By Beth Grove
Today I sat across from my savvy, experienced radio interviewer discussing on air to thousands listening across the country about the intriguing practice of bold public engagement with Islam.
We discussed the tensions between debate and friendship, debate in the context of friendship, debate with those who consider us ‘enemies’. That tightrope relationship between critiquing ideas, false ideas, ideas set up against the one true Biblical God (2 Corinthians 10:5), whilst continuing to love the person behind the ideas (Matthew 5:43-48). Critique the religion. Love the person. It is this motto that keeps us focused, balanced, bold and wise in any engagement with those who find themselves in our land without home or country, specifically those who herald from the lands of Islam.
Europe is in a flux. We live in a society where the results of Atheistic socio-political influences undermine any Christian protective convictions on which our societies, at least Western Europe (by and large, except France) was built upon. This erosion of Christian influence in public life continues, and at times encouraged even by ‘Christians’ engaged in public life. I refer to a symposium in 2015 whereby the speakers (Christian missionaries to Muslims) emphatically stated that we must “aid our Muslim friends to have as much influence in public life as we [Christians] do!”
I understand their motives. Essentially, their ideas are driven by ‘love’. Nonetheless, to encourage, or more accurately, to propel an Islamic ideology into public life, seems to be an action of misappropriated ‘love’ at the cost of ‘truth’? You see, if we love people, including Muslims, should we really transfer the keys to our kingdom to a people with no Christian memory? Ignoring their texts which call on them to wound and kill those who disagree with Islam (Sura 5:33).
Many a refugee, the large majority being Muslim, have fled lands heavily controlled by Islamic doctrine. Some openly admit they have come here for economic and religious freedom. Quite a few even change their religion. Some become Agnostic, or outright Atheists (due to what they previously witnessed in Islam), and others turn to Christianity. The latter is what any Christian, who loves as Christ loves, would invest their best efforts towards. Many refugees from Islamic lands, who respect Christians but are not Christian, tell of their fears of that same Islam becoming an influential dynamic in this land. The threats of freedoms diminished is all too real to them as they see the numbers of influential Muslims gain, or given, access to some of the highest institutions of Britain and similar Western European Countries. They feel vulnerable once again. And so, the Christian who cares for the people in his/her land, and who cares for every Muslim – a quarter of the world’s population who has denied the divinity and relationship of the one true Biblical God – finds themselves torn.
So, how do we rightly respond to the new immigrant in our midst?
We love newcomers with truth? If we love, based on what we know to be true (and that encompasses what is true about Christ and His word, and what is true about Muhammad and the Islamic ‘word’) would we hand this land, built on Christian ideals of freedom and equality of all human beings (note, not equality of all ideas) to an ideology that does not uphold the value of all humankind? Unquestionably we pastor, counsel, aid, and show the love of Jesus in coming alongside displaced people in their time of need. This is Christian hospitality. Not evangelism, note. Evangelism is speaking out the things of God, communicating with your friend (or enemy, if that is how they deem themselves) the good news of the Bible, culminating in the Lord Jesus Christ: God who came to us. Who walked and talked with us, so that we will one day walk with Him for eternity. A message of hope, in contrast to the message which holds a quarter of the world’s population in its grasp, that of Islam.
The Christian has a responsibility to speak against that which ‘sets itself up again the knowledge of the one true God’. The Bible is clear that we are in a battle, a battle for souls, and a battle for the soul of nations (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15).
Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us to put on the ‘belt of truth’ and the ‘sword of the spirit which is the word of God’, and to be ready to share the ‘gospel of peace’. Why? This is because Christianity is good for us. It is good for them. It is good for all. It is good for society. It is a gift. It means peace with God, ultimately leading to peace with all.
We are to confidently engage a broken world, clearly exemplified in the one million Muslims (and a few others) who entered our lands these past couple years from the outflow of the bloody borders of Islam. As predicted so well in Samuel Huntington’s thesis ‘Islam’s bloody borders’. A treatise not so current, yet decidedly relevant in the face of current treatise which mistakenly tell us ‘violence has nothing to do with Islam’. Where Huntington gets it right is evidenced by the warfare Islam has with those outside of its religion, and internally within itself.
