Saturday, June 30, 2007

Facts not Fear

A reader of this blog, Rev Jim Sutter, has offered an interesting comment on one of my posts.

He is more optimistic than I am about the peacefulness of Islam, but in all fairness, one should read the statements of Islamic leaders RE terror and violence. But I wouls say that one should be quite careful in evaluating these statements. First: the use of dishonesty for securing the victory of Islam is sanctioned in Islam (taqiyye, taqiyya--which I have written about on this blog, feel free to query). Also, since Muhammad used violence in a rather robust manner to further his vision of God's power and sovereignty, violence cannot be said to be un-Islamic. That would indeed be heresy.

Here is a portion of one of his comments, with the link:

As to specific denunciations from thousands upon thousands of Muslim leaders worldwide, including fatwas against terrorism, violence, suicide bombing, militant jihad, and perverting the Qur'an and hadiths, you can find a compilation of these at

Parts IV and V: Islam: Religion Plus

I wrote this a while ago, but have not yet published it on the blog, and I think it is quite helpful for understanding Islam. It is, of course, simplified and lacking in some of the nuance and specificity a longer work would contain, but it is meant to be only a crude and simple introduction and corrective to the Western understanding that Islam is a religion and nothing more.

Enjoy. As always comments are welcome:

Islam: Religion Plus (Part IV)

There are two central aspects of Islam that folks in the West tend to misunderstand. Because of these two flaws in our understanding we continue to make decisions and take actions that are ineffective or counterproductive in the Dar al Islam.

The second thing is the relation of power to grace. But the first thing, which is related to the second, is that Islam, properly speaking, is not simply a religion, but an entire civilization. Islam is a holistic and organic system of life that includes very specific regulations and laws regarding everything from inheritance to divorce, investing to commerce, and—here is sticking point—regulations regarding government.

Muhammad was the civil and religious ruler of the Umma (the Islamic nation) at the time of his death. Since a prophet gains immunity against sin once he has been called by God, he can do no wrong. This certainly gets around the messiness of dividing and distributing power, which the founders of the USA attempted to do. But there is a problem: original sin. For all have sinned! There is not one righteous, no not one!

Christianity has flirted with the union of all civil and religious power under one person, specifically in the idea of the Holy Roman Emperor, who was considered by some to be rex et sacerdos—King and Priest. But overall we have tended to separate the two spheres in some way or another.

For traditionally-minded Muslims, the idea of separating the two kinds of authority is unnatural and an affront to the human person, who is at once a political and religious being. Before you dismiss this insight, let me point out that the so-called alternative (secularism) is running into great problems nowadays. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to figure out where to draw the line between the religious person and the political person—as Islam rightly argues. Does the line exclude a prayer before Congress meets? Does the line exclude students from bringing Bibles into public schools? Does the line exclude atheists from holding public office? What about Satan worshippers? My point is simply that Islam has a good point here: the human being is at once political and religious, reflecting the unity (tawheed, wahda) within God. So any attempt to divide the two spheres must be, to some extent, artificial, mutable, and provisional.

But what is a religion? This might seem like a simple question, but in fact it is very difficult to answer. Christians in the USA these days like to say that Christianity is a relationship (with Christ), not a religion. I appreciate the sentiment behind that statement, but it is in reality totally false. A religion, speaking generally, is any system of beliefs and practices that teach people(s) how to relate to Ultimate Reality (what we call God). So the very idea that Christianity is relational is a very religious idea: we should relate to God personally, not impersonally; or personally, and not communally. Some people say they are spiritual and not religious—I used to say that. Now I say I am very religious. Let people draw their own conclusions.

Islam teaches that part of the relationship between the political ruler and the religious ruler is all encompassed within the submission, yielding, sublimination, or surrender (various translations of the Arabic word islam) that must characterize the community and person before God and his Prophet. So to those who say that Christianity is a personal relationship, not a religion, the traditional Muslim replies that Islam is a political relationship, not just a religion.

Islam: Religion Plus (Part V)

In Part IV of this series I established that Islam is more than just a religion, according to Western standards, which allow for a separation of religion and state. Islam contains within its teaching regarding the relations and duties of man before God a very specific political order. What is it?

It is the caliphate. The Arabic word xalifa (caliph) means “successor [of the Prophet].” When God appointed Mohammad to be the Prophet who would bring the incorrupt and incorruptible revelation from God, he also chose him to be a ruler over the Umma. The caliphate existed in one form or another through the 20th century (1924), lastly within the Ottoman Empire (whose successor is Turkey). Devout Muslims therefore long for and must work for the restoration of the caliphate. This was precisely the desire of Abu Mussab al Zaraqawi (a Jordanian mujahid), recently deceased. He was a devout and good Muslim. This may seem like a troubling statement, but in reality his devotion to his religion extended far beyond my own devotion to my religion, and probably yours as well. He was working to restore the caliphate, to unite all Muslim people into one Umma that would unite all the nation states of Islam. In his willingness to use violence as a means of ushering in God's gracious and righteous reign he was following Muhammad's pattern of life (sunna).

In fact, the existence of nation states is reprehensible to devout Muslims. They run against a central tenet of Islam: that there are only two religious-political entities in the world: Dar al Islam (House of Islam) and Dar al Harb (House of War). The vision of conservative Muslims (it is an error to call them fundametalists) is to bring all Muslim peoples into one entity. The combined power would be capable of completing the effort (jihad) of making the peoples of the world submitters (muslims) to God’s rule.

In other words, God’s grace is manifest not in bread and wine and water and oil (as in our religion), but in political rule. Political-religious rule is how God reveals his grace and goodness to the world. It is how he works to restore justice and peace and order to the world. Until that rule of God is completely restored, the Ummah must continue to exert effort (jihad) to work for that restoration and submission and surrender.

This is the good and glorious vision of Islam for the world. I do not agree with it, of course, which is why my family is devoted to evangelizing Muslims. My family and I want then to understand that true submission (islam) to God means submission to his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the image (iconos, in Greek) of the glory of God, as Paul said. If one rejects the Son, how can one say he accepts the Father? "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Greetings to Readers of Sacramentum Vitae!

Special thanks to Michael Liccione over at Sacramentum Vitae who posted a link to this blog.

I recommend starting with the recent article I wrote on the Islamic understanding of what the Gospel is (and is not):

The Gospel According to Muhammad

Mike said:

His observations are generally trenchant and illuminating, though many would not avoid scholarly and/or polemical quibbling.

