Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Muslim Threat: A biblical response

Every day we turn on the news to hear some politician, and even entertainment celebrities, responding to Islam. Some, like Donald Trump and even Evangelical stalwart Franklin Graham, are calling for a temporary ban on any and all Muslim immigrants or tourists due to the widespread threat of Islamic terror. Others, like President Barach Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg are championing solidarity with the Muslims, who they are increasingly viewing as a persecuted class.

One the one hand, fear seems to have taken hold. One the other hand, any perceived link between the terrorists (who kill in the name of Allah) with Islam is seen as pure, unadulterated racism. The divide between these two groups is only growing.

For example, recently the U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, said in response to the Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris that her "greatest fear" was retaliatory violence against Islam. Again, her greatest fear isn't that there will be more terrorists attacks, or that innocent civilians would be killed by ISIS or Al Qaeda, but that Muslims would be treated unfairly by a population living under imminent threat of Muslim terror. This fear is so great for AG Lynch that she has threatened to procescute anything her office deems as "hate speech" towards Islam. Further compounding the problem, all three of the democratic candidates for president are on record as refusing to use the term "Islamic terrorists", despite the fact that every single Islamic terrorist proclaims they are killing in obedience to their religion.

On the other hand, we are increasingly hearing politicians (and even Evangelical leaders) make statements that seem to give into fear. Current GOP froncitizens, Donald Trump, is calling for a temporary ban on all Muslims into the USA. This ban is now championed by the likes of Franklin Graham. While most of the other GOP candidates have distanced themselves from this ban, or even outright condemned it, most are supportive of stopping any Syrian refuges from entering the United States, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings are fleeing for their lives from the barbaric regime of ISIS. Mr Trump has even hinted at special identification requirements for Muslims in the US (even those who are American citizens) and spoken faborably about FDR'S WW2-era interment camps. A few days ago a nationally-known pastor and president of the largest Christianity university in the world, Jerry Falwell Jr., called upon the students at Liberty University to arm themselves in order to "take care of those Muslims" (in context he was referring to Islamic terrorists).

One response panders to political correctness and seems to deny the reality that is looking us in the face. The other response smacks of reactionary fear and is curiously devoid of anything resembling compassion.

In light of these two responses, is there a response that is biblical & Christlike? Let me suggest there are three biblical principles that should guide our response.

First, Christ commands that we love our enemies. While a true believer might not actually view anyone as his enemy, the fact is that a very large portion of the Islamic world views the West, or more technically anyone who is not Muslim, as the enemy. They hate us. The terrorists target the defenseless and seek to bring the entire world under subjection to Allah. In Matthew5:44-45 Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Going even further, we are commanded to pray for them and seek ways to actively do good to them. Whatever social or political policy we choose to affirm as Evangelicals, we must ensure that it is loving and compassionate to our Muslim neighbors.

Second, the Christan is commanded to have compassion, specifically for refugees and others who are in need. Compassion to the immigrant and refugee was a basic and foundational part of OlWhiletament law. In the New Testament, John the Baptist continued this teaching when he told the crowd that "anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same" (Luke 3:11). In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) Jesus teaches us to view even the most cultural despised group in society with compassion. Likewise, in Hebrews 13:12 we are commanded to show hospitality to strangers and in Matthew 25:35-39 Jesus tells us that failure to provide aid to those in need in tantamount to failing to show love to Christ himself. This does not necessarily require we bring Syrian refugees to America, but at the very least it means we seek to provide substantially for their needs and get them to safety. It also means that if our nation chooses to continue to allow in Islamic refugees Christians should be the first in line to give compassionate care.

Third, we must not fall into the trap that these first two principles somehow force us to ignore basic principles of safety and self-defense. Exodus 22:2-3 teaches us that when a thief breaks into our house in the middle of the night we are allowed to defend ourselves, even if that means killing the intruder becomes necessary. Because of this passage of Scripture, I have a concealed carry permit and regularly train in order to be able to defend my family, neighbors, and co-workers (where allowed). Certainly our nation is wise to take reasonable steps to protect its citizens. In fact, as citizens in a democratic republic, we should insist they do so.

Yet something grotesque, spiritually speaking, begins to occur when self-protection becomes the only (or even the main) emphasis when confronting the radical Muslim issue. While safety & protection are allowed in Scripture, the center of our faith isn't "the right to keep and bear arms" (as wonderful & necessary as that American right is), but rather the self-sacricing love of Christ.

While Rev. Falwell's comments on self-defense where right and true, as a believer he serves the Gospel better by allowing Christlike love, not self-protection, to be the central point of our response to the radical Muslims (or anyone else who might seek to do us harm). Likewise, Franklin Geaham would become a better advocate for the way of Christ if he focused less on the Islamic threat and more on Christ's path of peace & love towards our enemies.

On the other hand, Scripture never calls on us to deny existential threats. We do no one any good when we deny the reality that is before us. People are trying to hurt us. There is a real threat of Islamic terrorism. It is right and proper to take steps to protect ourselves from these threats, but never at the cost of compassion and love.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the explanation!