Loving Neighbors – and even ‘enemies’ – in the Wake of Ft. Hood

Crescent and CrossUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard that last week an army psychologist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire at Fort Hood and killed 13 people. You’ve probably also heard the inevitable discussion that follows senseless violent tragedy, focusing on the nearly-unanswerable question “Why?” From a ‘systems thinking’ point of view, there are many legitimate facets to put on the table, including mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder, the general morale and collective mental state of troops involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and – yes – the influence of radicalized, fundamentalist Islam.

All well and necessary. But what happens when fundamentalist Christians – and their more respectable evangelical neighbors – ignore 3 of the 4 above factors and generalize the last one, painting all Muslims as a potential fifth column ‘sleeper cell’ in our midst? It isn’t pretty. I’ve been avoiding the typical watering holes for such ‘reasoning’ – Fox News, CBN, WorldNetDaily. I know better. But one place I’ve been unable to avoid seeing it is on my own Facebook network. In some cases dear friends making statements like “If three friends from my local [Christian] congregation were involved in shootings, I don’t know if you could claim that my religion is peaceful. Hmm.” What follows is some of my tentative, in-process response, to my friends and family members who are scared, and want to know how followers of Jesus should respond in the wake of this tragedy.

Where to begin? First off, I do agree that Major Hasan had some shady connections. Not only was he not investigated for those connections, but he was actually appointed by the Bush administration to be high up in Homeland Security if this source is to be believed! This is very odd, and needs to be investigated.

But I’ve gotta be honest with you: It makes me sick to my stomach to hear people compare the best of their faith with the worst in others’ faiths. Of course your truncated version of Christianity will come out smelling like a rose! But we cannot forget that we have a legacy of violence, terror, shame, and intimidation along with the worst of Islam. We too have ‘texts of terror’ in our sacred scriptures, and we do best to handle them with the utmost care so as not to let their volatility spill out into the fragility of our interconnected lives. How is caricaturing a faith held by a billion people worldwide loving our enemies? How is it going to show them the love of Christ?

I agree that PTSD doesn’t excuse someone for their actions. But as someone who personally suffers from anxiety-related issues, I can assure you it’s very real. Radical Islam is doubtless a factor in this man’s thinking, but it’s equally obvious to me that he tried, repeatedly, to get discharged so that he would not enter an arena of war that is increasingly demoralizing our troops – troops that he dealt with frequently as a psychiatrist at Walter Reed hospital. Suicide and domestic violence rates are up exponentially among troops involved in our neverending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. If we Christians wish to focus our indignation somewhere, perhaps it should be on why we entered these zero-sum conflicts to begin with.

Does The Qur’an Uniformly Promote Violence?

So we all hear the ‘naughty bits’ of the Qur’an trumpeted daily via sources like FAUX FOX news and WND, and on increasingly hysterical and polarizing talk radio. But have we ever heard these passages?

“On that account: We (Allah) ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (The Noble Qur’an, 5:32)”

“Fight in the cause of Allah (God) those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah (God) loveth not transgressors. (The Noble Qur’an, 2:190)”

“But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah (God) : for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things). (The Noble Qur’an, 8:61)”

“If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear God, the cherisher of the worlds. (The Noble Qur’an, 5:28)”

“Allah does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you about religion and have not driven you out of your homes. Allah loves just dealers. (The Noble Qur’an, 60:8)”

“And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah (God). But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. (The Noble Qur’an 2:193)”

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (The Noble Qur’an, 2:256)”

“Say, ‘The truth is from your Lord’: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it):……(The Noble Qur’an, 18:29)”

“If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? (The Noble Quran, 10:99)”

“Say: ‘Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger: but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only to preach the clear (Message). (The Noble Quran, 24:54)”

“Say : O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine. (The Noble Qur’an, 109:1-6)”

Allah Almighty loves those who restrain anger: “Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; for Allah loves those who do good. (The Noble Qur’an, 3:134)”

“And you (O Muslims) shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah; but if you persevere patiently, and become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious) then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs” (The Noble Qur’an 3:186)

Narrated Aisha(prophet’s wife) : “Whenever the Prophet was given an option between two things, he used to select the easier of the tow as long as it was not sinful; but if it was sinful, he would remain far from it. By Allah, he never took revenge for himself concerning any matter that was presented to him, but when Allah’s Limits were transgressed, he would take revenge for Allah’s Sake. (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Limits and Punishments set by Allah (Hudood), Volume 8, Book 81, Number 777)”

The Prophet said, “When Allah had finished His creation, He wrote over his Throne: ‘My Mercy preceded My Anger.’

…these are just a few passages that some quick research pulled up. They adequately illustrate, I think, that the Qur’an is a multifaceted work that requires thoughtful interpretation; a text that provides ample inspiration for living a life of peace and love toward God and each other…just like the Bible for Christians. (No, I’m not saying their identically equivalent, nor am I saying that the Qur’an is my holy book. Only that we shouldn’t blithely quote a few less-than-flattering passages out of context and then claim that terrorists are ‘being good Muslims’ by emulating them. That’s not good hermeneutics for any faith. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and all that jazz.)

Extending Hospitality in the Name of Jesus

Some of my friends are upset that I’d quote peaceful passages from the Qur’an and spend so much energy defending Muslims from their detractors. “Why defend a false and hateful religion?” they implore. This makes me think of the psychological term projection. We tend to externalize what we most fear within ourselves. People who find falsehood and hatred in others’ faiths might be anxious about their own collective legacy of deceit and mistreatment of outsiders. If we don’t deal with our shadow sides, we tend to see them writ large in the external world. As Richard Rohr puts it, “If we don’t transform our pain, we transmit it.”

Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I don’t want to be Pollyanna-ish about the current state of affairs: I know that there are violent Muslims in the world, and I know that I would not want to live in several countries where extreme interpretations of Sharia law are in place – laws that severely restrict the freedom of women, of faith, and of conscience. Please understand this, all friends who think that I (and hordes of ‘self-hating liberal Christians,’ I suppose) am simplistically giving the entire Islamic world of all facets a blank check. I had a great Global Civilizations teacher in undergrad days – s/he had ties to US Intelligence. And I’ve kept up with reading since then. I am not hiding my head in the sand from certain harsher global realities. What I am doing, though, is soberly acknowledging the truth of Jesus’ words – violence begets violence. A cursory examination of the past thousand years of world history – of Christian Crusaders versus Muslim Crusaders, of the West versus the Ottoman Empire, of America funding Islamic leaders over and against Communism during the Cold War when it suited our purposes, then reversing support – shows a vicious cycle of manipulation, domination, and propaganda against ‘the Enemy’ – on both sides. And now, thanks in part to the Internet, peace-loving people on all sides of this conflict are saying ‘Enough!’

For me as a follower of Jesus, I believe that hospitality is the antidote to violence in our day. In the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, God commands us to show love and hospitality to three kinds of people: Strangers, Neighbors, and Enemies. (Also Widows, Orphans, and Immigrants, but those can be considered under the previous headings, yes?) Jesus came to offer us a Way out of the patterns of violence and oppression that beset us. In first century Palestine, the ‘ways of being’ in the world were either that you were with Empire (as a Roman citizen and/or a member of the Herodian ruling Jewish elite), warily alongside empire, but focusing on personal piety (like the Pharisee party), a separatist (like the Essenes), or a violent revolutionary (like the Sicarii or Zealot Party). Jesus accurately predicted that these four options would lead to death and destruction, especially for the people of God, as they were all based on fear of ‘the other’ and self-preservation. (This happened, by the way, in AD 70, as Jerusalem was consumed with a bloody civil war and then finished off by Roman armies. It was the end of an epoch; this is what Jesus wept over.) The only way out of this deadly impasse, ironically, was to lose one’s life in self-giving love  – especially toward The Other.

So which is it, contemporary Western Christians? Are Muslims our neighbors? Frankly, we have to do a much better job getting to know them – as people, and on their own terms – before we have the right to refer to Muslims living in our locality as our neighbors. So are they Strangers? Probably. Are they enemies? Probably not, not any Muslims you personally know. (Remember, projection! What have the actual Muslims in your community, and at your job, ever done to you? Sit with God a moment and see what shadows seep out from within; name them for what they are, and release them back to the compassionate and truthful One. See how this enlarges your perspective.) But even if they were enemies, even if all Muslims were our honest-to-God enemies – then what is our responsibility toward them? Jesus once again has a real counter-intuitive zinger:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (from Matthew 5)

Perfection according to God is expression love and doing good toward “the just and unjust” alike. This shouldn’t surprise Christians, since our Scripture boldly proclaims that God is love, and that those who have love have God. This is certainly the scandalous, prodigal inclusion Jesus practices toward the ‘Muslim’ of his day, the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Think about it: First century Samaritans were to Jews what 21st century Muslims are to Christians: Same family tree, divergent ideas about God, legitimate prophets, and worship. Many Jews of Jesus’ day – like many Christians of our own – shunned the SamariMuslims, finding their worship and culture backwards and oppressive. But Jesus, while he did get a word in edgewise about the technical correct-ness of Jewish worship (I guess He couldn’t help Himself), re-oriented the both of them to a coming eschaton where the minutiae of theology and modalities of worship would fade away in light of the brilliant soon-coming epoch were all people would worship together in spirit and reality. We might not be quite there yet – and we shouldn’t gloss over differences, but discuss them, passionately, once we have a relational right to – but abundant, joyful hospitality to strangers, neighbors, and enemies is the Royal Road of Love that Jesus invites us to walk.

It’s Really All About God

All About GodA book by this title by Christian pastor Samir Selmanovic has been saving my sanity in these tumultuous times. Do yourself a favor and read it. If you’re too cheap to immediately spring for a copy merely on my recommendation, listen to this recent talk he gave. And hear him read excerpts from his book. But then buy it! You’ll be glad you did.

While you’re reading, I’d also recommend Sufi poetry, by folks like Rumi and Hafiz. The point in gaining appreciation for the peace and love expressed by the vast majority of Islam is not to convert to Islam, or to excuse the very real atrocities carried out by a minority of those professing Islam. Rather, by comparing their best to our best, Christians can have better conversations and relationships with real-life Muslims who suffer – a lot – whenever an incident like the Ft Hood Shootings splash across the media.