Quibbling is welcome :-)

How the West was Lost

Just brilliant, but what else would you expect from Stein reviewing Dalrymple? Here it is, all of it:

How the West was Lost
by Mark Stein
The American Conservative

The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, Walter Laqueur, Thomas Dunne Books, 256 pages

by Theodore Dalrymple

Flying to Rotterdam recently, the largest and busiest port in the world, I was forcibly struck by the aerial view. I doubt there is a sight anywhere that is more eloquent testimony to the power of human intelligence and organization. Indeed, this applies to the whole of the Netherlands: a physically unpromising fragment of land, much of it reclaimed from the sea, has been diligently transformed into one of the globe’s most flourishing regions, whose economic product exceeds that of the whole of Africa.

The text accompanying a book of photographs of the Dutch landscape that I was given as a present is an unconscious witness to the country’s wealth. Extolling Dutch society’s fundamental egalitarianism, the text stated that in Holland you will not see expensive cars, only middle-of-the-range models. The examples given were Mercedeses and BMWs.

The Dutch are probably the best-educated people in the world (though middle-aged people complain, as everywhere else, that standards are falling). Many Dutch have a vocabulary in English that exceeds that of native speakers in Britain and America. And for many years, the Dutch prided themselves that theirs was a country in which nothing ever happened. The business of Holland was business—plus social security with a bit of anti-Calvinist decadence thrown in. The country was so tranquil, contented, and firmly established that, failing a rise in the level of the North Sea, it seemed the idyll would continue forever.

But a couple of political assassinations, unprecedented in Holland for more than 300 years, suddenly illuminated, as if by a flash of lightning, a darker aspect of reality—one that was not confined to Holland but was Europe-wide. In a very short space of time, complacency gave way to a nagging sense of doom.

It is Europe’s doom that Walter Laqueur explores and explains in this succinct and clearly written book. He does not say anything that others have not said before him, but he says it better and with a greater tolerance of nuance than some other works on this vitally important subject.

There are three threats to Europe’s future. The first comes from demographic decline. Europeans are simply not reproducing, for reasons that are unclear. They seem to care more about the ozone layer and carbon emissions than they do about the continuation of their own societies. Or perhaps bringing up children interferes with what they conceive to be the real business of life: taking lengthy annual holidays in exotic locations and other such pleasures.

The second threat comes from the presence of a sizable and growing immigrant population, a large part of which is not necessarily interested in integration. As the population ages, the need for immigrant labor increases, and among the main sources of such labor are North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. When I recently drove to Antwerp from the South of France, I thought I had arrived in Casablanca. There are parts of Brussels where the police are enjoined not to be seen eating or drinking during Ramadan. Similar accommodations are occurring all over Europe: in the Central Library in Birmingham, for example, I found a women-only table occupied exclusively by young Muslims dressed in the hijab. (They were the lucky ones, members of liberal households that allowed them out on their own.)

The third threat comes from the existence of the welfare state and the welfare-state mentality. A system of entitlements has been created that, however economically counterproductive, is politically difficult to dismantle: once privileges are granted, they assume the metaphysical status of immemorial and fundamental rights. The right of French train drivers to retire on full pension at the age of 50 is probably more important to them than the right of free speech—especially that of those who think that retirement at such an age is preposterous. While Europe mortgages its future to pay for such extravagances—the French public debt doubled in ten years under the supposedly conservative Chirac—other areas of the world forge an unbeatable combination of high-tech and cheap labor. The European political class, more than ever dissociated from its electorate, has hardly woken up to the challenge.

All this Laqueur lays out with exemplary clarity. He sees Europe, once the home of a dynamic civilization that energized the rest of the world, declining into a kind of genteel theme park—if it’s lucky. The future might be grimmer than this, of course: there might be a real struggle for power once the immigrants and their descendents become numerically strong enough to take on the increasingly geriatric native population.

As is to be expected in a relatively short book, the author does not explore matters in great depth. One interesting and important question is why Europeans have abjectly surrendered to the dishonest nostrums of multiculturalism. Why, for example, can a couple of Dutch children be told by their teacher to remove the Dutch flag from their school bags because it might offend children of Moroccan descent—who, it should be noted, are supposed to be Dutch citizens? Why, when I arrive in regional airports in Britain, do I see signs for British passport holders written in Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, and Hindi scripts, presumably for the benefit of British citizens who cannot read the Latin alphabet? Why do German courts rule that beating women is a religious right for Turks, just as terms such as “illegitimate children” have been banned from official usage as being denigratory and stigmatizing?

The answer surely lies in the shame of Europe’s recent past. The Dutch, for example, are aware that not only did many of them (or their parents and grandparents) collaborate enthusiastically with the Nazi occupiers, but no sooner was Holland liberated than it engaged in a bloody colonial war to try to retain the East Indies. Under these circumstances, reference to the extraordinary positive achievements of the country came to seem like chauvinism or worse, and no pride in Dutchness could be communicated to immigrants. The same, a fortiori, applies to Germany and even to Britain, whose enormous achievements intellectuals have long been deconstructing.

Only the French, with their republican model, have gone in for a salutary monoculturalism, but unfortunately their economic and social policies helped, if not to create, at least to maintain Muslim ghettoes. On one hand, the children of immigrants were told they were French; on the other, they were de facto excluded from the rest of society. Ferocious resentment was the result, and to coin a phrase, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Laqueur makes the important point that shortcomings of the host countries notwithstanding, many immigrant groups have thrived without difficulty. He might have added that they have all successfully overcome initial prejudice against them. There is no Sikh or Hindu problem in Britain; the country has recently absorbed half a million Poles without any obvious tension or difficulty. (Tony Blair, with his usual perspicuity, predicted that when Poland joined the European Union, 13,000 Poles would move to Britain.)

This suggests—and Laqueur has no hesitation in so saying—that there is a problem peculiar to the integration of Muslims in Western countries, at any rate, when they are in such large numbers that they are able to make whole areas their own. Imbued with a sense of their own religious superiority, which considers a Muslim way of life better than any other, they are ill-prepared to adapt constructively to Western society.

