After the publishing of Evangelical Enigma: Who Would Jesus Vote For, it was evident on the social media that many had strong, emotional opinions either in favor of, or against the articles content. Most of which was much ado about nothing, it wasn’t felt that a follow up was required. The article was simply throwing the gauntlet down and putting evangelicals to the challenge of sticking to the ideals they purport to believe by being ethically consistent and refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils. It appears that after the dismal showing of Romney supporters at the polls, many evangelicals actually stuck to their guns and refused to vote at all. However, after reviewing some of the comments myself, one in particular struck me in such a way as to ask Dorian if it would be well with him for me to offer up an addendum. The comment which compelled me to the keyboard was from what I perceived to be a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and it was something like this; “I’d rather vote for a Mormon than a Muslim.” When one contemplates the implications behind such a statement, as well as the current events in the Middle East, one is forced to try and understand this puzzle box portion of evangelical thinking today.
Since these are sensitive issues amongst many peoples, let it first be understood that I am neither endorsing nor condemning the ideals or opinions the groups mentioned may hold. I simply write as a third party, a party standing on the outside of the hostilities between the Christian world, Jewish world, and Muslim world. I believe that in order to try and get a firm grasp on what is happening in our world, we all must suspend our bias’ towards one way or another and attempt-with the eyes of Compassion- to see matters from all perspectives. All conflict derives from at least one party refusing to see things from another party’s point of view. If you happen to hold to any of the views following, and find my depiction of them cold, callous, or outright ignorant; then I would suggest you examine why a third party would view them in such a manner and adjust accordingly.
Evangelical Christianity is a tricky group to directly describe, for in this group are a myriad of different flavors to choose from. Thousands of denominations within denominations, all claiming separateness from one another based off of interpretations of dogma. Each denomination or sect claim to be the small, minority of God’s elect who are pure enough to actually have the final truth, as revealed by the man commonly referred to as Jesus of Nazareth. The Episcopalians say the Methodists are in error, the Methodists say the charismatics are lead astray, the Presbyterians say the Lutherans are all wrong, and the Baptists say all the former are going to hell because they aren’t Baptists. So no matter what you say evangelicals believe; there will, amongst them, always be a percentage which will wag their finger and say you are misrepresenting this or that. This cannot be helped. Because the pool of evangelical Christians is so fractured, so split on what is true and what is not regarding the Bible and its teachings, all one can hope to do is speak of them in generalities.
Having established this, let’s proceed with that understanding and observe what the contentions between an evangelical Christian and a Muslim are in the first place. When did they begin? Who started it? Does the practice of either faith somehow mandate conflict between the two? What type of thinking would allow a person claiming to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, support one group of religious people (namely the Mormons) over another group of religious people (namely the Muslims) by discounting one swath of humanity’s population as somehow inferior? Did not Jesus of Nazareth preach the sermon of the Good Samaritan-the definitive condemnation of religious and ethnic bigotry of any form against any people-as well as carry to this day the mantle of the Prince of Peace? How can it be, then, that many of those claiming to follow in His footsteps can simply disregard human life…because it happens to be a Muslim?
You see it is no secret that in the evangelical world the view of Islamic people, and the Muslim faith itself, is seen very dismally at its best. And at its worse, in pulpits all across America, the Muslim people are preached to be demon possessed, moon god worshipers that spread by means of the sword. They are depicted as a barbaric and ruthless people.
In congregations across our land, evangelical Christians don’t honestly know much about Muslims or the Koran, …because they certainly don’t have the time to read the Koran when most have barely begun to read their own book, the Bible…but one thing they do know is that Muslims are the bad guys. No, evangelicals couldn’t begin to tell you the first accurate thing about how Islam began, or how it spread, or what its teachings are, or much about its founder. They might be able to spit out a few things which are slanted towards inaccuracy of historicity, or demeaned by way of cultural invalidity, but evangelical Christians cannot possibly name any valid point of argumentation as to why they should view the Muslim or its faith in a contentious way. They simply state that they “know” Islam to be a wicked religion. But how do they “know”? They refuse to read the Koran because they are told it is the scriptures of a religion that in actuality was inspired by the fallen angel Lucifer masquerading as Gabriel, the angel the Muslims claim began Muhammad on his spiritual enlightenment. They are told that the rapid spread of Islam throughout the Middle East and into Jerusalem after the capture of Mecca was done through violence and bloodshed, and that the end result of the teachings of Islam is the destruction of the nation of Israel and the ushering in of a worldwide Muslim rule. These beliefs held by many evangelical Christians are passionately and emotionally done so; but we, as objective observers must realize that these things they “know” about Islam are being told to them by their priest class.
