5 Reasons The “Draw Muhammad” Contest is Unbiblical
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.
During the 5th Crusade St. Francis undertook what most considered a senseless and foolhardy mission: convert the most powerful Muslim in the world. So radical was the Sultan he had promised a Byzantine gold piece for anyone who brought the head of a Christian. He was “treacherous, brainless and false hearted,” but where others saw the face of evil, Francis saw a man without the Savior and compassion welled up inside of him.
As Francis and his trusted friend Illumimato walked onto the battlefield, they were caught, beaten and brought to the Sultan who was happy because he thought they wanted to become Muslims. “On the contrary,” said Francis, “We have a message that you should surrender your soul to God.” Thus he proclaimed the Triune God and Jesus Christ the Savior of all. The Sultan did not convert for it was he who retook Jerusalem. By God’s grace St. Francis was not killed but that possibility did not deter him.
In these perilous times, when radical Islam is carrying out horrific acts of violence, Christians must reach out to Muslims with courage and compassion. We must understand their concerns and engage with them in witness. Most Muslims wake up with no church, no Bible, and no one to tell them about the Way, the Truth and the Life. Five times a day from countless minarets in their midst, they hear God is great, but who will tell them God is love?
6 Things Christians can Learn from Muslims about Prayer
Pakistani Muslims, like their counterparts around the globe, bow to pray. Prayer is living and it involves motion and movement. There is a specific posture to each phase of the prayer. They stand, bow deeply, lower their foreheads to the floor, and sit. Pakistani Muslims understand intuitively the deep connection between body and soul and spirit. Their whole bodies are involved as they prostrate themselves humbly before God. They know they were created to worship and for them prayer is worship. The older I get the more I am realizing the profound truth that was modeled for me as a child. We are whole people. Our bodies are not disconnected from our inner reality. We go together, my body and I. As I watched Pakistanis, with their heads lowered before God, as they kept their bodies in line with their spirits, in seeming submission, I was challenged to bring my own self in alignment. Nowadays I occasionally raise my hands in supplication. Often I sit. Occasionally I pace out my petitions, walking back and forth before the Holy Throne of God. Often I kneel. Occasionally I bow face down before God, acting out what is true—that He is God and I am not. My prayers are directed to a Living God and often they are moving and motional.
My entire theology on prayer expanded as I watched with childlike curiosity my neighbors pray. For them, prayer wasn’t static and quietly compartmentalized. Prayer was a part of every single day. There were no exceptions. If you were in the middle of something, you stopped to pray. If you were busy and distracted, you were called back to prayer. No one was exempt: the rich prayed, the poor prayed, the villager prayed, the city dweller prayed, the tribal elder prayed, the plains person prayed. They were a praying people and that influenced me in significant ways. Prayer became for me a normal requisite to a normal day.
Pakistanis also understood the benefit of community in collective accountability. It was assumed: you pray, I pray, we all pray. Business contracts were paused while prayer mats were unrolled. Conversations over tea, kitchen gossip, homework all took a break for prayer. If your brother-in-law wasn’t praying you knew something was amiss. Everyone prayed. I love that community element. I love the structure that provides for a populace. There is routine and rhythms built around the call to prayer. It was this measured out, predictable schedule that warmed my heart to liturgical prayer. The stage of my heart was set for the high church’s loyalty to traditional written prayers. I love that those words have rung out in churches around the world and around the centuries. What stability is procured in that! I’ve always been intrigued by the monastic commitment to praying the liturgical hours. This official set of prayers marks the hours of each day and sanctifies the day with prayer: There is regularity in it. There is holy rhythm and purposeful pacing.
The muezzin begins with a recitation of the Islamic creed. Millions of Muslims repeat back to themselves, no less than five times a day, what they believe to be true. There is great benefit in learning this lesson from our Muslim friends. We have the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. What if we too deliberately remembered what is true? What if we recited back to our weary-from-life souls the character of God, his faithfulness, his sacrifice, his provision? Imagine the reassurance that might wash over our reactive emotions, our crises, our desperations, our superficial happiness? We could learn a lot from this repetition of doctrine throughout each of our days.
Growing up, I watched a whole community decide collectively to connect with God. They were given regular opportunities to have their obsessions with fickle and frail things pried away. I would love to claim that I learned this lesson as a child. I did not. But as I think of it now and reflect on it more, I wish I had. How often I’m distracted! How often I forget to remember my living connection with the Living God. I wish to live spiritually connected to the God who loves me and initiated relationship with me. I long to live from that reality all day long! Punctuating my day with intentional prayer would certainly help.
The idea that we can talk to God baffles me and strikes me as marvelous. I firmly believe that every prayer need not start with “Dear God” and shouldn’t necessarily end with “Amen”. Some of our deepest groans and yearnings float up as prayer. A thought unbidden of a faraway friend surfaces memory and prayer. To-do lists sighed over are heard by our kind Father as the true prayers of our overwhelmed hearts. Tears and sorrows become intercessions and laments. If we bounce our hearts up to the divine we live out our prayers. I watched my Pakistani Muslim friends stop, toward the end of their ritual prayers, for the silent session of “dua”. This was the space in their recitations for them to lift up their hearts in prayer. They prayed for whatever was on their minds: a sick relative, a final exam, a financial need.
Around 1.6 billion Muslims inhabit the world today, and an estimated three to seven million reside in the United States. Despite the fact that Muslims are the largest unreached people group, only 2% of Protestant Christian missionaries are engaging the Muslim world. In fact, 86% of Muslims globally have not had personal contact with a Christian, which equates to only one in seven Muslims having met a Christian. Clearly, Christians who live in the United States have a tremendous opportunity to minister to the millions of Muslims residing in the United States. Thus, it is perplexing as to why the 257 million Christians in the US seem reluctant to engage this prime mission field even though it is in their own backyard.
Muslims’ experience in the US has been shaped by many factors, but none could be more significant than September 11, 2001. The Muslim population had kept a relatively quiet profile in the US, but all of that changed on 9/11. Jackleen Salem explains, “The political situation in the Middle East has always impacted Muslims in America, from the Six Day War in 1967 to the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. But it was 9/11 that put the spotlight on Muslims in America unlike it had ever been before.” Although unease around Muslims existed perhaps before 9/11, this feeling of discomfort seemed to morph into outright fear overnight.
LifeWay surveyed one thousand Americans and one thousand senior pastors in America. In reference to the study, USA Today reported, “What might be most notable about the LifeWay surveys is the strikingly harder views on Islam among clergy compared with Americans at large.” To begin, 27% of Americans believe that “ISIS is a true indication of what Islam looks like when Islam controls a society.” On the other hand, 45% percent of Protestant pastors agree with the statement, and 51% of evangelical pastors. Similarly, 37% of Americans are concerned about the implementation of sharia law in the US, and even more evangelical Christians are concerned about it (51%). Further supporting this idea, one Christian woman wrote on her survey for this paper, “I do not understand Sharia law above our country’s law.” Moreover, 76% of Protestant preachers in the LifeWay research agree with the statement “airstrikes against ISIS are needed to protect Christians.” Sherman A. Lee suggests this harsh perception perhaps stems from many Christians viewing Islam as the “enemy of Christianity.” In the end, these studies seem to suggest that not only is prejudice toward Muslims in existence among the general population of America, but perhaps even to a greater degree among American Christians.