Ad nauseam we are told, this warfare is due to ‘cultural’ or ‘political disenfranchisement’ or accomplished by ‘crazies’. This I heard from an influential Christian working in close connection with the European Parliament. ‘Terrorism has no religion’ say our movie stars. The real experts of course. Whether they believe their rhetoric or not, we cannot know, yet all the evidence defies them. Still, the myths and legends continue to be propagated at the expense of truth. Islamic theology, its history, its model (Muhammad) and its texts (the Qur’an and related writings) are ignored. Facts of warfare, poverty, internal conflict, suppression of minorities, abuse of minorities, abuse of women, murder of Christians, enslavement of Yazidis, are ignored or written off as ‘un-Islamic’ by the analysts, the commentators, our leaders. Even Huntington didn’t grasp this aspect when he states “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic… [the] conflict will be cultural”.
The Secular mind always grasps for a reason outside of ideology, outside of faith. To face up to the fact that abuses, violence, and terrorism done by Muslims may be driven by their actual texts is too difficult a concept for the unbelieving mind to grasp. Yet, the facts remain in simple clear edicts laid out in the Qur’an: “O ye who believe! [Muslims] Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty” (Sura 9:123). These hard facts are where the Biblically grounded Christian can have a voice. Stand in the gap and bring ‘love’ together with ‘truth’. Truth of Christ as the antidote to the Islamic system that wreaks havoc on the nations it touches.
Birthed out of the concept that only Muslims are valuable in the sight of the Islamic version of ‘god’. In that view of god, all others must be suppressed, or “killed”, till they pay a high fine or turn to Islam (Sura 5:33; 47:4). Most Muslims do not know these verses, thankfully, and many truly believe that the violence perpetrated in their lands has nothing to do with their religion. Again, the Christian needs to stand in the gap and point out (because they care) that the man who is violent in the name of Islam can find clear support for his actions in the holy texts of Islam.
Whether we like it or not, Islam and its friend Atheism (secularism) are sticking around for a bit longer. Their ideas have consequences. Intriguingly, these two seemingly opposing ideologies form a strange coalition in the West. Both result in a suppression of ideas. We see this in the Atheistic Eastern Block of Communism that ruled Russia and the lands it influenced. Atheism and the state it developed became ‘god’, free thinking was stifled. The same can be seen in societies heavily influenced by Islam. Saudi Arabia is a leading light here. Added to Saudi Arabia, you have Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, and many more, and then there are those groups which shine the torch for Islamic law: ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and so on, and so on and so on. You get the picture. Many of which are called ‘terrorists’, but are they terrorists? Or are they simply obeying their religious law as they are called to do? Sura 3:151 ‘We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve…” We certainly see the repercussions of this verse in the today’s world.
Our starting point also has ramifications. If we start with the wrong premise, we will not understand how to appropriately respond to the fast-developing situations we now face in our world. Mark Durie, a Christian academic who understands Islam’s starting point, reminisces that there “is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrophe. It could… have challenged the Islamic view of history [historical critique] which idolised jihad and its intended outcome, the dhimma [suppression of non-Muslims]. It could have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance. It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace.”
Yet, that self-critique would not have ultimately found peace within the deeper theologies of Islam. It means there has to be a better way. Another way that brings real peace, protects the vulnerable and brings families together. It teaches respect and care for all people, including the irreligious or those belonging to a different religion. Note, respect for people does not mean respect for all their ideas. Some ideas are not worthy of respect.
In that vein, it is not the Muslim we are against; we are for them. Christ is for them. He died for them! It is the ideology behind their lives we critique. We preach the solution, the alternative to Sura 9:123. Christ tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). To love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:44). It is these principles on which our society is founded. It is why millions (no exaggeration) have flocked to our lands. It is why few refugees flee to Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Indonesia, or India (soon to house the largest Muslim population per country in the world). It is to Britain, Western Europe, or America they run. Why? Societies where there is still a hint, only just, that all human beings matter to God, regardless of creed. He died for them. To save them. We, the Christian, are the conduit through which that message is passed. The conduit raised up by the power of God’s Spirit who now dwells in each of us.
The Christian who cares: lives it. Shares it. Proclaims it.
Critique Islam. Love Muslims.
1 Another day, and another terror attack that is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, by Douglas Murray, www.Blogs.spectator.co.uk. ‘Religion of peace’ is not a harmless platitude, by Douglas Murray, www.spectator.co.uk
4 Paris attacks were not ‘nihilism’ but sacred strategy, by Mark Durie, www.lapidomedia.com