Christianity & Islam- Portraits of Extremists

Well, since I have taken on the gay marriage crowd, tremendously effectively I might add, I thought, “Boy howdy, I love to be maligned and to suffer. What other topic am I supposed to have only the politically correct opinion of?”

Islam.

I should have a go at The Religion of Peace.

My daughter came home from church Sunday telling me that we must pray for a woman named Meriam who lives in Africa and who is going to be murdered because she is a Christian.  Of course, I already knew about Mrs. Ibrahim from the Facebook frenzy that her death sentence created.   This courageous woman, who was raised a Christian, who IS a Christian, is apparently considered “Muslim” according to the Koran. When your dead-beat father abandons you and happens to be Muslim, so are you. Mrs. Ibrahim is guilty of “adultery” because she married an American man.  So, eight months pregnant with her second child, she is shackled to the wall in a prison cell until her death sentence can be carried out. (Oh, and her 20 month old son, who may be a US citizen, is in prison with her as well.) The judge(?) was kind enough in his sentencing to let her give birth before they beat and hang her.  This, along with the abduction of the Nigerian girls and the village bombings by the Islamist terrorist cell Boko Haram, are the most recent events that have folks talking about the methods for holy living prescribed by the Koran.

Worldview and ideology are most revealed when observing its most ardent followers.  A cursory glance of a religion’s “extremists” will tell you the following about Islam and Christianity.

1. Muslims impose hardship on others in obedience to their God.

2. Christians impose hardships on themselves out of love for their God.

We are all pretty fat and happy in America and thanks to our wacky founding fathers’ idea that all men are created equal (now what worldview could have created that impression?), it can be hard to really see the disparity of worldviews as greatly as one can living overseas.  Most of us happy fat Americans – Christians, Muslims, New-Agers, Flying Spaghetti Moster Worshippers -are moderate.  The burqua-clad mother and I nod and smile at each other (well, I assume she is smiling) as we pass in the Goodwill. There is no great need to be radical followers in fat happy land.  Most of us live the way we want to live and can find a few verses of our holy book to affirm what we are already doing. But, not all of us. There are a few who are so devoted to the teachings of their God that they have chosen to live quite radically. I happen to be privileged to know several of the Christian variety. And, since you well never hear them boast about their amazingness, I decided to do it for them.th3F444FEL

Mark was my youth pastor when I was a sauced up, cursing, self-centered hedonistic wild child.  With the help of God I have knocked out four of those behaviors. I’ll let you guess which one I still tangle with. Back to Mark. I had never met a man like him before.  He owned one (Ladies, O N E) pair of shoes and if he were to be given another pair, would frequently give the best of the two away to whatever needy teen walked through his door. Sometimes he was shoe-less. He and his wife Patti lived on a pittance, but welcomed the lot of us to eat them out of house (they lived in a one-bedroom apartment above the church) and home.  They woke up early to disciple a motley crew of teens. They stayed up late with kids until their sideways drunk parents were asleep, thus making it “safe” to return home. Now, Mark and Patti (along with the only child that was born alive to them) live in the Philippines.  They can pack everything that they own in a backpack- one for each of them.  They run a home for unwanted girls, loving them and educating them in an attempt to steer their futures away from prostitution.  Patti is a nurse and functions as the local doctor, midwife and school teacher.  Mark is a general carpenter/laborer who ventures into the jungle to share the gospel and repair homes after typhoons.  Once, when they were working in Columbia, a militia broke into the school where they were serving.  A man put a gun to Mark’s head and said, “Give me all your money.”  He replied, “All I have is Jesus.  Seriously.”

Another.

The Theis Family is moving to a remote mountainous village in Thailand next month.  Mr. and Mrs. Theis are both seminary graduates. Their five biological children are young adults now, but they will be taking the youngest three, along with their five foreign-born, special needs, adopted children with them.  Two of their sons, both with significant visual impairments, were adopted from China only weeks before the 14-year-old cutoff for adoptees.  They are going to minister to the Mien people, and my newsfeed is filled with pictures of their fifteen passenger van, their washing machine, and their bicycles as they sell off everything that they own to live forever among some of the poorest people of Thailand.  Their two quiet-souled Chinese sons, who still speak Mandarin, will be able to communicate with many in the Mien village.  They know intimately what every Christian proclaims, but few live out: their life is not their own.

Another.

The Martinez family is moving to Papua New Guinea in July to devote the remainder of their lives on earth to an isolated jungle tribe because they were invited. The tribe’s elders had heard of another tribe who had a Christian missionary live among them and requested one to come live among their people as well. Lisa, a trained linguist, will study their language, develop an alphabet, and begin to record their language for the first time in history. The tribe has been waiting years for a family to make this lifetime commitment.  However, it has been difficult to find a linguist who is willing to move to this area, which is known for brutality toward women and outsiders. The risk is not lost on the Martinez’s, who have two young daughters. But they feel strongly that following Christ means sacrificing their own comfort for the sake of others.

