Expand

When Christians Speak of Violence in Islam

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, we need to reevaluate our assumptions of Islam.

The recent bombing attacks in Boston have once again raised the cry across the internet, rehearsing the perceived violence of Islam. In several recent discussions, some well-intentioned Christians have repeated the mantra that the Quran is filled with commands to commit violence against non-Muslims. Islam, they say, is an inherently bloodthirsty faith. Commonly cited as empirical fact are screeds such as this one: “The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.”

It is important to note that these statements are made by people and on websites whose express purpose is to “expose” or “correct” the claim that Islam is a peaceful religion. Frequently, such sites manifest considerable antipathy toward Islam and Muslims … as the homepage banner on one of these websites, for example, describes Islam as “one really messed up religion.” To put it kindly, the source of this purportedly objective information is not remotely unbiased.

The fundamental truth is that it takes a person of faith to accurately interpret the texts of that faith.

For anyone interested, I propose an experiment:

  1. Find an atheist. Not just an unbeliever, but someone who really hates Jesus.

  2. Have that person start with the assumption that Christianity is a violent religion.

  3. Now have him go through the Bible looking for proof of his preconception about our violence. Be sure he doesn’t overlook the places where “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13.14) celebrates the orphaning and widowing of his enemies’ families (Psalm 109:8-10). Be sure he lingers over the various causes of stoning people to death, and the genocides of the Pentateuch and Judges.

Check how many violent verses, from Genesis (or at least Exodus) to Revelation, your anti-theist finds. Now convince him you worship a God of love and peace.

I hope you would object—“But you have to understand the historical and literary context for those verses … progressive revelation, the nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ, old and new covenants, etc. No one can fully understand those things who has not studied them in a perspective of submission to the God who inspired them.” I agree. This is a perfectly reasonable objection, whether you’re talking about the Bible or the Quran. The fundamental truth is that it takes a person of faith to accurately interpret the texts of that faith. If I want to know what the Bible means, I’ll ask a Christian, not a Muslim. If I want to know what the Vedas mean, I’ll ask a Hindu. If I want to know what the Quran means, I’ll ask a Muslim.

Furthermore, sola scriptura biblicist that I am, it is still true that to understand a faith or a “religion”—for all the backlash this word often receives—requires more than merely dispassionate study of its texts (or even passionate study, for that matter). Whatever one thinks of the thing called “Christianity,” one cannot really know it without interacting with a Christian–or many different Christians. The community, the rituals, even some of the language, and yes, the sacred texts, are unintelligible without a knowledgeable insider to function as an interpreter. If you don’t know any Christians, you don’t know Christianity. If you don’t know any Muslims, you don’t know Islam.

We would also do well to remember that our Lord said “blessed are the peacemakers.”

I am not suggesting there isn’t a whole lot of horrible violence committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. There is. One doesn’t have to be a Glenn Beck devotee to see the headlines. But when other Muslims I know and trust tell me that those violent, radical Muslims are abusing and even breaking the Quran, I believe them. Why do I believe them? Because I have seen plenty of violent, radical Christians abusing and violating my own holy scriptures as a pretext to commit terrible acts. Why should I expect it to be any different to other religions?

We should be in the business of entering into meaningful relationships with Muslims to show the love of Christ, but when we level accusations of violence at their deeply-held beliefs, we do our cause a great disservice. It is possible to be convinced of the rightness of the Gospel without accusing other religions of inherent violence. Our efforts to show Muslims—and the world—the love of Christ must be based on the truth, not assumptions or baseless, hurtful stereotypes.

We must oppose the bearing of false witness against our neighbors, and against those we style as our enemies. But even that isn’t enough. It grieves me deeply that when arguments such as the “109 violent verses” are used, they are usually in the context of opposing Muslims who are trying to make peace with Christians, or opposing Christians who are trying to make peace with Muslims. This is not only tragic, it’s monumentally counter-effective. We should welcome anyone who extends an olive branch to anybody else. To whatever extent any Muslim is a threat to me, it’s not the one who is preaching peace from the Quran who poses that threat.

We would also do well to remember that our Lord said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He did not qualify that phrase with the adjective “Christian.” Neither, I believe, should we.

This article was originally published on nailtothedoor.com. Re-posted with permission.

39 Comments

Mike Lupe

2

Mike Lupe commented…

Re: violence in the bible,

Not to mention that God required his son to be violently tortured, slain and hung like a carcass.

mkbarron .

1

mkbarron . commented…

Lupe,

Christ gave his life in that manner willingly, God didn't make anyone do anything.

on the OT: The old testament is the story of israel learning to be without a king. It isn't as simple as "God was a mean old SOB and then he got all nice and stuff with Jesus." What you see in the OT is that it was HARD LEARNING for Israel. Israel is translated: "The one who wrestles with God."

I say we need to quit being sympathetic to Muslim scripture. I don't have anything personal against anyone of any faith, but their scriptures are the complete antithesis of Xianity. If they follow the Quran, they shouldn't even believe that Christ died, which is absolutely preposterous and is not doubted by any serious scholar today.

Tyree Smith

2

Tyree Smith commented…

As Christians, for us to cast judgement on another religion (as a whole) for abusing their scriptures would be very hypocritical, because we do it daily. We must understand that these individuals will not always accurately interpret scripture. Love is what will bring more clarity to them, not accusation.

Josh Reading

1

Josh Reading commented…

There is a fatal flaw in this article and that is the assumption that the person you speak to is 'representative' of Islam, and their 'take' is what is historically recognised by Islamic Scholars. The simple fact is historically, violent jihad is embraced by the vast majority of scholars. The western version of Islam is also frequently made more palatable. (this is also the case with Christianity)

Non-Christians have the right to ask hard questions about violence in the Old Testament to Christians (who should be able to answer them on some level) and non-Muslims have the right to ask Muslims about the violence in the Quran and not take simple proof texts as rebuff (ie. no compulsion often used)

I absolutely agree with giving mercy and grace in discussions however theological justification from the Quran and Hadith is very strong when speaking of this level of violence. It is not a co-incidence that studies 15 - 25 percent of Muslims are supportive of such violent jihad, more a dismissive or happy to qualify such given the right circumstance.

Accusation does not help when speaking but neither does naivety - be informed - actually read what historical scholars say about violent jihad not simply what tv scholarship says. Do you trust TV evangelists of the Christian variety?

Philip Feeley

1

Philip Feeley commented…

The objections the author has to the arguments about Islam being a violent religion (compared to Judaism and Christianity) are dealt with by a Muslim, Irshad Manji in her book "The Trouble with Islam Today". Strong criticism from a woman who remains a Muslim.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In