith as an expression of adherence and obedience to someone greater than self. The idea of becoming subject to transformation by that higher power is even less palatable. Why would anyone who chose his or her faith because he could identify with it or simply because it moved him at the moment ever let go of himself in favor of being transformed?

Many other questions come to mind after reading about Coming Together 6.

  • What is a faithful and loving Christian response to someone who says, “I can’t identify with a religion where somebody is brutally executed.”
  • Or this, “I can’t identify with a religion that tries to invade my body and tell me what I can do with it.” How do Christians respond? 
  • What is the Christian message to people who are trying to glue Buddhism and Cherokee shamanic practices into a personal spirituality? 
  • Is there really a difference between spiritual and religious?
  • Is there really a difference between Christianity and all other religions or faiths?
  • Is it possible for someone to be a Christian as a consequence of identifying with Christianity?
  • What might be the difference between identifying with a religion and living by a religion?

What do you think?

Is it an Arab spring or a Christian winter? Read Living on Tilt the newspaper

 

 

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.

 

Why Do I Blog?

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Simon Howden at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Why do I blog? Readers of this blog may be interested to know that I ask myself this question fairly often. When I first started blogging, I blogged, because people told me every writer needs a blog. During those years, I had a real problem finding subjects to write about. I asked myself why I was blogging, and the answer was that somebody else thought I should. I spent my real time and effort trying to write books. Nobody read my blog, probably because what I wrote betrayed that I didn’t know why I was writing. Nobody read my books, either, despite my slogging through the submissions process for several years.

Over years of writing books, meditations, prayer guides, Bible studies, book reviews and even a blog, I came to realize that blogging was a very important part of my call to serve Christ as a writer. I began to understand that I was learning things in my studies and research that fitted a niche that I didn’t see anyone else serving. I was trying to understand something in my own life, and as I learned and grew through prayer, research, and Bible study, I realized that God wanted me to share what I was learning. I had not become an expert on anything, but I had dug deep and uncovered some truths that might bless others if they knew. Last May I participated in a project where I met people and engaged in conversations that helped me to get serious about answering God’s call to share.  

One of the first questions a blogger inevitably asks herself, if she is honest, is this: Who am I to tell anyone anything? I wasn’t the first person God called who responded that way. When God called Jeremiah, Jeremiah responded by saying, “Ah, Lord God! I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” God replied, “I am with you.” God called Moses, and Moses responded, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God replied, “I will be with you.” Jesus stood on a mountaintop in Galilee and called his few faithful followers who were still with him after his death and resurrection. He gave them an impossible task, saying, “Go … and make disciples of all nations.” None of the gospel writers record how the group responded, but it seems likely they were just speechless. Wouldn’t you be dumbfounded if someone told you it was your job to evangelize the entire world, even if you could take forty people to help you? To their dumbfounded silence, Jesus said, “I am with you always.” If the Bible is telling the story correctly, God did not send Jeremiah or Moses or the apostles out to do a job; he invited them to go along with him to do that job. God called me to share what I am learning as I grow in faith, and when he called me, he invited me to go along with him to do this work. Every time I ask myself “who do you think you are?” I remember that God said, “I am with you.” Why do I blog? I blog, because I can’t help myself, and I blog because God has invited me to join him in the work of sharing what he is teaching me.

In that context, I made a commitment to post five days a week, and I promised God I would do my best to share with integrity what I was learning. I began to see a pattern in the things I learned: 

  • The culture of the US has been growing more and more secularized over the past fifty years, with the pace increasing dramatically in the past twenty years. The current administration is the first ever to express itself in explicitly secular terms. Christians cannot separate sacred and secular as secular thinkers do, and this difference makes some interactions quite volatile. Christians must remember that Christ died for all people, including people who want to suppress the expression, perhaps even the existence, of Christian faith. 
  • The culture of the US is shuddering under the impact of growing numbers of Islamic adherents. The events of September 11, 2001, color all interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims in the USA, but the rapid increase in the Islamic demographic makes it essential that Christians understand Islam and follow Christ’s guidance in our relationships with Muslims. From Open Doors International comes a suggestion to use the word Islam as an acronym for “I Sincerely Love All Muslims.”
  • The only way to have Christ-like interaction with the world around us is to know Christ. We must deepen our prayer life and deepen our understanding of Scripture. Only by engaging in the disciplines of the faith can we mature in faith and develop a worldview that embodies Christ’s redeeming love for all people.

As I grow to understand more and more about these three areas, I try to share what I learn and invite others to share with me what they are discovering

Why do I blog? Because God has called me to serve him as a writer, and he guides me daily to new understanding of that mission. Why do I blog? I blog to share with my readers what Christ has taught me, not because I know anything special, but because any beggar who finds bread should share it with other beggars on the same road.

I am very grateful to the readers who have chosen to follow my blog, and I equally value those who pass through as visitors from time to time. I appreciate their comments. When a reader shares with me what he or she has learned in the context of what I am learning, I grow. I blog, because God asked me to share and promised to go with me and help me to do my job well. I blog because as a blogger I am learning from my readers as I hope they learn from me.