More.

I know several Christian couples who have chosen not to have their own biological children but instead are seeking to adopt foster children.  Often older children who have already been through several homes. The system’s un-adoptables. Let me be clear, this has not been easy or fun for the parents who get attached to their sons and then watch them get stripped away by a dysfunctional system. But they continue to allow their lives to be upended for the sake of children who have faced unending rejection.

Many of my friends are deeply involved in fighting human trafficking with whatever spare time and money that they have after providing for their families.  One amazing friend started the Traffic Jam campaign.

Christians make these radical sacrifices because the overwhelming message of the gospel is that we must die to ourselves and live for Christ.  And the way that He wants us to serve Him is to give sacrificially to our brothers and sisters in Christ, the down trodden, the unlovely, our enemies, and the poor.  To everyone, really. The reason is not to earn our salvation or to force others to “submit” to our God, but because we are called to be a picture of Christ, the Christ who left his entitlements, comforts, and heavenly abode for those who did not know Him.

I am not surprised if you have never heard of Christians such as these.  The reason is two-fold: First, the powers that be have nothing to gain by highlighting the lives of genuine believers and examining how they live out their faith.  Second, if these families are making the sacrifices necessary to radically alter their life’s circumstances to obey their Lord, then they have likely also mastered the directive to not boast.  (I’m still working on that one.) They won’t be tooting their own horn, that is. And if A&E ever discovers one of them and they decide to do a reality show on “that bizarre Christian family,” it will probably be cancelled because GLAAD will discover that at some point these believers affirmed biblical sexuality.  So believers like these are likely to remain obscure, except to those who benefit from their great sacrifice.

I am not an expert on Islam.  I’ve read Infidel, Son of Hamas, and perused the Koran a few times.  I do, however, avail myself to numerous news sources. When it comes to Islam, I see a whole lotta brutality toward women and children, terrorist bombings, and honor killings attributed to the will of Allah. It doesn’t take a genius to discern that violence is at the heart of their religion. There are peaceful Muslims- no doubt about it. But they must ignore great swaths of their holy book to be so.

I find it interesting that when people criticize Muslims it is because they are following the commands of their God. You know, by “beating their wives into submission” or “killing Jews and infidels.”  But criticism leveled at Christians? It is for NOT following their God’s commands. For not being generous toward the poor, not loving their neighbor, not being honest.  And don’t dare start with me about the abortion clinic bomber who supports his violence with an obscure bible passage. That person is condemned by Christians. The Jihadist that blew up the cafe full of Jews? They celebrate in the streets and financially support his family for life.  We condemn violence. They celebrate it.

Christianity is a self-sacrificing religion, as evidenced by it’s Founder.  It does so for the benefit of others, sometimes for strangers.  (Who often don’t stay strangers for long.)  Islam is a religion of oppression and victimization, as evidenced by it’s founder.  It is a religion of forced submission. The comparison is stark. And don’t Mrs. Ibrahim know it.

It seems that the State Department greatly values #hashtags, so perhaps we could start the #letsgetoffourheinyandrescuethatwoman campaign. Please join my family in praying for the rescue of Mrs. Ibrahim and the victims of Boko Haram. And I suggest we all praise God every day that we live in fat happy land.

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49 thoughts on “Christianity & Islam- Portraits of Extremists

  1. I have these exact thoughts about Islam and I clearly see the damage that it inflicts everywhere. I will be praying for Mrs. Ibrahim and our other brothers and sisters in similar situations. Also I pray that Muslims can see the truth and be released from their chains of darkness. Praise God many are coming to Jesus Christ! Thanks for this post.

  2. Katy, once again I can feel frustration and anger underneath your writing here. What is happening to Mrs. Ibrahim is horrific, and there are probably many others like her. And I’m hesitant to respond because I don’t want to add to your feeling of being maligned and attacked. Please take my comments here as coming from a friend with some experience working in interreligious dialogue.

    It is true that the news media does not often cover the radical self-sacrifice made by incredible Christians in service to others. But if that is the case, it is also the case that Muslims who make the same kinds of self-sacrifice for others might ALSO not be covered by the news media? Instead, in both cases, the most extreme, the most violent of each religion – the radical fundamentalists – are likely to be the ones who get air time.

    More importantly, though, is that it seems unjust to judge all of Islam on the basis of radicals and fundamentalists who, at best, should be compared to the KKK or the Timothy McVeighs of the Christian world. The kinds of violence, abuse, terrorism, and suppression of women you mention are sometimes justified by a few extremists of the faith as “Islamic,” but they are often more cultural or political, and can be easily compared to the same kinds of actions that have been justified by Christian extremists at many points throughout our history. Our Bible is just as violent as the Quran. I wouldn’t want my religion judged on the violence of my holy book, especially when Christian history is just as violent as anything happening among Muslim extremists today.

