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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Religion of Peace

I know that many comments about the Muslim response to the Danish cartoons have been made… in the blogosphere, on radio, in the press. Even before these riots, there has been much commentary on the “violence inherent in the system” of Islam, even in the very academic secular literature (“The challenge for the West can hardly be overestimated: Even if only 1 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims were to end up being seduced by the global jihad, the West and moderate Muslim regimes would still have to deal with some 12 million jihadists spread across more than 60 countries. And if only 1 percent of these 12 million were to opt for “martyrdom operations,” the West would still have to deal, for a generation at least, with some 120,000 suicide bombers.”)

As the token biblical Christian in many of my professional circles I have had much opportunity recently to engage in conversation about this and offer, I hope, some informative perspective on the matter. In the interest of an attempt at brevity, I’m going to briefly consider three particular aspects of this subject: first, the nature of Christ versus the nature of Muhammad; second, the Christian response to public insult versus the Muslim response to public insult; and finally, how “peace” is radically different in Christianity and Islam. Also, in the light of brevity, I will not establish many of my premises, just present them. If anyone asks, I’ll respond with more.

Consider the actions of the two faiths’ monikers. There is an extensive historical record of the people murdered by Muhammad. Jesus only raised His hand to the merchants that were desecrating the Temple to drive them out, but He killed no one and ordered the death of no one. John Piper, with extensive quotes from scripture, demonstrates how the whole mission of Christ was hinged on His suffering on the cross, a fact that the Muslim denies even occurred, and that suffering is at the heart of the Christian life and witness. Jesus’ purpose was to establish a heavenly kingdom that would eventually be manifested here on earth, whereas Muhammad sought, as Muslims today seek, to establish an earthly kingdom that would be blessed by heaven. Christ came to serve, to live a life and establish a practice of humility, sacrifice and obedience to God. Muhammad sought to establish a complete authoritarian rule under his religious dictatorship where honor and authority were paramount. Christ was poor and reviled in His death. The Muslim denies this.

Now, look at the controversy over the NBC show “Book of Daniel.” This show had an Episcopal priest with an openly gay son, a drug-dealing daughter, a promiscuous teenage son, a drug addiction of his own, and regular conversations with a hippy-like Jesus who was, like, “Let it be, man.” So on top of all the things going on in the show that are offensive to Christians and opposed to biblical Christianity, we have to endure blasphemy of the character of Jesus as well. So what do Christians do? Since no one has been posting pictures of NBC’s offices burning and martial law has not been declared in New York or LA, we can establish that there was not a violent outpouring of rage from the vast right-wing conspiracy, yet the show was cancelled after three episodes. Why? Well in part because over 600,000 emails were sent to NBC by individual Christians protesting this insult. Thousands of letters and phone calls were also made to central and affiliate stations. No bombs, no Molotov cocktails, no demands to the government for censorship and apology, only democratic free-market activities (which, by the way are the product of the Protestant reformation and Reformed theology). Christians typically obey the law and act within the constraints of the system, even when that system is secular and even when that system may be opposed to Christianity. Read Romans 13 if you would like clarification.

The Muslim response is vastly different, as we all see. There are historical, philosophical differences to the Christian and Muslim approach to society and government that inform this current tension. Ann Coulter, whom I DO NOT want to associate with biblical Christianity, makes some interesting observations (unfortunately she tends to do that in an angry and hurtful way and does not lend a helping hand as much as a cattle prod to any situation). Consider the Muslim response to the Egyptian ferry that capsized. An angry mob attacked the company’s offices and the hospital where some of the victims were brought. See a trend?

Most Muslims call Islam a religion of peace and justice. Christians would call Christianity a religion of peace, as well. Both religions have histories tainted with blood, sometimes a lot of blood (not as much as say, Stalin or Mao, mind you – just to make sure no one walks away from this thinking I’ll someday advocate Marxism or atheism). What is important to ask then is, are the practitioners of these religions acting in concert or in contrast to their declared belief system when they act violently due to personal or religious insult (I put in that qualifier to obviate the need to discuss Just War and protecting the good, innocent and weak from evil), and if so (or not) how are these religions of peace?

The Muslim responds appropriately to insult to his faith and person when he strikes out against his attacker because the Muslim doctrine is about honor and authority and superiority. Read the links above about the historical and philosophical differences to the Christian and Muslim approach to society and government. The Christian acts against the very teachings of Christ when he does this. The Christian assumes personal and theological insult for his faith, is not surprised by it (or shouldn’t be) and, biblically, counts it a blessing. The Muslim denies the Cross because they recognize it for what it is, a curse and an insult.

I heard a radio show recently where the panelists were espousing Islam as a religion of peace, but within three sentences of that statement, the same panelist said that, because of the “marginalization of Islam in the global community” Muslims are filled not just with “anger” but with a consuming “rage.” I find that to be a textbook definition of irony. Actually, no, I think it might be a textbook definition of contradiction. How is it that a religion of peace has millions of adherents that are filled with rage because of their religion? It is because our definitions of peace, and how it is obtained, are radically different.

The Muslim seeks an imposed, horizontal peace that is forged through complete theocratic authority, such that all aspects of life are under submission to the religious rulers. There is no appropriate secular authority in Islam. This authority is imposed by whatever means necessary and should result in complete conquest or destruction of the enemies of Islam. The Muslim is at peace with the world when it is under Islamic control. That is why the symbol of Islam is a sword. The Muslim, however, within Islam, has no guarantee of peace with God.

Christianity is a religion of a derived, vertical peace, that is peace with God that He has made through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross that allows us to therefore have peace with one another. However, we are not at peace with the world. Rather there is enmity and strife with the world, that being sinful thoughts, words, philosophies and actions, but our primary weapon is the love of Christ as portrayed in the Gospel. Hence our symbol is the cross.

As a Christian, peace, like a river, attends my way, because Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, the Prince of all glory, shed His perfect blood in submission to God’s righteous wrath for my sins. I am to have His mind, the mind of the one who became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, that most despised symbol of shame in the Roman Empire that criminals would never be crucified within city limits. I endure scorn and ridicule and even attack because my Savior endured them, not out of weakness, but out of obedience, with the promise from His Father of an eternal glory that awaited. My peace is ultimately and primarily with God, the one whom I was ultimately and primarily at war with, and is eternally secured because Jesus Christ is the Surety of my peace.

And, again, I cannot be brief.