Monday, March 17, 2008

Can We Be Good Without God?

By Glenn Tinder, Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Boston. MA
December 1989
Archived by Atlantic Monthly

Saved in our files, and now available to all, we recommend this delightful article by Glenn Tinder

To whet your appetite we will give you a few introductory paragraphs and let you look up the rest at your leisure.

"We are so used to thinking of spirituality as withdrawal from the world and human affairs that it is hard to think of it as political. Spirituality is personal and private, we assume, while politics is public. But such a dichotomy drastically diminishes spirituality, construing it as a relationship to God without implications for one's relationship to the surrounding world. The God of Christian faith (I shall focus on Christianity, although the God of the New Testament is also the God of the Old Testament) created the world and is deeply engaged in the affairs of the world. The notion that we can be related to God and not to the world--that we can practice a spirituality that is not political--is in conflict with the Christian understanding of God.
And if spirituality is properly political, the converse also is true, however distant it may be from prevailing assumptions: politics is properly spiritual. The spirituality of politics was affirmed by Plato at the very beginnings of Western political philosophy and was a commonplace of medieval political thought. Only in modern times has it come to be taken for granted that politics is entirely secular. The inevitable result is the demoralization of politics. Politics loses its moral structure and purpose, and turns into an affair of group interest and personal ambition. Government comes to the aid of only the well organized and influential, and it is limited only where it is checked by countervailing forces.Politics ceases to be understood as a pre-eminently human activity and is left to those who find it profitable, pleasurable, or in some other way useful to themselves. Political action thus comes to be carried out purely for the sake of power and privilege......

Chritian Love

Love seems as distant as spirituality from politics, yet any discussion of the political meaning of Christianity must begin by considering (or at least making assumptions about) love. Love is for Christians the highest standard of human relationships, and therefore governs those relationships that make up politics. Not that political relationships are expected to exhibit pure love. But their place in the whole structure of human relationships can be understood only by using the measure that love provides.
The Christian concept of love requires attention not only because it underlies Christian political ideas....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Season's Greetings or Islamic Propaganda?

by Jacob Thomas
January 06, 2008

On Monday, 31 December, 2007, the Wall Street Journal published the following “Message” on page A9:

A Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings, December 2007

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
May God bless Muhammad and his kin and bless Abraham and his kin
Al-Salaam Aleikum; Peace be upon you; Pax Vobiscum

Peace be upon Jesus Christ who says: Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected(Chapter of Mary; the Holy Qur’an, 19:33).

During these joyful holidays we write to you, our Christian neighbors all over the world, to express our thanks for the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of Neighbor’ (see for the document and the responses).

We thank you and wish you all a joyous and peaceful Christmas Holiday Season commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, may peace be upon him.

We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus Christ is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him … (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’)

The “Message” continued by referring to the coincidence this year, between Muslim and Christian feasts: (Hajj, Christmas and New Year), and referred to the patriarch Abraham who was not allowed by God to sacrifice his son, thus affirming and proclaiming the sanctity of human life.

Then in an attempt to assume a moral high ground by making Islam eminently “Pro Life,” it referred to those “Muslim scholars who issued a historic declaration affirming the sanctity of human life – of every human life – as an essential and foundational teaching in Islam upon which all Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement (see details”

The “Message” ended with these words:“May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all. May it be a year of humble repentance before God, and mutual forgiveness within and between communities.

“Praise be to God, the Lord of the world.”

I would like to analyze this “advertisement-message,” and add my comments.

The WSJ “ad-message,” coming on the last day of 2007, purports to be a “Season’s Greetings” addressed to the Christian World. It was prompted by “the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of Neighbor." It must be noted here, that a Christian response to the Muslim overture, “A Common Word,” was drafted by some members of the Faculty of the Divinity School of Yale University, with several signatures of well-known academics and ministers appended to it.

