Muslim and Western Views on Money
Phil Parshall compares differing approaches to finances.
Phil Parshall compares differing approaches to finances.
Let me turn to what the Bible has to say about speech to see if it supports absolute freedom of speech, limited free speech, or something else. Here are five passages that help us understand how God wants us to speak:
1. Ephesians 4:29—Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Interpretation: While we are free to speak, we should consider the effect on others. We need to ask if it will be experienced as grace by those who hear it.
Application to Garland, TX: Would Muslims–or anyone, for that matter–hear Pamela Geller’s exercise of free speech as giving grace? Did her speech build up or tear down? How people hear speech is surely relevant in deciding whether it promotes grace and avoids a corrupting influence.
2. Colossians 4:6—Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Interpretation: Again, God offers the “gracious test.” The salt image suggests that speech should be pleasing to the one who hears it.
Application to Garland, TX: Does Geller’s speech pass this test and did hearers experience it this way? Is there a way to speak truth so as to increase the likelihood that it be taken graciously?
3. James 3:10—Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Interpretation: It seems that part of what we say can be praising and part can be cursing, but God doesn’t want us to mix them.
Application to Garland, TX: Is it possible that Geller rightfully praises freedom of speech and at the same time uses the kind of speech that incites violence? Is it possible that mixing the two pollutes praise? Does her way to praising freedom of speech end in death and dilute the beauty of her love for freedom of speech?
4. Proverbs 15:1—A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Interpretation: This is quite clear. Gentle speech increases the likelihood of dissipating anger, whereas harsh words tend to stir up anger.
Application to Garland, TX: Isn’t this exactly what happened? The harsh exercise of free speech stirred up violent anger. In other verses, God acknowledges that we will get angry, but wants us to control it, and not to hang on to it. Geller’s free speech was hateful and angry and this resulted in an even angrier response.
5. 1 Peter 3:9—Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Interpretation: These are difficult words. As much as we may want to respond to anger with anger, evil with evil and insult with insult, we are told not to do so. Holding our tongue and controlling our actions lead to blessing. The words and actions of radical Muslims are evil, and while we are tempted to respond with anger and insult, that is not in keeping with God’s will. When that happens we fail to be the people God would have us be. We must not use the evil of others to justify our own anger and insulting speech.
Application to Garland, TX: A better exercise of free speech might have been to get people together, pray for radicals, and offer loving words. At the same time we should renounce the evil to which we are all prone. Why? Because fire added to fire will surely burn the house down, and too many houses have already been destroyed by fire.
Pamela Geller, and those who drew insulting pictures of Muhammad, are guaranteed the right to do so by the U.S. Constitution. But those who love God and desire to follow his word prefer a different response. We desire to draw a loving picture of Jesus and offer it to radical Muslims regardless of their response. It isn’t easy, but we are take up our cross and follow him. “Easy” is not the word I would use to describe the picture of Jesus on the cross.
Several times recently I have been asked by concerned Christians questions along the lines of “will Muslims take over in the UK/the West?” or “how should we respond to the violence of Jihadists/ Islamic State etc?”. My precise answer depends upon the circumstances but is usually along the lines of “keep calm and think biblically”!
What do I mean? There is a danger that we allow our thinking to be manipulated by the secular media or the agenda of people who want to scare us into supporting their particular cause. So here are five suggestions for a calm and biblical approach to Islam and current world events:
This battle between fear and love was clearly demonstrated in several experiences when I visited churches wearing a headscarf. An older gentleman at the first church visited, who was a greeter at the church, was not able to recover from his fear after seeing a woman wearing a hijab approaching the church. As a result, he blatantly ignored me, which came across as very unloving. In this instance, fear drove out love. On the other hand, at the second church visited, a woman was hesitant at first and kept her distance. She was uncertain as to how to react, but eventually she made the decision to allow love to triumph over fear. Although she initially sat at a distance from me, she eventually moved down to sit directly beside me, engaged her in conversation, and hugged me before leaving. In this case, love drove out fear. In another scenario, I walked into a large lobby and was clearly confused as to which direction to go for the service. At least three greeters and volunteers stood around and watched me, clearly lost. Evidently the volunteers were scared or unsure of what to do, so they did not help, and instead let the me wander around. In contrast, at the fourth church visited, I was once again lost, but this time a greeter overcame fear and helped. He personally gave me a tour of the entire church so I would know how to find my way around. Lastly, at the first church, when instructed to greet those nearby, a woman half-turned toward the me, but upon seeing the the hijab she hesitated and almost turned back around. Fortunately, she managed to overcome fear and made the decision to greet the me despite her initial uncertainty.
Undoubtedly, there are many motivations besides religious zeal that inspire gunmen in Texas, Charlie Hebdo terrorists in France, and ISIS in Iraq who deface historical images, but their justification is the same. It is rooted in Islam’s rejecting any depictions of their prophet–or of God. They cling to that stance for the same reason I wanted to shield Prem from a picture of Jesus. They see it as a stumbling block that pulls people towards sinful idolatry. Islam was born in a region rife with polytheism and idolatry, so like Judaism, Islam reacts against them. Though the Qur’an doesn’t specifically address prophetic images, it does reject pictures of God: “Behold! He said to his father [Abraham] and his people, ‘what are these images to which you are so assiduously devoted?’ They said, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ He said, ‘Indeed, you have been in manifest error – you and your fathers” (21:52-54). Also, the Hadith (sayings of Muhammad), upon which much Islamic law is based, warns against images for the same reason.
Muslims, however, are not alone in forbidding or destroying religious imagery. In fact, during the aftermath of the horrific killings of the Charlie Hebdo staff, some French may have recalled 16th century iconoclastic riots in France in which Calvinist Protestants (Huguenots) rioted and killed clergy in their zeal to rid the land of religious images. They were inspired in part by John Calvin, who wrote extensively on images in the Institutes (1.11), and warned that depictions of divine figures have a tendency to tempt followers toward idolatry: “Since this brute stupidity gripped the whole world–to pant after visible figures of God, and thus to form gods of wood, stone, gold, silver or other dead and corruptible matter–we must cling to this principle: God’s glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to Him.”