Recommended Contemporary Muslim Reading:

Eboo Patel
Zia Sardar

Alt.Muslim

Muslim Futures Network
Islamicate
Muslim Peace Fellowship
Islam Is Peace

Placing the shooting in perspective

Muslim Communities Rally To Support Victims of Fort Hood
Why Home-Grown Islamic Terrorism Isn’t A Threat
Don’t blame Islam for Fort Hood killings, Baptist leader says
The Fort Hood Shootings and the White Privilege of Disassociation
Fort Hood and Prejudice

Five Futures for Muslims by Sohail Inayatullah

That’s it for now. Shalom, Salaam, and Pax Christi.

81 Responses to “Loving Neighbors – and even ‘enemies’ – in the Wake of Ft. Hood”


  1. 1 Jay November 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you for this sensible blog entry. It is good medicine for the day. We all need a lot more of this.

    • 2 Kristin JoAnne November 13, 2009 at 12:06 pm

      I believe we should have set up internment camps after 9/11.
      This PC garbage is getting us killed and furthering the demise of our national security.

  2. 3 Karen November 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    A Nation Conflicted
    By
    Karen Micallef Tylutki

    The ragged procession of devastated mourners filed by the thirteen pairs of boots, conservatively framed photographs and hollow camouflage helmets. I wept with pity at the sight of their ravaged hearts and tortured souls. Didn’t Jesus say something… something that fits what happened here?

    Matthew 24/36 “”No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.42″Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

    Many individuals are conscious of what God’s will is for them in church, but it doesn’t translate into the everyday and commonplace of everyday living. How many times have we been in a large room with hundreds of people? Weddings, funerals, physical exams, driving tests, filling out forms for licenses, applying for jobs or unemployment, eating at a restaurant, riding in an airplane or train all bring us together with diverse people; some are familiar, some strangers; some we have been taught to fear and others, hate.
    If we heard a loud noise, we might hide, we may duck, we may run or we may just curiously look around; it all depends on our frame of mind. A minute later, the results of those sounds and actions can be catastrophic or trivial and forgotten.
    At Fort Hood, we have witnessed a worse case scenario.
    Many people are pointing fingers, making threats or judgments.
    I look around and see conflicted human beings. I hear the stories and feel breaking hearts.

    Two thousand years ago Jesus said: ‘Love God and love your neighbor as your self.’ There were no qualifications. He didn’t add, ”When it’s convenient…”
    I have been thinking a lot about this during the last few days.
    Here we are in the United States of America.
    This is a country of more ethnic diversity than anywhere else in the world. We are the great experiment in democracy, but we are not “The Melting Pot”…not really.
    We are more a jigsaw puzzle. Millions of people, of every color, religion, social status, sexual preference, age-you name it- we are here trying to build a beautiful picture of peaceful co existence and harmony and fit together but maintain our individuality!
    It just isn’t easy, brother and sister. It is a tough goal to reach.
    Freedom, Equality Justice and Truth are all standards we learned from reading about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, The Lone Ranger, Superman, and Susan B. Anthony among many others. Whether the hero is real or fictional there is always the struggle and the fight and the wounded on the way to achieve the dream.

    I look over our nation and think: “Who is the enemy?” “Is there an enemy?”
    “Will are wounds heal by elongating an already too long war?” Maybe we will just draw more blood and split apart more families and destroy our dreams and ourselves.
    Have we forgotten we are all immigrants? Even our Native Americans had ancestors that immigrated here from somewhere else! Every one of us has a tie of some sort in another part of this world or other celestial place.
    Is it unreasonable to see how warring nations can leave its inhabitants conflicted?
    You might live in Jersey, but your mom is in Iran and your husband is fighting for the U.S.A. in Afghanistan and your brother is a reporter in Iraq and your children by your first husband are visiting with him in Pakistan. You ask yourself the question, whom do I value more or put first? Can I really support a war that might kill my mother? I love this country and the war is valid, but my religion says: “Love one another.”
    “I’m out of work and might loose my home…I feel like a failure.”
    The internal dialog goes on and on.

    Who is to blame? Should we blame? Can we shoulder loss and grief and still be a good Muslim, Jew, Christian, and Unitarian… will my neighbors support me in my time of fear and weakness and attempt to understand? After all, we do live in the greatest country in the world. We have overcome before. Can we meet the enormous challenges of today? Can we leave revenge, satisfaction, ego and avarice behind and stop making demands on others and ourselves that are …well…Inhuman? Superhuman? Crazy?

    I think we can, because I believe God originally made us in the divine image and likeness and we are sons and daughters of a creative God who brought order out of chaos.
    I also trust Jesus’ challenge to us to bring our real needs to God and: “Ask and you shall receive.” I also remember my mom saying over and over to me “You’re made of good stuff, the best I could give you.”

    I entreat all who can hear to hear and all those who can reason to reason and find a quiet place to be still and search your in most depths and find your True Self and a common ground to be one with the universe.

    Peace Be With You My Friends.
    May we all greet each other with a genuine smile in an ever more promising tomorrow.

    November 11, 2009

  3. 4 Jen November 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    With an honest reading of the text of the Sermon on the Mount, we should simply love Muslims even if every representative of their faith desires to kill us. Thankfully, they do not, but it is helpful to remember that so we don’t get caught in ‘degrees of love’ based on degrees of agreement in philosohpy or doctrine.

  4. 5 Gary Ward November 12, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Its clear we should love even enemies. The implication is that we all suddenly forget what we are dealing with potentially, in order to fully love as Jesus did. I don’t agree this is the case. It all just errs towards humanism and ‘lets just forget the atrocities because the quran doesn’t really mean to hurt people.’ How on earth do you get this conclusion?

    • 6 Jody November 16, 2009 at 4:58 am

      I agree Gary. He just left all those passages out.

      He also was not appointed by the Bush administration. Haven’t you read the news?

  5. 7 Jan November 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Mike – on target here. Demonizing Islam doesn’t make Jesus happy.

  6. 8 Jeff Kursonis November 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you Mike for this awesome and needed post.

    The thing that keeps occurring to me and that you so cleanly express is that once Jesus said, “Love your enemies”, that pretty much ended partisanship. If I love my friends, love my acquaintances, love strangers and then even love enemies – there’s no one left in any category to be against.

    And then if, as a Christian, I find myself being against somebody, how do I square that with Christ’s teaching?

    It’s really an incredible new time we are in where we are discovering the way Jesus was teaching that we couldn’t see before because we were so quick to accept and remain partisan, or simply, “within our group”. In this current case it’s about personal and national security – we want to stay safe in our group, that keeps us from getting killed by radicals. But often “our group” has to do with conceptual truths – “evangelical distinctive’s”, and Rollins sets us free of that.

    Thanks, Jeff

  7. 9 Nick Connell November 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you, Mike. As in Jesus’ day, this does not tickle people’s ears, who want to hold justice in their own hand, who won’t release perceived power over “others,” who want instead for God’s Kingdom to be defended with force, who seek to be right rather than to “suffer with,” who don’t see that we are all part of the same heart and all ache for the same completeness and healing in God, who allow fear to overpower love and the peace that the Spirit gives, or something of this sort.🙂

    Gary et al., please take heed:
    1 Corinthians 13
    1 If I speak in human or angelic tongues, [a] but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body [to hardship] that I may boast, [b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

    Warmly,
    Nick

  8. 10 Gary Ward November 12, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    thanks nick

    Ill take heed of a passage that was written to a Church that needed to do this within its own walls.

    • 11 Nick Connell November 12, 2009 at 7:12 pm

      …as an example to the whole world that Jesus was who he said he was, and as a sign of the coming Kingdom. Am I wrong on this, Gary. And I definitely mean you no harm. However, I’m shocked with the knee-jerk reaction some of my Christian friends and family have when I bring up the concept of love in conversations about interfaith/intergroup relations, partisan politics, and foreign relations.

      • 12 Gary Ward November 14, 2009 at 9:41 am

        As I wrote on Mikes original posting: my issue isn’t whether we should love others, of course we should. In the uk soccer is followed fanatically. If a single player of a team fouls a lot he is called ‘dirty.’ If the team mates or manager dont bring this player into line the whole team get a reputation for being a dirty team. This applies with Islam… A small faction are brutal murderers and in the uk the rest of the Islamic community has done little to bring them into line. Therefore I look at the whole of Islam as somehow tolerating the actions of the small amount of murderers. Islam should be hunting down the terrorists with as much fervour as the allied troops and countries bullied into joining the coalition by the usa. failure to take sufficient measures means Islam needs to be scrutinised WITH the small faction of terrorists. Does it mean we dont love them, of course not, but in relating to Muslims I am forever wary that there is a grey area in their understanding of Islam that can be seen as license for harming ‘the infidel’… That’s us non-Muslims by the way.

  9. 13 Dena Brehm November 12, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Bravo, Mike…!

    I, for one, shall be reading that book, if only on YOUR recommendation … you ain’t steered me wrong, yet…!

    I’d also make a recommendation of my own … Mark Siljander’s “Deadly Misunderstanding” was eye-opening for me, in showing me much that’s skewy about Christianity, and much that’s misunderstood about Islam … and how Jesus bridges the seeming “gap”… making the way for miracles to flow. A fascinating read!

    http://www.adeadlymisunderstanding.com/

  10. 14 Dena Brehm November 12, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Oh – forgot to mention … I lived at Ft. Hood, when my own father was a JAG officer, and a major/LtCOL, stationed there, back when I was in junior high …

    So this hits home for me in many ways …

  11. 15 Diana November 12, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Thank you Mike for this wonderful message!! Yes we are commanded to love our neigbor as our self, neighbor meaning every other person on earth. No where do the scriptures say we are to put conditions on this love.

  12. 16 Daniel Bryant November 13, 2009 at 2:08 am

    What do you mean by: “fundamentalist Christians – and their more respectable evangelical neighbors”?
    Also, what do you mean by “your truncated version of Christianity”?
    What do you mean by, and hordes of ’self-hating liberal Christians”?
    Explain your use of this terminology, it has me baffled.
    “Projections”… You seem to stereotype Christians just as much as the sterotyping you are accusing them of.

