Life Is Good in La-La Land!

America in the last quarter of the 20th Century might aptly be called the age of Ann Landers, where ordinary people turned to purveyors of homespun wisdom to make sense of the difficult realities of life. In contrast, the first quarter of the 21st Century is shaping up to be the age of La-La Landers, la-la-landwhere ordinary folks are gobbling down the pollyannish artifice of those living La-la Land, who offer clichés divorced from reality.

We see this in so many arenas today. Mainline denominations such as the PCUSA have been losing membership and financial support yearly since 1965, with that trajectory deepening in the last decade as these liberal Protestant communions have merged their vision with that of the political left and thrown their biblical identity on the trash heap. Down from a highpoint of 4.5 million members in 1965 to one of 1.57 million in 2015, the newly-elected parliamentary head of the denomination declared this past June, “We are not dying. We are reforming. We are alive and well and will transform this world, one person at a time.” Not surprisingly, the headquarters of the PCUSA is now located in La-La Land, as you can probably tell.

In the world of presidential politics, we were told in 2004 that we are not a collection of red states and blue states, but the United States. 2008 brought promises of “hope and change,” a country unified behind its first African-American president, and the most transparent administration in history. After eight years of increasing rancor and divisiveness, and an administration plagued by scandals stonewalled by its Department of Justice, we now have a population almost equally divided between red and blue, and equally disgusted with politicians on both sides of the aisle. Part of the reason for this backlash by voters to bring in an outsider as President-elect is, I’m convinced, that many Americans feel our politicians have been living in La-La Land, and have been feeding us fantasies about life in America and around the world, while our eyes tell us otherwise.

But perhaps the most pressing evidence of willful blindness about reality comes from Muslim and non-Muslim leaders selling us the scam called Islamophobia. Defined as “an irrational fear/hatred of Islam or Muslims,” this label has been used as a bat to bludgeon any who might question whether Islam is truly a religion of peace and why so many Muslims around the world seem inclined to use violence to get their way. Few people seem to know that since 9/11 there have been over 29,800 deadly terror attacks around the globe committed by Muslims. This number does not include attacks where no one died, nor does it count the publicly-unknown number of attacks foiled by law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, which if successful would have caused added mayhem to our world. There are no even-remotely comparable numbers which can be attributed to followers of any other recognized religion. Perhaps the fear of Islam/Muslims which many Americans feel is not so irrational after all.

Of course, the complicated catch in all this is that most Muslims today are not violent jihadis, plotting as they walk by you on the street how they are going to blow up the skyscraper you work in. How does one determine which is which?

No doubt the answer to that is complex, but there can be no start until we admit the reality of the problem.  How many times have you heard officials blithely declare that “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam,” that “Violence is not permitted in Islam,” that “Islam is a religion of peace,” and other related falsehoods? Those deeply familiar with Islam know better. So why is this deception trotted out with nauseating repetition by both Muslim leaders and non-Muslim politicians? keep-calm-and-let-s-go-to-la-la-landPresumably the Muslim leaders know better, so when they declare that Islam is a religion of peace they are consciously attributing different meanings to their words than what they know will be the meanings formed in the minds of their ignorant listeners, or they are speaking of the Islam they wish existed in their La-La Land of religious dreams rather than the Islam lived and practiced by their prophet and his faithful followers, the Islam recorded in the Qur’an, Hadith and Sira traditions. When Western politicians spout these same bromides in ignorance, I’m convinced that most of them actually believe what they are saying. The only religions they have had any brush with in their lives (principally Judaism and Christianity) have been religions of peace, so they wrongly assume that all religions must be peaceful. They cloak Islam in their own La-La Land dreams and then declare as reassuring truth their own mind-numbing naivete.

By use of shaming labels (Islamophobic, bigoted, racist, xenophobic…), the PC culture effective prevents the necessary and salutary discussion of the possible inherent relationship between radical Muslims and orthodox Islam. So instead of addressing the real problem and perhaps finally coming up with some sane suggestions as to how to react to the multi-faceted challenges raised by the impinging world of Islam, we are told that the problem lies elsewhere:

Islam is not the problem – extremism is. But what does this mean? There are endless numbers of extremists, but most of them cause no trouble for society. There are extremist ice-cream lovers. Perhaps they are a nuisance to the staff of their local Baskin-Robbins, or to shoppers at Safeway who find the freezers bare of all brands of Rocky Road, but they are no existential threat to the West. There are extremist adventurers, who want to jump off cliffs in winged suits and fly like eagles. They are no danger to anyone except themselves. You get the point. What leads to danger from extremists is the belief systems they embrace. And only certain belief systems demand the subjugation or execution of infidels. Islam is one of them, and its extremists believe that their god demands the Muslim community to advance and conquer the non-Muslim world, using whatever means necessary, including terror and violence.

Islam is not the problem – poverty is (or any number of other social ills you can substitute for poverty: joblessness, hopelessness, victimization, lack of education, or my favorite, inequality…). The problem with this “analysis” is that it can’t account for the fact that non-Muslims raised in the same cultures facing the same societal issues do not react by becoming religious (or even secular) terrorists. Even more stunning, studies show that many Islamic terrorists come from economically-privileged and highly educated backgrounds – their prompting is Islamic ideology, not social privation.

Islam is not the problem – Islamophobia is. In this scenario, the victims become the aggressors. Islam is simply a peaceful religion minding its own business until radical, non-Muslim haters come along and start persecuting innocent, peace-loving believers who just want to live their own lives out according to their private convictions. What motivated the Islamophobes? It can’t be the religion of Islam itself, which we are all told is so wonderful. So it must be fear – fear of those who don’t look like us, who have different traditions from us, who don’t speak like us…. But of course, Westerners have not had the same kind of reaction to other foreigners who seem exotic. Look at Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Peruvian and other groups in our midst. Where are the Shintophobes, Confucianophobes, Buddhaphobes, Taophobes, Hinduphobes, Incaphobes? peoples-responses-to-you-include-something-you-did-pngWhere is the fear equivalent to what we see linked with Islam? There is none, leading to the conclusion that the fear many feel toward Islam and Muslims has little to do with xenophobia or bigotry, but rather to something inherent in Islam and the way it is practiced by a significant number of Muslims

Islam is not the problem – there is no problem. Whatever the terror event that has unfolded, we are told that the motive is unclear, that this was just an isolated case of a mentally unbalanced individual or group suffering great pain, and that it has no connection to anything larger.