In all actuality, there is no reason why a person choosing to be classified under the banner of evangelical Christian should have any contention at all with a person choosing to be classified under the banner of Muslim. How can I say this with such assurance? Well, according to the Christian text of the Bible in Romans 12:18 we read “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men”. Now if the evangelical is to herald that every word of the Bible is divine, inerrant, infallible, and unable to be contradicted by another scripture; then what’s the problem with Muslims, evangelicals?
An evangelical might reply that the Muslim wishes to cut off his head; make him convert or die, and this prevents the evangelical from living peaceably with a Muslim. An evangelical might say that the Koran teaches the Muslim to kill the infidel wherever he finds them for some jihad, but does it? In the Koran 2:62 we read “Verily, they who believe (Muslim), and they who follow the Jewish religion, and the Christians, and the Sabeites-who-ever of these believeth in God and the last day, and doeth that which is right, shall have their reward with their Lord: fear shall not come upon them, neither shall they be grieved.”
So both the scriptures of the evangelicals as well as the Muslim alike allow for a peaceful coexistence of the two. When, then, did this animosity of evangelicals towards the Muslim faith first begin? If the foundations of the two, the Koran and the Bible, do not mutually exclude the existence of the other, why is Islam viewed in the eyes of evangelicals in America as a wicked and barbaric people? Is it true that the intent and purpose of Muhammad’s fast spreading philosophy is indeed the extermination of anyone that differs in opinion on matters of God and faith; or is its foundation built on something entirely different? To answer this we must take a quick journey back to its formation and see the world from the perspective of someone like Muhammad.
Muhammad was born around 570 A.D. in the Arabian city of Mecca. Orphaned at the age of six, his uncle took him under his care and for most of his early years, Muhammad traveled with his tribe as a merchant where he had the opportunity to be exposed to the beliefs of a myriad of other cultures from the Christian to the Jew and everything in between. As he grew older he gained a quick reputation for being a spiritual intuitive with the ability of uniting others by peaceful solutions. He was commonly known as a peace maker, especially in a society built around tribalism and warfare instigated by the numerous tribal chiefs all bucking for power and wealth. Having traveled his land and becoming in touch with his people it is evident that one of the main concerns in Muhammad’s heart was the plight of the common man, who more often than not, suffered the most damage in the repercussions of clan war by simply being caught up in it. The suffering and poverty of people simply trying to make a living in the shadow of the fallen Roman empire forced him to examine the causes of what seemed to be perpetual warfare and his conclusions on why this continued to haunt Arabia was the struggle of power between the tribal chiefs and the illusion that they were many different people rather than one. This illusion was stubbornly put in place by the tribal chiefs who attributed their right of rule to the will of whichever god they happened to serve. With over three hundred different gods and goddesses to choose from, the Arabian people were seemingly doomed to live out their lives in a violent, grim society where power hungry men were in a constant tug of war under the cloak of divine will.
Muhammad would often seclude himself for meditation in the caves of the Arabian mountains, and according to Muslim tradition, at the age of 40 while fasting and praying it is said that the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Frightened by a metaphysical experience he did not expect nor understand, he did as any normal man and made dust trails as fast as he could away from the cave. This proved to be futile as once again the angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad as he fled; informing him that he was a prophet of the living God. This was the beginning of his journey and after several revelations, the visitations suddenly ceased. Muhammad was confounded; he had been told he would be a messenger but was still unclear as to what the message was. Troubled by this, his heart was heavy that perhaps the cessation of the visits meant he was no longer in God’s favor. Yet fortunately for him, this silence from the Divine would be short lived and once again Gabriel did indeed appear to him to clarify the previous revelations into one, concrete, unifying message that all the previous prophets and wise men of the ancient world had brought before him; there is but One God.
