Thursday, September 2, 2010

Islamophobia in the Church?

From Trevor Castor, Assistant Director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies:

Islamophobia: Fear of Muslims and Islam. On 9/11 of this year a pastor in Gainesville, Florida is calling for all Christians to participate in what he is calling “International Burn a Qur’an Day.” This month Christians gathered outside a mosque in Connecticut to inform worshippers that “Jesus hates Muslims.” The Christian Action Network recently erected a billboard on I-26 near Orangeburg, South Carolina featuring a picture of a fierce Muslim and caption: “Islam Rising, Be Warned.” The Church is becoming obsessed with Islam but often for the wrong reasons.

God’s heart for Muslims in some contexts is being overshadowed by hate-filled media, demonizing Muslims for political reasons. Many conservative “Christian” websites and blogs have jumped on this bandwagon, playing on the fears and emotions of constituents. These politically-motivated organizations have become increasingly hateful towards Muslims and are well-funded in their efforts. Too many Christians have been captivated with their misguided call for patriotism, demanding that Christians rise up in opposition. We are called to declare the glory of the Lord among the nations but some churches are not interested in seeing or being a part of that vision. In contrast, here is an excerpt of an encouraging letter we recently received from a pastor:

“I have become increasingly aware of the possibility that your biggest challenges are not in presenting the Good News to Muslims…it is more likely challenging the ever-growing fears of the American church. My prayer is that God will give you much wisdom and endurance in that effort.”

The pastor’s note was much appreciated. The unwillingness of some churches to support Muslim ministry and the increasing animosity of Christians towards Muslims has become a burden on my heart. Fear and misguided patriotism are two biblical themes that prevented Israel from bringing God’s light to the nations. Will the Church choose to do the same? We must not operate out of fear but from faith. We must not allow the media and political leanings to mold our hearts what to believe about Muslims lest we forget that Jesus has purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. We need people who are passionate about the Great Commission to join with us to see the Gospel penetrate the Muslim world. A seemingly impossible task that Samuel Zwemer addressed with these words 100 years ago: “Faith has the genius of transforming the barely possible into actuality. Once men are dominated by the conviction that a thing must be done, they will stop at nothing until it is accomplished… “I will do as much as I can, says one. Any fool can do that. He that believes in Christ does what he cannot do, attempts the impossible and performs it.”

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