In this fifth and final post on a Christian response to Geert Wilder’s Fitna film (see parts 1, 2, 3, and 4), I argue that the most basic starting point in our response is to ask ourselves the underlying theological question: Do I treat Muslims like images of God?
Cutting Through the Political Noise
Due to the constant political propaganda and jaundiced media coverage surrounding Islam’s so-called “clash with the West,” American Christians (especially those who, ironically, have never made a Muslim acquaintance) are constantly tempted to classify “Islam” and “Muslims” in broad-brush, propagandized terms: “All Muslims are terrorists” and “All Mosques are halls of hatred” are, sadly, common sentiments found not only in the media but also on the lips and in the hearts of Christ’s bride. Brothers and sisters, this ought not be.
Asking the Underlying Question
For Christians, fearing an unknown “other” leaves us in ironic bondage to our own fears and removes our gaze from our only proper fear: God Himself. However, Christians’ attitudes toward Muslims in our “post 9-11″ and “post 7-7″ days are more heinous than simply fearing an unknown other; for, by fearing our own caricature of the “other” we deprive him or her of the most fundamental connection we have with all others, the imago Dei. When we fail to see “the other” as a fully dignified human being created in God’s image, our vision becomes darkened like Cain’s, and we allow the most heinous de-humanizing sins to crouch at our doors.
The underlying question for Christians, then, in thinking through our response to Fitna is primarily theological, not political (but not without political implications): Are Muslims images of God, just as Christians and all other people? If yes (and yes is how the Sacred Scriptures answer, i.e., Genesis 1 and 2), then our response must be lived out in the fear of God, the giver of all human dignity.
Listening to Muslims Themselves
One way to treat Muslims with God-given human dignity and to cut through the political noise is listen to Muslims who themselves are debating questions about their own fundamental identity, such as:
- What is Islam?
- Are Muslims doing enough to combat Muslim-based terrorism?
- What does it mean to be a Muslim in America today (and here)?
- What is the future of Shari’a in a secular state?
In other words, if your primary knowledge of Islam comes from the media’s nightly newscasts, then you are woefully ill-equipped to engage Muslims in meaningful relationships. For, how would we Christians like it if Muslims started saying all Christians are like the wacky televangelists who spew their money mongering and cheap spiritual trickery all over the airwaves? Should we not extend the same courtesy to Muslims that we would expect of them in their understanding of Christianity?
Learning from Thoughtful Christians
The Protestant world is slowly awakening to its ignorance of the Muslim world. So, not many Christians are writing and speaking thoughtfully on Islam or Muslim evangelism. And, sadly, some of the ones who are speaking on Islam treat the subject more from a political than theological standpoint. These speakers usually end up proffering propagandized fear mongering than proclaiming the Gospel’s power to change lives. So, as a Christian you’ve got to be discerning when you listen to self-proclaimed Christian “experts” on Islam.
Perhaps one of the best places to start learning from Protestant leaders is former Muslims who converted to Christianity. These authors have first-hand, intimate knowledge of their former religion, and this experience allows them to cut through the noise easier than second-hand “experts.” Former Muslims who are providing thoughtful and loving engagement with Muslims include:
- Anees Zaka (author and professor)
- Patrick Sookhdeo, directory of the Barnabas Fund (interviewed about his new book, Faith, Power and Territory)
- Ergun Canner, president of Liberty Seminary (watch Ergun’s testimony).
- Sam Solomon (White Horse Inn interview; Pilcrow Press)
Where to Start Cutting, Asking, Listening, and Learning
Christian friend, do you know any Muslims by name? If not, you have just found your beginning: Instead of buying a book or starting a “research project,” visit a local Mosque, and make a Muslim friend. (The former things will only make sense in the context of the latter, and your experience will propel your studies.) Or, if you pay attention to who is living in your own neighborhood, you might not even have to visit a Mosque.