5. Found in Translation: A New Missiological McCarthyism (My personal favorite blog post of the year on any blog.)
Monday, December 31, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
From Missio Nexus:
Bridging the Divide
Examples of Contextualization
- 2010 IMB Contextualization Report
- Final Generic Contextualization Paper-April 25, 2012
- Generic Policy on Contextualization with Muslim Ministry
- Pioneers Statement of Guidelines on Contextualization
- Generic Principles of Contextualization
- Practical Wisdom for Leaders regarding Contextualizations, IM’s and MI’s
- Recommended Readings regarding Contextualizations, IM’s and MI’s
- Beyond Christianity – Insider Movements, Higgins
- A Muslim Tribal Chief is bringing Jesus to His People, Mohammad
- Possible Pitfalls of Jesus Movements, Rebecca Lewis
- When God’s Kingdom Grows like Yeast, Travis and Woodberry
- The Main Question is Identity, John Azumah
- 2010 Position Paper on the Insider Movement, Houssney
- Concerns about the IM and those involved with it, McCurry
- Insider Movements-The Historical Approach, Morton
- 2011 The Nature of Islam as perceived from various Christian Perspectives II
- Seeing Inside the the Insider Movement Exploring our Theological Lenses and Presuppositions, Bartlotti
- Looking at Insider Movements, Coleman
- Comments, Questions and Concerns regarding IST Documents 9.6.2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Wolfgang Simson is known for being a pioneer of the house church movement. His “The House Church Book” is a brief summary of his philosophy. I mostly agree with him, but because I believe in the principle of the irreducible ecclesiological minimum, I think the Bible prefers some flexibility in the form of the church according to the context (though I think the NT is quite clear on the leadership structure). Simson argues that the church must be formed around the oikos. In any case, I think his proposal is correct for pioneer settings, and especially helpful for new MBBs who, for some reason or another, think they need to do church the way CBBs do church.
To that end, here are Simson’s Fifteen Theses towards a Re-Incarnation of Church (read the whole thing, below are just the main points):
- Church is a Way of Life, not a series of religious meetings
- Time to change the system
- The Third Reformation
- From Church-Houses to house-churches
- The church has to become small in order to grow big
- No church is led by a Pastor alone
- The right pieces – fitted together in the wrong way
- God does not leave the Church in the hands of bureaucratic clergy
- Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity
- From worshipping our worship to worshipping God
- Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing the church to the people
- Rediscovering the “Lord's Supper” to be a real supper with real food
- From Denominations to city-wide celebrations
- Developing a persecution-proof spirit
- The Church comes home
And here is a pdf of the 15 Theses in Arabic. (HT: Jens Barnett)
Sunday, November 18, 2012
We all know Islam has 5 pillars. Recently I’ve told a couple young (in the faith) MBBs that there are 2 pillars in the Injeel: baptism and communion (they were asking what those are so I used the word “pillars” as an analogy). I didn’t plan on explaining it that way, it just kind of slipped out and I don’t know how to feel about it. I think they got the point, but…
…are there more than 2? Is it a bad idea to call these things “pillars?” Is there a better way to explain to MBBs in unreached areas who have never met a near-culture CBB what baptism and communion are? These are not rhetorical questions.
Go ahead and weigh in in the comments below. If you have any good resources on this topic (explaining baptism and communion to MBBs, esp. in Arabic) please link to them.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
GoCorps exists to build the movement toward going to those beyond the current reach of the gospel by enlisting passionate Christian young adults to serve globally for two years. We recruit recent college graduates from all backgrounds and career interests to go for two years to the least reached and those in extreme poverty through eight tracks of service.
GoCorps goers serve in the hardest places where both cultural and economic factors have converged to leave whole generations without access to a culturally relevant understanding of the gospel. As such, GoCorps goers are often the first to tell those in the city that they are placed in about the good news of life in Jesus Christ.
Yet we recognize that enlisting hundreds of qualified and passionate cross-cultural two year volunteers is not the ultimate solution to the great commission. We believe that the best hope for seeing the completion of the great commission in our generation is to build a massive force of World Christians in all fields who are committed to leveraging their gifts, passions and availabilities toward God's global dream of the fulfillment of the great commission.