    There are five mandatory pillars Muslims must follow, each of which shows obedience to God and service and giving to others. NONE of them condone violence, abuse, or oppression of any kind.

    I’ve spent the last six years working on understanding among religions. NOT in order to unify them. NOT in order to pretend there aren’t real differences between them. NOT to gloss over the very real and horrific actions being taken against people of various religions around the world by people of other faiths. I do this in order to get past unfair headlines and quick (and erroneous) judgments, to try to find peaceful solutions to global problems that will require people of different faiths to work together (whether we like it or not), and to let people who participate in other religions speak on their own behalf before I come to my conclusions.

    I am Christian for a reason, and Islam is different than Christianity. I’m not going to pretend there aren’t problems with Islam; I would also be first in line to point out the ways Christianity has been used to oppress and abuse throughout history. But to compare the best of Christianity with the worst of Islam? That seems really unfair and uncharitable. I hope you’ll take time to get to know your Muslim neighbor in the Goodwill, hear her story, and let her speak for herself.

    • Hello friend. Thank you for your comments.

      First let me say that what goes on in the blogosphere and in our culture, whatever I experience in terms of ridicule is in no way comparable to what many Christians face overseas. I don’t ever, especially with my tongue-in-cheek references to “suffering”, mean to communicate that I, or any Christian in this nation suffer real persecution. Cases such as Pastor Saaed and Mrs. Ibrahim should constantly remind us of that.

      You talk about how “our Bible is just as violent as the Quran” and yet somehow hundreds of millions of Christians do not seem to interpret the violence in the Bible as impetus for violence against others. And yet many millions of Muslims do use the violence in the Quran to justify their terror and oppression. You don’t have to know every detail either book to make a judgment call here. There must be something in the Bible which, despite depicting violence, doesn’t lead the followers of the Bible to BE violent. But something in the Quran which does.

      I am familiar with the five pillars of Islam. The problem is that there are so many other directives, many of which are contradictory, that lead some Muslims to force others into submission to their God, often using violence.

      I was not comparing the “best” of Christianity and the “worst” of Islam. I was looking at, according to their own testimonies, who is following their holy book the most closely.

      • Hi again. Your response really saddens me. I know there are things on which we disagree, but, like Thinker below, I think on this point you really seem to have a blind spot. Christians have been incredibly violent toward others who would not convert (or who were simply different) for generations. Just yesterday, I was listening to a story about churches that removed Native American children from their families and forced them to leave their native language and culture behind in order to accept Christianity and get an “education.” This was in the 1950s. Living in Nashville, I’ve heard incredibly horrific, personal stories about the ways Christians justified not just segregation of races but repeated and regular violence and intimidation against African Americans on the basis of biblical teachings. These were not fringe groups; this was the dominant cultural norm in the 1960s and beyond. An enormous percentage of people who support the death penalty in our country do so on religious grounds, while the vast majority of other traditionally “Christian” countries have outlawed this practice as inhumane. One post I saw this week about the “Bring back our girls” campaign in Nigeria pointed out that U.S. drones (being sent by a “Christian” nation) have killed thousands and thousands of Muslim children – thousands more than Boko Haram could ever capture.

        Perhaps these examples seem to you to be extremes of Christian behavior outside the norm. Or perhaps they are perversions of Christianity. Or perhaps you want to separate the actions of government or individual groups from the religion as a whole. But this is my point: the examples of Islam you’re citing are ALSO outside the norm of Islam. Millions of Muslims do NOT use violence, instead millions are horrified by the minority using their religion for horrific purposes – in the same way I’m sure you’re horrified by the Christian examples above.

        Please do take a second look at this, and at the ways in which you generalize unfairly. Statements like “millions of Christians do not seem to interpret the violence in the Bible as impetus for violence against others” and “millions of Muslims do use the violence in the Quran to justify their terror and oppression” seem to me to show that you’re not seeing the complexities, the cultural realities, and the shadowy histories of either.

        • Also, I’m not sure why I appeared as Schmoiso one time and Aimee the other, but in either case I’m the same person! 🙂

        • Since a Christian is supposed to be a follower of Christ and a Muslim is supposed to be a follower of Muhammad, then it seems that the issue can only be settled by looking at these persons. What is your assessment of Jesus vs. Muhammad? Most know a fair amount about Jesus, and few find much to complain about (except maybe that He’s been mythologized). But not many know much about Muhammad. Do you? Care for a few highlights?

    • Exactly. Bravo, Schmoiso. AskMe- hundreds of millions of Muslims live peacefully, and a minority act radically. And as you said, the messed up situation make violence and extremism much more palpable. Small extreme groups of Christians are just as susceptible to this bad behavior under the right (or wrong) conditions. Radical Islam is its own sect entirely, like those crazy ass “Christians” who call themselves Christians but you totally know they aren’t Christians because they don’t share your values.