Which brings me to the latest PC case in La-La Land, this one related to Islamic terrorism:

Yesterday a  Somali Muslim college student at Ohio State University used his car as a battering ram and then wielded a knife to try to kill as many “infidels” as he could. “Coincidentally,” over the last two months ISIS has urged faithful Muslims to use cars and knives (for these are easy to acquire) to target non-Muslims around them. Fortunately, no one was killed by this attack (except the terrorist), although 11 were injured. Before he initiated this attack, Abdul Razak Ali Artan had posted some pro-Islamic, anti-American rants on Facebook, including this passionate declaration: “By Allah, I am willing to kill a billion infidels in retribution for a single DISABLED [sic] Muslim/Muslimah.” He also indicated that he had been avidly listening to the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the now dead cleric who had served as a major mouthpiece for al-Qaeda and its core Islamic message.

Yet as the dust settled from this attack, it became crystal clear that we are firmly in La-la Land. Authorities refused to speculate as to whether this was an act of terrorism. They were still seeking to discover what Artan’s motivation could possibly have been. Initial reports refrained from identifying him as a Muslim, though evidence of that was immediate and undeniable. Instead of a condemnation of Islamic terrorism and a call to examine what role Islam played in his actions, officials were quick to warn Americans against Islamophobia. The White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, announced that Artan was probably motivated by “extremism,” though his motives were still under investigation. Then he lectured them and all viewers with the following:

“If we respond to this situation by casting aspersions on millions of people that adhere to a particular religion or if we increase our suspicion of people who practice a particular religion, we are more likely going to contribute to acts of violence than we are to prevent them.”

In other words, beware the real enemy – Islamophobia. Media stations were quick to interview Muslim students who shared their worries that they might become victims of intolerant backlash, but no one seemed concerned for the vast numbers of infidels who may become today’s victims of more Islamically-inspired atrocities. We must be in La-La Land.

This morning, less than 24 hours after the terrorist event, an Assistant Director of Student Residence Life at OSU, Stephanie Clemons Thompson, posted on Facebook a reminder that Artan was a Buckeye, “a member of our family.” She urged that people think compassionately about Artan’s life, about how troubled he obviously was. “Think of the pain he must have been in to feel that his actions were the only solution.” She ends the post with three Twitter hashtags: #BuckeyeStrong, #BlackLivesMatter, and #SayHisName, followed by the obviously ineffectual imperative, “DO NOT SHARE THIS POST,” as if she subliminally understood that her perspective might not be well-received by the larger public. She also threatened to unfriend any who thought it acceptable to celebrate Artan’s death.

I think I understand something of Ms. Thompson’s heart – it is a good thing to show compassion to others, even to enemies, as Jesus teaches us. But to assume he was driven by pain and deeply troubled in order to commit such an atrocity betrays her own world view rather than understanding Artan’s. He clearly linked his intentions to his religious conviction that Islam must conquer the non-Muslim world, and wished that he could be the avenger of even one injured Muslim by killing a billion infidels. We may define him as troubled and in pain, but if so this condition was caused by his belief that Islam was under attack and he needed to come to Allah’s defense.

I also found her choice of Twitter hashtags enlightening — an emphasis on his Buckeye student identity, his skin color and all that connotes in our society, and “SayHisName” which I gather means that he should be remembered and respected as a human being. I checked on Twitter but did not find #KillABillionInfidels. Somehow I doubt she will start that hashtag….

Until people like Ms. Thompson, law enforcement spokespersons, politicians and their minions like Josh Earnest become serious about understanding Islam and reporting incidents accurately and raising pertinent questions that might lead to lasting solutions, the American public is doomed to dwell in La-La Land.

And with regard to the threat of Islam, if we do not wake up from our self-induced stupor, one day we will be forcibly awakened, only to discover that La-La Land has become Allah Land. In case you don’t already know, life is not good there for infidels.


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Superiority for Some Means Inferiority for Others!

Whereas in Judeo-Christian culture it is axiomatic that God has created “all men equal” and thus all human beings have certain unalienable rights, such is not the case in Islamic culture. The mindset created by the Qur’an and its interpretive traditions (Hadith and classical tafsir [commentary]) reveal an attitude of Muslim superiority over everything non-Muslim. Even within the world of Islam, the superiority/inferiority scale measures all things: Allah is superior to any rival god; Muslims in their society are superior to the dhimmi (non-Muslims allowed to live within their midst under severe restrictions; Muslim men are superior to women; Sharia is superior to man-made laws; the Qur’an is superior to all prior revelation; Muslim armies will conquer all infidel powers….

Since in Islamic theology all human beings are viewed as slaves with no inherent rights or privileges over others, any superiority or inferiority is due to Allah’s will — his blessings or curses residing on individuals or groups. Islam naturally teaches that its god tends to bless its adherents, and to curse those who reject him and his revelation. There is no freedom to contest Allah’s determinations, only to decide whether one will become an obedient slave or disobedient one [even this is denied by some hard-line Muslim scholars who insist on Allah’s absolute fatalistic decrees — al-qadaa wa’l qadar].

As the foreign mindset of traditional Islam continues to encroach on Western societies, we are seeing increasing frictions between the mindset of Islamic supremacy and the freedoms we cherish. Four areas in particular are of critical urgency today:

  1. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. While this phrase derives from the American Declaration of Independence,dec-of-independence it sums up the prevailing Western view that all governments are responsible to protect the rights of their citizens to live out their dreams in safety and security as long as they don’t infringe on the same ability of others to pursue their desires. Such a view is absent in orthodox Muslim thought. Instead, the world is seen as a lifelong clash between the House of Islam (those living under divinely mandated Sharia) and the House of War (those who have never surrendered to the supremacy of Islam). Muslim thinking encourages the Islamic community to take advantage of, or plunder, or subjugate the non-Muslim world, appropriating the resources of the infidels for its own needs or pleasures. The model for this goes back to Muhammad himself, who turned to plundering passing caravans and raiding pagan tribal villages to support his poor, fledgling community of followers in Medina. In fact, one of his successful recruiting techniques was to promise potential warriors they would be able to keep whatever booty (whether goods or slaves) they took in battle against the infidels. This perspective has led to the supremacist belief among many traditional Muslims that the wealth and trophies of Western societies are free for the taking by any Muslims who are able.

