Christian-Muslim Relations 101

We in the United States are having a bit of a social crisis over the whole business with Daesh (so-called ISIS) wreaking havoc across the globe, Syrian refugees looking for new homes that aren’t bombed to oblivion, intense persecution of Christians by various extreme Muslim groups in Africa and the Middle East, and a whole lot of crazed rhetoric by our politicians, who themselves are all over the map.  I’m hardly an expert on Islam, but I can look at the basics of the situation and try to be calm and level-headed voice in the midst of this ridiculous chaos.

First of all, who are Muslims?

They are people; human beings like you and I.  Sometimes we forget this, as did the creator of this meme:

qmeme_1447853754067_971

It seems like a clever way to point out that there may be some terrorists among the refugees.  It is true that there could be.  But, aren’t we forgetting something?

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Second question, who do Muslims worship?

The Arabic word for God is “Allah.”  A number of folks today have been making claims that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same god, and are all equally “Abrahamic faiths.”  The claim of being an “Abrahamic faith” is something that all three groups make, yes.  We all trace the history of our religion and beliefs through Abraham’s lineage.  But that’s literally as close as Christianity and Islam get to one another.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in one of his Catecheses (a series of teachings for new Christian believers) wrote the following:

Those who believe in one God the Father Almighty ought to believe in his only-begotten Son.  Jesus says: ‘I am the door.  No on can come to the Father but by me’ [John 10:9, 14:6].  Anyone who does not accept the Door cannot possibly reach the Father.  Anyone who wishes to pray to the Father should adore the Son, or his prayer is not accepted.  The Son is called Christ, which means anointed, that is, consecrated.  He was not anointed by human hands but consecrated by the Father to become a priest forever…

This may sound like Cyril was just being a grumpy old curmudgeon, making Christianity into some sort of exclusive club, but really he’s simply repeating the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Check out this dialogue in the Gospel according to St. John:

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

The point should be abundantly clear: basic Christian teaching asserts that knowing Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, is essential for knowing God at all.  Know Jesus, know God; no Jesus, no God.

Or in the case of Muslims: different Jesus, different god.  Because they do believe in an historical figure named Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, but they reject the claim that he’s the Son of God, but rather a prophet.  A great prophet, yes, but not so great as to be the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the great high priest in the order of Melchizedek, Emmanuel (God-with-us).  So, according to Christian teaching, because Muslims recognize a different Jesus, they worship a different God than Christians do.  The Muslim Allah is not the same as the Christian God (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit)!  The fact that so many folks at and around Wheaton College are confused over this right now is mind-boggling.

And, by way of a side point, it should also be noted that these same words of Christ assert that Jews who don’t believe in Jesus also worship a different God than Christians do.  If the only way to the Father really is through Jesus, then Jews don’t worship the One whom Christians call God the Father.  Again, this should not be news to anyone; Judaism and Christianity are two different religions, just as Islam is yet a third different religion.

We three religions cannot be conflated together simply because we all happen to be monotheists!

Third question, how should Christians treat Muslims?

This should be abundantly clear in light of question #1.  They are human beings, therefore we should treat them as human beings.  But… but Muslims hate bacon!  How can we take people seriously who hate bacon?

baconandmuslim-fairy

Quick reminder to my fellow Christians: Judaism also forbids eating bacon.  Pigs are an unclean food.  Give thanks for a quick line in Mark 7:19, otherwise we wouldn’t be eating bacon either.  Would you make fun of Jews for not eating bacon?  Or seek to “offend” them by posting something like this on your Facebook timeline?  Then why would a Christian share this to “offend” a Muslim?  Shame on us.

How about one last look at some biblical instruction on Christian behavior.  This is from the end of Romans 12.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.  14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Allow me to summarize these verses for you.

  1. Acting in love towards others is always our rule (v9, 10, 21).
  2. Even our enemies deserve our love (v14, 16-18, 20).
  3. Our love should be active and involved (v11, 18).
  4. When facing persecution, keep calm and carry on (v12, 17, 19).
  5. Yes, show special love to your follow Christians (v10, 13).
  6. Yes, perfect peace will not always be possible (v18).
  7. But remember that vengeance and justice is God’s (v19).

An embarrassingly high number of Christians on the internet have flagrantly ignored these basic instructions.  Seriously, kids, it’s time to shape up.

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About Fr. Brench

I'm an Anglican Priest and a sci-fi geek. Therefore, I write about spiritual formation, theology, biblical studies, and Doctor Who. But I keep those blogs separate so I don't confuse too many people!
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