In our attempt to understand the true meaning of the Islamic greeting of 31 December, it is first necessary to reflect on the context of the initial “Common Word” message, taken from Surat Al-‘Imran. This Qur’anic passage sets forth what I would like to call “The Rules of Engagement” for Muslims when they dialogue with Christians. Dialogue with non-Muslims can only take place on the basis of the Islamic authoritative texts.

Here are some Ayat of Surat Al-‘Imran, in Arberry’s Translation of the Qur’an: Say: 'People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.’ And if they turn their backs, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ V. 64

No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters. V. 67

People of the Book! Why do you disbelieve in God’s signs, which you yourselves witness? People of the Book! Why do you confound the truth with vanity, and conceal the truth and that wittingly? V. 70,71

Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers. V.85
Verse 85 in the Arabic original reads as follows: “Waman yabtaghi ghayra’l Islami deenan, falan yuqbala minhu, wahua fil’akhirati min’al- khasereen.”

It is clear that those Muslims who issued the invitation to dialogue, and adopted the term, “A Common Word” (Kalimaten sawa’en baynana wa-baynakom,) from the Qur’an, wanted to declare their complete adherence to the teachings of their sacred book. Furthermore, it must be noted that the tone of these texts from Chapter III is decidedly polemical.

Christians are charged with the sin of shirk, i.e. in claiming that Allah had associates! Then they are exhorted to “serve none but God.” Thus, if Christians want to engage in dialogue with Muslims, they must first renounce their belief in the Trinity.

Another Islamic requirement is to accept the authenticity of the Qur’anic version of Sacred History. This implies the rejection, for example, of the Biblical accounts of Abraham’s life. Thus verse 67 of Chapter III, categorically states: “ma kana Ibraheemu Yahudiyyan wala Nasraniyyan, walaken kana Hanifan Musliman …” (Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Nazarene, but he was a Hanif and a Muslim…) [Translation mine]

Verses 70 and 71 address the Christians, as those who mix truth with vanity, and who refuse to believe in Allah’s signs. A pretty bad trait for those who are to dialogue with Muslims!

Finally, the exclusivist nature of Islam is seen in verse 85:“Waman yabtaghi ghayr’l Islami deenan, falan yuqbala minhu, wahua fil’akhirati min’al khasereen.”(He who seeks a religion other than Islam, that will not be acceptable of him, and at the Last Day, he will be among the Lost.) [Translation mine]

Having dealt with the Qur’anic context of “A Common Word,” I turn to the contents of the 31 December “Message.” I find it very difficult to receive it as a bona fide “Season’s Greetings.” While its title seems genuine, as one proceeds to analyze its contents, it reveals expressions and views that are thoroughly alien to the history of Christianity as recorded in the Bible, a book that antedates the Qur’an by several centuries.

For example, the reference to Jesus Christ is taken from the text of the Qur’an. It naively assumes that Christians would gladly accept it, rather than stick to the authentic accounts of the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. These words from Surat Maryam 19:33, make Jesus say, “Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected.” It is rather ludicrous to quote from this chapter regarding Jesus Christ. Among other things it recounts a Mary who was alone under a palm tree, about to give birth to Jesus; who after he was born, addressed the critics of his mother for her supposedly immoral conduct, while yet a baby!

Did those who drafted the “Message” really expect Christians to be that gullible and prefer that bizarre account, to the ones given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke?!

The “Message” continued, “We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus Christ is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him …(Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’)

All Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant,) subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus Christ. Arabic-speaking Christians begin their prayers by invoking the name of God in this way: “Bismil Aab, wal Ibn, wal Ruh al Qodos, Ilah Wahed, Amen.” (In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.” They would not regard it as a compliment, or a basis for dialogue, that Muslims consider Jesus Christ merely as “Servant, or as Messenger.”