What we are seeing in many parts of Europe today among Muslim migrants and refugees is this entitlement attitude, taking gross advantage of generous welfare systems (sometimes as a means of economic jihad — see for instance Anjem Chowdary’s brazen declaration to this effect in 2013, and 9/11 terrorist KSM’s vision of immigration jihad) and complaining that the free housing being provided at great cost and strain to local governmental institutions (see here) is sub-standard (see for example here). Even worse is the attitude of many new Muslim immigrants to their host population. Statistics in the last few years show an astronomical rise in crimes committed by “foreign” elements against native citizens. Last week (11/23) the Italian newspaper Il Giornale reported the results of a study on the linkage between immigration and crime in Italy. Entitled “More Immigrants = More Crime”, it showed that the rate of crime among legal immigrants was almost twice that of Italian citizens, while the crime rate among illegal immigrants was 70 times greater than that of legal immigrants. In Germany, the number of crimes committed by immigrants soared over 80% higher than 2014, to a total of over 200,000). Sweden, now known as the rape capital of the West, has the fastest growing Muslim immigrant population per capita. Rapes have increased from a reported 421 in 1975 to 6,620 in 2014. Of those, 77.6% of the rapists were described as “foreigners.”

Of course, this does not mean that every Muslim immigrant or refugee is a criminal, but the massive spike in statistics does make one wonder whether the supremacist “take what you wish from the infidel” attitude fuels this unprecedented crime wave that an overrun Europe is now experiencing.

2. Equal rights among the sexes. It’s no secret that orthodox Islam treats women as inferior to men, despite valiant but misguided efforts by Muslim feminists to the contrary. The Qur’an overtly declares:

 Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great (4:34);

and that women are at the beck and call of their husbands or slave masters for sexual satisfaction:

Your wives are a tilth for you, so go to your tilth, when or how you will… (2:223).

For those unaware of the term, a tilth is a field available for plowing and planting. The image we are given is that wives and sex slaves are like fields for their masters, available to be plowed (by the male sex organ) and planted (by the man’s sperm) whenever and in whatever way the master chooses.

The Qur’an also declares that a man can have up to four wives at a time, whereas a woman can only have one husband (see 4:3). polygamyIt is legal for an older man to marry a pre-pubescent girl down to the age of 9 (see 65:4); this is based on the example of Muhammad who at the age of 54 consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was 9. A man is free to divorce his wives at any time, for almost any reason, but a woman can seek divorce only in limited circumstances. The legal testimony of a woman carries half the weight of that of a man, so that in “he said, she said” cases, the man always comes out on top (see 2:282). Likewise, a female heir is entitled to half the inheritance granted to male heirs (see 4:11).

In the authoritative Hadith traditions (second only to the Qur’an in importance), women are lumped together with dogs and donkeys as things which cause a man’s prayers to be annulled if one of then should cross in front of him as he prays (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1.9.490). In another account, Muhammad admonished women to give alms liberally because he had seen into the mouth of hell and discerned that the majority of its inhabitants were women. When asked by the women why this should be so, he gave three reasons: 1) women complain/curse frequently and are ungrateful to their husbands; 2) they are deficient in intelligence (as is seen by the fact that their testimony is worth half that of a man’s); and 3) they are deficient in their religious commitment (because they cannot pray or fast during their monthly periods, when they are ritually unclean). See Sahih al-Bukhari, 1.6.301).

The supremacy with which many Muslim men look down upon women is seen not just in the way they abuse infidel women through rape and assault, but in how they treat their own female family members. German authorities report that increasing numbers of Muslim women and girls are fleeing the refugee centers around Germany and seeking out safe homes for battered women and children because of the traumas of sexual assault and rape, attempted honor killings, and forced marriages foisted upon them by Muslim men. New shelters are being opened as quickly as possible to handle this unanticipated need.

Men with a supremacist mindset do no see this as an  issue needing attention, since women exist primarily for the pleasure of their men

3. Freedom of religion. Islam knows no such thing, except perhaps in theory. Some will point to the existence of dhimmis within Muslim societies, who were able to keep their religious commitments as monotheists (principally Jews and Christians). Yet the whole point of the dhimmitude pact was to make life so miserable for dhimmis by the legalized persecution they had to endure from the Muslim state that they or their progeny would finally convert to Islam. In the meantime, the Islamic state profited from the exorbitant annual jizya tax that all dhimmis were required to pay in a ceremony emphasizing their humiliated status.

Islam claims that it offers freedom of religion — in one direction. Non-Muslims are welcome to convert to Islam. But once you do, it’s “Welcome to the Hotel al-Sharia” (with apologies to The Eagles):

“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! “

According to all eight schools of Shari’a law (4 Sunni and 4 Shia), the act of leaving Islam is an offense worthy of death. san-quentin_liThe sword of Damocles hangs over the head of any doubter thinking of fleeing Islam, whether for another religion or into agnosticism or atheism. You can “secede in place”, i.e., give up any allegiance to Islam privately, but you cannot declare publicly that you are no longer a Muslim. Maintaining one’s status as a Muslim under the threat of a death sentence hardly qualifies as freedom of religion the way we understand it in the West.

But Islam declares its supremacy over all other religions and systems of thought, and so it is unthinkable that any Muslim would turn to something inferior to the “true religion.” It is only good and right that Islam should use the threat of execution (as an act of mercy, of course) to keep all Muslims on the straight and narrow, according to its leaders.

These three friction points that I’ve enumerated are only the more obvious conundrums facing those who think that orthodox Islam and Western societies can successfully integrate into one large and happy family. It looks to me like something is going to have to give on one side or the other. But for me, these three matters are non-negotiables.

Are you ready to give up your unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The equality of the sexes? Freedom of religion? Me neither.  But if the supremacist mindset of Islam continues to press upon us, these fundamental rights will all be under siege.

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Imago Dei or Servus Allah — Who Cares?

Many in the West are perplexed by the fact that in spite of increasing waves of atrocities committed by radical Muslims around the world, the rest of the Muslim world has not risen up to put a stop to this trend. That’s not to say that individual Muslims and some Islamic authorities from time to time don’t issue statements condemning certain terrorist events and arguing that such horrific acts don’t represent true Islam, but where are the united and concerted efforts in the “moderate” Muslim world to stamp out the sources of such evil? And why, in the first place, do so many committed Muslims come to the conclusion that true Islam compels them to such violent mayhem in the name of Allah?

