As terror attacks strike the homeland, followers of Christ try to sort out their fears, their faith, and their politics.
For some, we’re witnessing an epic confrontation between Christianity and Islam. Though most Americans would agree that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, a University of Maryland poll found that 61 percent of Americans have a “generally unfavorable” opinion of Islam.
In these increasingly tense times, what is the church teaching about Islam, the terror threat, and the influx of refugees from the Middle East? How should followers of Christ react?
For this week’s Holy Soup Podcast, I talk with Carl Medearis, a Christian leader who has spent many years living among Muslims in the Middle East. He’s authored many books, including Muslims, Christians and Jesus. He offers perspectives on how Christians handle their fears, how Muslims view things like Shariah law, and how the Christian church should treat Muslim immigrants.
Medearis says, “The best form of defeating terrorism on our soil is loving immigrants. Let’s not let them feel alienated and isolated. Let’s fully welcome them into our churches and our homes. They are much less likely to blow something up or do something horrible if they feel loved by us.”
Certainly not all in the church will agree with Medearis. Some fear that taking a soft approach to Muslim extremists may result in more terror attacks in the homeland, including at “soft targets”–such as churches.
Prominent American Christian leader Franklin Graham wrote in USA Today: “Seven percent of Muslims in America told Pew researchers that violence against civilians is ‘sometimes’ justified in the name of Islam, and 1% said ‘often.’ Whoa! This means there are more than 100,000 Muslim adults living in this country who could justify a suicide bombing in the name of their religion.”
Meanwhile, Medearis tells his fellow believers, “Fear not.” He is returning to the Middle East to again live among the Muslim people, whom he has found to be very receptive to the gospel of Jesus Christ. “They’re so willing to come to him if we present him with love and grace.”
What do you think? What message should the American church be sending about Islam, terrorism, fear, and the refugee impact? Take a moment to listen to the Holy Soup Podcast with Carl Medearis.
I wonder how many American Christians have a problem with our bombing during WW2, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and the Second Iraq War? We killed a lot more civilians then terrorists have. and is it any different then fire-bombing cities like Tokyo and Dresden? Those events alone killed 130, 000 and 40- 50, 000 civilians. Is it any different?
Vietnam seems to have been one big mistake. As far as WW2, aren’t you overlooking what the German and Japanese armed forces were doing to civilians in territories they were conquering?
Among other things we had to decide whether to stop the war as quickly as possible to limit that along with minimizing loss of our own soldiers. This is distinctly different from what terrorists like ISIS are doing.
Mary commented on Twitter: “How about the only response is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus had it right!!”
Donna commented on Facebook: “This is NOT a Christian reaction or action. Totally opposite of every principle Jesus taught.”
My reaction is “Look to Europe.” They are much further along in this process than we are. How has this worked out for them? You’re right. It hasn’t worked well at all. I do agree that many Muslims are peaceful, but even in their own countries Christianity is often suppressed, and certainly the Christian persecutions are at a high level. Working among Muslims in a foreign country certainly doesn’t entitle the speaker to address problems here and in Europe, where the reports are hardly encouraging. It’s also not encouraging to see many in the church not recognize that any religion that is an arm of the state is dangerous to Christianity. This has been historically true, and it is true today. Suggest everyone read some modern history, and couple it with Schaff’s History of The Christian Church. He has an entire volume on Islam. It’s not very friendly.
Bill commented on Facebook: “We should keep inviting them in. 20,000 Muslims are converted to Christianity each year.”
There is no such thing/person as a Muslim terrorist. Islam does not allow terrorism. Therefore these people are not Muslim – they are not of Islam. Being terrorists they are in denial of the Faith they ‘seemingly’ observe.
If they’re not Muslims what, exactly, are they ? I’ve never heard of anyone else proclaiming ALLAH ACKBAR as they destroy non muslim targets…….with all due respect Brgeem…if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck………….this is what’s wrong…we’re too busy naming these terrorists something else or trying to politically correctly classify them that we are not dealing with them….God help us.
It isn’t about terminology or political correctness, the Koran explicitly states that such acts are not the way of Islam. Terrorism is the behaviour of misguided ideological zealots who ignore the truth of their own Faith. To ignore the truth is not to be part of it. It would be the same for Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or any other Faith.
There are over one hundred nine verses in the Quran COMMANDING its followers to kill the infidel. Are you forgetting those commands to kill in the name of Allah? Actually, most theologians would tell you the opposite. Christ commanded love, not hate. If you hate, you can call yourself a Christian, but it doesn’t make you one. Likewise, if you refuse to commit the violence commanded by Muhammed, the raper of nine year old children, the rampaging warlord, if you refuse that, you may call yourself a Muslim, you’re a pretty shoddy Muslim.