The “Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings,” was a genre of Islamic propaganda aimed at Western people. The drafters of the “Season’s Greetings” hoped that their attempt would bear fruit among Christians. After all, who should ignore at this time of the year, such a gesture of good will? Here are Muslims who publicly declare that they honor and recognize Jesus as a prophet, isn’t that great? But who is this Jesus they honor? He is certainly not the Jesus Christ whose birth Christians celebrated on the 25th day of December.

He is a pale shadow of the Biblical Christ; in fact he is a pseudo-Messiah. He is the Messiah of Surat Maryam (19) that contains an intensive polemic against the historical and real Messiah of the Bible.

I don’t know how many of the readers of the 31 December, 2007, Wall Street Journal, received at its face value the “Message of Thanks…” I guess some who have been impacted by political correctness, may have welcomed the message as an expression of good will, especially at this time when we are involved in wars within Islamic lands. But I certainly hope that other savvy readers, who have done their homework on the history and sacred texts of Islam, would have realized that the WSJ ad is contradicted by the concrete facts of history. Islam remains an imperialistic worldview, and has never surrendered its dream of world domination. This they keep on trying to accomplish, either by force, or by subterfuge!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Editorial from 1911 Moslem World Journal

The Moslem World
VOL. I. APRIL, 1911. No. 2.


MUCH has been written truly, if not always wisely, on the intolerance of the Moslem faith and the fanaticism of many of its votaries, but there is a sense in which Christianity is as intolerant as Islam; and although this intolerance may not and cannot take the form of Moslem intolerance toward Christianity, it is based on more vital issues, and is, therefore, of such a character that it can never be satisfied with compromise or concessions. It demands unconditional surrender.

In his recent book, "Crusaders of the Twentieth Century," Mr. Rice points out in a single sentence why it is that the gulf between Moslem theology and Christian theology can never be bridged. He writes: "There is not one cardinal fact concerning the life, person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ which is not either denied, perverted, misrepresented, or at least ignored in Mohammedan theology," and his entire chapter following this statement, and covering nearly a hundred pages, sets forth these per- versions, denials and misrepresentations.

Islam is, in a sense, the only anti-Christian religion. Other creeds and philosophies are non-Christian or frankly un-Christian. This world-wide faith joins issue with everything that is vital in the Christian religion, and stands or falls by its attitude toward the Christ. In this respect all schools of Moslem thought are practically the same. They differ in ritual and tradition; in interpretations, broad or narrow ; in going back to the old Koran or in advocating the new Islam; but whether Wahabis or followers of Seyyid Ameer Mi, their position as regards the Atonement, the Incarnation and the Deity of Christ is practically the same.

We assert as strongly as do all Moslems that there is only one God, but because there is only one God there can be only one Gospel, and the words 0f Dr. James Denney ("The Death of Christ," page 110) are very significant in this connection, especially as any reference to Islam was far front his mind: " If God has really done something in Christ on which the salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is a Christian duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies, or explains it away. The man who perverts it is the worst enemy of God and men ; and it is not bad temper or narrow-mindedness in St. Paul which explains this vehement language, it is the jealousy of God which has kindled in a soul redeemed by the death of Christ a corresponding jealousy for the Saviour."

The only Christianity that has a missionary message for the Moslem world is this vital Christianity. It is the only Christianity that can meet the deepest need of our Moslem brethren. Our love for them is only increased by our intolerance of their rejection of the Christ; we cannot bear it, it pains us; and the day is coming when many will confess Him in the words of a Moslem convert to a Bible-woman who was visiting her: " I see now that the very centre of your religion is Christ, and I want to love and serve Hint."

The main question even as regards the new Islam is not how much nearer they have come to Christian ethics and Christian civilisation in their attempts to reform the old system, but it is the old question, " What think ye of the Christ ? "

The Muslim World Journal was founded by Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer, a veteran missionary to the Muslim World.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The story of Kamil, published 1898, reprinted 2008

Read Kamil’s story, written by a veteran Presbyterian missionary, Dr. Henry H. Jessup, and learn about life in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 1800s. It is currently available on and will be in print early in 2008.