This is a complex topic, far too intricate to unpack in one blog post, so I will confine myself to what I believe to be primary among all the contributing factors: Islam’s view of human nature.

The Qur’an has no parallel to the biblical teaching that human beings are created “in the image and likeness of God” (see Genesis 1:26-27). created-in-gods-image-humorFor Jews and Christians, this understanding of human nature means that the welfare of all human beings is to be valued and cherished, because we all bear the stamp of God nature. imago-deiSo God said in Gen 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in His own image.” In other words, the destruction of a human being requires the highest penalty, because God created the human race as the apple of His eye, bestowing upon us something not granted to any other creature, the reflection of His own nature.

Islam rejects this conception of “the image of God” in humanity, for fear that it might compete with the tawhid of Allah, the singular unity of Allah’s nature, and might lead to idolatry – humans might be inclined to worship the image within them rather than bowing unreservedly before the true God.

Since Allah has no equals, and is vitally concerned with the protection of his sovereignty and glory, one might be tempted to ask, “Then why did he create human beings in the first place?” The logical answer to this in Islamic theology is, “Allah established humanity to be a race of beings who voluntarily submit themselves to him as his slaves, thereby demonstrating to the rest of the universe that he alone is the Sovereign Master of all, whose will is to be obeyed in all things.

Hence, human beings are by nature slaves of Allah, and there are in the end only two kinds of human beings: obedient ones (Muslims, who have bowed the knee to Allah) and disobedient ones (infidels, who refuse to surrender their wills to Allah). Obedient slaves will be rewarded with paradise (Muslims hope), disobedient slaves will be punished with eternal torture. Since this is the way Allah views humans, this is the way that Muslims also are to view humans.slave-of-allah

Such an understanding goes a long way to explaining why Islam inculcates a supremacist mentality among its adherents (“You are the best nation ever brought forth to men…” [Sura 3:110], and by contrast, “Surely the worst of beasts in God’s sight are the unbelievers, who will not believe…” [8:55]), and why it condones slavery (Muslims owning non-Muslims), as well as the rape of non-Muslim women who are taken as booty from the infidel world and made sex-slaves of their conquerors. Islam permits the torture of those who refuse to convert, when such torture serves to instill fear in other unbelievers leading to their acquiescing to the advance of the “one true religion.” Allah has instituted jihad (armed fighting) in his cause against the world of intransigent slaves (all the infidels) until they either surrender to Allah’s cause willingly, or are conquered and made into unwilling slaves or are exterminated and so turned over to Allah’s eternal vengeance.

If this indeed is the essential view of human nature within Islam, then it is not so surprising that little cry goes up from the Muslim world concerning all the atrocities committed against non-Muslims. After all, the unbelievers deserve whatever they get for opposing Allah – they are wretched, ungrateful slaves, and merit unrelenting punishment, both in eternity and in this life (if Allah is willing…). So, I would guess, most Muslims don’t object loudly to the manifold reports of vile treatment of non-Muslims because in their heart of hearts they believe that the kuffar (Arabic for those who repress/reject the truth of Islam) are only getting what they deserve. After all, slaves have no inherent rights but are subject to the will of their masters – and Allah has made it clear how he intends to treat disobedient slaves for all eternity. As a result, the “moderate” Muslim world shrugs its shoulders over what its more radical brothers are doing, and quickly turns its attention to other priorities.

But, someone may object, the fact is that radical Muslims are killing more fellow Muslims than infidels. How can this be justified? Why aren’t Muslims rising up en masse to condemn at least this wanton destruction of human lives? The answer to this is three-fold: 1) in fact, there is greater pushback from moderate Muslim leaders against radicals for killing fellow Muslims; Islam teaches that it is a grave sin for a Muslim to kill another Muslim; 2) those killing fellow Muslims do so after declaring takfir against them – that is, they argue that the targeted Muslims are not “true” Muslims, but have become apostates (kuffar) due to false beliefs, actions or inactions, and thus deserve death; 3) when innocent Muslims die in mass attacks, they are “collateral damage,” and their deaths are viewed as martyrdoms, so that they are guaranteed the eternal gardens Allah has prepared for his faithful slaves. By killing innocent Muslims unwittingly, the jihadis are actually doing the deceased a favor!

In the final analysis, human life has little intrinsic value within the worldview of Islam, because human beings are slaves by nature, and slaves have no rights to anything, including life. The only thing that matters is subservience to Allah – those displaying the submission Allah demands are accorded value in his eyes while those who refuse the mandated lifestyle are like chattel to be used or discarded according to his pleasure.

As history teaches us unrelentingly, beliefs have consequences. Those unwilling to stand for their beliefs will fall before those willing to fight for their own. The Church and those who enjoy Judeo-Christian values have a pressing choice to make: will we champion an understanding of human beings as made in the image and likeness of God, or will we fall before an understanding of humanity as slaves to be herded into ritualized obedience or hounded into extinction?

The choice is that stark, I believe.

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Hate Crimes and Miracles

I’ve never been a fan of the term “hate crime.” If hate is defined as “wishing or intending ill toward another person or group,” then is not most crime by definition “hate”? It seems, though, that the term is here to stay, and every year the FBI publishes its annual “Hate Crimes Statistics Report.” hate-crime-statistics-2015-940Certain special interest groups mine this report to raise alarms over how their particular slice of the population is being targeted. Statistics can be used in amazing ways!

Please understand me – any crime against an individual or group is wrong, and I believe as a society we should work to lower the incidents of crime of all types across the board. I also believe that as a society our law enforcement organizations do an amazing job in an environment where we as a nation value personal freedom to such a high degree. (It’s a lot easier to control crime in a totalitarian, police state.)

