Recently, I received a mass-forwarded e-mail message entitled "The Joys of Muslim Women," that argued that Muslims in this country are committed to the task of imposing Islamic law on all of us, and that if this happens it would be a disaster for the rights Christian (and other) women now enjoy. Some of the forwarders expanded on the original article, suggesting that we must not be tolerant toward Muslims, lest they achieve majority status here and use our own government to oppress us. This e-mail raised for me quite clearly the question whether intolerance is a correct Christan response to Islam. The answer I returned to that e-mail (using "reply all") is given below:
Yes, this is scary, just like the comment of one of the forwarders says, and I don't mean to be understood to say that it isn't. In fact, as a postscript to this e-mail, I quote a respected Islamic source explaining the intent to make Shari'a the law of the land in ANY country, once Muslims are in the majority. This is not a hidden agenda--they state it quite openly and without apology.
I fully agree that we need to be praying for our national leaders, including President obama.
However, I respectfully dissent from the implications of this comment made by one of the forwarders of the article: "boy do we need to wake up as a country and not become so tolerant as to take ANY steps down this road." Intolerant treatment of Muslims and attempts to use the legal system to forcibly suppress their message are not the answer. These people are not the enemy, as I will explain below, and intolerant actions toward them are both unscriptural and 100% certain to backfire. The answer, I'm afraid, is much more difficult than any political solution: we Christians need to start living consistently with the Christ we profess.
First, we need to observe that Muslim people are NOT the enemy. At church lately, we've been hearing sermons about the "Whole Armor of God," preached out of Ephesians 6. I observe that God never tells us to buy guns, tanks and planes, to go conquering real estate in His name. Instead, He tells us to put on spiritual armor to stand firm against a spiritual enemy. Indeed, Ephesians 6:12 says quite plainly that we are NOT engaged in warfare against "flesh and blood"--i.e., our real enemies are NOT other people--but our battle is against the SPIRITUAL forces of the darkness of this world. I also observe that ALL of the pieces of armor named in Ephesians 6 are positive spiritual qualities of our own lives; none of them are useful for attacking other people.
Even more to the point is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..." We are not fighting an earthly battle against human enemies, and we are not fighting using human weapons or methods of combat.
It's a battle that cannot be fought with guns, with harsh words and grandstanding, or with laws. We shouldn't try to fight it that way. Instead, the only way to fight the battle is by putting on the spiritual armor--spiritual qualities of life--and standing. This is true whatever the ideology we want to call the enemy. The Church has spent far too much of its energy fighting ideologies, declaring people who hold those ideologies to be the enemy and fighting them with human weapons. Just in my lifetime, I've seen great attempts to mobilize the Church to fight against Communists, Liberals, Secular Humanists, Evolutionists, Neo-Pagans, New Age followers, Abortion Providers and Muslims, each as if the people involved were The Great Enemy of Christ. Each of these mobilizations has failed to eradicate the people who were incorrectly identified as the Enemy, because God isn't a part of our attempts to fight people. Instead, God's approach to people who follow ignorant ideologies is this: "For it is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." I Peter 2:15. It is our lives, not our laws, that is to silence ignorant talk about God.
We also need to be aware that persecution of Muslims and warfare against them is 100% certain to backfire on us if we undertake that course. Why? Because it will confirm in their minds that the Quran is right. Mohammed warned his followers that many among the other "People of the Book"--i.e., Jews and Christians--would violently reject their message, persecute them and attempt to kill them. They were told to expect this treatment from us, and that receiving it and standing up to it leads to a great reward in the hereafter. Unfortunately, since Mohammed , Christians have seldom disconfirmed his prediction. As a group, we have rarely practiced Jesus' instructions in Matthew 5:39-48 in our dealings with Muslims.
Mohammed was not a prophet, but he was a fairly astute observer of Christianity as it existed in Arabia in his day. He wrote one rather startling observation that should challenge us, because it is still too true of much of the Church: "From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent to them: so we estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other..." Quran 5:14 (A. Yusufali, Tr.).
