Christians and Muslims 101

Posted on January 31, 2015


We’re revisiting this subject for obvious reasons, the latest being the attacks and assassinations in Paris by Islamic terrorists on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Over a dozen people were machined-gunned in cold blood by three men (now themselves dead) who cried out that Muhammad has been avenged as they cut down their victims.

How you analyze what’s happening in Europe, across Africa and the Middle East, and even here at home in America depends a lot on your specialty.

Politicians will see political issues—liberty, inequality, freedom of expression—underlying the violence.

Economists will look at the structure of societies and cultures in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. and point to the unequal distribution of wealth and power and how Islamic radicals prosper in such an environment of frustration and unrealized dreams and aspirations of the many as root causes.

Feminists will no doubt point to the crushing rules and dominance of males in Islam as a major contributing factor to the caldron of violence.

Historians will look back deeply in time, and point out that Muslims and Christians have historically been at odds over the centuries. This is but a modern variation on an old theme. Think the Crusades for example.

And for you academics, also think post-colonialism, post-imperialism, post-modernism, etc. for explanations.

Theologians will point to the theological gulfs that divide Islam from Christianity as the root cause, given expression by modern Islamic terrorists.

Everyone has explanations, and some offer solutions.

Apologists will explain that Islam is not all blood and thunder, and that the radicals have kidnapped true Islam and corrupted it with their hate. Some Christians will say that love will conquer all, even as brothers are being decapitated.

Some will argue—and I agree–that Islamic radicalism can only be stopped by killing it at its roots. It does no good to try to explain away their excesses and violence with sloppy philosophy and theology. These guys are vile tempered and venomous snakes.

They need to be destroyed, not simply where they crop up in Europe or Asia or the United States, but in their homes and caves, in their recondite hiding places.

The modern equivalents of napalm should flush them out, just as napalm was poured in flaming torrents on Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender in the Pacific archipelagos during World War II.

Let me borrow from the theologians for a spiritual take on why Islam and Christianity do not co-exist very well, which is a really gross understatement if one remembers the smoking, flaming twin towers of the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001, as they thundered down and spilled into lower Manhattan.

In the Bible, in the book of Genesis, beginning about Chapter 16, the story of Abraham is told. It is rich in detail, it is foundational. It is really the story of God’s intervention in man’s world.

In this account Abraham is blessed and selected by God to be the father of many nations. They enter into a covenant—one of several in the Bible—that confirms this promise. The only problem, as Abraham and his wife Sarah see it, is that they are both elderly, way past child bearing age and God has promised them a son to carry out the covenant.

Sarah, barren and in frustration, tells her husband Abraham to take her servant Hagar and have a child. Abraham agrees and out of this union a child, Ishmael, was born to Hagar.
Then, twelve or so years later, Sarah gave birth to her son Isaac. Abraham rejoiced. On the other hand Sarah forced Abraham to exile Hagar and her son Ishmael out of jealousy.

Isaac’s son Jacob had twelve sons, the original twelves tribes of Israel. Ishmael too had twelve sons who became the forbearers of Muhammad and the forerunners of Islam.

Isaac was the legitimate heir of Abraham; Ishmael was not. And there the two faiths—Judaism and Islam—went separate ways.

Islam did not come into existence until the seventh century A.D. when a prophet, Muhammad, preached that Judaism and Christianity got it wrong. Muhammad received a divinely inspired word from God through an angel who dictated the Qu’ran to Muhammad.

Islam also denied the divinity of Jesus Christ who is recognized as a great prophet by Muslims, but not the son of God. And so Christians and Muslims also separated on what God had done on earth.

The die was cast and the three faiths, all with origins in the same book, the Bible, have been battling off and on for over a thousand years, really almost from the very moment that Muhammad made war on his detractors and enemies.

Spiritual warfare has had a secular counterpart over the ages as well. The Crusades represent probably the best, or worst depending on one’s point of view, example.

Today the radical followers of Allah and Muhammad still war on Christians and Jews. To largely ignore this dimension, which commentators, politicians, columnists, theologians, imams, priests, and pastors do, and dance around it, is simply closing your eyes to spiritual reality, hoping it will go away.

Published in my OpEd column, The Port Rail, as Christians and Muslims, History 101 in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday January 18, 2015