WhyBlog

Why Saeed Abedini is a Threat to Iranian National Security

Saeed AbediniReading the news of the trial and conviction of Saeed Abedini is horrifying. To American eyes, it is shocking. American minds cannot readily absorb that such events can possibly be real. It is the twenty-first century. Human beings have come a long way from the days of tribal violence and social stratification that produce stories such as this.

To American Christians, it all sounds illegal and unfair.

To the government of Iran, it all makes perfect sense.

The government of Iran is an Islamic republic. When Americans heard that Saeed Abedini was considered a threat to national security, American ears rejected the idea, because Abedini is not an employee of some government hired to find out the military and political weak spots of Iran which an enemy government could exploit in an attempt to conquer and subdue Iran. That is the American image of a spy or a threat to national security. That image has nothing to do with the Iranian image of the threat posed by Saeed Abedini.

In the USA people are accustomed to believe that the government does not have and should not have any concern with someone’s religion. US citizens believe in any god or no god without governmental involvement. This is because the USA has no state religion, and as long as the Constitution remains the foundation of US government, the US never will have a state religion. In Iran, however, the state religion is Islam. As a natural consequence of that fact, Islam is protected by the state. It has preference over all other religions. Islamic religious leaders have power in the political functions of the state.

What’s more, Islam teaches that there can be no such thing as separation of church and state. Islam teaches that the life of an individual or the life of a state simply does not have a secular component. To Muslims, there is no such division in life as the separation of sacred and secular. Islam is all and in all.

This is the root of a conviction that when someone betrays or turns away from Islam, the state is at risk. When someone in Iran listens to Christian teaching and responds to it, Islam teaches that this person has rejected Allah and become an infidel. The Iranian government views conversion from Islam to Christianity the same way American citizens viewed the recruitment of spies by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Everyone could understand that someone from the USSR could spy for the USSR, but it was the deepest sort of betrayal for an American citizen to fall to that level. That is the way Iranian Muslims view Iranian converts to Christianity. That is why Saeed Abedini is viewed with such revulsion by the Iranian government.

Saeed Abedini is an American Christian today, but he was born in Iran and grew up Muslim. As an adult, he converted to Christianity. He immediately began to work with the house churches in Iran. Saeed Abedini not only rejected Islam and turned away, but he led others to do the same thing. He is a convert from Islam who led other people to convert from Islam. To the religious leadership in Iran, he was like a malignant infection that needed to be cured. The Ayatollah Khomeini would have been required to sign the papers authorizing Saeed’s sentence, and it is easy to imagine that the Ayatollah signed with both a heavy heart for having lost this young man and a real feeling of vengeance against him for poisoning the faithful with his Christian evangelism.

This activity began in the year 2000, and at the time Saeed began his work, the government of Iran was not engaged in suppression of the house church movement. The religious teaching about the perfidy of conversion from Islam was the same then as now, but the government did not at that time take action against Christian house churches. The movement was low-profile, and likely the government believed it would fade away. It did not.

Iran officially protects religious liberty, but to Islamic Iranian thinking, the term religious liberty has a very different meaning from the one Americans use. For example, the government of Iran does not usually view a Christian as a threat if the Christian was born into a Christian family and reared in that family’s Christian church. In that situation, Iranian Muslims view the family as “people of the book” and consider them non-threatening. They expect a family to bring up children in the family faith. This concept holds true in many countries where Islam is the dominant faith. Iran believes that it protects religious liberty when it tolerates churches and the Christian upbringing of the children of church members.

On the other hand, a Muslim who converts to Christianity is considered a threat. Churches with ancient traditions in the country, such as Armenian Christians, are registered with the government as legitimate religions and are represented in the legislature, but churches that develop as the spontaneous result of conversions from Islam are considered to be threats to the national security. Despite protections for religions with long-standing traditions in Iran, the Iranian government does not protect the right to change from one religion to another. The fact that the house church movement in Iran is currently experiencing dramatic growth is likely the reason that the government has increased its activity against Christians who are part of that movement. The house churches represent converts, and converts are enemies of the state. Iran is a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, but Iran has faced down pressure from the UN more than once over its unique interpretation of that document.

Saeed Abedini did not go to Iran in 2012 as a house church evangelist. In 2008, he had been arrested for his work in that activity. After he agreed to stop evangelistic work with house churches, Iran’s intelligence police agreed to permit him to visit Iran from time to time in order to continue helping to build a non-religious orphanage. Saeed’s trip to Iran in 2012 was for the purpose of working on the orphanage. However, by this time, the house church movement in Iran had achieved a momentum that was being perceived as a threat, the president of Iran had declared Christianity to be a menace, and Saeed’s work with the house church movement in 2000 was re-examined. He was pulled off a bus on September 26, 2012, and charged with being a threat to national security. After a one-day trial on January 21, 2013, he was convicted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment in Evin prison, one of Iran’s harshest facilities. His future is grim, indeed.