  13. 17 Heather W November 13, 2009 at 3:26 am

    I think Daniel has a good point.
    On the flip side though, I have heard rantings from many within the christian ranks that simply make me cringe in their simplistic stereotyping of muslims or for that matter Obama, or many other “issues.” So I do appreciate your post… just be careful not to obfuscate your message with dashes of your own rhetoric I guess…

    Anyway, to add to what you said, how quickly we forget about the dude who just went and shot Tiller, the abortion doctor. Sure, christianity is a peaceful loving religion all the time, right?

    On the other hand, I do believe that islam is potentially much more violence inspiring than christianity is. It DOES seem that the average muslim DOES practice a peace-loving religion as they claim to practice…however a read through the first few chapters of the Koran did very much give me the impression that they do this in spite of the Koran overall, rather than because of it. I do like much of what I have read from the sufis and have found most muslims I have known to be incredibly devout and beautiful people… but there is an evil spirit that inspired this religion to begin with, as I think of billions of people who are bound to a book that declares, “Do not believe the infidel when he comes to you and declares to you that I have a son, for I Allah do not have a Son…” But there is something of God in it too, before the antichrist spirit got ahold of it and tainted it. It is a complex dynamic, and I like the fact that you challenge people who hold to only one simplistic view of the whole thing. Kudos.

    • 18 Nick Connell November 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks Heather. A close friend of mine converted to Islam from fundamentalist Christianity many years ago. We’ve had some very intriguing conversations about life, meaningfulness, mysticism, religion, etc. I find my solace among mystics of any faith tradition, and most especially among those who share my belief in Jesus and that accompanying metanarrative.

      In my conversation with this friend, we seem to agree about everything, especially that religions are human’s best attempts at grasping for meaning and the Divine. The only matter on which we currently disagree is the personhood of Jesus, with me believing that a true reading of Scripture can lead one to no other logical conclusion: Jesus is the Son of God, who entered our experience as a human and … so on.

      She says Islam was not meant to be another religion, but instead was founded to recover the faith of Abraham and Moses and Jesus. The belief is that under Constantine and at the Council of Nicea, the wrong interpretation of Scripture and particularly of Jesus’ identity won out, that in fact, Jesus was solely another prophet and avatar. She then counseled me to read other non-canonical texts and so no from the 5th Century onward that refutes Jesus’ deity.

      However, the essence of both Islam and Christianity is one of faith in God/Allah, and the pursuit of love, peace, justice and the like. Both religions have erupted in violence to protect their version of “truth.” But Jesus showed that violence was not the way any more.

      I think much of the disagreement among Christians is about approach: how to share good news and make disciples, how to relate to “the other,” and how to understand what Jesus’ love looks like among us and in our “ministry of reconciliation” in the world.

      There will be no resolve between Muslims and Christians on this issue of Jesus’ deity and all that it entails. Our call to love (more than just co-exist) is paramount, and out of our love we are to be authentic to our faith and experiences, to give action to and (appropriate) voice to the good news of God’s restoration project (the Kingdom that is already here, inside us and around us, but not yet fully here).

  14. 19 Jonathan Davis November 13, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Mike, you wrote, “I think, that the Qur’an is a multifaceted work that requires thoughtful interpretation; a text that provides ample inspiration for living a life of peace and love toward God and each other…just like the Bible for Christians.”

    But if really want to write intelligently about the faith you have decided to defend, it’s important that you know some of the characteristic history of Muhammad and Islam. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Muslims themselves. I hope the ones you and I know truly walk in peace and come to know the one true God who loves them. But to put it in civilized terms, Islam is simply the most dangerous and atrocious religion on earth and Muhammad was one of the most despicable men in history (keep reading if you don’t believe me). Muhammad, a murdering serial rapist and pedophile (proven by Islam’s own “holy” works) was so wicked he would likely be murdered by prisoners if he were in a modern-day jail. Shocking, to be sure. But the truth needs to be told. And you have a greater responsibility to know it than the average reader.

    You say that Faux (Fox) News quotes a few of the worst Qur’an verses out of context, yet after the verses you quoted, I have to wonder if you’ve really done your homework. Your presentation may be more popular than mine in this day and age, but you may also be doing your readers a grave disservice by leading them to drop their guard and become more amicable towards Islam. For your sake and for the sake of your future discourse, I pray you will read on and continue to learn what’s really behind the veil of Islam.

    The more you look into it, the more horrid this religion becomes. Once you get past the uninformed “tolerant and compassionate” rhetoric of well-meaning defenders, any rational and reasonable person couldn’t see it any other way when you pull back the curtains. Most of the media wouldn’t dare broadcast this material due to fear for their life and property. So it’s no wonder the truth is not common public knowledge. You have to search for it yourself.

    Before getting into some of Muhammad’s own moral atrocities (crucial to a true understanding of Islam) and Islam’s shocking core beliefs, here are some introductory remarks Craig Winn writes. Craig, who I extensively quote below, spent thousands of hours researching Islam and developed an exhausting work on this troubling faith. Far from trying to demonize Muslims, Craig truly cares about these people, as do I. From http://prophetofdoom.net/Prophet_of_Doom_Islams_Terrorist_Dogma_in_Muhammads_Own_Words.Islam:

    “One last thought before you head down this perilous path. I pray that when you have reached the journey’s end, you will share my heart for the plight of Muslims. I want nothing more than to free them from Islam, and in so doing, free us from the terror their doctrine inspires.”

    Let’s begin with some exemplary remarks from Islam’s core “holy” and revered references (which, you must know, I heartily disagree with). Feel free to correct me Mike, if you feel I’m lifting them out of context:

    Tabari I:280 “Allah said, ‘It is My obligation to make Eve bleed once every month as she made this tree bleed. I must also make Eve stupid, although I created her intelligent.’ Because Allah afflicted Eve, all of the women of this world menstruate and are stupid.”

    Muslim:B1N142 “‘O womenfolk, you should ask for forgiveness for I saw you in bulk amongst the dwellers of Hell.’ A wise lady said: Why is it, Allah’s Apostle, that women comprise the bulk of the inhabitants of Hell? The Prophet observed: ‘You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. You lack common sense, fail in religion and rob the wisdom of the wise.’ Upon this the woman remarked: What is wrong with our common sense? The Prophet replied, ‘Your lack of common sense can be determined from the fact that the evidence of two women is equal to one man. That is a proof.'” UNQUOTE

    Some excerpts from year seven of the Islamic Era. WARNING – THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINTHEARTED. From http://prophetofdoom.net/Prophet_of_Doom_21_Blood_and_Booty.Islam:

    “Incidentally, neither Allah, Muhammad, Ishaq, Tabari, Bukhari, nor Muslim made an attempt to justify Islam’s ruthless assault on the Khaybar Jews. They knew the truth and didn’t try to disguise it. Islam was no longer a religion; it was a terrorist dogma. The first Muslims weren’t disciples; they were mercenaries. Muhammad wasn’t a prophet; he was a pirate. Allah wasn’t a god; he was the Devil incarnate. And together, they were about to prove that they were a blight on humankind.

    As transparent as ever, these words, directly from Muhammad’s lips, demonstrate that he was working for the Prince and the Power of the Air, the Lord of Devils, the Prince of Darkness, the Great Deceiver, the Adversary – Satan. Ishaq:510 “When the Apostle looked down on Khaybar he told his Companions, ‘O Allah, Lord of the heavens and what they overshadow, and Lord of the Devils and what into error they throw, and Lord of the winds and what they winnow, we ask Thee for the booty of this town and its people. We take refuge in Thee from its evil and the evil of its people. Forward in the name of Allah.’ He used to say this of every town he raided.”. . . .

    The warning these Jews were given before evil befell them was no different than Muslims provide today. The 9/11 terrorists shouted “Allahu Akbar” before they slaughtered thousands. By proclaiming the Prayer of Fear, Islamic terrorists tell us who they are, what they believe, who they serve, and why they kill.
    There is nothing Islam could do to make their terrorist nature more obvious. Bukhari:V5B59N516 “When Allah’s Apostle fought the battle of Khaybar, or when he raided any other people, we raised their voices crying, ‘Allahu-Akbar! Allahu-Akbar! None has the right to be worshipped except Allah.’ [Muslims will continue to terrorize until every soul submits to Islam.] On that Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Lower your voices, for you are not calling a deaf or an absent one, but a Hearer Who is with you.’ On that he said to me, ‘O Abdallah, shall I tell you a sentence which is one of the treasures of Paradise?’ I said, ‘Yes, O Allah’s Apostle! Let my father and mother be sacrificed for your sake.’ [What an utterly perverse and odd thing to say.] He said, ‘It is: There is neither might nor power but with Allah.'” Then why, pray tell, did he require militants to kill and pillage for him?

    Tabari VIII:116/Ishaq:511 “So Muhammad began seizing their herds and their property bit by bit. He conquered Khaybar home by home. The first stronghold defeated was Naim. Next was Qamus, the community of Abi Huqayq. The Messenger took some of its people captive, including Safiyah bt. Huyayy, the wife of Kinanah and her two cousins. The Prophet chose Safiyah for himself.” Perverted is too kind a word for this man. He became the first serial rapist to call himself a prophet. And make no mistake; having sex with a captive is rape.

    Tabari VIII:117 “Dihyah had asked the Messenger for Safiyah when the Prophet chose her for himself. Muhammad gave Dihyah her two cousins instead.” It was a two for one deal. The prophet could be so considerate. Ishaq:511 “When Dihyah protested, wanting to keep Safiyah for himself, the Apostle traded for Safiyah by giving Dihyah her two cousins. The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims.” Muhammad had men killed so that he could have sex with their wives and daughters. He traded human beings. And the “prophet” rewarded his Muslim militants by distributing the remaining women among them. Good Grief!

    UNQUOTE

    Muhammad didn’t stop at destroy innocent, unarmed, and unsuspecting Jews. Nor was he satisfied with serially raping the wives of tortured and murdered men. Turns out he was a known pedophile as well. I would not write about such detestable and atrocious matters if they were not recorded in Islam’s own “holy” works. But people need to know about the true roots of Islam.

    From http://prophetofdoom.net/Prophet_of_Doom_13_The_Pedophile_Pirate.Islam

    “Accusing a prophet of being a pedophile sounds outrageous. Yet the evidence is undeniable: Tabari IX:128 “When the Prophet married Aisha, she was very young and not yet ready for consummation.” This is how it happened: Tabari IX:131 “My mother came to me while I was being swung on a swing between two branches and got me down. My nurse took over and wiped my face with some water and started leading me. When I was at the door she stopped so I could catch my breath. I was brought in while Muhammad was sitting on a bed in our house. My mother made me sit on his lap. The other men and women got up and left. The Prophet consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old.” Given a choice, I believe most people would prefer to get their spiritual inspiration from someone who wasn’t a sexual predator.”