Beyond two years of service globally, our hope is for GoCorps goers to bring strong leadership and influence to the church and the market place, instilling a commitment to lifelong involvement in the great commission task, especially advocating for and addressing the special challenges in bearing the message of Jesus Christ to those among the least reached globally.
From Leadership Journal, November 2012, Lead Like Jazz by Scott Olson:
Jazz. I absolutely love it. I know some don't. Others say it's an "acquired taste," but for me there's nothing like it…
It's not just about the music, either. The older I get, the more I'm seeing the impact that jazz has played on my leadership style. Sounds strange, I know. But the connection between leadership and music makes sense, especially when you begin to understand the difference between classical and jazz. Both genres correlate to distinctive leadership styles…
There are times when we as leaders need to take a classical approach. Highly detailed projects require careful attention to detail. We need to play every note on the page. I don't want my dentist playing "jazz" in my mouth during a root canal. I want accuracy. I want rules followed. I want exact science applied. Many leaders are process people and have personalities that tend to make them focus on details, accuracy, and good process. But there are certain situations that call for a different approach. There are times when we encounter obstacles and ambiguity, times where a little "jazz" is just what it takes to lead on another level…
Leading with jazz is not always the best answer, but neither is playing only classical. The key is to know when to switch styles in order to match the leadership situation…
Read the whole thing (1 page).
Thursday, November 8, 2012
I have no shame in sharing that I’m a wannabe missiologist. I suspect most readers of this blog are too, and we even have some official missiologists who subscribe to Circumpolar (Missiology is a dynamic academic discipline which examines the theories and practices of Christian mission as it relates to Biblical theology, history, and the behavioral and social sciences.).
In any case, one of my fears is that my missiology will reflect the following (pg. 175) criticism of it, which is unfortunately descriptive of most evangelical missiology today:
[Missiology is] the marriage of mediocre anthropology and shallow theology.
No Lord, may it never be!
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Underlying the question of following Jesus within various religio-cultural systems is an understanding of the nature of world religions. An essentialist approach suggests that each major religion has a core set of beliefs that differs from all the other major religions. Religions are seen as monolithic, with a prevailing interpretation of core doctrine that defines the worldview of its adherents. A cultural approach to world religions, however, holds that they are a conglomeration of diverse communities, defined more by traditions, history and customs than a singular stated core theology. While the essentialist view has traditionally been held, current research in the field of religious studies challenges the essentialist view (see Religion). Evidence points to a great variety of doctrines and practices within each of the major religious traditions. In practice, many Hindus, Muslims and Christians follow religious traditions with very minimal personal understanding of core beliefs.
The theology of religious is a broad, deep, and complex issue, but I find this simple nuance above to be quite helpful. It has more to do with hermeneutics than anything else.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Duane reviews a book on Christian Zionism.
Seven possible bridges between Sufism and Christianity.
Christians, Muslims Team Up in Apologetics.
If we allow God to use us, He will.
Muslim Comic: A Plane Misunderstanding.
Friday, October 26, 2012
From www.hikayaat.com, with great videos for Muslims in English, Arabic, and Urdu. I have these on my mobile phone and share them via Bluetooth as often as I can. The other day a friend asked me if I was going to sacrifice a goat for the Eid. I showed him this video and explained to him that Jesus is the “seal of the sacrifices.”
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
From Pikkert, Protestant Missionaries to the Middle East: Ambassadors of Christ or Culture?, pg. 268:
As this thesis has shown, the missionary community to the Middle East is too tainted by its own culture to presume to initiate change on social and political issues. Hence its primary task must be to present the person of Jesus Christ in all his winsomeness, even as it trusts the Spirit to draw people to the Saviour. It must then teach and disciple new believers in core Biblical truths, and draw them into a loving fellowship of believers, but will, once again, have to defer to the Spirit with respect to the nitty-gritty application of Christian truth to socio-political and cultural specifics. In other words, the local community of believers, responding to and wrestling with Biblical truths must, ultimately, be entrusted with the job of forging a church-centered New Testament spirituality applicable to their own culture. The missionary can, at best, guide at the level of basic Biblical principles.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Reviewed by Paul Shea:
David Emmanuel Singh brings together eighteen scholars from Afghanistan, East Africa, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Palestine, and more to explore Muslim objections and barriers to understanding the cross of Jesus. With rich experience and credibility these new (Baba Immanuel and more) and familiar (Kenneth Cragg) voices reveal how Christians in the context of the Islamic world explain the cross of Christ among those whose traditions and beliefs deny the cross and its implications.