Having said all this, I want to draw attention to panicky claims being made by some left-wing and pro-Muslim groups that point out the huge statistical rise in hate crimes against Muslims from 2014 to 2015. You have probably seen media headlines indicating a 67% increase in the incidents of hate crimes against Muslims in 2015. That is true, and it is unfortunate. But it is not unexpected, and it must be understood in the larger context of the FBI report. Here are some things you probably will not hear:

  • The population of the USA in 2015 was roughly 320,000,000. Even if you subtract the US Muslim population from that (although intra-Muslim hatreds, like the Sunni-Shia divide, do not preclude Muslims from committing hate crimes against other Muslims, nor from claiming attacks that never really happened, as has recently been revealed in the news), that leaves roughly 317 million Americans who could be involved in hate crimes against Muslims.
  • The total raw number of hate crimes reported against Muslims in 2014 was 154. The number in 2015 was 257. This is where the 67% increase comes from. While even one such hate crime is an injustice, the total number even in 2015 is rather miniscule when taken in context of our nation’s population. One might reasonably argue that Americans by and large have been remarkably restrained, avoiding retributive actions after Muslim terrorist attacks.
  • This total of 257 incidents of hate crimes against Muslims also pales in comparison to the raw numbers committed against many other groups, either religious, ethnic or of sexual orientation. There were 664 such incidents targeting Jews; 1053 hate crimes involving sexual orientation; 1745 anti-black/African American criminal incidents. Interestingly, only the anti-Muslim numbers from this report seem to make news.
  • If it is right to raise the alarm bells over the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes from 2014 to 2015, we should equally trumpet the rising hate toward Protestants! Statistically speaking, anti-Protestant hate crime offenses rose an astonishing 68% from 2014 to 2015. Where are all the non-hate crusaders marching on the streets to protect Protestants? Of course, the total number of attacks against Protestants was even smaller than that against Muslims (28 offenses in 2014, 47 in 2015), but statistics are such wonderfully supple weapons if you are crafty enough to make use of them….

Even with all this context, it may be a helpful endeavor to investigate why there has been an upturn in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in America, to see if we can turn the tide and reverse the numbers. Some have suggested that the increase is primarily due to all the Islamophobic hatred spread by Donald Trump in his presidential campaign and now carried out in the actions of his rabid supporters. If that is an accurate assessment, we may expect the numbers to continue to increase over the next four years as such Islamophobia pounds  an incessant drumbeat. But here’s another statistic that might provide a more credible explanation for the 2015 increase:

  • According to the Global Terrorism Index report for 2015 (generated by the Institute for Economics and Peace – hardly a right-wing think tank!), the number of deaths directly attributable to terrorism in the West increased in 2015 by 650% over 2014. The vast majority of these were due to Islamic terrorists.
  • The actual number of murders by terrorists was 577. Please note, this number does not include any other categories tallied by the FBI in its hate crimes statistics. If we could accurately count the other categories (rape, aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation, robbery, burglary, larceny, car theft, arson, vandalism…) with regard to hate crimes in the West committed by radical Muslims, the numbers would be truly astronomical for 2015, and sadly even higher in 2016. (This does not even include crimes committed by Muslims who are not motivated by jihad but merely from the sense of entitlement engendered by Islam over against infidels.  According to a German police report, in the first quarter of 2016, recent migrants (the vast bulk of whom are Muslim) were linked to some 69,000 crimes — just in Germany alone.)

In light of these numbers, it is hardly unreasonable to conclude that the rise of fear related to Islam among Americans has less to do with Trump than with what Americans are seeing played out before them on the world stage. While acting on this fear to commit crimes against innocent Muslims is categorically wrong, its principal root seems more accurately traceable to the unrelenting evils perpetrated by radical Muslims against innocent non-Muslims in the last twenty years than to the harsh rhetoric of a presidential candidate recently elevated to national stature.

What can be done to bring down the numbers of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the USA? We must convince Americans that Islam is no threat to them. If that can happen at all, it must begin with Muslims in the West taking a prominent role in tirelessly excoriating those Muslims near and far who plot and execute evil against others. Groups like CAIR and ISNA and the MSA must expose and denounce the large numbers of mosques in the USA which openly promote anti-Semitism, the enshrinement of Sharia and the supremacy of Muslims over all other people in their sermons and literature. Moderate Muslims must take the lead in excising all the hate-filled passages found in the Qur’an and Hadith, and in acknowledging that Muhammad was hardly al-insan al-kamil (the ideal human) to be emulated in the 21st Century. They must also admit that Sharia law is incompatible with American democracy and lead the Western Muslim world to jettison it from their dreams.

If American Muslims take the lead in doing this, the rest of America will sit up and take notice, concluding that indeed Islam can be practiced in our midst in peace-loving, non-violent ways. The fears many have will begin to dissipate, and the numbers of anti-Muslim hate crimes will dwindle. Will American Muslims take on this task? Sadly, I doubt it, because it would put them at odds with orthodox Islam as it is known and practiced around the world. In fact, to seek to excise offensive verses from the Qur’an or to acknowledge any reprehensible behaviors in the Arabian prophet is automatic grounds in Islam for execution on the grounds of blasphemy.

To me, this is an impossible task. But if any solution is to be found for “Islamophobia,” it will depend on brave Muslims willing to defy the millennium plus of Islamic orthodoxy which is presently fueling the radical resurgence around the globe. The brave, new world so desperately desired by the Western liberal world will depend on the brave, new religion of a neutered Islam. Will it happen? Not if 1.5 billion Muslims in the world have their say. But a start has to be made somewhere. Maybe the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) will step forward and take the lead….

I still believe in miracles.


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And Now a Word from Jesus

Politics can be a nasty business, in large measure because it is about power, and as biblical accounts show time and again, the mix of power and fallen human nature produces an often violent, decidedly outcome.

Since human beings cannot change their own fallen inclinations, and often don’t see anything wrong with them, societies turn to long-standing traditional values of civility, kindness, tolerance and respect for law (especially in countries where laws are determined by the vote of citizens, not by court or executive fiat) to maintain national stability. When such social restraints are cast off, or subjugated to personal passions, all bets are off. Well-meaning, fervent political activists descend into hatred, demonizing their opponents as ignorant buffoons or worse, purveyors of evil.

In the present context, players in both major political parties have been guilty of this in their rabid pursuit of ultimate political power. polyticksPrior to the election, Mr. Trump warned of rigged elections and wouldn’t confirm his acceptance of the national vote: “We’ll wait and see,” was his mantra. Democrats roundly castigated him for refusing to play by the rules of our democracy. Ironically, now that the election result is confirmed, it is certain supporters of Mrs. Clinton who show their refusal to play by the rules. In the last two days, protests leading to violent riots have broken out in Portland, with threats of the same behavior looming in other major cities. In Chicago, after a minor traffic accident, a middle-aged man accused by a band of young thugs of voting for Trump is beaten and kicked and has his car stolen. In Louisiana, a female Muslim college student claims to have been assaulted and robbed by two “white men,” one of whom was wearing a Trump hat. Besides taking her wallet, they also took away her hijab while shouting racial obscenities at her. Reports of the incident went viral, until police determined the whole story was a hoax and the young woman admitted she had fabricated the whole thing.