It’s important to understand that to someone like Muhammad, who was grieved in his heart to see his people divided, this message was certainly Divine. All of the pain, the suffering, the war, the bigotry, the death, and oppression around him could be laid to the charge of a multiplicity of gods which kept the Arabians in a state of splintered separation. The message of a singular God of all mankind was the solution, not only to the civil problems of his day but the spiritual problems as well. If many gods had kept mankind at each other’s throats, the Truth of the One God could unite them. And which God was Muhammad proclaiming? The God of Abraham; who the Jews claimed to serve, and who the Christians believe Jesus came to restore mankind back to.
After Muhammad began preaching his message of unity it was welcomed by Arabians, Christians, and Jews alike. The term Muslim was simply coined to indicate those who worship the One True God, therefore Jews and Christians are Muslim…whether they like it or not. Now the people who were being oppressed by organized religions and their priest classes could all bypass the dogma of tradition and worship together in peace. This was a wonderful opportunity for everyone…except for those whose wealth, respect and power derived from the worship of a pantheon of gods; namely the tribal chiefs who advanced in life through warfare.
As the message of peace and unity began to spread throughout Mecca the tribal chiefs didn’t hesitate to persecute those thinking outside the box of the Arabian social structure and eventually their sights were set on Muhammad himself. With the threat of assassination of himself and his adherents looming, Muhammad relocated to Medina where the message of Islam (or peace) was allowed to flourish for a time. In that time the first mosque was built where all ethnicities and schools of monotheistic thought were practiced freely which allowed the quality of life to improve both economically as well as spiritually. As people began to abandon the old, primitive ways of tribalism and idolatry they flocked to Medina seeking freedom for themselves and their families. This of course did not sit well with the pantheistic tribal chiefs who were beginning to lose their stature and prestige among the people. In order to finally put an end to what was turning out to be their demise; they assembled an army with the intent of eradicating the Muslims and its founder at Medina. In order to defend his people and city from destruction, Muhammad began to assemble his adherents into an army as well, though they would be outnumbered greatly by the tribes amassing on the outskirts of Medina.
After what was deemed a miraculous victory against unimaginable odds, Muhammad’s message went supernova and Arabians, Christians and Jews from all over flooded to the small army and in short time they had grown to quite a formidable force. With this upturn in fortune, Muhammad lead his army to the city of Mecca where they did the unexpected and rather than kill, rape, and pillage; they spared the inhabitants of the city as they rode straight to the Kabba. This ancient structure was said to have been built by Abraham himself as the first monument to the God of the old testament, yet in Muhammad’s time it was surrounded by the idols of gods which up until then had kept the Arabians at odds with one another in civil war. The army of Muslims rode around the Kaaba seven times, breaking down the idols and forever uniting the Arabian into one united people. It was proclaimed after the destruction of the idols that God is One and the Muslim faith was solidified in history forever. The rest of Muhammad’s days (which would only be for another eleven years or so) were lived out in peace as he preached the message of Islam. His words would be transcribed into written text in what we know today as the Koran.
Now that we have a better understanding of the origins of Islam, we should take a moment to refresh in our minds a concept which is automatic for rational seekers of the Truth. How do we determine the validity of a message or a faith? If the source of a message is preaching peace and tolerance, yet some or even all of its adherents promote violence and intolerance do those in contradiction invalidate the source? Or does the source stand, and the misunderstood or abusers of a message become invalid? There is no doubt that a small minority of people who claim to be Muslim have exhibited actions which are vile and reprehensible, but on the same token, who would suggest that that the Spanish inquisition was brought to you by Jesus of Nazareth? No, a thinking person would have to dismiss the notion that the misguided get to define the message of those before them, yet we do not live in a thinking society these days do we?
Notice that our little trek back into history was devoid of an evangelical presence, and this is so because evangelical Christianity simply didn’t exist. No, it was still in the backbone of papa pope and would not be shot forth until more than a century later. So the evangelical cannot claim that Islam has been antagonistic to it since its foundation because this would be an affront to historical fact. Wherein, then, lies the spark of conflict between the worlds three great religions? To discover this we will need to do some further exploring in the pages of history.