      I think you really miss the mark on this one. I always say that, but usually I’m just bitter because we disagree. But on this one I would like to softly and gently tell you that I truly believe you are missing it. To criticize an entire religion that, to an outsider looks as whacked out and violent as your own, shows an inherent bias you might not be able to get out of. As someone not affiliated with either religion, I totally disagree.

      Many Muslims are extraordinary people as well who sacrifice themselves for the good of others. When I’ve gone to Mosque with my Muslim BFF, the sermon? sounds like anything I’d hear in church, except it is in another language, and the women and men are separated. That happens in some churches and temples too onviously. Of course things are different, but the values are the same. The quotes my Muslim friend and her friends post have similar messages as what you post. You can’t cherry-pick the best and worst and be objective. It ain’t right. Just think about it, OK?

      • With Islam, it’s not just a matter of a few bad eggs now and then getting “radical”; there are entire competing factions with tens of thousands of followers each. They don’t just appeal to a stray verse here and there; they know the Qur’an and are often students of it. They aren’t just rouge individuals or groups outside of church authority; they often include church leaders and theological teachers. They aren’t just people acting in ways contradictory to their religion’s founder; they are often following the example of Muhammad himself.

        We know there are moderate Muslims (I work with one myself) and extremist Muslims. The question is: Which are being the most consistent with the teaching and behavior of Muhammad and which are not? Which are the conservatives and which are the liberals? When I asked my moderate friend about this his stammering and anemic rebuke of radical behavior gave me little comfort. I’ve listened to moderate Muslims like Zuhdi Jasser, who are willing to boldly condemn radical Islam, but when he talks about the authority and reliability of the Quar’an he uses exactly the same equivocal language as liberal Christians do about the Bible.

        From my study of Islam’s founder, its teachings, and its history, I would have to say that the radicals are closer to the mark (i.e., orthodoxy). I’m not sure what Muhammad would have thought of suicide bombers, but he certainly had no problem with armed conflict, the execution of his enemies, and the imposition of religion on the State and all within it (to say nothing of his treatment of women and children). His followers had no problem with these things either given that in the first hundred years of the religion Islam had overrun over half of the old Roman empire by the sword. Christianity, on the other hand, spread throughout the entire Roman empire and beyond like a mist through the trees. Impressive, given that it was not even a legal religion for its first 300 years.

      • First Mrs. Bigot; love the site. Keep it up 🙂

        Thinker, greetings to you, and hope you have a safe holiday weekend! You said in the above post ” As someone not affiliated with either religion..” Would you mind sharing your religious affiliation? I’m a Christian. Thanks!

        -S.S.-

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I already knew that you would make the point that we Christians aren’t truly extreme unless we turn the other cheek, love our enemies and forgive like crazy(Matthew 5). i agree that only a Judeo-Christian framework that gives implicit value to every life could’ve produced something like the Constitution. And although the founding fathers in their humanity didn’t apply it, no other religion or philosophical belief system could even fathom calling everyone equal. I have heard a popular apologist state that a prominent Imam or Grand Mufti agreed that only a Judeo-Christian framework could’ve done so.

    But I still personally prefer to compare religions on their sacred text and core fundamentals. I am not calling them a religion of peace but I don’t want to judge anything by the abuse of it. Because I would rather have non-believers ask me extensional questions related to bible scriptures rather than bring up the crusades, slavery, tv pastors, etc. The fact that Islam puts the weight of salvation on man is why I don’t believe it.

    Off topic…this was hilarious..LOL…:”well, I assume she is smiling” and when you say: “I’ll let you guess which one I still tangle with”..I’m guessing sauced up. Although you only list 4.

    • Thanks Zans. The smiling through the burqua was my line. Credit for the “tangle” over the vices goes to Frau M. (Wild child counted as a vice. And I am obviously not wild any more…)

      There are clearly aspects of history where those in power used Christianity to wrongly justify their actions. Often they were righted… by Christians who confronted them with scripture- as in the slavery example. But some of those atrocities have been exaggerated or embellished. If you ever get your hands on it, ‘The Rise of Christianity” has a great chapter on the crusades as well as the inquisition. Both based on sociology and not from a “Christian” perspective.

      I have had more than a passing interest in Islam, and at one time read a good chunk of the Koran, though admittedly its been a long while since then. I’ve read Q&A blog from a “peaceable” Imam on hot button issues. My man has taken two mission trips to Muslim areas (I was greatly with child during both so had to forego the trips) and worked with and served the Muslims there. You are right, that we can judge a worldview based solely on it’s teachings. But ideas have consequences and we see that clearly throughout much of the Muslim world today.