Yet adapt they do, though not necessarily in the best way. The young men of the second generation adopt many aspects of American ghetto “culture,” which in conjunction with Islamic teaching and tradition, enables them to dominate women in a way that is to them extremely gratifying. This prevents the women (who, as Laqueur tells us, and I can confirm from personal experience, are vastly superior morally and intellectually to their menfolk) from achieving all they might in an open society. In turn, the cheap and unconstructive satisfactions of domestic dictatorship discourages Muslim men from real achievement and engagement in the wider society around them. For the majority of young men of Muslim descent in Europe, the chief attraction of Islam is the justification it offers for the ill-treatment of women.

Is a “clash of civilizations” within Europe thus inevitable at some time in the future? Laqueur is cautious, as befits a man who has seen so much that was unprecedented in his own lifetime. Secularization, if only of a strange and not altogether reassuring kind, has already made deep inroads into the Muslim population. On the other hand, it may be that this very secularization is what calls forth religious fanaticism as a response. After all, Muslims can see in European Christianity an example of what happens when the light of reason and historical criticism is allowed into the purlieus of religious doctrine: it falls apart. Since Islam is so much a part of the identity of people wherever it has predominated, an attack on Islam, even or especially in the form of rational criticism, provokes an existential crisis.

Laqueur is neither apocalyptic nor optimistic but measured and open-minded about the future. Yet given the earnest frivolity of the European political classes, who face up to and legislate for every problem except the serious ones, it is likely that his prediction for Europe is accurate: it will sink into insignificance, more important, it is true, than Africa but no more important than Latin America.

Actually, I like Latin America.

Everyone Denounces Terror

Quote from Robert Spencer:

Muslim leaders of all kinds have already denounced "terror." The problem here is that no one is defining these terms; rather, everyone is assuming that we all mean the same things by them whenever we use them. By "terror" does one mean "an unprovoked attack against innocent civilians with the intention of causing undifferentiated mayhem"? Muslim leaders will have no problem denouncing that. But if one means "actions carried out in order to further the program of Islamic supremacism that advances through both nonviolent and violent jihad," that is quite another matter. No one is being specific enough. No one is speaking about "the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism" and asking Muslims to denounce that. No one dares.

From Here

By the way one of our readers has voiced concern regarding Jihad Watch, so I am careful when I reference articles from that site. But I think this quote is right on and too good to pass up.

Fatwa Commanding Rushdie's Murder Still Valid

From a Friday sermon in Iran. (Thanks to Hot Air):

Following are excerpts from a Friday sermon by Ahmad Khatami of the Iranian Assembly of Experts, which aired on Channel 1, Iranian TV on June 22, 2007:


The old, decrepit, and colonialist English regime presents itself as the defender of human rights, yet it awards a medal to such a wretched, bankrupt man [Salman Rushdie], who has offended the sacred values of more than 1.5 billion Muslims. Are these your human rights?

Crowd chants: Death to England.

Death to England.

Death to England.

Ahmad khatami:Is this your civilization? This old, decrepit government of England should know that the days of its imperialistic aspirations are gone, and today it is considered America's branded slave. They must also know that the wave of Islamic revival in the world has begun, whether they like it or not. Under these circumstances, awarding England's highest honor to a wretched man, who lacks any talent whatsoever... He is not considered a prominent novelist or author. They awarded him this medal only because he cursed the Prophet. Under these circumstances, awarding a medal to such a man entails a conflict with one and a half billion Muslims throughout the world, and you will gain nothing from this. The one thing that will happen is that you will see the Islamic world roaring together. In Islamic Iran, this revolutionary fatwa still exists. It is unchangeable and with God's grace, it must be carried out.

Plans for a Committe for Former Muslims

This time it is in the Hague! It seems like this kind of movement is gaining steam, and I think it is a much-needed sort of organization in places like Europe especially. I mean, it would be very helpful for people to have a place to go with people that know about how to deal with Muslim family members and legal protections afforded to citizens or residents of the various countries in Europe.

Unfortunately his political party is giving him a hard time. Let's hope this brave soul will win in the end:

Jami announced in May he was setting up a Committee for Ex-Muslims. The committee wants to break the taboo on lapsing from the Islamic faith. The 22 year old Jami, himself an apostate of Islam, says many Muslims do not dare to renounce Islam for fear of reprisals, including death.

Jami, who is a PvdA council member in the town of Leidschendam-Voorburg, will launch the committee officially in September with an international press conference. He says he has already had hundreds of e-mails from Muslims from throughout the world who support him. But his own PvdA is trying to muzzle him, it emerges from internal correspondence obtained by newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

Read it all Here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Previous Parts of Islam Series by Abu Daoud

Here are some links to previous segments of the Islam Series, written by yours truly, in case you haven't read them:

Part XII: Islam and Sloth

Part XI: Muslims' Main Objections to Christianity

Part X: Why Muslims are Attracted to Christianity

Part IX: Victimhood and Islam

Part XIII: The Gospel According to Muhammad

In this thirteenth section of my presentation on Islam I want to address the question of what Muslims believe about the Gospel, for they do indeed believe in the Gospel--but the meaning attached to that word for Muslims is radically different than what it means for Christians.

First though I think it would be useful to outline what exactly Christians believe about the Gospel. We actually use the word in several different ways. Often we simply use it to refer to the four books in the New Testament that record the events and teachings of Jesus' life: they include things like miracles, healings, sermons, short sayings, genealogy, events surrounding his birth, crucifixion, resurrection and his commissioning of the Apostles to carry forth his preaching.

We also use it very generally to refer to the central proclamation of how all those events relate to us, namely that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus, and that we can receive forgiveness of sins in his name. Of course, the initial proclamation of Jesus was simply borrowed from his cousin John the Baptist: Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand! But the focus on the Kingdom of God for various reasons is not used by our churches today. Rather, different Christian churches emphasize different ways of articulating the Gospel (atoning sacrifice, adoption as sons, sharers in his divinity, and so on), but the message always revolves around or centrally features the forgiveness of sins in and through Jesus.

But as to Muslims: the word Gospel in Arabic is injiil, which is actually derived (via Syriac) from the original Greek word found in the New Testament: euangelion. Muslims reject what we call the injiil because it does not match their criteria for a prophetic message. In Islamic though there is no cooperation between the prophet and God as we find in Judaism and Christianity. In the latter two religions the prophet is inspired by God's Spirit but nevertheless puts the message into his own words, using his own expressions, talents, backgrounds, phrases, and so on. This is also true for the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of the New Testament.