A young Muslim, gets hold of the Bible, becomes attracted to the person and work of Jesus Christ, and is tutored and nurtured by American missionaries in Beirut, Lebanon.

This book is replete with information about the spiritual struggles of Kamil, his pleading with his father, a prominent member of the Beirut Sunni population, to consider the claims of the Biblical Gospel, and the father’s utter rejection of his son’s pleas!

Having come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, Kamil is drawn instantly into mission work in central Syria, in the coastal regions of Arabia, and ultimately in Basra, Iraq. He becomes a fellow-worker with Samuel Zwemer, a pioneer missionary to Islam.

The “Story of Kamil” is more than a biography of a young convert whose life ended tragically as a martyr for his new-found faith. It is a rich source of the history of the region in the latter part of the 19th century, and an excellent sociological account of the life of Muslims and Christians, city people and Bedouins, foreign residents and Ottoman Turkish administrators.

Contact our web site if you wish to order a paperback copy.

Middle East Resources

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Fallacy Detected

by Shirley W. Madany

It was with surprise and pleasure we discovered this September that some home schooled children (our own grandchildren) were being instructed in the realm of Logic with the help of an attractive and simple textbook designed and written by two brothers, former homeschoolers themselves. Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn have made available to us all a text book titled “The Fallacy Detective: Thirty Six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning”. It was written with the idea that Christians needed to strive for a higher standard of reasoning, in order to achieve the ability of discernment. “Logic is the science of thinking the way God thinks – the way Jesus taught us to think” (p.14)

You will have heard about “Islam’s Peace Offensive” and the proposal made by a group of Islamic clerics. The subject just won’t go away. and this is where the fallacy comes in as we inspect the “common word” between the Muslims and ourselves.

Two days ago a friend and colleague sent us an urgent request to look at the splendid web site put out by Dr. Ardel Caneday under the name The Race Set Before Us. She sent us the following URL:

As this is a blog you will need to find the November 29th entry. Prof. Ardel Caneday has devoted his blog to discussing the pursuit of eternal life. You will find his comments stimulating and faith-building. For instance, he says: “Multiculturalism’s virtue of tolerance supplants the Christian grace of forbearance as Christians trade away forbearance towards people for tolerance for ideas, ideas hostile to the gospel. Multiculturalism, which is virulently but seductively anti-Christian depends heavily upon the new virtue driven by political correctness.”

His definition of political correctness is priceless:

"Political correctness is a virus. Intimidation carries this contagion from one individual to another as receiving hosts offer little resistance to the virus. Because the contagion exploits its host’s reluctance to offend the alleged sensibilities of hypersensitive people, political correctness seduces its host to accept the virus as newly acquired virtue to be passed on to others with religious zeal. Herein is the genius and power of political correctness. Once the host accepts political correctness as virtuous, external policing is rarely needed because the virus internally intimidates one’s conscience so that it becomes second nature to use newspeak and to chastise others who do not. Hence, the tyranny of political correctness: newspeak represents itself as virtue."

As you read on you will come to the crux of the matter. It is the preamble and response of Yale Center for Faith and Culture to the “common word between us and you” sent out from 138 Muslim clerics. Speaking of discernment we hope you notice how Prof. Caneday refers to the “god of Islam” using lower case for “god”.

Obviously Caneday is concerned about our steadfast perseverance in the face of this tempting solution to the world’s problems. An offer of peace which many can not refuse. They are softened by political correctness and naively attracted to the idea of world peace.
He gives you an opportunity to read not only this unbelievable response in which we ask forgiveness for sins we have not committed, but the real shock will come when you scroll down and read the list of evangelicals who signed their names to it. You are speechless with dismay.
It is a simple matter to get from the Yale web site to the Common Word website of the Muslims and there you can read the entire proposal, which boils down to the theoretical presentation that as both Islam and Christianity consider love to God and love to neighbor to be top priority, then there is our bridge to unity.