  4. Ouch! That was really well said. And very convicting for a typical fat happy land Christian. But that’s a good thing. We (I) need that.
    Regarding the comparison to the Islamic community, you hit the nail right on the head. We don’t have a problem with a few Islamic radicals. We have a problem with Islam, who’s adherents are silently nodding their heads and supporting those radicals. They won’t turn them in, and they won’t denounce them. At best they are silent. There’s no end in sight to this battle. And it’s not the Infedels (Christians, Jews, western athiests, etc.) that are on a crusade. It’s Islam.

    • It’s even more complex than that because of the lack of separation of church and state in many Islamic countries. People simply don’t have a choice but to adhere. Places like Iran and Saudi Arabia have “morality police” who are patrolling the streets making sure women are covered up…

          • My man spent two weeks in Spain in 2007 ministering to, talking with, and reaching out to Muslims at a Muslim rest stop there. Our church supported a man who disciples Muslim converts, many of whom live in Morocco. He does so via radio, as many of those converts live in hiding. Those converts have shared with the missionary that Islam considers Spain to be a Muslim land because it occupied Spain during the Crusades. (It feels the same about Israel.) If they had authority of a land at one time, they shared that they consider it perpetually an Islamic territory. If they do retake Spain at some point, and Sharia law becomes too much for you, we have RV parking at our house and you and Mike can camp out with us. 😉

          • Not just Spain. The Muslim conquest included Portugal, parts of the south of France and southern Italy, Crete and even Georgia in eastern Europe.
            Their problem with Spain is that the entire occupation was one long drawn out war which is part of the socio-historical memory.
            Spain has a much smaller Muslim community than most other EU countries because there’s a natural antipathy towards Islam- not to mention Spain hasn’t caught up with the politically correct movement so we mostly still refer to Arabs of any variety as “Moors”. And every end of July local festivities are still held called Moros y Cristianos (moors and christians) where people re-enact the expulsion of the Muslims: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moros_y_cristianos

            I don’t think this would be there place of choice…

      • This is exactly what I was going to ask. To be honest, the whole issue of Islam is something that I really go back and forth on. I don’t have a “stand” on this issue, which feels wishy-washy, but in good conscience I can’t really say one way or the other without more experience, reflection and knowledge of Islam.

        The Muslims I know are terrific people. I enjoy working with them, I enjoy working with their children, I enjoy chatting with them. I respect how deeply they believe and live out their faith. They treat their neighbors much more lovingly than many who call themselves Christian. I also know that there are radical Islam factions all over the world, full of adherents dreaming of their chance to be a “hero”….to die while taking out as many innocent lives as they can. I don’t know too many Muslims who fall in between…..this make it seem like there’s almost two different Islams. Islam Peaceful and Islam Violent. It certainly makes it easy to love one and decry the other, but I feel like both are extremes and the “normal” of Islam is something I don’t really know.

        Pink pointed out very well something I question a lot. Since there is no separation of church and state, and the current leader is usually most violent, is it possible that we give more weight to the group of radical jihadists than they actually represent? After all, they are in power and they control the media and, to a large part, what the average Joe Muslim says, but do they actually represent that average guy? Also, what part does forced religion play (you must give AT LEAST lip service to the version of Islam that the current reigning party pushes or you, quite literally, can die)? Is it fair to judge an entire religion from our (fat and happy) point of view that understands very little of what it means to live within a country with forced religion?

        So, yeah. Right now, I have many more questions than firm thoughts…..

    • I am convicted when I look at her bravery. There are areas of my life where I am fat and happy as well. I could use some “extremism” in my life, especially in the area of generosity with strangers. I am grateful for Christians who are way ahead of me in maturity, because it doesn’t let me stay where I am.

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  6. You have mistyped “Christianity” in your title.

    If you want violent Christians, look at Northern Ireland, where the civil war was in the name of Protestant or Catholic Christianity, and some priests gave succour to the IRA.

    Bob Jones University, allegedly Christian, dropped its no interracial dating rule in 2000. Alabama repealed its unenforcible anti-“miscegenation” law in 2001.

    The Ayatollahs and the Wahabists are extreme- yet the Sufis are also Muslims. Read some Hafiz.

    Here is an article on the Central African Republic. And here are Muslims protecting Christians.

    • I always find it interesting to watch a self-proclaimed “Christian” join in the dog pile on top of Christianity. Do you find nothing commendable about following Jesus and His teachings above following Muhammad?

      • Christians should be the top of the dog-pile, as you put it, because we should clean up our own act, not leave it to the Atheists. But- the CAR article talks of the Muslim minority coup and violence as well as the Christian backlash, and do you deny that Christians enforced, as well as fought, slavery and race oppression?

        • That’s the nice thing about Christianity. It is self-reforming, because it has a clear standard, and that standard (Jesus) advocated a high ethical standard that even many atheists can appreciate.

          Depends on how you define “Christians” and how you define “fought” and how you define “race oppression.” I certainly do not deny that many devout Christians fought slavery and race oppression in most any sense that you would imagine.