In Islam God causes a message to descend from heaven, via an angel, to his prophet, who then utters verbatim the dictation he has received from the angelic mediator. (The exception to this is Moses/Musa whom the Quran says spoke to God face to face, as to a friend.) Thus the Quran teaches that God caused the injiil to descend to Jesus/Issa. This is clearly not the picture that we find recorded by the four Gospel-writers of the New Testament. They are simply giving their recollections of Jesus' ministry, and who can say if they are even trustworthy? Thus the true Gospel was revealed by Jesus who was a good Muslim prophet, as were interestingly his disciples, according to the Quran. Jesus was not crucified, but he was taken back into heaven by God with his revelation--the injiil. Thus the true Gospel/injiil is in heaven with God, preserved by him there. It is certainly nowhere present on earth, and the best that one may hope is that parts or portions of it continue to exist in the four Gospels. They are, though, generally judged by Muslims today to be untrustworthy and not worth reading.

Such is the general explanation given by Muslims today, but the questions that this explanation provokes are numerous: why would God send Jesus, begotten of a virgin, working great miracles, who ascends into heaven, and not protect his message from corruption? This is, I think, a difficult question for Muslims to answer. A few have agreed that the four Gospels of the NT are valid, but by and large that is a minority position. One seems to end up with a weak God who is unable to safeguard his revelation to his prophets from corruption (tahriif) by nefarious Christians. Or with a God who allows centuries of pre-Muslim Christians to believe in a counterfeit injiil for no good reason. For Muslims do teach that pre-Islamic Christians could be true believers for they were living within the light that had been revealed to them--but according to this account that light was in fact darkness.

Some also propose that the true injiil was preserved, but that it was later (after Jesus' ascension) corrupted, but where is the manuscript or historical evidence of this? Extensive parts of the New Testament had spread through three continents in more than four or five different languages by the third century. When and where and how did this corruption of the Gospel happen? Who did it? There is no historical evidence for this position at all.

Such is the account of the Gospel according to Muhammad: it is hidden and unknown, its prophet great and worthy, but his message unknown to us today.

Salaam min al Rab ma3kum. Peace from the Lord be with you.

Abu Daoud

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What Is the Church?

I have long said that a weakness of evangelical Christianity is that it does not really have any way to account for what the church is and is not. Generally you will hear something like, "It is the invisible and non-institutional body of all true believers in Christ." That's nice I guess, but there's a real problem. That sort of thinking is found NO WHERE in the Bible. Yep. I said that. NO WHERE. Here's a pastor I respect a great deal taking a stab at explaining Paul's theology of the church:

Just as we can trust God because God has no agenda that is not for our good, so we can trust the church because it is the sort of community it is, a community of active peacemaking and peacekeeping in which no one exists in isolation or grows up in isolation or suffers in isolation. The slogan of the church's life is "not without the other"; no I without a you, no I without a we. Yet that doesn't mean that the identity of the church is a herd identity, with everyone's individuality submerged in the collective. The difference between the I and the you remains real difference—otherwise there would be no challenge about it. You may have noticed that few churches are characterized by drab sameness; when people try to create a herd mentality in the church, whether in a local congregation or in a wider institution, sooner or later it tends to break down dramatically.

So believing in the church is really believing in the unique gift of the other that God has given you to live with. The New Testament sees the church as a community in which each person has a gift that only he or she can give into the common life. We Christians are so used to the imagery the Bible uses, especially the great metaphor of Christ's body, that we forget just how radical and comprehensive is the vision of a community of universal giftedness. The ancient world had sometimes used the image of the body to describe a society in which there were different functions, a very natural use for such language. But it was left to Christians to reconceive this in terms of different gifts, and to draw out the further revolutionary implication that the frustration of any one member is the frustration of all because then there is something that is not being properly given. Someone has not been granted the freedom to offer what only that individual can give to the whole.

--Rowan Williams

I also like that there is an account here for the community and the individual in God's plan and in relation to salvation and the Kingdom work. I think that this factor of individual-community is one of the key failings of Islam. I also think that this kind of individualistic church-theology (or ecclesiology) that evangelicals preach is a reason that we have not seen more converts from Islam. We need to recover an older, more community-based understanding of the church. It is not just a detail. It is not just a secondary benefit to salvation. It is part and parcel of God saving us and glorifying himself in the world.

Here is the rest of the sermon.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Few Pictures from Spain's Costa del Sol

Me looking at the Bay of Gibraltar. Costa del Sol. Pictures from Malaga's Cathedral Church.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Umm Yasmin's Muslima Blog: Dervish

I know I'm generally fairly critical of Islam. But I think if you look at my posts on Christianity (my own religion of course) I am pretty critical too.

So in the spirit of fairness, and because of her bravery and kindness, I want to recommend to everyone this blog by Umm Yasmin (that means that her daughter's name is Yasmin/Jasmin).

She represents more positive aspects of Islam. Though I will say that if she lived in a truly Islamic society she would never have the freedom to keep a blog like this. In other words, her freedom to blog comes from living in a non-Islamic society.

God bless her and keep her and guide her into all truth.

BTW: May I point out that traditionally in Islamic society that could really not use the name "Umm Yasmin"? You only get to use that matronym when you have a MALE CHILD. Hence my name, "Abu Daoud"--Daoud being a male name of course since I have a son.

Read up and post remarks. Let you words be salted by kindness and charity always.


Germany: The Central Council of Ex-Muslims

From Der Spiegel:

"Not Possible to Modernize Islam"

Human rights activists have formed a "Central Council of Ex-Muslims in Germany" to help women renounce the Islamic faith if they feel oppressed by its laws. Its Iranian-born founder Mina Ahadi, under police protection after receiving death threats, talks to DER SPIEGEL about its goals.

Mina Ahadi has received death threats after founding the group.

An Iranian human rights activist living in Germany has formed a "Central Council of ex-Muslims in Germany" with 40 others and has received anonymous death threats after declaring she wants to help people to leave the religion if they so desire.
Iranian-born Mina Ahadi, 50, said she set up the group to highlight the difficulties of renouncing the Islamic faith which she believes to be misogynist. She wants the group to form a counterweight to Muslim organisations that she says don't adequately represent Germany's secular-minded Muslim immigrants.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Don't Want Truth

From Here:

Yesterday while witnessing to a Muslim in the area, I noticed that he was repeating all of the Muslim propeganda. He was not able to answer one question that I had, but was unwilling to even look into the possiblity that he was wrong, and that Jesus really did die on the cross for the sins of the world.