The conclusion: some passionate folks in the liberal world are not above the use of lies and violence to seek to advance their cause. They are operating according to the natural inclinations of the sinful human heart.

On the other hand, among those thrilled by the election of Donald Trump we find some passionate folks also seeking to intimidate and belittle their defeated “opponents.” Reports of middle schoolers in Michigan chanting “Build the wall” during lunch hour in the cafeteria, evidence of post-election anti-Muslim and/or racist graffiti found in a high school bathroom in MN, at NYU in the Big Apple, on a storefront in Philadelphia, on a public wall in Durham, NC, indicate that the demonizing of others is not limited to one party.

When the social contract of civility and kindness breaks down, where do we turn for healing and restoration?

Not to secular humanism, for it has no antidote to the brokenness of our human nature from which such hatreds spring, only utopian bromides pleading with  us to overlook the clashing convictions that separate us into hating and hated groups.

Not to Islam, which urges the use of power to conquer one’s enemy. Of course, for Islam the enemy is not simply Republicans or Democrats or even Americans as a whole, but rather all who have not bowed the knee to Allah. We non-Muslims are labeled Dar al-Harb (the Region of War) by Islam, and Muslims are commanded to oppose us, our beliefs and way of life with whatever power they have until we finally submit and the Region of War surrenders to Dar al-Islam, the Region or House of Islam.

And not to any  other philosophy or religious system of the world, because all of them are built upon mobilizing a flawed human nature to try to cure that flawed human nature.

Only Jesus has a hope-inducing word to say on this matter. Instead of demonizing or obliterating one’s enemies through exercise of worldly power, Jesus says:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44), and

I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Lk 6:27-31).

Of course, to the world this sounds like idealistic nonsense, or worse, a recipe for personal destruction. But Jesus lived it out in his own circumstances. When arrested under false pretenses by the worldly power-brokers of his day, Jesus forbade his disciples from using force to defend him, especially Peter who had already unsheathed his sword and drawn the blood of one of the high priest’s servants: “Put your sword back into its place. For all who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). Jesus claimed that he could have gone the route later promulgated by Muhammad — the use of power to destroy his opposition: “Do you think I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions [a legion consists of 6,000 soldiers] of angels?” (Mt. 26:53). Instead, Jesus endured the hatred and demonization of those who thought they could “win” by crucifying Jesus, thereby humiliating him and everything he stood for as he breathed his last while riveted to a Roman cross. Yet upon being nailed to the cross and hoisted before a derisive crowd, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). If you want to know what it means in practice to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, just look at the example of Jesus.

Yes, you say, but he’s Jesus — I’m no Jesus. I don’t have that kind of love in my heart. All too true, as we are seeing played out left and right in America today.

However, Jesus taught that we can have this kind of love in our hearts for others. The catch is, it demands new hearts. Not simply hearts that try harder to be loving, or to reform themselves through strict moral regimen, but hearts that are filled with a new spirit — the Spirit of Jesus. When speaking with one of Israel’s prominent religious leaders, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, Jesus asserted that to see the Kingdom of God, one must be born anew, or born from above. That is, to reflect the values of God’s heaven, one must have a heavenly nature. Such a stature cannot be earned, purchased or wished into existence but only received as a gift of the Spirit imparted by Jesus to those willing to follow him. It is this new heart which enables fallen sinners to live according to Jesus’ otherwise impossible ethics — to love their enemies, to seek the good of those who seek their harm, to give without thought of return, even to surrender one’s own life so that others may live.

If I may be so bold as to suggest, what we need in America is not the ascription of blame to the “other,” nor the counsel to “act on your rage/take bats to the enemy,” nor the fear-mongering of a burgeoning racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic hell on earth, napoleonbonaparte1nor on the other hand the mocking dismissals of those ascending to political power, “Quit your whining! Suck it up. Now it’s our turn!”

What we need instead is ears to hear what Jesus is teaching. Wouldn’t it be amazing if politicians sought office as a way of surrendering their personal agendas for the welfare of the nation, if political parties were filled with leaders whose hearts sought to build bridges of compromise for the common good, if the large majority of Americans were moved by the pursuit of heavenly virtues rather than by a hunger for earthly power? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of demonizing our opponents, we overwhelmed them with acts of kindness and honor and trust?

It can begin today, but it must begin in our own hearts and actions. We must turn our hearts over to Jesus for replacement surgery. And then we must pray for our nation that God will sweep across our population and grant to others the same gift that He has given us. We must by His grace put to death the old ways of insults, mocking, belittling, deception, bribery, coercion, intimidation and the like.

Is such a thing possible? The lives of millions of Christians down through the ages attests that it indeed is, but the road is not easy, because half-hearted measures are ineffective. If we are not all-in with regard to living for Jesus, then we are all-out living for the ways of the flesh, with only a religious veneer. We know only too well where that road takes us.

So, how about a new direction?

And now, a word from Jesus….




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Interfaith Ignorance in Excelsis

Due to ongoing reverberations from the June 2016 PCUSA General Assembly where a “Muslim partner” led the gathered Presbyterians in a prayer to Allah seeking their conversion to Islam, newly appointed Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, Jr. has published a defense of the denomination’s position on interfaith relations, particularly with Islam.xny-islam

Entitled “Remembering a Biblical Narrative That Shapes Our Interfaith Commitments: Building Bridges Through Interfaith Work“, this 1400 word document seeks to justify the PCUSA approach of linking together arm in arm with non-Christian (indeed anti-Christian) religions and marching buoyantly into a utopian future where all is love and beliefs don’t matter.

Nelson begins by greeting readers “…in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” But that hopeful start is lost in all that follows. We are led by the title to hope that Nelson will give us a biblical narrative showing how to navigate the minefields of interfaith relations. Instead, we are told to ignore beliefs that rightly separate us and lift instead a common “ethic of love.”

