Here’s some of what President Obama said when he turned historian and theologian last Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast.
As we speak, around the world, we see faith inspiring people to lift up one another — to feed the hungry and care for the poor, and comfort the afflicted and make peace where there is strife . . .
But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith . . . for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism — terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.
So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religion for their own murderous ends?
Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ . . .
So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.
The President’s “high horse” remark received stunned reactions. Mine is this: doesn’t he seem to be defending Islam (without using the word) by putting Islam and Christianity on the same playing field? Paraphrase: Muslims aren’t the only ones committing terrible deeds in the name of Allah; Christians did the same during the Crusades, the Inquisition, and slavery in the name of Christ.
Agreed. And we Christians generally have confessed our sins. We’ve acknowledged that we disobeyed our Lord and fell far short of his righteousness when we used the sword against people of different faith or color. When we bombed or burned or persecuted others different from us we acted contrary to Christ. But we also argue that when ISIS tortures and murders non-Muslims or fellow Muslims they are acting consistent with the Quran. For the President to imply differently was to reveal (at best) an ignorant view of history and blinded view of Islamist theology.
THE CRUSADES. For the sake of time, let’s take just the Crusades. Here’s a sketch of their history from “The Real History of the Crusades”, by Thomas F. Madden, associate professor and chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University–http://oldarchive.godspy.com/issues/Real-History-of-Crusades-by-Thomas-Madden.cfm.html.
Muslims divide the world into “the Abode of Islam” and “the Abode of War.” In traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be conquered. From the time of Mohammed, the sword was the method of choice conquering. Throughout the 7th century Muslims made the entire Mediterranean world, which was generally “Christian”, their target. Palestine, Syria and Egypt, once heavily Christian, became Muslim. By the eighth century, Islamists conquered North Africa. In the 11th century Turkey, which had been Christian since the time of Paul, fell. That defeat prompted the emperor in Constantinople to desperately seek help from Christians in western Europe. The Crusades were born.
Pope Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals: (1) rescue Christians of the East and (2) liberate Jerusalem and other places “holy” to Christ. Muslims who lived in territory the Crusaders conquered were often allowed to keep their property and religion. Of course, the Crusades were wars and much blood was shed. But, essentially they were defensive actions against invading Muslims.
A few days ago the Wall Street Journal reported that Christians in Iraq are taking up arms to protect families and property from ISIS. Are they right? Were the Crusaders right? However we answer one thing is clear: the Middle Ages’ Crusaders fought a defensive war, as are Iraqi Christians today. Whatever atrocities were committed or are committed, they are contrary to Christ, as we shall see. First, however, let’s look at how torture and beheadings are consistent with the Quran.
THE QURAN. Since I’ve read only portions of the Quran, I will use TheRealReligionofPeace.com as resource. The Quran contains 109 verses that call Muslims to go to war with unbelievers so Islam may reign. Unlike God’s commands to kill the Canaanites in the Old Testament, the Quran’s commands have no historical context. They are the unchanging for-all-times-and-places word of Allah. “Unfortunately, there are very few verses of tolerance and peace to abrogate or even balance out the many that call for nonbelievers to be fought and subdued until they either accept humiliation, convert to Islam, or are killed.” Here is a sampling of such verses . . .
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Bukhari (52:177–“Allah’s Apostle said, ‘The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.”‘”
- Bukhari (8:387)–“Allah’s Apostle said, ‘I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: “None has the right to be worshiped but Allah! And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Zibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally.”‘”
- Bukhari (11:626)–[Muhammad said:] “I decided to order a man to lead the prayer and then take a flame to burn all those who had not left their houses for the prayer, burning them alive inside their homes.”
- Tabari 7:97–“The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, ‘Kill any Jews who fall under your power.'”
Though the majority of Muslims overlook or “interpret away” these teachings, they remain obvious commands to torture and murder. As we’ve seen “extreme Islamists” behead “infidels” on TV news, we’ve seen them act consistent with their holy book.
THE BIBLE. Jewish lawyer: Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus: What is written in the Law?
Lawyer: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus: You have answered correctly.
Lawyer: And who is my neighbor?
Jesus goes on to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan, then . . .
Jesus: Which of these three [travelers] proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?
Lawyer: The one who showed him mercy.
Jesus: You go, and do likewise.
Love your neighbor. Show mercy to the needy, even if he’s an enemy. Not only did Jesus teach love, he died with a love-prayer for his crucifiers on his lips: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The contrast between Christianity and Islam is startling. Muslims are to kill, Christians are to love. Muslims left a path of human blood throughout the Middle East; Christians are leaving a path of Christ-like love throughout the world. When we killed Muslims during the Crusades we acted contrary to Christ’s teachings; when Muslims kill “infidels” they act consistently with Mohammad’s.
MR. PRESIDENT: We are not on a “high horse.” We’re humbly confessing our sins to our Lord Jesus Christ and, with the help of his grace, we are committed to love our neighbors and our enemies. We haven’t achieved perfection, but love is our direction. Here’s a question I ask respectfully: “Would you rather live in a world populated and governed by Muslims committed to the violent teachings of Mohammad or in a world populated and governed by Christians committed to the loving teachings of Christ?”