Singh organizes the selections under: The Cross in Scriptures; Reflections from Contexts; and Theological Reflections. Themes from the Old and New Testaments, such as the “lamb of God,” “the suffering prophet-servant,” and fulfillment of prophecy, are introduced in Part One. Part Two is perhaps the most profound contribution, offering regional slants on issues of the cross. Part Three skillfully demonstrates theology from within context with a variety of sometimes complex and challenging reflections on the atonement and incarnation. These essays not only help in the proclamation of the gospel, but expand good theological debate and understanding of the great doctrine of the work of Christ. Here are exemplary case studies for wrestling with other theological issues in global contexts.
“In the present day, with so much tension between the Muslim world and the nominally-Christian West, it is important to hear the voices of Christians living within Islamic contexts. Such communities have developed strategies for coexisting with their more numerous neighbors. The Christian voices in this volume call for a spirit of reconciliation, drawing on their own experiences and finding inspiration in the message of the Cross. This is a call based on hope for the future, not despair for past conflicts. Such a call deserves to be heard.” -- Peter G. Riddell, formerly Professor of Islamic Studies, and Director, Center for Islamic Studies, London School of Theology
"This work is a valuable reminder that the cross of Christ is relevant to all societies and cultures. It includes potential ways of communicating the meanings of the cross, and also reminders of the path of suffering which may need to be walked." -- Martin Whittingham, Muslim-Christian Links
"The book is an invaluable resource for reflection and study of the meaning of the cross in the world of Islam and in intercultural relations. I cannot recommend it too highly." -- Lamin Sanneh, D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity at Yale University
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
ANTHROPOLOGIST: Lots of things, of course.
STU: Yeah, but I mean, is Islam its holy books or what Muslims do?
ANT: Neither, I suppose.
STU: Well, it should be one or the other for sure!
ANT: Why should it be so?
STU: I think that the Qur’an and Hadiths, and the other texts, tell Muslims how to be Muslims and this guides their actions.
ANT: OK, we can try an experiment. Get that copy of the Qur’an on my desk. So, tell me what this is.
STU: A book; a holy book, at least for Muslims.
ANT: What makes it holy?
STU: The fact that Muslims consider it so.
ANT: OK, but if you were a Muslim why would you have insisted that this particular book is the holiest?
STU: That’s simple Doc! Because, I would believe the book to be God’s words.
ANT: You see, Islam is not just what is written in its books.
STU: Why not? I don’t follow you.
ANT: Well, it’s very simple. You just said that this book, the Qur’an, is holy because at least one Muslim believes that God revealed it. Now you can agree with me that Muslims, each of them, have to perform cognitive operations to form a cognitive map of what for them is Islam. There is no Islam without mind.
STU: Certainly, you need Muslims to have Islam. Yet I still think that what is written in the sources of Islam shapes how Muslims are. Though there are some cultural differences, I am not sure about your point. I think that something called Islam actually exists.
ANT: OK, we will proceed point by point. Not only do we have different cultures among Muslims but also different interpretations. Which is the most basic element that you need to form interpretations?
STU: First, you need to know at least the language in which the text has been transmitted or trust a translation; but there are also other elements, like personal views and social conditions that surely influence one’s interpretation.
ANT: You are discussing a second order of elements. I asked about the basic element without which we cannot have interpretations, or any other mental process, since interpretations are complex mental processes.
STU: Well . . . the most basic is that you should be able to think. To have mental processes, like thoughts, we need a mind.
ANT: Yes, because for the ‘thing’ we call Islam to exist, we need a mind that can conceive of it, making it part of a mental process.
STU: Why refer to Islam as ‘the thing’ now?
ANT: You have just agreed that Islam exists because of the mental processes allowing some people to make sense of certain texts and practices. Are mental processes ‘real’ things?
STU: Well, I would say that they are exactly that, processes. We make sense of what is around us through mental processes.
ANT: Exactly, we, as human beings, through mental processes form what we can call maps.
STU: I can see that. So you are saying that Islam is just a map.
ANT: Well, more than one, for sure. It’s like one of those maps formed by many other different small maps, which, when put together, represent a vast territory.
