Why is that no one seems to mind if Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Jews or nominal Christians use a Chapel in Duke or Washington D.C., but when Muslims want to do so, the gloves come off? Based on a survey by LifeWay Research, nearly half of pastors surveyed agreed that ISIS represents the true nature of Islam. Here are five things about Islamophobia in Church.
Taking theological cues from the news: Americans are inundated with hate-filled media, demonizing all Muslims because of the actions of a few. Many conservative “Christian” websites and blogs have jumped on this bandwagon, playing on the fears and emotions of the Church.
Syncretism between nationalism and faith: Politically-motivated organizations have become increasingly hateful toward Muslims and are well-funded in their efforts. Too many Christians have been captivated by a misguided call for patriotism that asks them to oppose Islam as part of their faith. It should concern us when a pastor who says, “convert them or kill them” is invited to be the keynote speaker at a political leadership conference.
We have forgotten who the enemy is: We must remember that Islam is not the enemy. Scripture is clear: our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the evil one (Eph.6). He is cunning and will use anything he can to keep people from knowing Jesus. Are Muslims more depraved than others? Groups like ISIS are evil, but why does that surprise us? This type of behavior isn’t new and it didn’t begin with Islam.
Stay out of our churches: Some years ago, a denomination’s city headquarters called the Zwemer Center to ask if we would conduct a seminar titled “What to do if a Muslim comes into your Church.” We suggested a few tips for reaching out to Muslims but discovered they had something else in mind. They wanted ideas on how to gently remove Muslims from the building–if they showed up.
Stay out of our chapels: There are some who believe that if a Muslim prays somewhere it means they have conquered it. Not true. Which American citizens should not have access to freedom of religion?
Islam isn’t the problem, we are. One big problem is the President’s statement, “no religion condones killing of innocents.” It implies that true believers (whatever religion) never condone killing although every religion, at one time or the other has done so … it is the nature of humanity.” We should not say Islam is inherently peaceful or violent. Islam is much more complex than that.
Christians and Muslims in America have an image problem. The rest of the world sees us as intolerant, belligerent, prideful, nationalistic, and extremist. As the daughter of Christian and Muslim parents, I feel like a kid stuck in a bad marriage, trying to salvage my parent’s reputation and begging them to get along. As a child I remember feeling conflicted in a home that followed two religions and suffering shame after the 1979 hostage crisis. Today I encounter this drama played out in our country.
Tragically, the Fort Hood massacre, along with 9-11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, perpetuate a climate of religious polarization. It has launched a backlash against innocent Muslims and made Christians look like bullies. It’s blurred the lines between many peaceful Muslims and a few dangerous ideologues; and many caring Christians and a few conspirators who use the church for political purposes.
We can’t afford to repeat the last decade. We desperately need a new generation of American Christian and Muslim leaders, who embody our nations’ decency, to stand up and show the world that we can overcome our fury and work toward reconciliation, accountability and mutual respect. Most importantly, America needs leaders to remind the public, in a fresh and relevant way, of Jesus’ teachings to love our neighbors (even if they feel like enemies). Military containment, humanitarian work, and hard borders, however, will not be enough. We must sow seeds of trust and confidence.
When Zwemer was asked to be the keynote speaker at the very first Urbana missions conference in 1946 (before it was called “Urbana”), he chose the theme “The Cross in Christ’s Commission.” This was seven years into his “retirement,” and six years before his death.
World War II had just ended the year before. The world was reeling under the uncertainties of atomic weapons and how the new antagonistic superpowers would go forward. Zwemer began his message,
All of Christendom and the best thinkers of the non-Christian world face the New Year with deep forebodings and a consciousness of crisis. It may be doubted whether there has ever been a time when the Christian church was beset by so many and such powerful foes. . . . Everywhere we read of persecution, closing of doors, bitter opposition, the patience of unanswered prayer, or the flaming sword of martyrdoms. The Christian church is under fire in a hostile world — a world of disillusionment and hopelessness.
This was seventy years ago. It reminds us that there never has been an ideal time for a great missionary movement. The time is always now. Into this setting, Zwemer spoke the only message that he believed could carry the day in such a world: the message of the cross…
If “the Roll were called up yonder” today would our work on earth be done? COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. Lockdowns, failed businesses, crashing stock markets, soaring unemployment, and church closures have some Christians in these parts wondering if we are already in the End Times. There is a lot to lament these days, but we must also ask what God wants to accomplish in the midst of such tough times…