The only biblical text Nelson cites in defense of his view is one he has to misquote in order to justify his stance. In Mark 9:38-41, Jesus’ disciples report to him they had come across a man not of their group who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They had ordered him to stop since he was not of the twelve chosen by Jesus. When Jesus hears this, he upbraids them, saying, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,  for whoever is not against us is for us.” Nelson is keen to show that the key for Jesus is commonality of purpose, not being part of his immediate group. Apparently for Nelson all interfaith groups seemingly have the same purpose, and so are acceptable to Jesus, and should be acceptable to us. Though the biblical text makes clear that the unknown man in question is doing ministry in Jesus’ name, and that Jesus’ rationale for not prohibiting him is that “no one doing ministry in my name can in the next moment badmouth me…,” Nelson incredibly twists this text in order to baptize interfaith cooperation:

“Jesus acknowledges the commonality of purpose between groups of religious leaders other than our own. When the disciples of Jesus reported to him that there were others casting out demons in another name, he responded, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk. 9:39–41).” [Emphases mine.]

The problem is, this man is acting in the name and under the authority of Jesus, not from some competing religious stance. Jesus affirms his ministry because it is being done in his name, not in the name of some other religious authority. To use this text for support of interfaith relations, particularly with regard to Islam, a religion that denies the gospel significance of the name of Jesus, is to abuse Scripture in pursuit of a personal agenda. How could the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PCUSA, who should read the Bible more carefully than this, do such a thing? Does he not know the corresponding passage found two chapters later in Luke (11:23): “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters”? But that doesn’t fit too well with interfaith activism.

I think this approach has to do with priorities based on muddled thinking. Nelson makes clear that “binding interfaith communities together” is what inter-religious partnership is all about. Oneness of the whole world community is God’s goal, with ” interfaith commitment as a witness to God’s call for human and religious unity.”

In order to forward the agenda of Christian-Muslim interfaith cooperation, Nelson argues that:

  1. We must not pay attention to differences in belief, but rather operate from a common “ethic of love.” Further, with regard to the “three great religions,” we are bound by a common ancestor — Abraham.
    1. “We who are engaged in interfaith work recognize that it is not categorical theological faith stances or beliefs that bind the interfaith community together. Our bond with one another is bridged by an ethic of love.”
    2. “We also understand the bridge among the three great religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) through Abraham.”
  2. We essentially worship the same God as Muslims, and obey the same commands to love the world.
    1. “Our acknowledgement of the same Creator—who may send different prophets, messengers, and servants at particular times in history—may differ, but love is the centerpiece of God’s expectations for us. Therefore, we worship the same God, but may derive different messages in our reflection, prayer, and meditation.  Furthermore, we agree that any message that is devoid of love is oppositional to God.”
    2. “True Islamic believers of a Supreme Being witness that there is no worship, service, or faith expression unless love is the basis of our actions and relationships—Love for God, Love for Neighbor, and Love for Self are common elements of faith, practice, and worship.”
    3. “However, our interfaith work is held together by love, because both the Koran and the Bible teach a faith grounded in love.”
  3. We must not get hung up on Islamic extremism, because all religions have extremists, including Christianity, and we must get the log out of our own eye before helping Islam get the speck out of its.
    1. “In all faith experiences, we have read and, in some cases experienced, extremism. We have witnessed acts of violence by Muslim extremist [sic]. We have also seen professing Christians engaged in similar actions.”
    2. “We are challenged in this age to differentiate the acts of extremism in all religious cultures, including our own. Acts of non-love leading to killing and other violent and vitriolic actions against another person or group are not measures embraced by any of the three great religions’ (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) holy books or core faith values.”
  4. Our primary concern with interfaith relations is the common goal of “justice advocacy work,” not the salvation of the world through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. After all, what is most important is that everyone gets along in a healthy way, whether they actually follow Jesus or not.
    1. “We struggle together to end “Islamaphobia” [sic] and other hate crimes against our interfaith partners.”
    2. “…I acknowledge the contributions of those who witness in the Spirit of Jesus by healing, loving, and standing on behalf of others.”

This document is riddled with errors too important to ignore. Let’s set the record straight on the key faults:

  • Differences in belief lead to strife; an ethic of love binds us together. Therefore we should avoid doctrinal differences and focus on mutual cooperation and love. Yet if as Christians we believe that those who reject the gospel are doomed to hell, how is it loving to put the call to evangelize aside, and simply seek to cooperate to make the world a better place? The apostle Paul in a passage urging reconciliation to God through Christ says about his own motivation for preaching the gospel, “For the love of Christ compels us….” Does not the Christian ‘ethic of love’ compel us to preach the good news to the lost rather than to lock it away so as not to cause offense?
  • Judaism, Islam and Christianity share a common ancestor in Abraham and so we are bound together by the same core religion. treeIn point of fact, Ishmael and Isaac are progenitors of races, not of religions. Very few Muslims can trace their lineage back to Ishmael, only certain groups of Arabs. And of the total worldwide population of Muslims, only roughly 16% are of Arab extraction. The Jews as a race can trace their lineage back to Abraham through Isaac, but the vast majority of Christians cannot (only the tiny percentage who are of Jewish descent). What links Christians with Abraham (and God’s promises to him) is not Isaac but Jesus Christ, as Paul says: “that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:14). The religions of Islam and Christianity are identified not by genetic lineage to Abraham, but by belief systems claiming linkage to Abraham’s relationship with God, and in this regard the two religions are in large measure at odds.
  • We acknowledge the same Creator differently, but since love is the centerpiece of God’s will for us, we worship the same God. This is wrong on many levels, but two points stand out. First is the logical inconsistency. If the command to love is what shows we worship the same God, what do we say about atheists who believe human beings are called to love one another; or Immanuel Kant with his “categorical imperative;” or Krishna in the Hindu Baghavad Gita; or Bahaullah; or Baba Ram Dass; or… or… or…? Do we all worship the same God because love is the central command of our respective beliefs? Second, in point of fact, Islam does not teach love as the centerpiece of Allah’s will for Muslims. Rather, obedience to his commandments is central, and among these the spread of Islam by conviction or coercion is paramount. Those who refuse to bow before Allah (“submission” is the proper translation of the Arabic term “Islam”) are not to be loved but to be hated and destroyed, if possible. I understand that for Christians (or even those raised in a Judeo-Christian culture but not believers themselves) this is difficult to imagine, but it is nonetheless true. Here is a selection of relevant passages (I could produce scores more) showing the intolerance of Allah and his followers to unbelievers (including especially Jews and Christians):
    • “And they say: ‘Be Jews or Christians, then ye will be rightly guided.’ Say (unto them, O Muhammad): ‘Nay, but (we follow) the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolaters'” (2:135).
    • ” Lo! Those who disbelieve, and die while they are disbelievers; on them is the curse of Allah and of angels and of men combined” (2:161).
    • And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter….And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah” (2:191, 193). [Note that this command is in force until all religion is subsumed or subjugated under Islam.]
    • “Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not” (2:216).
    • Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers” (3:28)
    • “Those who believe do battle for the cause of Allah; and those who disbelieve do battle for the cause of idols. So fight the minions of the devil” (4:76).
    • “So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah [i.e., become Muslims]; if they turn back (to enmity) [i.e., become apostates], then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them…”(4:89).
    • “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk” (5:51).
    • “Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful who will not believe” (8:55).
    • “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due [i.e., become Muslims], then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” (9:5).
    • Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture [i.e., Jews and Christians] as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (9:29).
    • “He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse” (9:33).
    • “O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey’s end” (9:73).
    • O ye who believe! 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 (unto Him)” (9:123).
    • “So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them herewith with a great jihad” (25:52). 
    • He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion. And Allah sufficeth as a Witness. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are harsh against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves” (48:28-9).
    • And there hath arisen between us and you hostility and hate for ever until ye believe in Allah only” (60:4) [This is supposedly a statement made by Abraham against his polytheistic peers, which Muslims are to emulate today.]
    • “Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture [i.e., Jews and Christians]  and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings (98:6). This is as opposed to the Muslim community, which comprises “the best of people, evolved for mankind (3:110).
    • To sum up, Islam does not teach an ethic of love toward all, but only toward fellow Muslims and those willing to become Muslims. The rest of the world becomes an enemy to be hated, conquered or destroyed.
  • Extremism is found in all religions, so we must discount it as not indicative of any religion. Since all human beings are sinners, it is to be expected that some sinners under any belief system will act out in violent and aggressive ways. The central issue is whether particular belief systems reject or encourage these kinds of behaviors. It is clear that the teachings of Jesus preclude the use of the sword in the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It is equally clear that the Qur’an endorses the use of the sword in the advancement of Islam. While Christian leaders can rightly castigate those who do violence to others in the name of Jesus, Muslim leaders do not have the same warrant based on their holy scriptures.
  • Muslims, and those of other religious groups are our “partners,” since we share a commonality of purpose.  Hence, Nelson speaks of Mr. Said (the man who led the Qur’anic prayer at the General Assembly) as “a Muslim partner.” But a partner to what end? Apparently, our commonality of purpose is to “end “Islamaphobia” [sic] and other hate crimes against our interfaith partners.” Yet if we are really interested in “justice advocacy work,” why not press our Muslim partners to end the persecution and murder of Christians throughout Muslim majority countries? By far the vast majority of religious hate crimes throughout the world are perpetrated against Christians, and in the vast majority of cases the perpetrators are Muslims. Why is the PCUSA not speaking out courageously against Islamic injustice seen in this and many other evils, or does our commonality of purpose end in our bemoaning hate crimes against any religion other than Christianity?
  • God’s “call for human and religious unity” will result as we all act from a common ethic of love. As we have seen already, Christianity and Islam do not share such an ethic.

    “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”

    But even if they did, the New Testament informs us that fallen human beings will never form such a unity until they are joined by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ through the reconciling work of the cross. As Paul says in Eph 2:14-16, “He [Christ] is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…so that he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross….” Interfaith work on the basis of a fictional ethic of love will not accomplish what Nelson hopes. Only the gospel can do that. So why not devote full attention to evangelism?

    I applaud Mr. Nelson’s desire to foster good relations with non-Christian religious groups. But this must not be done at the expense of truth, nor in a way that subordinates the proclamation of the gospel to the amelioration of social evils in the world. I would hope that before the PCUSA Stated Clerk makes any more pronouncements relating to Islam he will take the time to actually learn something of the belief system of those with whom he wishes the PCUSA to partner.

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If Only ISIS Were Refined, It Would Look Just Like Saudi Wahhabism!

For those who doubt that ISIS has anything to do with Islam, please watch this subtitled interview originally broadcast on MBC (Dubai television) January 22, 2016. It features Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, a former imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. One does not get to a prominent religious position such as that without the bona fides of a top scholar of Wahhabi, Sunni Islam. In this segment of the interview, Kalbani acknowledges that the beliefs of ISIS are taken from orthodox, Wahhabi texts. The one thing that separates ISIS from Saudi Wahhabis is that the latter are more “refined” in their practices, whereas the former are crude in how they carry out punishments for offenses against Shari’a. Apparently, if the methods of execution don’t cause significant criticism from the wider world, then they are okay, but if they cause revulsion and negative publicity, they are wrong. Since the Saudi government beheads offenders in a humane way, and with minimal publicity, its obedience to Shari’a is commendable. Since ISIS’ execution of offenders is intentionally ghastly (boiling in oil, immersing in acid, burning with fire in cages, drowning by lowering cages into water, etc.), even though they are rightly carrying out the judgments of Shari’a, their methods are open to criticism, according to Kalbani. Even so, their doctrines are one and the same as those of the Wahhabis! As the sheikh says in this interview concerning the Wahhabis and ISIS, “We follow the same thought but apply it in a refined way.”

How comforting….

Some terms to be aware of:

Da’esh the Arabic acronym for ISIS. Kalbani acknowledges at the start that Da’esh is a result of Islamic “revivalism,” i.e., a return to the origins of Islam.

Salafism is a movement seeking to reform modern Islam to conform to the practices of Muhammad and the first three generations of his followers (this is based on a tradition of what Muhammad is supposed to have said about those who would be rightly guided in the faith). The Arabic word “salaf” means literally “ancestors/forefathers.” Salafists would be roughly analogous (though not at all like in belief system) to those in US politics who wish to turn the American political system back to the mindset of our “founding fathers,” their writings and practices.

Wahhabi refers to those who follow the conservative teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, an 18th C. Sunni cleric from the central regions of Arabia who led a reform movement to return Islam to the purity of its founder and his immediate followers (the salaf). While all Wahhabis fall within the broader world of Salafism, not all Salafis would identify themselves as Wahhabis. (Have I confused you enough by now?)


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