STU: And, as you have reminded us many times, the map is not the territory.
ANT: But in this case, we can only know the map, since the territory consists of an endless ensemble of mental processes.
STU: At this point, I do not see the difference between a Muslim and non-Muslim forming mental processes about Islam. What makes them different?
ANT: Nothing, indeed, if we speak of the cognitive processes involved. You know, I have the impression that the most important thing that has been forgotten while studying Muslims is the otherwise obvious fact that they are human beings like me and you.
STU: But, I mean, doesn’t the fact that they believe in Islam make their mind different? Sometimes, in some articles, I come across the expression ‘Muslim mind’.
ANT: Some scholars, and unfortunately some anthropologists among them, have even suggested that a Muslim mind can exist. But how can a mind, which means cognitive processes allowed through neurological activities, be Muslim? Think if we extend this reasoning to other adjectives: Christian minds, Conservative minds, Jewish minds, Scientology minds, Jedi minds and Flying Spaghetti Monster minds.
STU: So, what makes a person a Muslim? I thought that the fact that a person believes in the Qur’an and the sunna and in the shahda, the profession of faith, makes a person a Muslim.
ANT: You are suggesting that it is the person’s act of believing that makes him a Muslim. Let me see . . . do you believe that Juan Carlos I is the king of Spain?
STU: Yes, Doc.
ANT: Are you Spanish?
STU: Of course not. You know I’m Scottish!
ANT: Why are you Scottish and not Spanish, though you believe that Juan Carlos I is the king of Spain?
STU: First, I was not born in Spain, I do not have Spanish parents and, by the way, I do not feel Spanish at all. I am not emotionally attached to the idea of being Spanish. Like during the World Cup, if Scotland is not playing, I can support another team, but when Scotland is playing, I am excited and feel something . . . a particular attachment that tells me that I’m Scottish.
ANT: Indeed, what matters here is that you feel to be Scottish.
STU: Are you suggesting that Muslims are Muslims because they consider themselves Muslim?
ANT: Does it sound so strange?
STU: Well, if you are right it means that the most important aspect is neither what the Islamic texts read, nor what Muslims believe, nor how they act, but rather whether or not they believe themselves to be Muslims, and here emotions play a very important role, as in my case of feeling to be Scottish.
ANT: Yes, this is correct. We need to restart our research, as anthropologists, from that ‘feeling to be’, in this case, Muslim.
I’m not sure every anthropologist would agree with this. The point is, Islam is diverse and regionally based. As Christians, we should be more interested in engaging Muslims than we should in engaging ‘Islam.’
Here are a couple more resources I’m reading right now, and I’ll let you know what I think about them:
Sunday, October 14, 2012
The global:church forum is a gathering allowing the Western church to hear what God is doing in the Global South and East and find out how ministry is done within the context of different cultures and economies. This gathering will create a context for you to hear what God is doing around the world, and then understand how this movement in the non-Western world affects movements, models and methodologies pursued by those in the West.
Let me start off by saying I’m a HUGE Piper fan. No other author has impacted me more. I have tons of respect for him. I read Let the Nations be Glad! when I was in college, and it literally changed the direction of my life. I’ve listened to more of his sermons and read more his posts and books than I have anyone else.
But over the course of the last few years, I’ve been uncomfortable with some of his statements on contextualization and missions to Muslims. Watching the above video confirmed some of my concerns. I’m not an “insider proponent" (whatever that is), (neither am I a traditionalist,) but I felt that Piper has some misunderstandings and even (missio)logical fallacies in his arguments.
To that end, I strongly encourage you to read Cody Lorance’s response to Piper on the Insider Movement. Here are some of Cody’s points:
- There is no such thing as the “insider movement.” [We really need a better term…]
- The American church IS ‘insider.’
- The C Scale is invalid [I think the C Scale is helpful for its original purpose, but is overly simplistic for the issues at stake now].
- [One of my points- I don’t know of IM people who support MBBs unequivocally continuing to worship in the mosque. You can be insider without ever going to the mosque. And some MBBs respect Mohammed they way I respect Piper.]
- Persecution is not always for Jesus.
- The fallacy of saying “Ex-Muslims” or the “National Church in this place” is against this, so we should be too. [The Catholic church’s counter reformation against Luther comes to mind.] You can always find MBBs (or missionaries) to support your view.