Quran (2:191-193) – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun(the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)” (Translation is from the Noble Quran) The verse prior to this (190) refers to “fighting for the cause of Allah those who fight you” leading some to claim that the entire passage refers to a defensive war in which Muslims are defending their homes and families. The historical context of this passage is not defensive warfare, however, since Muhammad and his Muslims had just relocated to Medina and were not under attack by their Meccan adversaries. In fact, the verses urge offensive warfare, in that Muslims are to drive Meccans out of their own city (which they later did). Verse 190 thus means to fight those who offer resistance to Allah’s rule (ie. Muslim conquest). The use of the word “persecution” by some Muslim translators is disingenuous – the actual Arabic words for persecution (idtihad) – and oppression are not used instead of fitna. Fitna can mean disbelief, or the disorder that results from unbelief or temptation. A strict translation is ‘sedition,’ meaning rebellion against authority (the authority being Allah). This is certainly what is meant in this context since the violence is explicitly commissioned “until religion is for Allah” – ie. unbelievers desist in their unbelief. [Editor’s note: these notes have been modified slightly after a critic misinterpreted our language. Verse 193 plainly says that ‘fighting’ is sanctioned even if the fitna ‘ceases’. This is about religious order, not real persecution.]
Quran (2:244) – “Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.”
Quran (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.” Not only does this verse establish that violence can be virtuous, but it also contradicts the myth that fighting is intended only in self-defense, since the audience was obviously not under attack at the time. From the Hadith, we know that this verse was narrated at a time that Muhammad was actually trying to motivate his people into raiding merchant caravans for loot.
Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”
Quran (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”. This speaks directly of polytheists, yet it also includes Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (ie. what Muhammad incorrectly believed to be ‘joining companions to Allah’).
Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.” The martyrs of Islam are unlike the early Christians, who were led meekly to the slaughter. These Muslims are killed in battle as they attempt to inflict death and destruction for the cause of Allah. This is the theological basis for today’s suicide bombers.
Quran (4:76) – “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”
Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”
Quran (4:95) – “Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home).Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward ” This passage criticizes “peaceful” Muslims who do not join in the violence, letting them know that they are less worthy in Allah’s eyes. It also demolishes the modern myth that “Jihad” doesn’t mean holy war in the Quran, but rather a spiritual struggle. Not only is this Arabic word (mujahiduna) used in this passage, but it is clearly not referring to anything spiritual, since the physically disabled are given exemption. (The Hadith reveals the context of the passage to be in response to a blind man’s protest that he is unable to engage in Jihad, which would not make sense if it meant an internal struggle).
Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…” Is pursuing an injured and retreating enemy really an act of self-defense?
Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”
Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle. The targets of violence are “those who disbelieve” – further defined in the next verse (13) as “defy and disobey Allah.” Nothing is said about self-defense. In fact, the verses in sura 8 were narrated shortly after a battle provoked by Muhammad, who had been trying to attack a lightly-armed caravan to steal goods belonging to other people.
Quran (8:15) – “O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. (16)Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.”
Quran (8:39) – “And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion is all for Allah” Some translations interpret “fitna” as “persecution”, but the traditional understanding of this word is not supported by the historical context (See notes for 2:193). The Meccans were simply refusing Muhammad access to their city during Haj. Other Muslims were allowed to travel there – just not as an armed group, since Muhammad had declared war on Mecca prior to his eviction. The Meccans were also acting in defense of their religion, as it was Muhammad’s intention to destroy their idols and establish Islam by force (which he later did). Hence the critical part of this verse is to fight until “religion is only for Allah”, meaning that the true justification of violence was the unbelief of the opposition. According to the Sira (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 324) Muhammad further explains that “Allah must have no rivals.”
Quran (8:57) – “If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember.”
Quran (8:67) – “It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land…”
Quran (8:59-60) – “And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy.” As Ibn Kathir puts it in his tafsir on this passage, “Allah commands Muslims to prepare for war against disbelievers, as much as possible, according to affordability and availability.”
Quran (8:65) – “O Prophet, exhort the believers to fight…”
Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.” According to this verse, the best way of staying safe from Muslim violence at the time of Muhammad was to convert to Islam: prayer (salat) and the poor tax (zakat) are among the religion’s Five Pillars. The popular claim that the Quran only inspires violence within the context of self-defense is seriously challenged by this passage as well, since the Muslims to whom it was written were obviously not under attack. Had they been, then there would have been no waiting period (earlier verses make it a duty for Muslims to fight in self-defense, even during the sacred months). The historical context is Mecca after the idolaters were subjugated by Muhammad and posed no threat. Once the Muslims had power, they violently evicted those unbelievers who would not convert.
You can’t rule out either set of verses. And you can’t take them out of context. IN addition, I really support the religiously conservative Christian interpretation of Islam as much as I trust Bill Maher’s defense of Christianity. If you want to understand those passages, then talk to Muslims. Talk to a variety of them.
