Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Who Is Offended

I was perusing some headlines when I came across a story about a church in America's heartland (Terre Haute, IN) that was under fire for a message on its sign board. The sign stated, “Jesus died and rose and lives for you. What did Allah do.” According to the story, people were mightily upset about the sign. They were offended by a church message that many people would deem “intolerant” and raised objections to what they considered to be an offense against Islam.

While I am not here to defend this or any particular sign, I find it very interesting that Islam needed to be defended by those who were not Islam, that it was offensive to those who did not believe in this religion that another religion might "challenge" this faith. Well, news to me. For about a half a century now, Christianity has been portrayed in the poorest of light in the news media, TV, and movies yet I do not recall any non-Christian running to defend the Christians against this offense. But I digress. I do not want to open the door to the slights against Christianity that no one has bothered to notice, much less defend.

The point in this all is how those who are offended take the offense. For Christians it has been largely a quiet long suffering of abuse from those who neither understand nor respect Christian faith and practice. From the ridicule over the the nearly unanimous stance of Christians pro-life to the quickness to parade in public the sins of Christian leaders, the Church has stood by in quiet strength against those who defamed us. We did not organize hit men or women. We did not rally a cry to holy war against our accusers. We did not threaten the lives of those who spoke disparagingly of our faith, of our churches, and of our piety.

To be sure there were crazies whose self-proclaimed Christian faith was used as justification for murder or mayhem but did any Christian churches rally to them or their cause? No, there was uniform condemnation for the man who murdered an abortion doctor in Wichita and for other extreme acts of violence. Never once did Christians offer support for or condone in any way the threat or action against those who disagree with us.

Islam has many qualities that may be attractive to Christians -- a strong discipline of prayer, a deep respect for and adherence to worship and practice of the faith, and a high regard for clerics as well as a general heeding of their words and counsel. Most Pastors (no matter what their church tradition) would be happy if their people prayed rigorously five times daily, worshiped with diligence and faithfulness, and heard and heeded their sermons and teaching.

Islam is an evangelistic faith -- like Christianity -- except that its evangelism is tinged with fear and with the embrace of this faith comes the call not to be passive or quiet against those who would defame Islam. Christianity attempts to win people through the proclamation of the Word of God and the actions of love and charity in Jesus' name. As much as we Christians believe that faith is essential for living out this life and for possessing the life which is to come, we do not convert under threat. Now someone is always sure to raise the issue of the Crusades and a few other dark moments in Christian history but Christians were not the only aggressors there and this violence has been roundly condemned as not only wrong headed but sinful.

Yet Islam is a faith that includes a violent side. Moderate Islamic people choose not to follow the clear dictum's of their Qur'an. The only fault we can make against those whom we consider to be extremists or fanatics is that they follow the words of their holy book to the letter. As one author put it:

"the Qur'an contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called 'hypocrites' and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.

These verses are mostly open-ended, meaning that the historical context is not embedded within the surrounding text (as are nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence). They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Qur'an.

Unfortunately, there are very few verses of tolerance and peace to abrogate or even balance out the many that call for nonbelievers to be fought and subdued until they either accept humiliation, convert to Islam, or are killed. This proclivity toward violence - and Muhammad's own martial legacy - has left a trail of blood and tears across world history."

Let me quote just a few: Qur'an (2:216) - "Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

Qur'an (3:151) - "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority".

Qur'an (4:95) - "Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-"

Qur'an (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden 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 Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." [People of the Book means Christians]

My point is this... Why is it that the culture is more concerned about offense given to one religion than that given to another? And why is it that a religion which advocates praying for your enemies is put on equal stature with one that advocates killing your enemies? I am no expert in Islam and do not advocate hate except hate for sin. I am not a huge fan of the five word sermons that appear on church sign boards (though I too am guilty of some of them). But in this case I find it hard to find where the signboard of this one particular church is so offensive... except that the truth always offends (Law) before it can amend (Gospel)...


Ariel said...

I'd be offended too--that's horrible punctuation, it should read "Jesus died and rose for you. What did Allah do?" Churches demonstrating poor grammar are almost as bad as churches demonstrating syncretism.

Carl Vehse said...

I wonder if the church's property and fire insurance is up-to-date.

Master of None said...

Well spoken, Pr. Peters.

Steve said...

You are indeed "spot on" with this blog. The darkened mind of the ungodly has no capacity to understand and the mind of the "enlightened humanist believes it is its own standard of right and wrong. I do pray the law can have its effect so the Gospel can truly enlighten and the Holy Spirit give faith to believe.

Anonymous said...


With respect, I believe you err when you write that Islam is similar to our faith in that it "evangelizes".

Proselytizes, yes, but to evangelize means to spread the good news of God's mercy in Jesus Christ--or at least it should.


Richard B said...

Our small group just talked this last week about how everyone is quick to point out when a Christian group appears to be discriminating. However if you discriminate against a Christian group nothing is never said about it, because for some reason it is not seen the same. Really how is it any different?

Anonymous said...

lets face it, it was a stupid petty little sign. I ask you a straight question:
was this particular sign in keeping with the spirit of Christianity? Would Jesus approve of the implication of this sign? If not i believe this pastor who put it there should've made a public apology. What was the point of putting 'What did Allah do?' at the end? Unless you were trying to cause offence.
Shall i ask a question?
During the Holocaust. What did the church do?
Sod all!

Daniel, UK

Anonymous said...

also just done some reading on different forums regarding this story and the amount of ignorant hatred dished out by 'christians' regarding islam. and you wander why most
non-christians look at christians from the bible belt with complete disdain.

and another point, should it not have read:

“Jesus died and rose and lives for you. What did 'Mohahmed' do.” just shows the complete of that pastor.

Daniel, UK