|Craig Parshall, General Counsel|
September 8, 2010
“My zeal has consumed me,
Because my adversaries have forgotten Your words.”
Much of the mainstream media has clearly thrown out the red-meat bait about America’s supposed intolerance of Islam. Now they are waiting for Americans, and more particularly Christian Americans, to bite. The “bait” comes in the form of shamelessly loaded questions that appear in the headlines of the national press. On August 19th, CBS.com ran this explosive headline: “Does America Hate Islam?” The August 30th cover of Time magazine asks: “Is American Islamophobic?” The Labor Day issue of The New York Times constructed that same argument-by-implication that we are religiously bigoted with this headline: “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?” Meanwhile, as we approach the solemn remembrance of the 9/11 slaughter, the media has given full-time coverage to the opposition against the construction of a Mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero, and has aired every nuance about a pastor of a small church in Florida who has announced plans to burn copies of the Quran. Regarding the latter, our top anti-terror commander, General David Petraeus, has warned that it may endanger our mission in Afghanistan, and no less than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made reference to the Quran-burning as well. While the media plays fast-and-loose with innuendos about our alleged “intolerance,” the Christian Church needs to take a hard, Biblical look at this issue. Below is my modest proposal that we remember three main points.
Point #1: The facts show that Americans are amazingly accommodating toward Islam, amidst a chorus of cultural spokespersons who argue just the opposite. Unlike Switzerland, we do not have a ban on minarets. In fact, Santa Clara, California, has just approved a 64-foot Muslim minaret. Moreover, the United States has 27% more mosques than does Great Britain, even though we both have nearly identical Muslim populations. Ask religious liberty attorneys how often they have witnessed Christian churches arbitrarily denied building or expansion permits compared to Mosques or the houses of worship of other religions. According to polls, most Americans believe Muslims are patriotic and are not more dangerous than those from other faiths. A recent poll showed that 72% of Americans would see no problem with a Muslim serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. This is stunning, considering the legitimate concern that a Sharia-law observant Muslim would not be able to appreciate the Christian and Western world-view presuppositions that informed the Founders when they drafted the Constitution.
Point #2: There are occasions when Christians can coalesce with followers of Islam and other faith groups in matters of general social or political welfare. When the children of Israel labored under a despotic occupation by a pagan culture, God sent Jeremiah to tell them how to live. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). In City of God, Augustine argued that this kind of practical coalition-building can help achieve a certain measure of “temporal peace” that can help protect the Church of Christ so it can be free to do its work. He also linked that Old Testament verse to I Timothy 2:2, where Paul reminds us to pray for our leaders in government (regardless of their religious faith) to the practical end that we can be allowed to “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” We can stand with Muslims and people of all faith (or no faith at all) on broad “welfare” issues such as the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and legitimate issues of religious liberty as an example; issues that go to the general “welfare” of the nation in which we live. But on the other hand, we should stand firmly against the manipulations of the media elite whenever they demand ill-advised, super-accommodations from Christians toward Islam (or any other religion) merely out of deference toward the current climate of cultural opinion.
Point #3: Christians are called upon to stand against the false ideas of the Islamic religious system, which is different than standing against all those who are within it. It is beyond debate that at least at its extreme outer perimeter (e.g., Saudi Arabia) Islam encourages the near-enslavement of woman, the moral blindness of men, and a false picture of God as wholly devoid of a redemptive heart and a loving intent. I have heard repeatedly from those who leave Islam and embrace Christ that the motivating factor for them was the understanding that God so loved them that He gave his Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice. We can never forget to show the love of Christ toward all men and woman, regardless of their religious profession. The Apostle Paul, after listing a long catalog of lifestyles (and worldviews) condemned by the Bible, reminds the church at Corinth, “such were some of you …” (I Corinthians 6:11). Having received grace, we must also show it. Nevertheless, there also remains for us in the Church a significant prophetic (i.e., forth-telling) role to play in America. The flip side of love is truth (Ephesians 4:15). If there was ever a time to teach, preach, and live out historic Christianity, and the Gospel message that is at its apex, without apology, it is now. And that will include, undoubtedly, speaking out against false religious systems. What will mark us as authentic followers of Jesus is how, and in which direction, we focus our “zeal” in the process.