    UNQUOTE

    Just reading the true stories about Muhammad pollutes the soul. And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But the truth MUST BE TOLD so that we can help stop the spread of this deadly disease known as Islam. Love the Muslim, but please don’t defend the faith!

    • 20 Nick Connell November 13, 2009 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks Jonathan. I just want to throw in a few thoughts, not an exhaustive response to your post…and one saying of Jesus: “This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.” This should inform our interfaith relations.

      Labeling an entire religion evil or a disease is probably not the best way to be authentic to our faith and experiences (coming from the pinched horizons of our own life experiences: country in which we live, race/ethnicity, gender, education, etc. — I’m borrowing from Sister Joan Chittister thinking here.) Nor is it the best approach to extending God’s friendship to people (reconciling), and giving witness to God’s reconciliation project. It seems to me to be more similar to judging, which is not our role (and Jesus says that we will be judged with the same measure we judge, in Matthew 7).

      I don’t think the focus should be on defending our faith or anyone’s faith. However, I do think we can praise beauty and recognize truth (defend it) wherever we find it, and point to it as a sign of the coming Kingdom of God. And bringing signs in our everyday life and being signposts ourselves should be our goal as followers of Jesus (“Seek first the Kingdom…and God’s righteousness.” Mt. 6:33)

      And I think we should be sitting with “the problem of evil,” and seeking the Spirit’s guidance as we work to overcome evil with good. So my opinion is that we should ask ouselves what is “good” talk about other religions, about other individual’s faith journeys/experiences, and so on. We should probably ask ourselves what is “good” action as well in multi-cultural, multi-faith settings.

      And I think it may take copious amounts of silence, prayer, introspection, repentance –and research and listening–and the like for us to develop the humility, grace, empathy, and sound mind that is needed to be authentic and to engage with “others.” In community, we can fill up each other’s lack. In community, we can learn to better and more quickly see the splinter’s in our own eyes. In community, we can strategize how best to overcome evil with good in our individual and corporate lives, and on micro, meso and macro levels of change in our world.

      I am not trying to dance around these issues of evil with rhetoric, but I think our approach to living out our faith is of utmost concern here. How do we live generously and graciously towards fellow followers of Jesus, and towards those of other faiths, especially Muslims?

      Jesus said, “This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that…In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:45-48

      • 21 Jonathan Davis November 13, 2009 at 11:14 pm

        Thanks for taking the time to post your poised response Nick. You make correction very palatable. We need more like you in this cyberworld community in which we scribble. The piece you responded to was my fresh out-of-the-gate reaction to discovering all these horrific things about both the founder and foundation of Islam. This is brand new to me and I may not have taken enough time to temper my words and thoughts. I just presented some facts, stark realities, and pretty unvarnished truths to balance out Mike’s slanted presentation. I’m very concerned that Mike is “turning people on” to Islam. And this is a matter of great alarm to me. I realize this could easily be seen as judgments by others. But I ask you to consider again whether or not we should speak out about this.

        Claiming that the entire religion of Islam is a dangerous disease is a pretty broad stroke, I know. But if we knew there was a physical disease that had the power to engulf the world and bring about millions of deaths, would we be showing Christian love by keeping silent about it? This is how I see Islam. I wonder if you really should try and muzzle those who “expose deeds of darkness” as commanded by Paul in Ephesians 5:11.

        If it is true that the root of Islam is bad, isn’t the tree also bad? Won’t a bad tree produce bad fruit? We have seen much bad fruit from Islam in recent years. But now that we are in the nuclear age, it’s entirely conceivable that we “ain’t seen nothing yet.” Christians are converting to Islam. Children, young adults, and whole families are converting to Islam. I’ve heard that Islam is now the fastest growing religion in the world. Muslims have an average of 6-8 children per family, while abortion-decimated Americans have barely 2 children per family (bordering an irreversible population decrease).

        Within a couple of decades, we could have shariah law in a majority of states and countries. It would appear that we are seeing a frog in the kettle “warming up” of people to Islam, just as Germany saw in the 1940s during the advent of Nazism. There are striking parallels here that should not be ignored, or covered up.

        Nick, the body of Christ is made up of many members. And not all serve the same function. Some are the eyes who see, and some are the hands who reach out to others, for instance. Some are the ears who hear, and some are the feet who help us get where we need to go. We need each other and all of our different approaches to encourage each other to fulfill the calling and purposes for which we are here to accomplish. We do not all have the same function. Your approach will be different than mine. Consider allowing for differences in Christian approaches and judge them a little less. I will endeavor to do the same (although I realize this a great challenge for us all).

        I’ve seen more attacks on Christian by other Christians in defense of Islam than I’ve seen on almost any other subject recently. The religion is dividing the body of Christ, and it will increasingly continue to do so. People are confused at how Muslims can be so nice, and yet others so ruthless. But the more you look into the core values of Islam, it becomes perfectly clear. The core values of Islam simply began and remain in the midst of great evil. The root is bad and so is the tree.

        “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11: 3-4)

        I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)

        Paul was apparently pretty harsh when it came to presenting another gospel and even issued curses for doing so. But that is exactly what Islam is doing in the world. It is another gospel, greatly perverted. Paul knew that perversion of truth was a great danger in the world. And so do I. Destroy truth, and you destroy lives. Let lies reign over the truth and you are courting disaster for those you love.

        ANY WRITER, TEACHER, OR LEADER OF ANY KIND SHOULD PAY GREAT HEED TO THE INTEGRITY OF THE TRUTH HE OR SHE SHARE WITH OTHERS. These are truly dangerous times and there is great responsibility that comes with any level of influence in the body of Christ. I pray we will all judge our words in the light of Christ and the full counsel of the New Testament.

        For many nowadays, the act of love does not allow the presentation of truth. But I say, if you neglect to share truth, you may not be acting in true love. Truth and love should go together.

    • 22 Jonathan M Davis December 3, 2009 at 1:38 am

      Mike since you sent me an email in regards to this comment, I should clarify: I am not the Jonathan Davis that posted these comments. It’s a common name there are lots of “Jonathan Davis” in the world.

  15. 23 brambonius November 13, 2009 at 10:31 am

    thanks for this writing… and for the mewithoutyou video…

  16. 24 jennysgoodlife November 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    This is a great post, Mike, and I agree with all you’ve said. Fear of people who are different from us is not from God at all… you are right. The story of Jesus and the woman at the well comes to mind…

    It reminds me of this headline I saw on CNN the other day. I didn’t read/watch the video, but it said “Murder has no religion.” Of course that’s true and untrue. The vast majority of murder is done in the name of religion, sadly.

    But for those who believe in a loving, personal God, I think we can all agree that indeed, murder has no religion! This applies to the Ft. Hood guy (Muslim), abortion doctor killers (Christian), radical Islamists (Muslim), Crusaders (Christian), and everyone in between.

    By the way, your post also makes me realize that I don’t really know any Muslim people… Hmm.. Need to make some Muslim friends!🙂

  17. 25 zoecarnate November 14, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Wow – thanks for the conversation, all! I’m going to try and respond to as many of these as possible…

    Jay, Karen, Jen, Jan, Jeff, Jenny, Nick, Dena, Diana – thank you for your kind words and furthering the discussion.

    Kristin, I applaud your honesty. Of course you realize, sentiments like yours – “I believe we should have set up internment camps after 9/11” – is precisely why I’m concerned with the way this conversation is heading in the U.S., and all the demonizing hysteria that’s cropping up. When I was younger, I used to wonder how Germany (and Europe in general) could stereotype all Jewish people so easily and then ultimately send them to their deaths. Now I don’t wonder; I see the potential seeds of this in my own country. I hope I don’t need to say that this disturbs me greatly; what you’re saying ‘out loud’ many others are thinking.

    Gary, Heather, and Jonathan: Just so we’re crystal-clear, I’m not comfortable with all tenets of Islam, as a religion or as a geopolitical movement; I think I made this clear in my post above – that the human rights issues among some Muslim theocracies make me very nervous. And I know it can’t be comfortable, Gary, to know that (y)our faith is no longer the dominant one in Europe where you live.

    But two things need to be said about this at the outset:

    1.) Islam is not a monolithic entity, anymore than Christianity is, or Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, et al. There really are all kinds, and the vast majority of Muslims are peaceable people.

    2.) Even if every Muslim person on the planet were as bloodthirsty as Sean Hannity’s worst nightmare, this wouldn’t change how we’re to relate to them, one bit. The whole “love your enemies” bit – Jesus means that. I realize that some of you might feel that I’m blurring the lines between ‘personal’ responses to ‘individual’ Muslims and ‘the government’s’ responsibility toward ‘Islam’ as a whole. It’s the same argument-form used against me and my ‘peacemaking’ friends by my ‘hawkish,’ warmongering friends.🙂 I have three responses to this:

    a.) What you’re posting on your blogs and social networking sites is your personal response, how you as an individual are processing the uncomfortable presence of the Other in our midst. Last time I checked, you were not a national policymaker and are not formulating collective response.

    b.) Even if you think Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is only binding on individuals, think about how we live in a representative democracy now. How you vote can, ostensibly, influence the collective whole of our nation, and so your personal/individual values, if shaped by the unconditional love of Jesus’ teachings, could shape national policy if you’re so inclined. (For my anarchist and Anabaptist friends, feel free to skip this one.🙂 )

    c.) Constant aggression toward enemies or perceived enemies just isn’t good foreign policy, not even on a value-less, pragmatic level. Imagine if we’d invested the trillions we’ve squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan on more equitable food distribution, global health care, and alternative energy/eco jobs: Do you think there would be more or less terrorism in the world today – more or less goodwill toward America? Not only is love the right thing, but it’s quite effective.