Here is the main point:
“It is problematic however that so many opponents of IMs are flooding the internet with a lot of misinformation, bigotry, ignorance, personal attacks, and other general silliness. And everyone who “retweets” such drivel is culpable. This isn’t a simple issue. And there are a tremendous number of people who are talking about it that should rather be listening and learning. Actually, we could all do with a little more listening and learning.”
Thursday, October 11, 2012
http://www.arabworldmedia.org/ (HT: MW).
From Missions Catalyst:
Hearing the distinct voice of a Gulf Arab speaking of how he came to faith in Jesus Christ would be life changing for many seekers in the Arabian Peninsula. The current climate in the Arab world has led many to ask questions about their religious beliefs, but to know that others have asked similar questions and have chosen to follow Christ could cause hundreds, or even thousands, to seriously explore Christianity.
Arabian Dawn is a partnership project between Arab World Media and Middle East Media. [Their] plan is to produce ten to twelve video testimonies of believers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Yemen. Three testimonies have already been filmed.
This is an exciting project because the viewer is left in no doubt that they have heard the voice of a Gulf Arab who was once a Muslim. No longer will they be able to deny that there are followers of Jesus Christ in the Arabian Peninsula. It will encourage those who have longed in secret to seek the truth, and it will strengthen those who have already chosen Christ by showing them they are not alone.
» Watch the first Arabian Dawn video, the testimony of a believer from Saudi Arabia. (English subtitles).
Monday, October 8, 2012
In the forward to Miraculous Movements, author Jerry Trousdale tells the story of CityTeam International which was able to start church planting movements among Muslims in Africa. Part of the story includes the influence of a book on leadership in their process of learning about starting movements. Here is the quote:
In 2002, CityTeam International was a seemingly successful “rescue mission” touching the lives of more than five hundred thousand disadvantaged urban dwellers every year. Yet while CityTeam was experiencing God’s blessing in helping-ministries and evangelism, the organization was a failure in discipling its converts to see real transformation in communities. But that was about to change. That year, CityTeam’s CEO Patrick Robertson read Good to Great by Jim Collins, and, inspired by what he felt was a call to recommit CityTeam’s mission to the cause of discipleship, he invited the staff and board of trustees of the organization to begin a journey into a highly intentional focus on obeying Jesus’ last words: “Go therefore and make disciples.”…
Jerry’s story continues with coming into contact with Dave Watson, etc. But I was struck by the influence that Good to Great had on the process. I’ve also seen Good to Great recommended at What’s Best Next and been encouraged to read this book from this post: Why Christians Should Read in the Mainstream.
In any case, have you read Good to Great? What did you think?
Friday, October 5, 2012
From a review at EMQ by Gene Daniels:
Robert Scott’s book, Questions Muslims Ask, is a welcome addition to the current encounter between evangelical Christians and Islam. It is a true apologetic—friendly, yet truth-bearing, offering theological depth while remaining very readable.
Christians and Muslims don't understand each other very well. Muslims have often heard that Christians worship three gods, or that the Injil, the Christian Scripture, has been corrupted. How can Christians explain their faith in a way that Muslims can understand? In his work with Muslims in central London, Robert Scott has discovered that many are quite open to talking about matters of faith. In this thoughtful and respectful book, he explores common questions and objections his Muslim friends have discussed with him over the years. Ordinary Christians can read this book to better appreciate where Muslims are coming from. Ordinary Muslims can read this book to better grasp what Christians actually believe, and why. With discussion questions for both Christians and Muslims, this accessible book is a helpful foundation for understanding and conversation. Use it to start start and continue fruitful conversations with your Muslim friends.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Middle East Experience is dedicated to providing an open-source forum for all the varied voices from today’s Middle East. Whether the voice is Sunni Muslim or Shia Muslim, Christian or Jewish, religious or non-religious, all these distinct voices can be found in one place. From war, oil, economics, the environment, to religious extremism; what happens in the Middle East today affects everyone.The contributing editors read like a who's who among prominent voices "in the know" on a wide range of issues in the contemporary Middle East. Continuously updated with numerous videos, book reviews, blogs, and articles, it is a one-stop source for those of you who want an unbiased and open discussion about the region and its many fascinating peoples and places.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
If you haven’t already, you HAVE to watch this video. It’s amazing. “Save Maryam” is an Islamic campaign aimed at stopping the trend of “2 million” Muslims in Indonesia who are converting to Christianity each year. Here is the video:
Some quick thoughts…
The misuse of statistics, sensationalism, and prevailing sense of dread reminds me of the Muslim Demographic Video created by Christians that went around a couple years ago. Why do so many assume fear is the best motivator?