    • Goodness. Good catch Clare. That’s what I get for changing the title on the blog without spell check on my side. I tell you, I am a slave to auto-correct.

  7. Well done, AskMe. Your description of Christians serving and sacrificing was beautiful. I know so many who are like a much needed beacon of light in this world.

    It occurs to me that one of the things that makes Christianity different from Islam, is that Christians follow Christ, based on teachings in the bible that tell us Christ lives within us, that our bodies are like a temple, that we are saved by His sacrifice, His grace. He is in us. He is in others, too. In contrast, Muslims do not serve Christ and they must follow a set of external rules, praying at certain times of the day, dietary restrictions, pilgrimages, fasting. Muslims must prove themselves to God and earn His love, through their acts and behavior.

    Christians on the other hand, know that their acts and behavior cannot save them. This is major difference with huge implications.

  8. I’ve read both the Bible (New Living Testament) and an English translation of the Qur’an (Tarif Khalidi) and I have not found much of a difference between them when it comes to human rights issues. Not only do both books and religions have them, the issues are very similar. Generalizing about groups of people often leads to people getting hurt, being open to new information often leads to new friends 🙂

    • Hi Louise, welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting! I do not want to give the impression that Christians are superior to Muslims. All I need to do is take an honest assessment of myself to know that I’ve got nothing on anyone else. The intention of the post is to say that ideas have consequences. And the directives of the Koran lived out looks different that the directives of the Bible lived out. I find it interesting that you do not see a significant difference between the two books. I’d be curious to see a side-by-side of what the two books have to say about, for example, how husbands ought to treat their wives? Care to compare and contrast?

      • Glad to hear it 🙂

        The thing about comparing and contrasting the Bible to the Qur’an is that many Christians do not accept all of the Bible whereas most Muslims accept all of the Qur’an. The Qur’an does not contain logical inconsistencies like the Bible, so human rights issues in the Qur’an become stickier to deal with. From what I can see, women’s rights are about the same in the Qur’an as in the Bible. I did have trouble with a passage in the Qur’an that said you could beat your wife lightly if is she was a rebellious woman, but I was also uncomfortable to find out that in the Old Testament a man was allowed to stone his whole family if they were rebellious. The New Testament books advise women to be submissive to their husbands, not to be leaders (this is where the Catholic church gets its reasoning) as is the same in the Qur’an. The problem is, there are some contradicting passages in the New Testament about this issue, which makes it difficult to say too much.

        At the end of the day, I found that Judaism, Christianity and Islam and Judaism all accept that the Torah was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Christianity and Islam accept the importance of Jesus and the rest seems to be details. Which details are accurate is very hard to say.

        • Hi Louise. I have much to learn about Islam. Perhaps you could help me understand. I know that there is a lot of ground to cover in a discussion so perhaps we could just tackle one thing at a time. Permit me to respond to your thoughts on husbands and wives.

          The primary passage in the New Testament about the husband/wife relationship is found in Ephesians 5. While there are many narratives on husbands and wives in the Bible (because much of scripture is history and is simply descriptive) the following passage is the *prescription* on husband/wife relationships:

          21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
          22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
          25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

          Here we see mutual submission to one another, and that the husband is the head of his wife. This is voluntary, and no where in scripture do we see that the husband is allowed to force his wife to submit using any kind of force or verbal abuse. We also see that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and that means that he must “give himself up for her.” That ties back into my original post, where Christ compels husbands to impose hardship on themselves for the sake of their wife, even if that means dying for them as Christ did for the church.

          I am glad that you brought up Qur’an (4:34) – “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God had guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish then and send them to bed apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.”

          This is a prescription of how men are to treat their wives, not just for disobedience or desertion, but even if they “fear” that their wife will behave so. Clearly uncomfortable with this passage in his holy book, translator Yusuf Ali inserted the word “lightly” to qualify the level of “beating” that should take place.

          Unfortunately, many Muslim men take this passage at face value: almost half of women in Saudi Arabia are beaten by their husbands. “Hands and sticks were found to be used mostly in beating women, following by men’s head cover and to a lesser extent, sharp objects.” http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/saudi-women-beaten-wsticks-and-sharp-objects-by-fathers-brothers-and-sons-for-religious-motives/

          Muhammad used the Arabic word ‘idribuhunna’ in the verse, which is derived from the root ‘daraba’ and almost always means “to strike.” Consider that the same derivation is used in one other place in the Quran, verse 8:12: “I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: strike ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them” It’s unlikely that a “light” strike would cause one’s fingertips to be smited off.

          Considering that the Hadith records Mohommud himself beating his favorite wife, Aisha, in the chest while lying in bed to the point where “it caused her pain”, and that Allah tells Job to beat his wife with one hundred lashes (Quran (38:44), isn’t it consistent with my above assertion that Islam compels men to impose hardship on their wives for the husband’s sake? Rather than the contrast to “giving yourself up” for your wife as the Bible states?