    An aside just to Heather: It’s is disconcerting for those of us who are into the Trinity, and Incarnation to read such words in the Qur’an. I’ve gotta say, though, there are reasons such things are written there, as well as in Jewish Rabbinical writings: Jewish & (pre/)Muslim folks didn’t always have good experiences with Christians once Christians were ‘in charge’ of the Empire during Christendom. Our doctrines seemed obscure, and our lives didn’t bear the Fruit of the Spirit, sadly. It’s no wonder they rejected our message. I hope this can change in our era, but it won’t happen by Christians behaving like terrified or petulant brats upset that we’ve lost the power in a post-American, post-Christendom world. God’s kindness leads to repentance, I think it says in Romans – our kindness would probably go a long way too. We should try it. (I know you probably agree with much of this, Heather)

    Back to you, Jonathan old bean. I’ll reply to your first post first, then your second.

    I’m not studied enough myself to immediately engage every point you make (or quote) about the life of Muhammad or the earliest history of Islam. For the moment, though, let me just take a trajectory that might sound familiar to you:

    Muhammad’s life and actions, while they might seem strange to us today, made sense according to his time and age. Girls married at a much younger age, and violence was a fact of life.

    This should sound familiar because this is precisely the line evangelical Christian apologists give us when we question the disturbing stuff in our own bibles! I’ve been reading the Prophets lately (y’know, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, not Muhammad and Joseph Smith – just so we’re on the same page🙂 ), and I am shocked at some of the stuff they have God saying! God comes off as rather bipolar to be honest, reveling in sadistic acts of violence toward children, the rape of women, and more – and in the next instance cooing forgiveness and weaving some of the most evocative utopian/eschatological metaphors our faith possesses. You want God commanding genocide? No need to castigate the Qur’an – look no further than Joshua! Want sadistic stories of rape and dismemberment? There’s Lot and his daughters.

    And yet, most of us Jews and Christians don’t rush to judgment on such volatile matters – we utilize a kaleidoscope of hermeneutic tools to sleep at night, worship God as ‘good,’ and hold our Scripture in high regard. These tools include the above-mentioned contextualization (‘those were brutal times’ – perhaps Christians say that God was condescending to act in those ways at that moment in Old Covenant salvation history), allegorization, ethnocentrism (the ends justified the means because it’s ‘God’s chosen people’ – or, when Israel herself was being brutalized, that she was God’s to do with as he will – a strange justification that reinforces early monotheism’s belief that women were men’s property, writ large), or simply saying that the Bible, like Jesus’ incarnation, is fully human and fully divine – that Israel (and the early Church) projected her images of God into their sacred traditions, in ways both sublime and profane. This last option isn’t just for ‘liberals,’ by the way – I believe it was CS Lewis (or maybe even John Calvin!) that said when God ‘spoke’ in the Old Testament, ‘God spoke with a lisp.’ In the best of our Christian faith, we’ve learned from our elder Jewish brothers that to be faithful to Scripture can mean wrestling with Scripture, arguing with Scripture – just as Abraham and Moses argued with God, and Jacob wrestled with him (the very meaning of ‘Israel.’) I’m glad that my God, and my faith, are expansive enough to encompass my love/hate relationship with the Bible I read.

    Now with all that said, Jonathan, don’t you think that progressive and peace-loving Muslims worldwide have already been wrestling with the meanings in their own sacred texts, the troubling bits that you’ve discovered only yesterday? I think they have. There are groups like Progressive Islam who answer questions put to their text, tradition, and history much like our own liberal mainline Protestants would; there are ‘apologetics ministries’ like Answering Infidels who do vigorous point/counterpoint defenses, much like our own fundamentalist Christian ‘Berean’ ministries seek to do. You’ve got all kinds…just like with Christianity.

    And this, really, is the heart and soul of my critique of much of the extreme Christian reaction to the Ft. Hood shootings (and Muslim culture in general): The very combative fear of Islamic extremism is the fear that energizes Christian extremism. Christians turning a blind eye to our own ‘texts of terror’ and history of violence are JUST AS LIKELY to resort to violent acts of terror as the worst lone shooters, suicide bombers, and terror cells of fundamentalist Islam. We ALL need to break the cycle of violence by believing the best about each other, and trusting that our majorities have the energy and goodwill to sustain our most nourishing spiritual traditions – if we each expect each other to ‘freak out’ on the other, we’ll probably fulfill our own worst expectations. Perfect love casts out fear. Let us each endeavor to receive and reflect this Perfect Love, as we see it.

    I hope that’s not too Kumbaya for you, Jonathan. I’m not saying that ‘all religions are the same,’ nor am I trying to ‘turn people on’ to Islam, LOL. If you knew my readers, they’re some of the most independent-minded people in the world – Christians of every stripe, folks of other faiths or no faith, and everyone in between. And I am quite happy with my Christian faith in case you’re concerned.🙂 I do have a stake, however, in making sure that my words about our neighbors’ faiths are truthful and full of grace. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time and place for a critique of neighboring faiths – I believe that followers of Jesus have a responsibility to prophetically call down idols, whether the idolatry in question is toward empire, capitalism, statism, consumerism, or imprisoning belief systems. But I think we need to take the speck out of our own eye first, and earn the right to call the Other in our midst Neighbor and Friend before we start airing our concerns and grievances. I hope that this truth – this leading with a humble epistemology – doesn’t divide the Body of Christ in the years ago come, but I’m sure you’d be the first to agree with me, Jonathan, that Jesus sometimes divides just as he unites. No doubt a fully authentic follower of Jesus might find his life in danger in any land – captialist or communist, Christendom or Islamic – if we truly follow the path of embracing and advocating for the least, the last, and the lost.

    But I’ll make you a deal, Jonathan – let’s continue to journey together on this. I’ll make an honest effort at reading the website you link to, if you’ll read at least two books for me:

    A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman’s Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide by Mark D. Siljander

    and any one of the following by historian Karen Armstrong:

    Islam: A Short History

    Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet

    A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

    The Battle for God

    Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths

    I think we should include one more step to keep us honest, and keep this from being merely cerebral: We need to consult at least one Muslim friend during the course of our reading, to glean from their insight as a sounding board. They don’t have to be theological geniuses, but former-Muslim-converts-to-Christianity (or Capitalism) don’t count! They’ve gotta be honest-to-Allah Muslims. If you don’t currently have such a friend, you need to make one.

    Sound like a deal? Anyone else want to take me up on this besides Jonathan?

    • 26 Jonathan Davis November 14, 2009 at 1:48 am

      Dang – just when I was ready to move on to a warmer and fuzzier subject😉 After your excellent response, I do feel a little less worried about your faith, Mike. But I don’t think I’m ready to be a disciple just yet😉 However, I’m impressed that you’ll “make an honest effort” to check out my website references if I read at least two books. LOL, you are a funny man.

      Nevertheless, I do love challenges. And I DO need to learn more about Islam. AND I love to hear other perspectives to get a well-rounded view of things. I’m new at this subject, so I’m willing to learn. I will check out “at least” one of those books you refer to. “The History of God” looks like something I might want to explore.

      You struck a vein with this important subject, Mike. Kudos for taking on the task, and thanks for encouraging us to journey with you on this. It is undoubtedly one of the most important spiritual and social concerns of our times.

  18. 27 Heather W November 14, 2009 at 1:43 am

    I have such a friend, should I go and fetch him?🙂 I will try!

    I have to say though that I don’t have any problems with a violent God. I don’t have any issues with Jeremiah or any of the other OT prophets saying that God said some nasty and violent things. Even Jesus wasn’t all nice all the time, truth be told.

    My issue with Islam is not that it is violent – it is that it is twisted on some very important points, and the violence it uses is totally misplaced. But that’s just a side note.

  19. 28 brojo November 14, 2009 at 2:20 am

    “Answering Infidels”
    That’s funny!

  20. 29 Irritable November 14, 2009 at 2:42 am

    Mike,

    You have more patience than I do.

    Maybe it’s all that centering prayer.

    Love,

    Ira

  21. 30 Diana November 14, 2009 at 3:12 am

    What is so absolutely mind blowing is that God, unconditionally, loves each one of us no matter what.

    This is a wonderful site full of educational facts and links for furthering ones knowledge on Christian/Muslim Relations. http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=2629

  22. 31 brambonius November 14, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Now maybe I do have to say more… I’m not American, but I live in Belgium. So I guess my view of Islam is quite different. I don’t see them as enemies from faraway. but I’ve lived here in Antwerp in a city with lots of poor people from all nationalities, including muslims from all over the globe….

    We have a lot of muslims here. 2 or 3 generations ago there were not enough people to do some very low jobs, so we imported workers for Morocco and Turkey to do that work for us (factory work, and work in the mines) and in Limburg also Italians.. Now the mines are closed, and the factories modernised… The italians have blended in quite well, and they’re not relevant anyway for they’re catholic…

    The Morrocans are another story. We’ve brought in poor people to work here, and they never integrated, formed their own communities who are kind of closed… some of the older men still don’t speak dutch… And especially in those uneducated lower-class people (the ones we wanted here to do our dirty jobs…) it appears to be very easy for a radical islam to emerge. Also, later on fugitives from all over the world also arrived (some illegal) and there are also muslims among them, from pakistan, bosnia, afganistan, …

    I’ve worked in a working class environment with two muslims. One was a morrocan, who ‘lived in sin’ but wished to be a practicing fundamengtalist. The other one was a fugitive from Pakistan, a very liberal muslim who tried to convince evrybody that islam equates world pieces. I don’t thing the radical imans here in antwerp would approve of his message. There are elements here who think they’re gonna take over europe and make it live under shariah. a collegue of my mother-in-law teaches dutch to newcomers, and one day had a problem becauuse a class of muslum men did protest getting orders from a woman. so they called an iman to calm them down, who wasn’t aware that she could understand ararabian, who told them to be quiet now, later they would be the ones in charge…

    I don’t know what to think of Islam, it’s too diverse. I like sufi, and the more ‘liberal’ cmuslims who say ‘islam = peace’. But the current tendenses in poor working class muslim ghettos here are not so very healthy for anyone… It’s since 9/11 that they’ve become more radicalised here also. In a very selective way sometimes though, I find it very sexist when I hear about muslim boys (who have no problems in slmeeping around) press muslim girls to wear a scarf, and only will want to marry a virgin when they reach the age…

    So I see trounbling tendenses in islam here in belgium… But the (no-so-)funny thing it is politically incorrect to say anything negative about islam, or any muslim. Then you’re a racist and no-one will listen to you. (while christianity-bashing is very pupolar for intellectuals here)

    And I don’t know how it’s gonna work out in the future..