If you are interested in finding things in context you will look up the first passage quoted from the Quran which has the very phrase they use –"a common word between us and you". According to Arberry’s translation of the Qur’an this occurs at v.64 of the Surat Al Imran, one of the polemical sections of their holy book. You don’t even have to read between the lines – by the end of that section you come to this: “Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers.”

The people at Yale Divinity Center collected signatures of approval of their response.. You can read that response in full at a convenient spot in Caneday’s blog. A long list gives you an idea of evangelical support. But if you look at the Yale website you will see the full list of at least 13 pages of those who sponsor the reply. Prepare to lose some sleep after studying that list of names.

Don’t they realize that this so-called love for God is not comparable with the sacrificial love of our God who “so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son to be our Savior.” The Lord Jesus Christ is not just a major prophet; he is the eternal Son of God. Our “love” is defined and demonstrated in a way that does not harmonize with that of the Muslim. Historical evidence of a lack of love for the “other” prompts discussions which are ongoing in Muslim online papers regarding how to treat the “infidel”. Peace can only mean capitulation to Islam totally.

We join Dr. Caneday in his prayer that none of you will be tempted to join that list!

Also excellent on this subject:

Rethinking P.E.A.C.E. - Loving God and Neighbor Together
Monday, November 26, 2007 (Discernment Research Group)


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why Don't Christians Learn From the Jewish Experience?

“Why Don’t Christians Learn from the Jewish Experience?”
“Limadha la Yastafid al-Masihiyyun min Tajribat al-Yahud ?”
Jacob Thomas 11/02/07

Lately, several articles have appeared in the online Arabic daily Elaph, dealing with the plight of the Christians living in the Arab world. Western media don’t focus their attention on this topic when they report on the Middle East, since they are preoccupied with the war in Iraq, and Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons. Without minimizing the importance of these subjects, the status of Middle East Christians deserves the attention of the world. So, I was very pleased with the fact that some Arab writers have turned their attention to the worsening conditions of Mideastern Christians who are the remnants of the original inhabitants of the area.

On Friday, 26 October, 2007, I noticed an article in Elaph, with this intriguing title, “Why Don’t Christians Learn from the Jewish Experience?” Let me share with you excerpts from the article, followed by my analysis and comments.

The author began with these introductory remarks:

In a previous article, I discussed the difficulties facing the life of Christians in the Arab world. I suggested that a realistic solution to their problem would require a mass migration of these Christians to Western countries. Several Christians objected to my proposal, but offered no realistic alternative toward the solution of the problem. They expressed the hope that somehow, coexistence between Muslims and Christian in the Arab world, would someday materialize.

“In this article, I would like to pose this question: ‘Why don’t Christians learn from the
experience of the Jews who lived in the Arab world?’ They patiently endured religious persecution and racial discrimination; without expecting a change in their political situation, or the rise of a spirit of tolerance and coexistence. The Jews paid a heavy price for their patience: they were persecuted, oppressed, lost their properties and their citizenship in the Arab countries.

“When we consider the prevailing social, political, and religious conditions in the Arab world, how can Christians expect, in the near future, a complete change in their situation? Do they really look forward to the time when some of them would get nominated for high office in the Arab world, or be elected to such positions as prime minister, or president of the republic, with Muslim citizens voting for them?!

“Do Christians expect Shi’ites and Sunnis to be reconciled; thus reflecting the emergence of a
new spirit of inter-communal tolerance?! Do they anticipate a change in the Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) which is the source of the doctrinal and psychological barriers between Muslims and followers of other religions?!

“Unfortunately, there are no indications of the possibility of liberating Arab societies from their inherited backwardness. Discrimination exists even within members of the same family;
fanaticism and intolerance begin at the tribal level, and then proceed to the ethnic, regional, and confessional levels. Religious extremism and fanaticism result from these perverted societal and psychological structures that have produced an irrational religious mind, marked by a lack of openness to the “Other.”