          Would love your thoughts on this. I do consider the Old and New Testament to be the word of God, and “accept” the whole thing. Also, I would be interested to take a look at the “logical inconsistencies” that you have observed in the Bible.

          Thanks for the dialogue, Louise!

          • I cannot dispute that there are ideas in Islam that encourage violence. Without getting into the tedious bits of scripture I am trying to convey that bad ideas exist in Christianity and Judaism as well. These books are be interpreted in many different ways by many different people which is why inequality between men and women exists in all Abrahamic religions. On the bright side, equality exists in all of them as well.

            Saudi Arabia has serious problems as do many Christian countries. It also wasn’t until relatively recently that women had rights in America and Christian Europe. Frig, we’re still not totally equal. Saudi is beginning to change, but it is true that they are about 100-200 years behind us. Similar patterns in other religions lead me to believe it is more likely to be other social factors such as war, disease and poverty that lead to their slow change and a domestic violence rate that is double America’s.

            I don’t think I could make any better arguments than the Sceptics Annotated Bible (http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/gen/1.html) however I will say that something like the Holy Trinity would not be considered logically consistent since Jesus was tempted, but God cannot be tempted. This is not to say that the Holy Trinity isn’t the truth, but it is hard for humans to discuss because it doesn’t follow the rules of a equivalence relation.

            I think the best thing to do is hang out with some Muslims. Like most Christians, most Muslims are awesome and you’ll probably learn more about Islam from them than you would from me!

            You’re welcome!

        • Louise,

          Many *liberal* Christians do not accept the whole Bible, just as there are liberal Muslims. Conservatives, by definition, accept the authority of the Bible. The difference is that Christians have a scope and context in which to put the Old Testament, but Islam has no “context.” The Qur’an is supposedly for all people for all time. There are also plenty of apparent inconsistencies in the Qur’an to go around.

          For instance, are Muslim men allowed to have just 4 wives, or a dozen like Muhammad? Are Muslims supposed to slay infidels or convert them? Are the “people of the book” (Christians/Jews) able to offer theological insight or have they all gone astray? Did Muhammad perform miracles or not? Did Muhammad commit sins or not? And other baggage: http://answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/#internal

          Pointing to the New Testament’s discussion of the mere *role* of women (men are also told to submit to their wives, btw) hardly offers parity with the place Islam has for women, and the way in which Muslim’s demonstrably apply it.

          I think you underestimate the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Christians accept the exact same books of the Jewish cannon (which it calls the O.T), except they think Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and a new covenant is now in effect. Islam, on the other hand, shares *some* of the same stories with the Bible, thought the Qur’an puts its own theological spin on those stories (like putting Ishmael into the place of Isaac). It also disagrees on many fundamental theological matters, like the character of God and the very means by which we are saved. It couldn’t be more different in places where it matters most.

          The Bible shows a God who loves His creation so much that He came to earth Himself, in the Person of Jesus, to live the life we could not and to pay the penalty for sin that we should have. The Qur’an vigorously rejects this idea, and considers the belief in a triune God, who could have such a thing as a “son,” to be one of the worst possible sins. These are not just details; the *difference* is the difference between Life and Death.

          • There are many different ways of interpreting these books. That is your interpretation after many years of study. My uneducated interpretation, at face value, was that these books are very were similar. To me the other stuff is details, to you it’s not. The difference in interpretations leads me to believe that one book isn’t more likely to lead to a better society than another.

            At the end of the day, the message in the Bible is that that God wants us all to cooperate, love each other and to see the best in each other. Many folks from all sorts of religions believe this too. For this reason, I believe that we can all put aside our differences, stop bashing each other and just try to get along. We’ve tried disagreeing, we’ve tried fighting about who’s scripture is right and who’s is wrong and we’ve found out that this doesn’t work. Love and understanding toward all of God’s creatures is the only way the world gets better.

          • Louise,

            Thanks for replying to me as well. Please understand that saying something like “that’s just your interpretation” is kind of a conversation stopper. It implies both that we can’t really get at the truth of what Scripture wants us to understand and that we are left with constructing our own brand of religion from our own personal interpretations of Scripture. In other words, Scripture is a muddle that we can’t rely on, and the best we could do is pick and choose what we like to build our own religion. It also suggests that God either can’t get His message across or He doesn’t really want to.

            There are indeed places in the Bible where sincere Christians have differed in understanding (often because they are not detailed enough), but many things are quite plain and the historical church has taken them at face value. These things unite such diverse Christian groups as the Catholics, Orthodox, Coptic, and Protestants. Those who differ tend to do so on the grounds of a low view of scriptural authority and reliability (e.g., liberal Christians), or on the grounds of elevating some other book or religious leader’s teachings above the Bible (e.g., Mormons, Gnostics).