    I do think we should love neigbors and enemies, and I don’t believe any violence would do good, but I wonder…

    shalom

    Bram

  23. 32 Gary Ward November 14, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Why does the past history of any religion have any bearing in what we are saying? Do we all sit here fingers on lips because Christianity has a bloody past. If anyone threatens my own family I would fight until death to protect them. Would it be what Jesus teaches, no. But the opposite is to sit and watch my family harmed by attackers. So what is ‘right?’

    So YES, all people including myself could be pushed into harming under certain circumstances. If your child in the playground is beaten by a bully for a few days on the run, would you sit silently because in the past your child caused a fight? I expect you would call a meeting with the school to tackle the issue. You may ever forgive the child, and that would be a good outcome. But then would you expect your child to completely forget there is a violent thug in the school? If Christians forget that Islam does little to restrain the terrorists operating in the name of Allah, we are in big trouble.

    Having known suicide bombers personally and worked with communities that spawned the terror cells that bombed London I can confirm that there is much more co-ordinated support from non-terrorist Islam for what they do than we see in the press. I witnessed the Imams being involved in the sending if the terrorists and when I kicked up a fuss before the bombings, I was told to stop being cynical and suspicious of the Muslim project I was working with. When the bombs went off I was made the press liaison for the Christian project in the community. Do I love Muslims… yes! Do I love Islam ABSOLUTELY NOT! Society and especially Christians are rolling over because there’s a fear of not loving enough. Because ‘the greatest of these is love’ I feel I cannot have an opinion in case it isn’t loving enough! Can we get to a place where we all, no matter how strongly this argument is really about justifying your own Christian practice, admit we need to stop the Ned Flanders approach and start to THINK.

    Mike, you make some good points but in an effort to hatch a rational approach to loving people Jesus’ way there needs to be a large serving of reality. Is it possible to truly love a people group you are suspicious of? I believe it is a problem and that’s where we are with it. Did my flawed perception of Jesus love cause the problem? No… Muslims strapping Semtex to them selves and detonating it amongst innocent people caused the problem!

    Not sure if you have kids mike but as mine have grown up I feel a bigger sense of wanting a better place for them to live and that will not be accomplished while Islam sneers at our non-confrontational, all accepting, forever tolerant pseudo-love that seems do more to justify our own faith position than actually face the realities of 21 century living. I don’t have an answer to bridge the love/issues gap but I know the answer is not to roll over.

  24. 33 Irritable November 14, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    The telling thing here, Gary, is that you’re talking about how we deal with terrorists.

    Mike is talking about how we deal with Muslims.

    • 34 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

      as Ive said a thousand times before oh non-hearing one… Until Islam hunts down the terrorists among their own they are guilty by association.

  25. 35 Irritable November 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    It occurs to me that I’m calling for a distinction — between denouncing terrorism and demonizing Islam — that some people actually can’t make. For a Christian who believes they hold the Truth, anything less than the truth — which is to say, anything other than (a properly conceptualized form of) Christianity — is dangerous, even demonic. It is not loving, then, to turn a blind eye to the dangers of a false ideology. Friends don’t let friends remain Muslim.

    Pointing out Christianity’s own checkered history is ineffectual because this history was carried out by people who didn’t understand true Christianity. Those who don’t understand, whether they are false Christians or adherents to false religions, are simply People Who Are Wrong, along with, I imagine, the LGBT community, liberals, humanists, atheists, and people who talk at the theater. [That last one was a joke, for the benefit of any Firefly fans out there.]

    There really is no apparatus, within this kind of belief, for offering respect or consideration to a competing system that is by definition false and dangerous. And the best way to love the people who are a part of that system is to try to get them out.

  26. 36 Diana November 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    One should ‘deal with’ (I dislike this expression) Muslims the same way one should ‘deal with’ any other neighbor……
    We have been commanded to ‘Love our neighobor.’ The criteria give by Christ is a naked man laying along side of the road…the clue, on who to love, is in the word ‘naked’. The real question might be ‘How do we love?’ ‘The Shack’ that Mike recommends explains this so well.

  27. 37 Irritable November 14, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    You make a good point, Diana; “deal with” is probably not the best language here. “Respond to” might have been better, or something else — but it’s hard to think of anything that doesn’t perpetuate the construction of the Muslim as the “Other.” Most of this conversation is predicated on that construction. It’s a problem.

  28. 38 Diana November 14, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Whydo we need to perpetuate an ‘other’? Why not a we or us? Does not God love each of us equally? How excited the father was upon his sons return?

  29. 39 brotherjohnny November 14, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    While I’m aware of the the mindset that Mike is (and many others are) concerned with, it’s really not much of an issue for me.

    Muslims are people. They are neighbors….

    Jesus said to treat them in the way that we would want to be treated.

    I am a believer in Christ and so I believe that to know Jesus as Lord is the only way of ultimate Truth. I, personally, am concerned with truth and want to walk in it to the best of my God given ability.
    I also want to know more of the Love of my God.

    This, then, informs the way that I should treat my neighbors.

    It doesn’t make sense for me to be an apologist for Islam or any other religious philosophy, and it’s okay for me to say that they are in error.

    While I believe it off center for Christians to thump their neighbors heads (and enemies) with the Book, we should feel free to speak with them openly and honestly about the One in whom we believe and why…

    and, you know, if they *are* the kind of Muslims that would blow us up because of that (the evil kind)….., well, then…., Jesus *did* say some things about that as well.

  30. 40 brotherjohnny November 14, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    …one last thing. Let’s be careful to present this same love to those professing Christians who insist on demonizing Muslims, otherwise we have missed the point ourselves. No?

  31. 41 Irritable November 14, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I don’t recall anyone in this conversation demonizing Christians or presuming that all Christians demonize Muslims, or even that all of a given kind of Christian do.

    It’s okay to say that those Christians who do (demonize Muslims) are in error.

    Likewise, it is quite possible to believe that those who do not claim Jesus as Lord should come to do so, without using language that suggests that all Muslims are terrorists who cannot be trusted and that the religion of Islam automatically makes them this way without exception.

    It’s okay to say that Christians who do (use such language) are in error.

    It doesn’t make sense for me to defend ethnocentrism or xenophobia, and it’s okay to say that they are in error.

    • 42 brotherjohnny November 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm

      Ira,
      I don’t recall that either, and for the record, it wasn’t I who suggested such a thing.(Not sure if that comment was pointed at me or not.)

      Such a one *would* be in error, wouldn’t they?

      • 43 Ira November 14, 2009 at 11:07 pm

        BroJo,

        You didn’t, exactly — but while your general call to be kind to our coreligionists obtains, an apple-to-apples missing the point would entail calling out Christians for broad-brush generalizations of our Muslim neighbors but doing so with an equally broad brush ourselves. I don’t think that has happened, which is not to suggest that we are all models of civil discourse.

  32. 44 zoecarnate November 14, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    BroJo,

    Do you feel like I’m being an ‘apologist’ for Islam?

    From my point of view I’m not at all; neighbors should feel free to disagree – passionately even – on the things that matter most. Certain faith is right up there. But when Christian neighbors think of ‘Islam,’ I certainly want them to be exposed to a more positive, mainstream stream of the faith than their accustomed to. I think it’s unfair – and completely un-Christlike – for Christians to compare they’re own pet best version of Christian faith with a distorted, caricatured version of Muslim faith. We need to at least know what we’re arguing against, if we’re to do so fairly.

    Which is why I went out and bought a copy of the Qur’an today.🙂 Salaam.

    • 45 Diana November 14, 2009 at 10:02 pm

      Alikum salaam, Which copy did you buy? As with the Bible there is debate to which is a better or truer translation. A dear friend of mine, recommended ‘The Gracious Quran’, translation by Ahmad Zaki Hammad.

      • 46 zoecarnate November 14, 2009 at 10:19 pm

        ‘The Koran Interpreted’ by A.J. Arberry – what do you think of this particular one?

      • 47 Diana November 14, 2009 at 11:21 pm

        Isn’t that the first English translation? I have not seen that one. We could compare text between our two books. I just recently bought mine.

        An FYI for those that may not know, the Qur’an is read in Arabic by Muslims the English translations are for those (non-Muslims)who only speak English. I will say my husband,(he is Muslim and I am Christian) because I know his opinion, believes when something is translated out of it’s original language, meaning is lost or construed.

        The website I referred to several posts back has many wonderful educational resources on Islam. Surprisingly there is much common ground between our two religions.

        This page was created by a wonderful Christian who spent many years in the Middle East.

        http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=2629

    • 48 brotherjohnny November 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm

      Mike,
      Nope.
      My simple statement was just that; a simple statement.

      Furthermore, while I don’t personally have the desire or calling to make Christians aware of friendlier (or even larger) strains of Islam (or any other religion), more power to you.
      May your new Koran serve you well!🙂

    • 49 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

      Mike your article is an apologetic for Islam. So is your throwing people off the thread who don’t support your pro-islamic ideas.

      • 50 zoecarnate November 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm

        Gary, did you read my most recent comment here? I haven’t thrown you or anyone else off my Facebook friends list…my account was disabled.

      • 51 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

        just to mop up on these threads. Mike didn’t throw anyone off it was my assumption and I apologise for assuming Mike, a guy of good character did this.

      • 52 zoecarnate November 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm

        Thanks, Gary. I remember one time a few months back that I thought you de-friended me, too. I got upset. It happens. No worries.

  33. 53 zoecarnate November 14, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Oh – and I completely agree with the need to even love hard-to-get-along-with fellow Christians. It’s quite counterproductive to ‘hate the bigots.’ It’s more difficult by far though, don’t you think, to enter into a sustained (and strained) debate with a fellow pilgrim of your own faith. When they continuously don’t agree with you, it’s that much harder than if they were a complete outsider; it’s like they should ‘know better’ and come see the light of your side!

    Ah, life.

    • 54 brotherjohnny November 14, 2009 at 11:02 pm

      Yes, hating bigots while not hating murderers isn’t very consistent.
      Of course In mentioning the two categories I am referring to the hateful streams of both religions.
      I’m sure that the only first hand experience that many Muslims have with Christianity comes out the barrel of an automatic weapon.

      Just as I hope to represent the ‘best of the best’ of my flock, I would love to hear from theirs as well.

      And I have in fact. In an way.