Either Christianity is right or Islam is right. Both can’t be right but both can be wrong. The real truth is why each religion exists.
It is just too convenient that both religions have gods that can’t be seen and never do anything. It is just too convenient that it’s the followers of both religions that have to do all the leg work for their perspective gods.
A critical thinker will conclude neither god exists and the point of these religions isn’t about eternal life or heaven. Both religions demand obedience and lays out expectations for its followers. The reality is both religions are a form of slavery in both physical ways and mentally. Christianity claims the believer is free in Christ yet still a slave to obeying a set of rules and standards.
Both religions plays and preys on the natural fears of human beings gullibility to just believe what other people tell them.
It’s commons sense as a critical thinker that you need all people to have a set of standards to live by so we don’t fall into mass chaos. Traffic laws are a good example: Stop lights, speed limits, side of the road to drive on, working break lights, headlights. It’s important to organize everyone under a veil of standards for society for function and we can all live quiet peaceful lives. This is the point… It’s the point of religions. Everyone lives under a single standard so we are not living in a chaotic world.
I see religion as a tool to give hope to people who feel hopeless. It works well under a dictatorial government. It works well under oppression and when living in fear of enemies bigger than yourself. Islam countries fear the US and uses that fear to create hate… hate for Christianity, Democracy and uses that to drive followers into creating terror with the promise that their god will reward them in heaven. This is very much similar to the Christian religion promising rewards for obedience to this god.
The benefit of religion for a leader is they can control large amounts of people without an army or police force but by creating fear in the people of this unseen god base on ancient stories to create fear or love for their god. Is the Koran or the Bible really the words of their perspective god or words of a man used to manipulate people into obedience at that particular time? This isn’t to say the manipulation was for the pure selfishness of the leader. So religions can make for good people and dangerous people. They can make for instant army at the disposal of a good manipulative leader. I’m sure Islam has their version of Gideon or Samson. These terror attacks is their modern Samson.
The children of Israel started out as a religious nation till the religious leaders went corrupt which is why king Saul came along. Same thing kind of thing happens now. If people feel their church leader is corrupt in any way, either they go to another church or they just quit going.
I better stop…sorry.
I completely agree with the post. Having lived 6 1/2 years in Bethlehem, West Bank, I came to experience the hospitality and love of Muslim people. I was there during the first Palestinian uprising. In my time there, my ideas about Islam and Muslims were turned upside down. The vast majority just want to be able to be in their homes and not be afraid.
David commented on Facebook: “Didn’t Jesus make this clear – love God, love people, and then in case we didn’t completely get it I believe He also said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We have a great opportunity Church!”
Lorri commented on Facebook: “I like this: Medearis says, “The best form of defeating terrorism on our soil is loving immigrants. Let’s not let them feel alienated and isolated. Let’s fully welcome them into our churches and our homes. They are much less likely to blow something up or do something horrible if they feel loved by us.”
Reed commented on Facebook: “Leave them in there own country.”
Rick commented on Facebook: “Help them in their own backyard, after we take care of homeless veterans in the U.S.”
Dan commented on Facebook: “Sadly, sometimes the most loving thing that can be done in the moment is to eliminate an evil person and to preserve the lives of the innocent. It is by no means preferred, but sometimes love demands a response of action against those who want to harm others. Loving your neighbor may require action against the one who is trying to harm your neighbor.”
More than 70 people were shot over labor day weekend just in Chicago alone. There are bigger problems than worrying about people who believe violence is justified when you have people or gangs who are actually acting out violently every day.
Very hard to understand what is happening throughout the world right now. All you have to do is look at the children’s eyes and faces…..
As an MBB (Muslim background believer), to me the answer to Islam is Jesus. America is the greatest mission field God has given us. He has brought people of every background (Muslims included) to our doorsteps. By changing one man or woman through the power of the Gospel, we can change a whole nation overseas without ever having to leave our homes. I AM a good example of what I’m talking about. Yet, I wonder how many Christians have ever bothered to go across the street to offer a cup of water to the neighbor who wears a turban and speaks with an accent.
Several of the most gifted professors in engineering graduate school were likely Muslim, my primary care physician is likely Muslim, and the owners of the local Denny’s are likely Muslim. They are all fine people and I don’t care what religion they belong to. I don’t think Jesus cares either. Jesus calls on us to love the neighbors who don’t look like us, talk like us, and have different religious faiths. If people, including church leaders, are fostering hatred and bigotry against Muslims, they’re not speaking for Jesus.
I think the best first weapon against terrorism would be to change our foreign policies. For most terrorists did not become terrorists based on how they were treated here, they became terrorists because of our nation’s foreign policies
[…] For further consideration, see Thom Schultz’s post: https://holysoup.com/a-christians-reaction-to-islamic-terror/ […]