He wasn't really religious persay. Seemed like he didn't do his daily prayers, like he probably drank beer.

And yet somehow, he had all the things memorized. When I asked, "What evidence do you have that the Injil was changed?" He simply responded that the Koran was proof that it was changed...

No matter how I tried reasoning with him, he was not willing to think independantly on the manner.

A brother then came out and handed me two books. One was an Injil, and the other was a book explaining different reasonings why we believe that the Injil (New testament) was not changed and how we know that Jesus really did die on the cross...

"Are those for me?" He asked.

"They would be, but you are not willing to even look for the truth. It wouldn't matter if I could prove to you that Jesus is the only way to God, you do not even want to look for the truth."

Stunned, he looked at me "Where is this truth, can you show me where this truth is?" He said with a kind of jokingly manner.

"I could show you entire libaries filled with evidence to support the claims of the bible, but you have no desire to look."

There was a silent moment, then a large group of people entered the room. The conversation was over.

Two Pictures from Madrid

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Salman Rushdie

Well, Salman Rushdie has been knighted by the Queen! And should we be surprised that this has been met by condemnations from Iran and Pakistan and other Muslims around the world?

May I point out some quotes that show the acute victimhood that (I propose) Muslims are addicted to today?

Effigies of Rushdie and the Queen were burnt in Pakistan, where presidential elections at the end of the year have destablised an already volatile political climate. Hundreds of protesters in Multan, Karachi and Lahore set fire to British flags and chanted “Death to Britain, death to Rushdie” and Islamist leaders called for nationwide protests after Friday prayers.

Ijaz-ul-Haq, the Religious Affairs Minister, told the assembly in Islamabad that the award of the knighthood excused suicide bombing. “If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified,” he said.

He later retracted his statement, explaining that he had intended to say that knighting Rushdie will foster extremism. “If someone blows himself up, he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West? We demand an apology by the British government. Their action has hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims."

Pakistan’s national assembly earlier unanimously passed a resolution condemning Rushdie’s knighthood, which it said would encourage “contempt” for the Prophet Muhammad.

From Here

So the fault belongs to the UK (and others) for all the nasty terrorism that is going on? Notice that there is a refusal to take responsibility among the Muslim community here. I mean, the violence and willingness to plan suicide attacks is not actually rooted in Islam or the life of Muhammad, but in provocative acts by foreign governments. This is akin to the idea that a man is not guilty of a crime if he sees a woman who is not covered correctly. He cannot help himself, it is that simple. He is not guilty.

Salman Rushdie wrote a book called the Satanic Verses years ago. I have posted some material on the Satanic Verses, which refer to an instance from Muhammad's life where he received verses from God, that later turned out to be (by his own admission) from Satan.

Check it all out Here

Monday, June 18, 2007

Biblical Reflections

From me and my wife (Um Daoud). A person from our church asked us to compose these reflections. Along with other reflections on verses from Scripture by missionaries they will be offered as a series:

By Um Daoud:

Ps. 37:23 -- Our steps are made firm by the LORD, when he delights in our way.

The thing that struck me initially as odd in this passage is the phrase "when HE delights in OUR way," not "when WE delight in HIS way." Why did the psalmist decide to say it this way? God has given us choices in life, and sometimes they are not always easy to test against the black-and-white "Thou shalt's" and "Thou shalt not's" given in Scripture. There's no advice in Scripture about which college to send our kids to or how often we need to go to church, but it does give us guidelines to make wise choices with the time and other resources that God has given us. And when God is delighted by the choices we make in our day to day living, you know what He does? He affirms our path and "our steps are made firm" by Him.

By Abu Daoud:

Phil. 4:6 -- Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Eucharist means thanksgiving.

Since you have believed in Jesus Christ—that he is God’s Son and that he died so that you could be reconciled to God—you are obviously insane. You are insane so we [one of the governments here in the Middle East] will place you in an insane asylum and treat you with electro-shock therapy until you realize your insanity.

This is just one of many true stories from the Middle East of a Muslim who has believed in Jesus, the Son of God. But his heart is full of thanksgiving. Let that be a challenge to you. He is part of the one body like you: recall this in the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving.

By Abu Daoud:

Ps. 31:24 -- Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.

We often associate courage with action, while we associate waiting with postponing action. That is not the biblical way of approaching waiting though. To wait is indeed a concrete decision, something that one decides to do because of one’s faith. But waiting is never an end in and of itself: it is a time of preparing, a time of summoning up courage so that in the end we can be conformed to Christ’s image and carry out the courageous acts that he wills. Let us wait and take courage, but waiting is only godly when there is an action that we will carry out later: “For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power” (1 Cor. 4:20). The Son of God is not glorified for his conversation, dialogue, or thinking, but for his decision to—at the right time—drink of the cup his Father gave him: torture and crucifixion.

Muslims Should Condemn Muslim Violence

Nice article. Let the Muslim communiy be clear about what is 'violence' and what is terrorism.

From Jihad Watch:

While Muslim groups have issued vague condemnations of "terrorism" and the killing of "innocent civilians," they have never bothered to define who exactly is an innocent civilian, despite the fact that jihadists have claimed that Israelis and, in some cases, Americans and Britons are neither innocent nor civilians. Yet despite the fact that there is no global network of Jewish or Christian terrorists committing violence in the name of either religion and justifying that violence by referring to its sacred texts, and Christian and Jewish leaders have quickly condemned violent acts committed by Christians and Jews, without vagueness or weasel words, the idea that all three religions are equally likely to inspire violence persists.

Cease-fire Reached in Yemen

Thanks be to God for this. Let us hope it will last, though the level of government corruption is so profound that it may be difficult. Read it all at the IHT:

SAN'A, Yemen: A Yemeni government official and a Shiite rebels leader said Saturday that the two sides have agreed on a cease-fire that would pave the way to end a three year rebellion in the country's north which had claimed 4,000 lives this year alone.

The deal was agreed to under Qatar's mediation, a Yemeni security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to give statements to media.

Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi, a prominent Shiite rebel leader based in the Saada province, 180 kilometers (112 miles) north of the Yemeni capital, confirmed that the agreement was reached.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mission to Morocco

Are you called to be a missionary to Morocco? Is your church as a community called to support the country and the missionaries there? It is one of the least-reached nations in the world. It once had a vibrant Christian population but that was extinguished long ago. Now there are signs of life though.

Please read this website carefully and consider how the Lord would have you support the church's mission to Morocco:

Arise Shine Morocco

Civil War Starts in Gaza

I think civil war is not too strong a term for what is going on now:

From the Jerusalem Post:

At least 25 Palestinians were killed and 80 were wounded as Hamas fighters overran two of Fatah's most important security installations in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Witnesses said the victors dragged vanquished gunmen from the building and shot them to death gangland-style in the street in front of their families.

The headquarters of the General Security Service, commanded by Ramallah-based General Tawfik Tirawi, fell to Hamas gunmen. Hamas said documents it found there prove that the Fatah-affiliated security apparatus has close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Hamas said it would show the documents on television in the coming hours.

Elsewhere, the capture of the Preventive Security headquarters was a major step forward in Hamas's attempts to complete its takeover of all of Gaza. Hamas followed up that victory by demanding Fatah surrender another key security installation.

And from IHT:

Thursday's assaults on Fatah put Hamas close to full control of Gaza. Only the presidential compound of Abbas and the Suraya headquarters of the National Security Forces, the Palestinian army, remained under Fatah's control. But Hamas had surrounded Al Suraya, calling on the occupants to surrender, and the compound was under attack Thursday.

Abbas came under pressure from within Fatah and from some of his other allies to suspend participation in the so-called unity government with Hamas, which began in March, and to declare a state of emergency.

Oil Running out Faster than Expected?

It will be a big deal when oil runs out, or more precisely, peaks. I mean, when world-wide oil-production starts going down, and prices will start going up faster than they are already. People always like to say that we will then find some way of getting around oil--technology has no bounds, after all. Right?

Wrong. What you will see is certain countries not being able to bribe their citizens any longer, some will be overthrown, some will squelch those movements. It will not be pretty. (I might mention Venezuela, I might mention Yemen...)

Economies in the developing world and MENA will suffer greatly. And guess what? Those are the countries where people are having babies. So you will see even greater atempts to immigrate illegally to places like the US and the EU, and those governments will either be drowned in illegal immigrants, or they will (violently) resist such immigration. Neither option offers a nice picture of the future.

So this is a big deal.

From The Independent:

Scientists have criticised a major review of the world's remaining oil reserves, warning that the end of oil is coming sooner than governments and oil companies are prepared to admit.

BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, published yesterday, appears to show that the world still has enough "proven" reserves to provide 40 years of consumption at current rates. The assessment, based on officially reported figures, has once again pushed back the estimate of when the world will run dry.

However, scientists led by the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, say that global production of oil is set to peak in the next four years before entering a steepening decline which will have massive consequences for the world economy and the way that we live our lives.

According to "peak oil" theory our consumption of oil will catch, then outstrip our discovery of new reserves and we will begin to deplete known reserves.

Colin Campbell, the head of the depletion centre, said: "It's quite a simple theory and one that any beer drinker understands. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it the quicker it's gone."

Dr Campbell, is a former chief geologist and vice-president at a string of oil majors including BP, Shell, Fina, Exxon and ChevronTexaco. He explains that the peak of regular oil - the cheap and easy to extract stuff - has already come and gone in 2005. Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011, he says.

This scenario is flatly denied by BP, whose chief economist Peter Davies has dismissed the arguments of "peak oil" theorists.

"We don't believe there is an absolute resource constraint. When peak oil comes, it is just as likely to come from consumption peaking, perhaps because of climate change policies as from production peaking."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Sense of Hope and Life Part 2

Part 2

I am often thankful. Especially thankful for the very excellent people I work with here. My fellow missionaries and apostles come from all around the world and they are wonderful people. They bring light and life to my life. We often thank God for the Bible, but let us consider what life would be like without the church. It is not often a beautiful thing. Shot through with divisions, strife, petty arguments, sectarianism, legalism, the love and abuse of power, and so on. But it is, in the end, Plan A for the salvation of the world. And there is no Plan B. Sometimes we pray together, often times we just play board games or eat or go to the mall--it doesn't matter. And we take Christ with us. We are shining with unveiled faces, reflecting the glory of God. The Law was glorious, but it was a fading glory. The glory of Islam is also fading, but we present a Law of grace and truth whose glory does not fade, because its promises are always answered with God's YES.

I am excited about the future, though I am not always optimistic. The truth is that Jesus promised his disciples persecution, and I see indications that this will increase here in the Middle East/North Africa. I am from time to time filled with sorrow for the indigenous churches here: Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Coptic, Latin, and so on. Sorrow because they have passed through so much punishment and injustice at the hands of Islam, but also sorrow because their light has in many ways grown so dim. But God revealed to his prophet Joel that in the last days "your old men shall dream dreams." These churches are indeed the old men. And as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow they will dream dreams, and God will empower them to live out and fulfill those dreams. Most missionaries here have given up on these churches. I refuse to do so. Surrender does not befit a Christian man.

All that to answer the question, How do you feel?

A blessing upon us all during this season of Pentecost of our Lord. As he has left he will return! Amen.

Abu Daoud

Part 1 is Here.

A Fatwa Free-for-all in the Islamic World

What is a fatwa exactly? It is a legal ruling. Since in Islam there is no separation between civil and religious rule, the fatwa can address almost any facte of life, from real estate, to jihad, to dietary rules, to travel rules, and so on.

Do Christians have anything equivalent to the fatwa? Not really. Sunni Islam is much like Protestantism in that there is no central authority, and just as Protestants and evangelicals divide into new denominations on a daily basis, you find the same thing in the Muslim world. The proliferation of fatwas is a result of this process.

CAIRO: First came the breast-feeding fatwa: It declared that the Islamic restriction on unmarried men and women being together could be lifted at work if the woman breast-fed her male colleagues five times. Then came the urine fatwa: It said that drinking the urine of the Prophet Muhammad was deemed a blessing.

For the past few weeks, the breast-feeding and urine fatwas have proved a source of national embarrassment in Egypt, not least because they were issued by representatives of the highest religious authorities in the land.

"We were very angered when we heard about the Danish cartoons concerning our Prophet," wrote Galal Amin in the newspaper Al Masry Al Yom, referring to the 2005 publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that caused an international uproar. "However, these two fatwas are harming our Islamic religion and our Prophet more than the cartoons."