Around the world, Christians under persecution suffer terrible indignities, not to mention real torture. It is reasonable to expect that this will be the lot of Saeed Abedini. Open Doors International has contacts in many countries that pass on the prayer requests of the persecuted Christians. These Christians do not usually ask that we pray for their rescue; they ask that we pray for their testimony. Some reports of Saeed Abedini’s trial suggest that he was able to give a faithful testimony during his very brief trial, and his life story suggests that he will make a faithful testimony during his imprisonment.

Saeed’s story brings to mind the story of Joseph, imprisoned on a false charge, who was a blessing to everyone in the prison. The Bible tells us that “the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love.” (Genesis 39:21) The apostle Paul was imprisoned frequently. Whenever Paul was in prison, he used the situation as an opportunity to testify to his faith. Given the opportunity to speak, he said to men with the power of life and death over him, “I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:29) We pray that the Lord will be with Saeed the same way. May God grant him faith, courage, health and strength. May he persevere in hope. We also pray that worldwide efforts, including numerous petitions for his release, will have success according to God’s purposes. When one suffers, we all suffer with him. Keep Saeed Abedini in your prayers.

 

Pray for Christians in Mali

Some secular thinkers believe that human beings are evolving into more mature moral and ethical beings. The news from Mali calls that idea into question.

Mali, a West African country larger than France, has been in the news a great deal lately. Until about nine months ago, the dominant religion in the country was a moderate form of Islam. Christians lived in safety in this country alongside their Muslim neighbors.

In the spring of 2012, a coup in the capital city of Bamako left a power vacuum which allowed Al-Qaeda rebels to seize the northern part of the country. The rebels have imposed strict sharia law, including punishment by beheading and amputation. Public trials and sentencing have left public squares awash in blood as hands and feet have been chopped off publicly for crimes such as petty theft. Women are required to cover themselves head to toe, and have been publicly flogged or whipped for wearing makeup or for failing to cover their hands.

The legitimate government of Mali has been completely unable to control the north. As a consequence, the United Nations authorized military assistance, but required training of Mali’s own military prior to sending any forces. Currently, France is assisting the government in a limited fashion, bombing terrorist strongholds and attempting to impede rebel movement toward the capital city.

As a consequence of the imposition of extreme sharia, Christians in Mali are now seriously at risk. Any Christians who resided in the north at the time of the rebel invasion were forced to flee to the south, because Al-Qaeda does not tolerate any religion except Islam. Christians who fled to the southern part of the country last spring are now faced with the threat that the rebels will seize the capital and take control of the entire country. It is very dangerous to be a Christian in Mali today. Last year Mali did not even appear on the list of the fifty most dangerous countries for Christians. This year, Mali is number 7. Iran is number 8 on the list, which shows how drastically the situation in Mali has changed.

The current activity of Al-Qaeda in Mali is a reminder that the death of Osama bin Laden was not the death of violent Islamic extremism. It was not even the death of Al-Qaeda, as many people had expected. Like any organization worthy to exist at all, Al-Qaeda was not dependent on the presence of Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was not and is not a personality cult. It is a powerful, well-organized movement with distributed leadership that can survive a hit on any single leader. The very visible activity of Al-Qaeda in Mali is like a rock sticking up from a reef in the ocean; what you can see is only a hint of what actually exists. It would be easy to strike the reef, or to encounter Al-Qaeda, and be harmed by the encounter without even realizing that you were in danger.

Christians must pray with and for Christians in Mali who do not know from day to day if they can even venture out in public. If they have escaped to the south, they may be safe for the moment, but as long as Al-Qaeda’s objective is to capture the whole country, Christians cannot afford to be careless. Christians in the USA must be alert to the message that Al-Qaeda, the mastermind of the destruction on September 11, 2001, is still at work. Al-Qaeda has one goal – to take the world for Allah. As their action in Mali demonstrates, they want to convert or cleanse away the infidels that pollute the globe.

Therefore, as Christians pray for those in Mali who suffer persecution, torture and death, Christians must pray for wisdom and vigilance in their own countries. Militant Islam may not be dominant among all Muslims, but militant Islam is extremely active and aggressive.

In the USA after the Civil War, white people who could not tolerate the new world in which black people were free with full rights of citizenship organized against the new world they could not accept. The Ku Klux Klan was a vile club whose members including professing Christians. To this day, some black people equate white Christians with the Ku Klux Klan, because the wounds that the Klan inflicted were so horrific. An inability to forgive an organization that doesn’t even exist anymore is exactly the same unforgiving attitude as the attitude of the organization they despise. Christians who equate every Muslim with Al-Qaeda are guilty of the same sort of blindness and unwillingness to forgive as the black people who equate white Christians with the Ku Klux Klan. To say that is to call Christians to be vigilant without being hateful. We must recognize and resist aggression against our country and our culture, but we must simultaneously be true to Christ’s teaching to love our enemies and pray for them. We must love all Muslims, violent or not, being harmless as doves while we exercise serpentine wisdom to protect ourselves and our families. It is hard. Jesus never said it would be easy. Pray that God’s love will truly cover the earth as the waters that cover the sea.