“How unfortunate then that many Christians, when they attack Irhab (terrorism) and fanaticism, attack at the same time, the very source of Islamic doctrines by denying their divine origin, considering them merely the human thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad. They fall into the same trap of fanaticism by assailing the beliefs of others.”

The author described the difficulties that attend the lives of Christians in the Arab world, and proceeded to ask, “Why Don’t Christians Learn from the Jewish Experience?” This experience has been marked by religious persecution, ending with the Jews losing their properties, and their citizenship. He refrained from telling the whole story that after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, almost the entire Jewish population in the Middle East had to leave their ancestral homes, and find refuge in Israel, Europe, and the Americas.

At first, I was very intrigued by the title of the article. I thought the author must have had in mind a worthwhile lesson that Christians living in the Arab world would learn from the experience of the Jewish people. So, what was that lesson that Christians should learn? Is it that the Jews of the Arab world had suffered a great deal since the rise of Islam? But so did the Christians. Both were labeled as “dhimmis” by the Islamic conquerors; they were tolerated within the Islamic Umma as long as they behaved properly, and paid the Jizya tax according to the Qur’anic prescription, ‘an yaden wahum saghirun.*

Actually, the lesson our author wanted Christians to learn was to pick up and leave their homelands or convert to Islam. It’s a recipe for a voluntary ethnic and religious cleansing. Why this drastic solution? Well, Arab Christians should not be naïve and expect Muslims to change their minds, and accept them as equals in rights and responsibilities. As he put it, “a realistic solution to their problem would require a mass migration of these Christians to Western countries.” What a solution! To uproot around 15 million people whose roots in Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt, go back to more than three millennia? While I appreciate the author’s honest description of the awful plight of the Christians in the Arab world, I am terribly shocked by his surrealistic proposal!

Another disappointing part of the article was the last paragraph, where the author blamed some Christians for their intolerance. “How unfortunate it is that many Christians, who attack Irhab and fanaticism, attack at the same time the very source of Islamic doctrines by denying their divine origin, and consider them as merely the human thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad. Thus, they fall in the same trap of fanaticism by assailing the beliefs of others.”

I am not aware that Christians living in the Arab world openly engage in polemics against Islam. They know better than to do that. On the other hand, does he expect these Christian communities, after enduring 1400 years of marginalization and persecution, to forsake their allegiance to their Christian faith? To accede to his advice and accept the “sources of Islamic doctrine” as being of “divine origin,” would amount to becoming Muslims?! All that remains for them to formalize their conversion would be to utter the “Shahada.”

As a Levantine Christian, I have always keenly felt that what bothers our fellow Arabic-speaking Muslims is the fact that, even after fourteen centuries, we still cling tenaciously to our faith. It’s hard for them to comprehend that while our ancestors finally Arabized, nevertheless, we did not Islamize. Arabic-speaking Christians must be terribly stubborn, unwilling to accept Islam as God’s last message to mankind! It is too bad that Muslims cannot understand the reason for our “stubbornness!”

So, my response to the advice of the author of the article is: “No thanks, we will stay in our homelands; and while some of our people have reluctantly settled in the West, we will never contemplate a mass exodus from the lands of our fathers.”

* In Surah 9:29 of the Qur’an, we read the following about the Jizya tax:
“Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold forbidden that which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued”
The Arabic original of “with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” is: ‘an yaden wahum saghirun.’ “saghirun” literally means “diminishing themselves” or “acting with utter submissiveness” vis-à-vis their Muslim masters!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anxious for Dhimmitude

By Mark D. Tooley 10/18/2007

A large group of senior Islamic clerics and teachers has recently issued “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a statement addressed to churches urging greater comity between Muslims and Christians. The clerics unapologetically espouse Muslim teachings, while asserting there is common theological ground between the two faiths. The Vatican and some conservative Protestants have commented that the Muslim outreach merits a thoughtful response.
But the Religious Left, always anxious to burnish its multicultural credentials, has responded to “Common Word” with enthusiasm.