For many Muslims, fatwas, or religious edicts, are the bridge between the principles of their faith and modern life. They are supposed to be issued by religious scholars who look to the Koran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad for guidance.

Read it all HERE.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jihad Etiquette--Must Read!

I can't believe I'm saying that an article from the New York Times is actually good. Amazing! The Times could pretty easily be renamed "Let's just Submit to Islam Times," based on some of the previous articles they have published.

But here's a great article, read it all. These are the real questions that Muslims today are dealing with. Here is rule #2, for example:

"You can kill children, too, without needed to feel distress."

Great stuff. Here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pentecost Exhortation

"Recalling Pentecost, which we just celebrated last Sunday, I exhort you, dear young people, to constantly invoke the Holy Spirit, so that you may be Christ's intrepid apostles among your contemporaries. May the Consoler Spirit help you, dear sick people, to accept suffering and sickness, offering it to God with faith for the salvation of all people, and may he grant you, dear newly-weds, the joy to build your family on the Gospel's solid foundation."

These are the closing sentences of the Papal address on May 30 when I was in Rome.

Read his whole reflection on Tertullian at the Vatican City site.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Feast Day of Saint Columba

Yes, it's one of those strange things that we Anglicans do. Yes, we're Protestant; and yes, we observe the feast days of the saints--sometimes.

And June 9th is the Feast Day of one of my favorite saints: Columba of Iona. He died on June 9th many years ago. He was a wonderful missionary to the Picts of what is now Scotland. There is a goodness and wholeness in remember God's wonderful provision of apostles and messengers throughout all of history. The Holy Spirit did not stop working after the book of Acts!

In 563 he traveled to Scotland with twelve companions, where according to his legend he first landed at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, near Southend. However, being still in sight of his native land he moved further north up the west coast of Scotland. In 563 he was granted land on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland which became the centre of his evangelising mission to the Picts. However, there is a sense in which he was not leaving his native people, as the Irish had been colonizing the west coast of Scotland for the previous couple of hundred years.[1] Aside from the services he provided guiding the only centre of literacy in the region[citation needed], his reputation as a holy man led to his role as a diplomat among the tribes; there are also many stories of miracles which he performed during his work to convert the Picts. He visited the pagan king Bridei, king of Fortriu, at his base in Inverness, winning the king's respect. He subsequently played a major role in the politics of the country. He was also very energetic in his evangelical work, and, in addition to founding several churches in the Hebrides, he worked to turn his monastery at Iona into a school for missionaries. He was a renowned man of letters, having written several hymns and being credited with having transcribed 300 books personally. One of the few, if not the only, time he left Scotland after his arrival was toward the end of his life, when he returned to Ireland to found the monastery at Durrow. He died on Iona and was buried in the abbey he created.

From Wikipedia (where else?)

Recent Stuff on Yemen

As you may know, I have a special love for Yemen and its people. The country faces such great difficulties that seem totally insurmountable. Yemen is one of the least-reached countries in the entire world. The Gospel is almost entirely absent there. There are NO indigenous Christians other than a few converts from Islam, and they form less than .01% of the population. That is, statistically insignificant.

Pray for Yemen:

Yemen hopes to lure tourists

Yemen Faces Locust Outbreak

And here is the most alarming of them all: Tensions Flare in South Yemen:

Demonstrations and armed conflict in southern Yemen are heightening fears of growing instability in the impoverished nation, already battling an insurgency in the North.

Yemen has experienced marked instability since September's 2006 presidential election.

In the northern Sa'ada province, about 60,000 soldiers have been embroiled in a guerrilla war with about 2000 Zaidi Shi'a rebels since January. Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the fighting and military bombing, and many are without shelter, food, water, and medical care.

Previous Posts on Yemen are here:

Abuse of Women in Yemen

Challenges for Yemen

Pray for Yemen

Racism or Security?

This sort of question will become more and more important in the future.

Officials should proclaim a moratorium on all visa applications from Muslim countries, since there is no reliable way for American authorities to distinguish jihadists and potential jihadists from peaceful Muslims. Because this is not a racial issue, these restrictions should not apply to Christians and other non-Muslim citizens of those countries. Those who claim that such a measure is "Islamophobic" should be prepared to provide a workable way for immigration officials to distinguish jihadists from peaceful Muslims, or, if they cannot do so, should not impede basic steps the U.S. should take to protect itself. And Muslims entering from anywhere -- Britain, France -- should be questioned as to their adherence to Sharia and Islamic supremacism. This is not because anyone will expect honest answers, but so that answers proven false by the applicant's subsequent activity can become grounds for deportation.

The problem in the West is that we continue with this nonsense view that Islam is a religion. What Islam is--a civilization--is simply beyond the categories of what Western language is able to describe. During the Cold War the USA was warry of communists because of their political commitments. Islam is profoundly political. Can the countries of the West not treat Islam as a form of politics--which is what is suggested here? Or is that racism? Or is it Islamophobia, which the worst form of terrorism?

The entire article is worth a read, it is here.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pentecostalism, adaptation, history

From an interview with Pentecostal theologian Simon Chan, who talks about Pentecostalism, liturgy (!), the Trinity, and mission. Great stuff, glad to see a serious Pentecostal theologian, we certainly need more.

Check it all out at CT

Surely part of Pentecostalism's success is its ability to adapt rapidly in a technological culture.

Pentecostals are definitely very adaptable. They are quick to seize upon new opportunities for the sake of the gospel. They make use of the technologies of the times. There is a certain habit of mind that enables them to readily leave behind things that don't work and to move on to things that they think will work. Whereas the liturgy creates a different habit of mind, a habit of stability. This has its strengths and weaknesses, just as the Pentecostal mindset has its strengths and weaknesses. But in my view, in the modern world especially, the danger of a short memory far outweighs the danger of not being willing to change.

Many people would say the opposite: For the church to succeed in its mission, it needs to be ready to change.

But is that true in the long run? Coming from a Pentecostal background, I'm more sensitive to the dangers that a church is exposed to when it forgets its history.

Radio Ministry to Iran

Ministry news from Iran:

Recently we met with Iranian Christians who invite friends and neighbors over at the time the broadcasts air, then simply watch the program with them. In this way they have led many to Christ. In the last five years, the satellite TV broadcasts have led 200,000 people to put their faith in Jesus Christ.