      A year or so after the 911 attacks I was working as a maintenance man for an apartment complex in Florida.
      The country was under an ‘amber alert’ and all of the local apartment mangers (maybe nationwide) received a memo to look out for suspicious behavior by people of middle eastern descent. This warning had been issued by homeland security.

      During this time general time period I had come to know a very pleasant Muslim Saudi Arabian man (who’s name escapes me at the moment)because of various maintenance issues in his apartment.

      I guess he really liked me because he invited me over for lunch one day.

      Admittedly, I was a little nervous, but I felt the Lord persuading me to go. So I did.

      When I got to his apartment all that I could smell was curry (which I love, btw…), I knocked on the door and he let me in.
      There sat a large metal bowl full of food on the middle of his dining room floor…too large for just myself and him.
      Moments later there was a knock at the door and four other middle eastern men came in. They were all speaking to one another in (whatever their language is called–Farsi? Not sure).

      We all sat down at the bowl of food, ate and talked (my host and I were the only two who spoke English…so it was a little awkward for me).

      It was good food and a decent time considering the circumstances. I mean does anyone remember what the over all mindset of the American peoples in general was like right after 911?

      I know this story isn’t that big of a deal “Breaking news: Christian man eats lunch with some Muslim guys after 911!”, but my point in writing it is because I think that some readers misunderstood me by my first comment here.

      I’m not ‘anti- muslim’, but neither am I overly concerned with Christian/Muslim relations in particular. Like I said in my first comment, “It’s not much of an issue for me”.

      They are people and are entitled to God’s love via the church.

      • 55 zoecarnate November 14, 2009 at 11:31 pm

        That’s an awesome story, BroJo! And a perfect example of what I’m trying to do on these here interwebs. Though I’d take a face-to-face meal with someone of neighboring faith over a blog post any day.

        I hear you, re: not personally feeling called to investigate or discuss Islam particularly. I suppose I do, for two reasons:

        1.) I’m increasingly concerned about the heated rhetoric against Muslims by the West – I’m concerned that they’ll be the next ‘Jews’ of Europe from the dawn of the 20th century to the beginning of World War II. I mean, you heard the one commenter on this this thread even – she said we should have rounded all of ‘them’ up in internment camps after 9/11.

        2.) The house church networks in Raleigh have a brother who’s main calling and function in this area is to build friendships with our 15,000+ Muslim population; he feels called to plant house churches of hospitality for Muslim men and women. The stories you hear from these dear people, who haven’t ever had a Christian friend, are truly heartbreaking. The alienation they’ve experienced in our Southern Christian culture has definitely contributed to the climate of fear and mistrust that is fertile ground for all of our worst fears to germinate.

        Sooo, yeah. I suppose that just like in the 1970s on up it became in vogue among Evangelicals to build bridges of understanding toward Jewish people, faith, and culture (for which I’m glad), now many of us younger emerging and post-evangelical Christians are hearing a post 9/11 call to do the same with our Muslim neighbors.

  34. 56 brotherjohnny November 15, 2009 at 4:06 am

    No, I actually hadn’t read that comment. Nonetheless, your reasoning makes sense.

    Just be careful…
    Seems like that trend from the 70’s may have contributed to the development of that ‘wonderful’ Christian Zionist movement which is so prevalent today.😉

  35. 57 arulba November 15, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Excellent post! We live just a few miles down the road from Fort Hood in conservativille, and thankfully, most people are being fairly reasonable about the shooting. Is it possible we are growing up? Maybe just a little bit?

  36. 58 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Well Mike seems to have accidentaly taken me off his friends list on facebook. So with that here an article which I lean more towards as a Christian with a brain.

    http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/news/uk/myth-or-lie

    • 59 Ira November 15, 2009 at 11:31 am

      All Muslims are terrorists; everyone who disagrees with you is stupid — I’m beginning to see a pattern.

      • 60 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

        Before I genuinely thought Mike had taken me off his friends list by mistake but it seems he has done it with everyone who hasn’t readily accepted the article he wrote. In doing so he has practised exactly what he is trying to defend, the right for people to have their own beliefs and be able to be included without prejudice. Ira, you seem to be ok throwing out smart ass remarks like the above but you dont like it when someone returns them. Mike tolerates you because he cant appear snarky, so he lets you do it for him. Unchecked you can say what you want and mike does nothing. Do you follow the preterist biblical error as well, is that the binding factor.. united in biblical error? Mikes whole journey through pseudo-intellectual debate seems based on his own desire to be a better loving Christian in the eyes of his followers. It may not have walls mike but in lobbing the objectors off this thread you show the empire you’re trying to build. An empire of respect from adoring middle of the road non-thinkers who need your wordy articles to map out their own faith compromise. Its pathetic Mike. Shame on you for your cowardly actions.

    • 61 brambonius November 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm

      3 things I think of now:

      I have noticed here (still in belgium) that muslims (especially after 9/11) see the USa as ‘the big satan’ while Israel is only the small satan… I also remember a speech by one guy from All Quaeda I saw once where the guy was saying why the USa was attacked, while they would never at all attack sweden…

      The third thing I think of is Brian McLaren in his second ‘new kind of Christian book’, where his character Dan the pastor seeks to help the muslim community after 9/11 and organises something to help the mulsim women who feel not safe alone on the street in the post-9/11 atmosphere…

      I don’t know I am not in a position to say anything, but if the USA would have reacted as the characters in McLarens book, it would’ve been a different world now…

      Another note: I’ve noticed that a lot muslims don’t seem to be able to discern religion from culture. I guess their own view is purely holistic on that one. So they see our own european secular culture and think that it is a christian culture. Or they see all the sexual stuff going on on MTV (and the whole gay marriage debate), and then hear Bush speak about bringing freedom, and they think of the whole whoredom they see on western TV…

      it’s more complicated than we expect, it’s a real paradigm shock, but we are called to love, even our enemies… and the best way to get rid of enemies is to turn them into friends…

      shalom

      Bram

      • 62 zoecarnate November 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

        Bram – exactly. If we don’t befriend Muslims, all we do is perpetuate the cycle of violence that’s been happening between Middle East and West for over a thousand years now. Frankly, I don’t care who started it ‘us’ or ‘them.’ We’ll continue perpetuating these cycles of mimetic violence as long as we continue to believe the worst about each other.

        Gary, I have no doubt that we can build a coherent case about why “they” cannot be trusted – making selective use of facts, figures, and negative experience (like 9/11 in my country or the bombings in yours). And you know what? Muslims can make a coherent case that we in the West are The Great Satan, making similar selective use of facts and historical wounds. In other words, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. We’re all justified in our own eyes for the violence we commit.

        I guess one of the reasons I’m in the Jesus Way is because I think that Jesus took one look at the scapegoating mechanisms that were already well into practice in his day and decided to stop echoing the violence he saw around him. In other words, he blinked first. He refused to perpetuate humanity’s violence, instead absorbing it into himself – and transforming it via resurrection. This is atonement, at-one-ment with God: Not to return evil for evil.

        Rene Girard’s mimetic theory has been crucially helpful to me in discerning the patterns of anger and violence in my own life, and living into Jesus’ example to transform pain, rather than transmit it. Here are some excellent Girardian resources:

        Imitatio
        Colloquium On Violence & Religion
        Girardian Lectionary
        Beyond Rivalry
        Preaching Peace

        Grace & peace to all of you this Sunday morning.

    • 63 Ira November 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

      I don’t see where this comment went, but it came through my email:

      “as Ive said a thousand times before oh non-hearing one… Until Islam hunts down the terrorists among their own they are guilty by association.”

      Which clears things up for me a lot. You are holding an entire religion responsible for the actions of some. I find that morally reprehensible. Simple as that.

      • 64 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm

        they give me no choice but to do so IR. I dont care what you find morally reprehensible. I stand with the one who openly rejected false religion and those masquerading as the ‘good’ people at the time. er… that Jesus by the way. All this socially acceptability is nonsense and anyone who uses a pseudonym to take part in this sort of ‘in yer face’ debate has no real position to talk. Why are you hiding?

      • 65 Ira November 15, 2009 at 5:56 pm

        Lots of people use pseudonyms for lots of reasons, Gary. I only ask that you not judge all of them based on your experience with me. It wouldn’t be fair.

  37. 66 zoecarnate November 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Ohh, Gary. Judgmental much? I hate to dismantle your carefully-crafted slam of me, but my Facebook account was accidentally disabled over the weekend. That’s right…if you try to search for my profile on Faceboook (http://facebook.com/zoecarnate), it is nonexistent. For some silly technical reasons that I hope will be resolved by Monday. You and everyone else who agrees with me and disagrees with me will still be there, after emerging out of technical limbo.

    Your homeless, gay & Muslim loving, preterist, evolution-embracing, house-churching, empire-building friend,

    Mike

    • 67 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 4:42 pm

      yes, from my end a few were seemingly lobbed off but it seems that’s not the case. Apologies for my rant at you mike, its out of order and you didn’t deserve it if you didn’t ban us.

      but to be honest I stand by everything else I wrote. your regular commentators annoy me because are able to snark around without your moderation and hardly any actually read what I and others are actually saying. I don’t lump every muslim in the category of ‘terrorist’…. MUSLIMS DO… by not opposing the actions of murderers. Come on Islam… hunt down the terror factions YOURSELF> There hasnt really been a rational reply to this point which leads me to think there are a bunch of your mates out there simply lumped in the ‘back up the thoughts of Mike morrel at all costs.” For the record I think the 70ad kingdom theology is absolute nuts and is based on one verse in the bible at best. . Your reply to my thread on my blog was weak but hey, who cares…. you have many supporters who all love you….

      again apologies for my assumptions about you banning us. i wont be taking part in your discussions again due to the fact that I stand against practices such as supporting Islam, homosexuality, false teaching, evolution and empire building. I dont know what you do for your ministry, my remarks were about not challenging those whom it is better to have as supporters than challenge their behaviour). and …er… I set up house groups so i guess we agree on something. keep on watering down people… bye

      • 68 zoecarnate November 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

        I think that you over-estimate my popularity, Gary – or at least my supposed magnetic pull. Don’t you think that its far more likely, sociologically speaking, that shared ways of thinking about certain issues is why I’ve become friends with certain people, rather than these good folks wholesale adopting my ways of thinking because I’m me? In other words, the agreement came first – my FB friends and blog comment-ers are not my willing acolytes, persuaded by the things I’m saying because I’m saying them. They’ve already been thinking and living in these ways.