They recognize the contextual use of terms done by Christians. Is this what Muslims think is effective to reach them?
“We want to preach less and listen more.” Wow.
Notice how important “knowledge” is in Islam.
What are your thoughts?
Monday, September 24, 2012
Here is a very thoughtful critique of the C-Scale, as the hot button issue these days revolves around the issue of identity. In this respect, the C-Scale is too one-dimensional as it marks a simplistic change of identity between C4 and C5. But identity issues are really complex, and we need to move beyond the dualistic thinking that has characterized much of the “insider movement” debate (i.e. you’re either a Muslim or a Christian). [Note: even in 1 Cor. 9, we have Paul arguing that he’s not a Jew, nor Greek, but in a genuine third way, the gospel way. And Paul didn’t have a Western postmodern individualistic worldview.]
Green’s theory of the layers of identity:
Here is how Green frames the stalemate in the debate:
In this paper I have sought to demonstrate that issues of identity for Christ’s followers from Muslim background are too complex to be condensed to a one-dimensional line called the C-spectrum. Reducing options still further to the stark polarity of “C4 vs. C5” or “Insider Movement vs. Historic Position” has led to an impasse which will not and cannot be broken until the model itself is changed.
- In the realm of core identity, true disciples of Christ will know themselves to be securely and unambiguously rooted in him (whatever terminology they use for that), will seek to prioritize his values over all rival values, and will increasingly demonstrate this in their speech and behaviour;
- In the realm of social identity, most believers will relate to both old and new communities simultaneously even if not equally. To expect them to retain just one social identity, whether Muslim or Christian, is neither realistic nor biblically appropriate;
- In the realm of collective identity, however, dual belonging is not normally possible. Whether they like it or not believers from Muslim background may be forced into one label or the other, “Muslim” or “Christian”, until their numbers grow sufficiently for them to form a new collective identity of their own. They know their own available options and should be given space to try to find a way around the formidable constraints of such issues as identity cards and community labels;
- These considerations of identity, by disentangling previously fused issues and examining them from a new perspective, may perhaps provide a way for proponents and opponents of Insider Movements to step out of their dug-in positions and seek constructive ways forward;
- Crucially, both sides should examine carefully the factors that vary from one Muslim context to another, particularly with respect to the local relationship between Muslim and Christian communities, rather than assuming all situations are alike;
- Ex-Muslim Christians form a stream of growing significance in the world Christian movement and should be allowed to make their contribution to it without being patronised or “owned” by either side.
Read the whole thing.
We need to change the model, change the debate, and make room for “identity transition” in MBB conversion experiences.
I’ve met too many fellow cross-cultural workers who claim that they’re neither “insider” nor “traditionalists.” I think a genuine third way has emerged, but hasn’t been labeled yet. More on that later.
Monday, September 17, 2012
This is worth reposting in full. Somebody has to say it! From Brian McLaren on CNN:
I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.
At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.
Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.
For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents." Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”
Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.
Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned. John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.
Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.
In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.
Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.
The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.
I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.
It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.
Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.
Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?
If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.
No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.
The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.
Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.
To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”
The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
This looks like an interesting book: The Facilitator Era: Beyond Pioneer Church Multiplication by Tom Steffen. One blurb:
“The Facilitator Era marks a quantum leap forward in strategic thinking and practice of mission. With an eye to planting and multiplying churches among every people, Steffen combines a readable narrative with case studies from around the globe. He examines the promise and pitfalls of current developments pointing the way forward with uncommon wisdom. If you don't want to be left behind as the church moves into the next era of global mission, read The Facilitator Era.”
Associate Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
This dear brother had numerous chances to recant his faith to achieve his freedom, but he refused, choosing to die for Christ and never see his wife and children again in this world rather than to deny his Savior. And now, after repeated death sentences and more than three years behind bars on charges of apostasy, he has been released for time served for the lesser crime of "evangelizing Muslims." What a testimony!
Related Post: Praying for Iranian Christians