            As I previously said, the Bible teaches that Jesus is more than just a man, and His work on the cross is essential to salvation. Even most of the cults of Christianity acknowledge this in some way. Islam, however, explicitly denies that Jesus was more than a great man and that He didn’t even die on the cross (which even non-Christian historians believe). The Qur’an considers the idea of a “partner” for God to be the major sin of “shirk.” It claims that the Christian view of Jesus is an example of shirk. This is not just minor “interpretation” either; it is standard orthodoxy for Islam as far as I know. If one takes Christianity to be true, then Islam must be wrong. If one takes Islam to be true, then Christianity is wrong. The *central* messages of each are in conflict. To claim that they can somehow be reconciled is simply to make up your own religion that must deny key aspects of each of these religions.

            You seem to have distilled the world religions down to a very basic form, which even an atheist could agree with: that God just wants us all to cooperate. While each religion has something to say about our behavior toward each other (with some contradictions even there), they are each most concerned with our orientation toward God. You suggest that the important thing is man in the here-and-now. Given that we are said to have infinite life after this one, I think there is room for far more depth in your theology.

            The Bible certainly doesn’t settle for merely being nice to your neighbor. While it teaches this, and expects it of authentic Christians, it is noteworthy that in both the Old and New Testaments it puts this idea in *second* place. Of *first* concern is how we love and think about God. Given that Islam and Christianity define God and what He is up to in very different terms, I think we have a problem here.

            Beyond this, you are right that we must get along. The question, though, is why we do not. And it seems that we never can have peace unless we resist those who seek to make trouble. Christianity not only tells us that we *ought* to have peace, but also why we don’t and when we finally will have it. To distill religion down to the plea for peace is to deny the root cause of the problem and to live in the fairy tale possibility of a solution apart from God’s cure.

  9. Hi again Bigot…long time since I dropped into your neighbourhood. I have read a few of the comments on this post, and a few of your responses and feel I have to respond also. The subject is complex and I am only new to it so I welcome you post – totally disagree with you but atleast you speak your mind.

    You make the assertion that Christianity doesn’t lead to violence like Islam does…..the obvious statement would be..”have you forgotten about the crusades?” I won’t go there because that was a long time ago and we are just not like that anymore are we.

    There is this thing called world view defence – we all engage in it – the way we are brought up, the things that give us our identity and value are important to us – eg. you are Christian and American. You will defend Christianity…and a person born elsewhere will defend his/her particular world view. It is true that we are more civilized nowadays however the patterns of defence are EXACTLY the same. I would suggest reading into the psychology of religion – makes for some interesting reading.

    Anyways, I will read on further…..it is sad that you have found somebody else to pick on.

    • Hi Tapman. Indeed, it has been a long time. I hope you are well. This thread has me thinking, and perhaps percolating a new post. Louise had a few nuggets that I thought were really valuable and worth a deeper look. After dusting off our Qur’an and reading through several sections as I prepared to respond to her, I think a biblical overview and how Christianity relates to Christendom/government may be in order.

      On the Crusades, would you care to give me the run down on them from your perspective just so I know to what you are referring? They deserve some attention, I think and I would love to hear what you know about them.

      • Hi, look forward to reading more – I am not going to engage in debate on the crusade issue, I am sure you will be able to link to a site that softens the Christians side…which is understandable, we are Christian so we would like to view history with our softened view. Just like you were quick to refer me to a site that softened biblical slavery…I still find it hard to believe that God condoned the taking of virgins as spoils of war but I am working on it. Seriously though, there was some horrific stuff that went down and any attempt to soften it is not wise. Which reminds me about Jeptaph who was lauded as a hero of the Bible in Hebrews….guess what his claim to fame was – he sacrificed his virgin daughter to yahweh. I have read a few attempts at softening that one, bit hard re-interpreting burnt offering to mean something else but we gotta try.

        These are hard truths to work through and I hope you do.

        My main reason for commenting was just to point out that despite your good intentions you are causing harm. Pointing out an enemy serves the purpose of strengthening a group, pulling them together with a common enemy………a worldly pattern of behaviour that is not Christian. There are better ways. 🙂

  10. “Christians make these radical sacrifices because the overwhelming message of the gospel is that we must die to ourselves and live for Christ. And the way that He wants us to serve Him is to give sacrificially to our brothers and sisters in Christ, the down trodden, the unlovely, our enemies, and the poor. To everyone, really. The reason is not to earn our salvation or to force others to “submit” to our God, but because we are called to be a picture of Christ, the Christ who left his entitlements, comforts, and heavenly abode for those who did not know Him.”

    Quoting you; and AMEN. Thanks for this amazing post.
    Carley

  11. Pingback: Good Morning Class- A brief history of the world, what it means, and why it matters | asktheBigot

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