A woman we'll call "Padina" was part of a group of devout women who met to study Islam and pray to the 12 Imams. She was left frustrated and depressed, finding that no matter what she did she never sensed Allah's approval. She was on medication for depression when she first saw the TV broadcasts, and couldn't believe how joyful the Christians on TV appeared. Padina called into the broadcast to find out more. Today she has been healed from her depression, and has shared Christ with many of her family members.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Non Parlo el Italiano

I think it came to me yesterday on the metro from the downtown terminal in Rome to Fiumicino Airport. Knowing Spanish, English, and Arabic I can communicate with about half of the world population. That's pretty good!

But being in Rome was different since, non parlo el Italiano. Parlo el Espaniolo, Inglese, y Arabo. (I have no idea about spelling in Italian, btw.) But it's amazing what you can do with fluency in Spanish and some basic Latin. Of course the Latin I know is either biblical or liturgical, and I know a few words of Italian from studying classical music. A curious and not always successful admixture of elements.

Within the first few hours I was learning/recalling basic pronouns (io sono=I am) and prepositions (dove=where), some of which were very close to Spanish.

I was very happy when the bishop of that illustrious city preached in Italian and I understood almost everything he said. Great excerpt: "During this season of Pentecost we must continuously invoke the Holy Spirit to help us to be bold witnesses to the Gospel." Amen!

Or this: "Build your families upon the firm foundation of the Gospel."

But alas, not all language is based around discussions of church history (the pope preached on Tertullian! One of my favorite church fathers), theology, and Christian worship. The greatest failure: Ordering food from a waitress who was not used to dealing with retarded tourists like us. It was painful. I mean, how do you say "glasses", as in 'We need glasses for the water?' I can muster up 'chalice' because it is a liturgical word...but glasses? Blank.

I will say that once you have three or four languages in your brain they kinda jumble together and it is very hard to stay on one only and I kept on slipping in Arabic words.

On the last leg of the flight from Istanbul to my home city I was sitting by a Russian lady and we were chatting in English. I told her of my love for languages and cultures. "Oh," she said, "Are you going to learn Russian next?"

Had been thinking of modern Hebrew actually, but why stop there?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Adam on ROMA!

I think I will never forget sitting in front of St Peter's with Adam, quizzing him on the different forms of Neo-Thomism :-) Great guy, God bless him in his call to the priesthood. Check it all out, great pictures too:


Erik Twist on Catholicity

Catholicity...that's a fanccy word for "universalness" or even "oneness"

Check out Erik's thoughts on the matter at his blog:

Catholicity Part I

A section:

Might there remain the possibility that the catholic nature of the church presupposes and necessitates something more than the elusiveness of orthodoxy; the possibility of which must, itself, hinge on its relation to the orthopraxis of the community?
Right belief has little efficacy when dispersed among a vast array of disparate individualities. For orthodoxy to have teeth it must be embodied, incorporated into the kerygma of a community living with liturgical consistency and corporeality.

Could it be, then, that catholicity is dependent upon a physical and visible component for its very legitimacy? To answer in the positive is to agree that in order to be meaningfully catholic, the church must be capable of being located on more than just a creedal level, it must be visible liturgically; viz. in its lived life as a community—in its acts of worship.

Let me point out that the "physical and visible component" suggested here is very un-evangelical. Evangelicalism almost always focuses on the internal, subjective, private, and individual appropriation of the Bible's message as the meassure of one's faith and relationship with Christ. To say that there is something (or someone, Erik?) that is visible, touchable, and physical...well it's not very evangelical.

In other words you're sounding more and more like a "Christian" and less and less like a "believer." (Let the reader understand.)

My Friend Pat on our Visit to Rome

Has some reflections at his blog, "Think, Ubu, Think! Good Dog"

Check it out:

The picture above was taken on a vacation/pilgrimage that friends Adam, Erik, and Abu Daoud, and wife Kendra and I took to Rome last week. The experience has left much on which to reflect. Benedict's message was on Tertullian, and moreover how this Church Father's engagement with "secular" philosophy could be a guide for how we, as 21st-century Christians, can engage with our culture.

But I find myself ruminating more on the essence of the Roman Catholic Church. Help me out, here, readers: I know the Pope is held to be the "Vicar of Peter"...apostolicity incarnate, through succession, tracing back to Christ's institution of Peter as the Rock on which Christ would build his Church.

But what, exactly, is the Pope's relationship to/with the Roman Catholic Church? Is the Pope seen to be the representation of the Church entire? Or merely the apostolic head thereof? Or am I erring greatly in my usage of such terms?

Read it all and post your answers at The Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Sense of Hope and Life Part 1

How Do you Feel?

We ask this question a lot. I think in the West we worry a lot about how people feel. It is not as important here in the East (the Middle East in my case).

But here is a shot at answering that question. How do I feel as a Christian in the lands of Islamdom? How do I feel as a foreigner and stranger?

I walk a lot here. I don't have a car and things are laid out in this city so that you can get around fairly well without one. Sometimes I walk around and have a sense of oppression, of hate, of tension. Yes, I can just feel it in my bones. Sometimes it is more present than others. The remember the first time I was in Jerusalem (not where we live) I could really feel it. At such times I feel like we should just go home and lead a comfortable life in the West or Latin America for that matter. Pastor a church or teach religion...why not?

But sometimes I feel an irrational sense of hope and life. Sometimes I walk around the dusty streets of my neighborhood and am convinced for some reason that is beyond my comprehension that I, as a simple Christian and disciple of Christ, show forth his life and power and mercy just by being here. The grace goes deeper than the words. The mercy is beyond what is visible and reaches beyond the horizons of reason and words.

It is like those clothes that Paul touched in Acts (19:12), and they had healing power. It is like Elisha's bones which brought a man back to life (2 Kings 13:21) because he had been a holy man and worker of miracles, and that power remained beyond his death. The division between the living and the dead is an arbitrary line which can be erased and redrawn a thousand times. There is one Kingdom, and the saints--living and dead--are united in that Kingdom. We are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses." Sometimes I can almost see them, the martyrs, saints, and apostles of ages past, interceding before the throne of God for us missionaries, for the church in the Middle East, for the Muslims who do not know the love of God. "She is not dead, she only sleeps." "He is God not of the dead, but of the living."