        I’m not conceding, though, that my network is comprised of a vast echo chamber of affirmation. BrotherJohnny on this thread, for instance, is a friend I’ve known in ‘real life’ for years and he’s not unilaterally agreeing with me; neither is the coincidentally-similarly-named Jonathan Davis, whom I’ve known since I was a child. There’s no attempted suppression of your thoughts here, Gary; I feel like you play the martyr the moment not everyone jumps in lock step behind your thoughts and convictions.

        Speaking of, I do wish you’d stop spewing this trash about Muslims not denouncing acts of terror committed by extremist Muslims. They do; I read their denunciations daily; they’re not difficult to find. Read The Guardian, or go to Google News. As far as their not ‘hunting them down themselves,’ I’m not sure what you want to see – moderate Muslim militias patrolling the streets of London looking for extremist Muslims? I’m not sure that your general populace would feel much safer at night with such vigilante approaches. (We have some Jewish groups doing just that in New York City, and believe me – it doesn’t ease tensions one bit.) I give you credit, Gary, for working among underprivileged people in your urban environment – including Muslims. And I continue to withhold judgment about your direct experiences with the Muslim community you work with. Maybe they are, indeed, grossly negligent in condemning terrorist endeavors. But you know what? Three things:

        1.) Just because some Muslims you might personally know are not condemning terrorist acts does not mean that the Muslim community on the whole is complicit. Most mainstream Muslim groups, in the US and Europe – and many in the Middle East – are quick to condemn such acts and teach a viable alternative.

        2.) Those Muslims in your country, mine, and around the world who feel a secret (or not-so-secret) sympathy for terrorist acts are understandable, in my opinion. Our religion and our nations are not innocent with regards to how we’ve dealth with the Islamic world; our hands are stained with blood.

        3.) Because of this (#2), forgiveness and reconciliation are the only way forward. We can’t keep playing the aggression-and-retribution game; it’s a deadly game that kills our souls before it kills our bodies. If I’m completely candid, Gary, I’d say that your own soul is dying under the weight of culture-warrior bitterness against a whole slew of groups whom you perceive as The Enemy. If you live by that sword, you’ll die by that sword – it’ll poison everything that you touch. I’d urge you to follow Jesus teaching instead – do not judge others; look at your own house, and come to a place of inner attunement with God and God’s purposes that will allow you to love even your enemies without precondition.

        I’m sorry that you feel my eschatology is based on one verse of the Bible. I do not share your eschatology – dispensational premillenialism – but I readily acknowledge that you have many bible verses and a history of interpretations to back it up. Namaste.

        I was being tongue-in-cheek with regards to my ‘ministry’ sign off; like Don Miller, I don’t really think of myself as having a ministry – I’m just a writer. But no doubt we don’t see eye to eye on the place of God’s outsiders (Muslims, gays, the chronically poor, etc…) in God’s economy.

        I understand why you’d want to depart these conversations; if it seems that two parties are talking past each other, what’s the point? Part of me wishes I had the energy to implore you to stay, but the saner, less attachment-prone part of myself says to let you go. I get your reasons for departure.

        Grace & Peace.

  38. 69 brotherjohnny November 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    “Your homeless, gay & Muslim loving, preterist, evolution-embracing, house-churching, empire-building friend, -Mike”

    Bwa-ha!
    You should make that your permanent signature!🙂

  39. 70 Gary Ward November 15, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    to the tune of ‘the last post’….

    mike, are you serious?

    ‘They’ cannot be trusted: er… show me why they can, I can show you why they cant. Terrorist declared Jihad on the west… Islam does not oppose this, therefore they are supporters… it is SO clear but because it destroys your views you just repeat the same objection time and time again.

    I cannot believe you and the vast majority of people in this thread think that nations warring with each other/ military actions with warnings is the same as planting semtex on the 08.15 am bus to Jerusalem primary where women and children are going to school or masquerading in the army to open fire inside its walls. I understand that from their perspective the west is a bully et al but its the MEANS by which they carry out their protest and make their point.

    I struggle to love people who do this but it doesn’t mean I shouldnt or God says dont. Love your enemies is right but JUST leaving it at that is dangerous.

  40. 71 Samir Selmanovic November 16, 2009 at 4:19 am

    Mike,

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful, centered, and Christ-honoring post I have just read. I am going to tweet it and post it on my Facebook page in a hurry! Amen! And Alhamdullilah!

  41. 72 Nic Paton November 16, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Mike – a superb post. I have not got into all the disussion yet but you lay a great foundation for communication here.
    Shalom / Salaam / Peace
    Nic Paton

  42. 73 fernando November 16, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I appreciate your post and the following conversation. I wanted to write something about having lived with Muslim neighbours in India and how much of the discussion about Islam amongst western Christians I meet is really abstract and disconnected from reality. But, I think one of my favourite Indian writers, Pankaj Mishra, said it better than I could,

    “But I think one of the problems we continue to suffer from is that despite the Internet and cable TV, growing numbers of writers, and improved communication systems, people in the West still don’t know enough about how people live in the rest of the world—they still depend on simple concepts of Islam, Muslims, Hinduism etc. So concepts replace the reality of lived lives, real people, and these concepts promote great misunderstanding.”

  43. 74 Jonathan Davis November 17, 2009 at 5:56 am

    I wonder if the reader will find the following speech abstract and disconnected. While I may not agree with all this courageous European said to us in New York earlier this year, it was borne out of harsh reality and experience. This man has earned the right to be heard, and what he says is important for each one of us on this thread.

    In particular, I find it interesting that he believes Islam is not a religion, but rather a political ideology whose primary goals are worldly. And beyond the fear factor, I wonder if anyone else will see the value in learning more about what is actually going on in Islam as a global political movement, and what the very real ramifications are for us.

    He also created an extremely controversial documentary full of shocking facts, images, and rare video footage you may have heard of called, “Fitna”. While I cannot endorse everything I’ve seen in the film or the techniques, it contains pieces of the Islamic puzzle you may not find anywhere else. It is weak in application (which, I believe, is the primary value of this thread), and many will consider it fear-mongering, but it has much value in that it creates awareness of truth, however reprehensible and terrifying that truth may be. The film will leave you with the impression that either the creators have demonized Islam, or Muslims have done a fine enough job of that themselves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kcev1K-NOc

    I hope the reader will find value in this post for the sake of the Spirit’s command found in Ephesians 5:11 “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”

    From: http://www.geertwilders.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1535

    Today, I come before you to warn of a great threat. It is called Islam. It poses as a religion, but its goals are very worldly: world domination, holy war, sharia law, the end of the separation of church and state, slavery of women, the end of democracy. It is NOT a religion, it is an political ideology. It demands your respect, but has no respect for you.

    There might be moderate Muslims, but there is no moderate Islam. Islam will never change, because it is built on two rocks that are forever, two fundamental beliefs that will never change, and will never alter. First, there is the Quran, Allah’s personal word, uncreated, forever, with orders that need to be fulfilled regardless of place or time. And second, there is al-insal al-kamil, the perfect man, Muhammad the role model, whose deeds are to be imitated by all Muslims. And since Muhammad was a warlord and a conqueror we know what to expect. Islam means submission, so there cannot be any mistake about it’s goal. That’s a given. It’s fact.

    This is Europe 2009. Muslim settlers calling for our destruction, and free speech on trial. All this is the outcome of a sick and evil ideology, the ideology that is weakening us, the surrender ideology of cultural relativism. It believes that all cultures are equal, and therefore Islam deserves an equal place in the West. It is their duty, the left thinks, to facilitate Islam. This way the cultural relativists paradise comes within reach and we will all be happy, and sing kumbaya.

    The forces of Islam couldn’t agree more. Islam being facilitated by government is their agenda too. But they see it as jizya, the money dhimmis pay in order not to be killed or raped by their Muslim masters. Therefore, they happily accept the welfare cheque or the subsidies for their mosque or the money governments donate to their organizations.

    This is just one example of cultural relativists and Muslim settlers having the same agenda. There is another. Islam considers itself a religion and therefore we are not permitted to criticize it. The left agrees. Although it hated Christianity for decades, now that Islam appears on the scene, they suddenly change course and demand ‘respect’ for something they call a religion.

    Again we see the left and Islam having the same agenda: it is a religion, so shut up.

    This all culminates in a third coming-together: nor the left nor Islam is in favor of criticism. In fact, given the opportunity, they would simply outlaw it. Multiculturalism is the left’s pet project. It is actually their religion. Their love of it is so great, if you oppose it, it must be hate. And if you say it, it is labeled hate speech. Now here is something the Islam can agree on.

    This is the essence of my short introduction today: where the left and Islam come together, freedom will suffer.

    • 75 brambonius November 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

      Geert wilders is a psycho…

      • 76 brambonius November 17, 2009 at 10:04 am

        Okay, my reaction was too short… Don’t listen to Geert Wilders, that guy is dangerous… It is true that in this part of europe (GW lives in holland, so I speak the same language) it is politically incorrect for intellectuals or leftists to be negative about Islam in any way… which is not healthy (especially not since christianity is okay to inult, and blame, and ridiculise,…)

        But wilders is the other opposite. He’s using simple man rhetoric (lots of generalisations and exaggerations, and the word nuance isn’t in his vocabulary) and what he does is just plain dagngerous. (it’s like Filip Dewinter here in Flanders) This kind of polarisation might be self-fulfilling, and bring radicalisation to dutch Islam…

        The way of Jesus should be the opposite of the fear-mongering way of Wilders and Dewinter…

        shalom

        Bram

  44. 77 Ira November 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve been really disappointed in the “new atheists” (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc.) and their lack of understanding of the complexities of religion, their straw-man arguments, their blind eye to the life-giving dimensions of religious expression.

    I’m beginning to warm up to them, though; at least they’re equal-opportunity religion haters.

  45. 78 marie miers October 4, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Please help me get my Facebook it deleted or something I do not know what happened


  1. 1 Christianity Is Inherently Violent « thomstark.net Trackback on November 13, 2009 at 6:15 am
  2. 2 Christianity Is Inherently Violent | Religion at the Margins Trackback on November 3, 2010 at 12:56 am

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