The National Council of Churches’ (NCC) top (though outgoing) interfaith official hailed the Islamic outreach, saying it will fuel the “urgency” of the NCC’s own Muslim-Christian dialogue. Part of the NCC’s own interfaith ministry, as Shanta Premawardhana described it, is standing “in solidarity with Muslims at a time when many Muslims in the United States faced significant levels of discrimination,” post 9-11.

Premawardhana thanked the Muslim clerics and scholars for speaking out against Muslim “extremists.” Similarly, he boasted, the NCC is trying to “counter the voices of extremist Christians with initiatives aimed at teaching Christians about Islam and helping churches build relationships with mosques in their local communities," Premawardhana added.
Actually, “Common Word” did not criticize Muslim “extremists.” Nor did it attempt to modify Islamic teachings that demand that non-Muslims live in subordination to Islamic authority in majority Muslim societies. But it did call for non-violent interaction between Muslims and Christians, and it actually speaks of “freedom of religion.” This makes it “moderate.”
Perhaps an even more effusive reaction to “Common Word” was a quickly organized but lengthy statement from Ivy League seminary scholars, who were “deeply encouraged and challenged” by the Muslim outreach. They titled their piece “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” dedicated it, in typical seminary speak, to the “Infinitely Good God whom we should love with all our being.”

“We receive ‘A Common Word as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide,” the academics enthused. “In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love and our neighbors.”

The Ivy League seminary professors included with every reference to Jesus Christ a “Peace be Upon Him,” in a wan attempt to show the Muslims how attuned they are to Islamic lingo. No doubt the Islamic scholars will be impressed.
And the Ivy Leaguers opened their manifesto with apologies for Christianity’s perceived sins against Islam. “We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. the war in Iraq) Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors.”

Naturally, the Ivy Leaguers want the Muslims’ forgiveness for all of Christianity’s countless outrages. “Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.”

The “Common Word,” unlike the left-wing Western religious response to it, carefully avoided political statements. There is no mention of Iraq, or the Palestinians, or even of the Crusades. No apologies are offered for any of Islam’s historic depredations, nor did the Islamic clerics request any apologies from their Christian audience. But the Religious Left, when conversing with perceived victims of the Christian West, is always anxious to extend remorse.

The Ivy Leaguers also took some other political swipes, warning against serving “idols” such as a “ruler, a nation, [or] economic progress,” which leads to “deep and deadly conflicts.” The professors commended the Muslim clerics & scholars for their “generosity” and courage.
“It is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter, and we commit ourselves to labor together in heart, soul, mind and strength for the objectives you so appropriately propose,” the Ivy Leaguers concluded portentously, sounding like a sad caricature of the Founding Fathers.

The Ivy League signers of “Loving god and Neighbor Together” included the dean of Yale Divinity School, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, the dean of Harvard Divinity School, and several seminary professors from those schools.

Unlike the responses from the NCC and the Ivy Leaguers, the Muslim statement definitively asserted Islamic beliefs about Allah, about Muhammad as his only Prophet, about the authority of the Koran, and about divine judgment. Neither the NCC nor the academics appeared to be anywhere near as resolute in presenting Christian doctrines about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the end times.

If the Muslim scholars behind “Common Word” do not already know it, they will soon learn: left-wing clerics and scholars in the West often will not talk about much less defend Christian theology because they themselves do not believe in its historic doctrines. For them, Christianity is mostly just a vessel through which the goals of the political Left can advance.

In dialogues with Muslims, the Religious Left wants to apologize for Christianity and form common alliances against traditional Christians and Jews, while also denouncing various foreign and military policies of the U.S. No doubt, many “Common Word” Muslim scholars and clerics will be glad to indulge this. But if they are looking for substantive exchanges over theological differences between Christianity and Islam, they will have to look elsewhere.

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.