The point of the quotation is this: what will win Muslim people to Christ is seeing our consistent Christian lives, not forgetting but remembering what Christ told us in the way we live, starting with the way we treat each other. It is our consistent lives, and our open love for each other, that will overcome Mohammed's criticisms of our faith.
But this is really no different than what we need to win people in any part of the unsaved population to Christ. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." John 13:35.
P.S.: Here is the quotation from an Islamic source that I promised. This is from "The Basics of Shari'a" by Dr. Hassan Hathout (at http://www.islamicity.com/voi/transcripts/Shariah.htm):
Some religions live on morals only. The ethic of this morality is when someone smites you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek. It is noble in a moral sense. But can people live by this? If I smite you and you take me to the judge, then the judge will rule that I be punished. So there are both the moral and legal wings in Islam.
Hence Islam caters for moralities and for societies. Yet when my Christian friend asks me, "How do you feel about the separation of Church and State?"
I tell him, "Excellent, it is the best think America and Europe have done."
Then he asks, "Why are Muslims keen on the Shariah, and want to live under Islamic Law?"
I tell him, "The difference is that in Christianity there is no State, and in Islam there is no Church." If you apply Christianity as Jesus taught it, then you will give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s. In Christianity there is nothing about catering for a state and a law. Jesus didn’t say that. When the church took over, the church was wrong and the people had to separate the church from the state.
But when Muslims are living in their land and they are a majority and they want to be ruled by Islamic Law, it is their democratic right. It would be a folly if people would protest that people want to be ruled by Islamic Law. It is their right.
In Islam, if you remove the parts about governing the Islamic State, then you will have remaining a mos-haf which is thirty or forty pages. This is because Islam is a comprehensive way of life.
So, please let us in America separate the church and the state and let it be sufficient that the Freedom of Religion is safeguarded.
But please don’t blame Muslims if they want to be ruled by Islam. It is the prerogative as a majority in their land, and it is part of their religion and nobody is in a position to tell them, "Do not be ruled by your religion."
Quotation from "The Basics of Shari'a" by Dr. Hassan Hathout.
One final note: God has never promised us a life free of persecution, and avoiding persecution should not be one of our major objectives. Indeed, both Jesus and the Apostles told us that if we were living righteously and presenting the truth, we would without any question be persecuted. See, for example, Matthew 5:10-12, Mark 13:9-13, John 15:18-23, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 5:10-11, 1 Peter 4:12-19. The key is not to avoid it, but to bear it correctly.
I am reminded of Stephen. Stephen was faithful, and he acted and preached with such power that none of his enemies could refute his words or resist the Spirit in which he spoke. Acts 6:10. But, instead of believeing, many of his hearers hated him, and had him arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin for trial on false charges. Acts 6:11-15.
Now Jesus had promised that when his followers were brought before kings and councils to answer for the crime of believing in Him, the Holy Spirit would give the right words to say. Mark 13:11. Stephen was listening to the Holy Spirit, and preached a powerful sermon to the Sanhedrin--so powerful, in fact, that they were enraged and quickly stoned him to death. Acts 7. Did Jesus' promise fail? No, Jesus hadn't promised Stephen (or us!) a long life in this world. He had promised that Stephen would have the right words to say. This promise was kept. Stephen had precisely the right words to say, and obediently said them. In fact, on his way out of this life, Stephen saw Jesus STANDING, not sitting, standing, at the right hand of God, applauding him! Acts 7:56.
But that isn't the end of the story. Present at the trial of Stephen was a young man named Saul, from Tarsus. (Acts 7:58). saul also joined in the rage of the council against Stephen, fully agreeing, the scriptures say, to his death. (Acts 8:1). Saul held the clothes of his elders while they killed Stephen. He then, for a time, became the greatest persecutor of the Church, and was responsible for the imprisonment and death of many of our brothers. (Acts 8:2-5).
But Stephen's great sermon, the one that got him killed, wasn't lost on Saul. It planted a seed.
If Stephen had refused persecution and death, we would never have had the Apostle Paul.
Think carefully about that!