Who would be a Christian after a week like this?

Well, my faith is stronger when other Christians are strong in their faith.
This week has had two important Christian news stories: the rescue (thank God) of the three remaining Christian Peacekeeper Team members, and the apostasy trial and threatened death sentence of Afghan Christian convert Abdul Rahman. Interesting that certain Afghan officials are trying to use a mental incompetance tactic to spare him. If Rahman is freed and spirited out of the country, I wonder what his take on his conversion is.
In both cases, something of the peace that the world can neither give nor take away is in evidence. It also casts another pall on the idea of a religion that can be picked and chosen at will.

5 Replies to “Who would be a Christian after a week like this?”

  1. To me, the Abdul Rahman case casts a pall on the idea of Universalism as a movement to include all religions as being “equally good’ under a big-tent umbrella, as seems to be the most common form of Universalism in the UUA. Religions that impose a death penalty on ex-members are not to be embraced, but to be opposed. The future of Universalism, IMO, is to teach the ultimate salvation of all people, without accepting the politically correct but factually incorrect idea that all religions are compatible as sharing the same basic moral principles that all humanity can agree upon. The sad fact is, the world is deeply divided between competing systems of morality: on the one hand, the progressive morality that combines the best of Christian and Enlightenment teachings, and on the other hand, moralities such as fundamentalist Islam that teach holy war, intolerance and hatred for people with other beliefs, patriarchy and other medieval social values. My question for supporters of the multicultural, multireligious model of Universalism is how to deal with the problem of Islam, which throws a wrench in the project of trying to say that all religions can become one in an interfaith format. The Islam of serious followers of the Quran is simply not compatible, in many of its most basic values, with more peace-loving religions such as liberal Christianity, Buddhism, neo-Paganism, and others of the modern world.

  2. I recently was discussing this issue with a friend of mine who converted from Catholicism to Islam. He was deeply troubled by the idea of Muslims putting to death another “Person of the Book” whose sole crime is becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. While my friend’s mosque in Detroit finds such conversions from Islam to Christianity deeply regretable, they do not see such things as deserving death. While I agree with Eric’s critique of multi-cultural Universalism, I’ve also fround from my friend how divided Islam itself is – deeply divided between a fundamentalist/Medieval mode, versus a modernistic/mystical Islam. And from my point of view, the modernists do not wish to challenge the fundamentalists for fear of being seen as trying to disrupt Islamic unity and community. Both factions are serious in their devotion to the Quran, but differ sharply about the correct mode of interpretation and application, but do not want to engage each other for fear that it will show weakness or hyporcrisy to the non-Islamic world. Both Universalists and Muslims each have their own puzzles to solve in these troubled times.

  3. I have a couple points to make in regards to Eric’s comment.

    First.. i don’t think Universalists believe that every religion is “equally good” we believe that God is so overwhelmingly good as to share his love with all of humanity.. regardless of their faith, and regardless or not whether we other humans feel said faith is Just, Caring, or Good at all.

    Second.. I have some very good friends who would be mightily offended to know they where considered as not to be “serious followers of the Quaran”. They believe, and have been taught, that Islam is a religion of peace and commitment. Like many acient religionists they have a hard time sometimes reconsiling ancient laws and practises with living in a moderen world, that said they do not support a government of Religious leaders who call for death.. in any form.

    Third and finally.. I have no issue what-so-ever encompassing Muslims who care deeply about thier religions tenets of peace and community support into the interfaith community. in fact I welcome them with open arms.

  4. What I meant by the phrase “serious followers of the Quran” was people who believe everything in the Quran is from God and should be followed. In other words, Quran literalists. Most Muslims do believe that the entire Quran is from God, even most moderate Muslims. I have talked to many Muslims, and I have never encountered one who was willing to say they believe that some verses in the Quran were not divinely inspired but were instead of human origin. This strong support for the entire Quran tends to cause problems for Muslims because there are some laws in the Quran that are incompatible with modern progressive civilization. For example, the death penalty for apostates, unequal rights for women, military fighting to spread Islam (jihad), amputation of a hand as the punishment for stealing, etc.

    It is true that the Old Testament contains similar laws that are incompatible with modern progressive civilization. Somehow, Judaism has been able to adapt much better to modernity than Islam has, so far. The reason is, most Jews do not believe in practicing all of the Torah laws anymore. Most Muslims, on the other hand, do believe the entire Quran should still be practiced. So the question is, how can Islam become more like modern Judaism, in other words, more integrated into the values of modernity? I think it will take an Islamic Reformation, in which true liberalism will be asserted within Islam, including ideas such as rejecting Quranic literalism and deciding that many of the laws of the Quran were only meant for an earlier time and culture, not for today. Currently, only a tiny fraction of Muslims are liberal in their faith like this, and almost all of them are to be found living in America. Even among American Muslims, it seems that most are not as liberal. Islam today, on the whole, is a very conservative religion.

    And as for the oft repeated mantra that “Islam is a religion of peace,” let the evidence answer this claim. More violence is committed in the name of Islam than any other religion. Muhammad himself was a warrior, and all the early Muslim leaders were warriors. Islam was spread mostly by the sword. Islam has a long, rich tradition of war and violence to promote Islam, and this continues today with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. While it is true that Christianity has included a lot of violence over the centuries, it doesn’t today, and Jesus himself was a pacifist. Buddhism is generally a non-violent religion, and Buddha was a pacifist. Judaism is non-violent except to conquer what they believe to be the Holy Land promised to them by God, hence the conflict with the Palestinians, but other than that Judaism is basically non-violent. Islam teaches in the Quran that jihad (holy war) is a legitimate and glorious pursuit, which will be rewarded by God, wherever it is practiced anywhere in the world. The main goal of Islam is for the entire world someday to be ruled by Islam, and unlike the teachings of Jesus which reject the use of the sword, Islam has always (and mostly continues to) embrace the sword as a means to an end which they believe to be God’s will for the entire earth to become Muslim.

  5. With regards to interpretation of the Quran, it is true that almost all Mulsims believe that the words in Arabic were inspired word for word by God (and are thus not at all the invention of the Prophet Muhammed). However, I’ve encountered two different schools of thought about how these Words of God are to be interpreted. One school of interpretation indeed involves a surface literalism, with its problems about how to deal with violent texts. Another school of interpretation is more metaphorical and esoteric, and declares that the best meaning of the text is not always on the surface, but embodied in what the Arabic poetry symbolizes.

    As a Christian, I don’t find this to be very different from how various Christians interpret scripture. Especially the so called “texts of terror” like the prophet Joshua, parts of Revelation, and epistles that are sexist. The one difference I see between non-literalist Christians and non-literalist Muslims is that we Christians have resource to historical-critical modes of interpretation (if you accept the premise that the Bible was written by humans as a response to very human religious experiences in specific historical contexts).

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