Aug. 30, 2006
August 30, 2006
HEZBOLLAH'S 'VICTORY' QUESTIONED
Speaking of Islam, as I will be in the post below, I find it intriguing that prominent voices from Islam's epicenter, Saudi Arabia, have begun to criticize Hezbollah's leadership for the recent war with Israel. The instant a cease-fire was proclaimed, you may recall, Hezbollah declared victory. That victory is seeming increasingly hollow to others in the Middle East now.
* * *
ISLAM'S FUTURE IN AMERICA
DEARBORN, Mich. -- When I was here last weekend for a conference, I stopped by the Islamic Center of America (pictured below here), where Imam Hassan Qazwini (shown in the bottom photo heading to lunch after Friday prayer services), a man I've met several times and interviewed at length, is the spiritual leader.
I'd not had a chance to see this huge mosque and related Islamic Center, which opened its new facility in May 2005.
Folks, get used to this. Islam is growing in America and mosques are springing up all over the place. As that happens, Muslims -- from both the immigrant stream and the conversion stream of predominantly African-Americans -- are figuring out how to find their place in American culture.
There still is much for them to figure out and much for the non-Muslims among us to figure out in response.
How can Muslims be true to their faith and also be politically active? What charitable role will mosques play in the larger community? How will the face of Islam change in this country as aging immigrants turn over leadership to their American-born children and grandchildren, who may well view things in a different light? How will Christians, Jews, Muslims and others ever learn to live in harmony?
I spent some time talking with Eide A. Alawan, who, on a volunteer basis, heads up the center's Office of Interfaith Outreach, which is an important goal for Qazwini. Alawan places his hopes for the future of interfaith harmony with young people (like the little boy standing amid all the kneeling men around him in the picture below).
Alawan is retirement age, but he thinks his generation of American Muslims is moving too slowly to create interfaith understanding and to communicate a clear Islamic message of harmony to non-Muslims.
I also attended the Friday prayer service, which, as you can see, was packed. It's Islamic tradition that men worship in front of women. The explanation is that if women are in front, men would get distracted when the women bow to the ground for prayer.
So at Qazwini's mosque, women pray in the same room as -- but behind -- the men, though there's overflow balcony space for women, especially women with young children.
In his sermon that day, Qazwini urged Muslims to speak out on behalf of Lebanon and Lebanese citizens who were killed or injured in the Hezbollah-Israel war. He pointed to a recent full-page add in The New York Times paid for by a Kuwaiti Muslim as a good example of using available mainstream media to give an Islamic point of view about current events.
As I've noted before, the religious demographics of America are changing. Christians still make up a large majority of the American population, but there's much more diversity than there used to be and it's only going to grow. So we'd better be learning how to live together without hating or killing one another.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
Re Hezbollah's Victory:
This viewpoint(Hezbollah's soft victory or actual loss) was first offered a couple of days ago in a very well sourced commentary in the Wall Street Journal.
It seems wise to read anything coming out of the Middle East critically and I have been attempting to do so but with difficulty. Saudi, a Sunni state, is a traditional adversary of the Shiite organization, Hezbollah, and anything in the publicaton cited should be taken with a grain of salt. I could not find a good assessment of the WSJ author's background.
It just doesn not seem that there would be such incredible and rather chaotic battling taking place in Israel regarding the way the war was fought, if their incursion into Lebanon could be considered a victory.
How could anyone could deem the deaths and utter destruction of a country a victory on either side? And all over the kidnapping of two soldiers.
Whatever level of victory Hezbollah claims, the entire mess has done us or the world no good and we have rather been made fools of by our Middle Eastern policy. Being made the fool I could handle, it's the fact that we are also less secure fools. There is a an article in the Christian Science. "Has the Bush Doctrine Failed?" Israel's incursion into Lebanon could be considered an extension of that doctrine. http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0829/dailyUpdate.html
I hope Michelle weighs in on this. It would be great to get her viewpoint.
Posted by: Patricia | August 30, 2006 at 06:53 AM
Re Islam's Future in America:
Sometimes I feel tremendously isolated from the city's Muslim community. There are sometimes groups spending time in the park where I walk and I try to take the opportunity to talk, whenever possible. That is my only contact.
My personal feeling is that we have behaved rather badly toward American Muslims during the past few years. I have heard loud criticism blasted at them because there has not been more public condemnation of terrorism or of Hezbollah by the local mosques. Perhaps there's a point there, but no excuse for grouping all people with the most radical among them.
The experience I had with Muslim students after 9/11 was to watch parents pull them immediately out of school and keep them home for their own safety. We are not talking about children, but rather college and grad school-age adults. Upon their return, I noted a fear and meekness. I think that we forget that many Muslims are from extraordinarily repressive societies. They have learned that the most effective survival technique is to withdraw and live quietly isolated and under the radar.
So perhaps we should take it as incumbent on us, as Christians seeking a united society, to seek them out and reassure them that they are our loved neighbors.
Posted by: Patricia | August 30, 2006 at 07:21 AM
"So perhaps we should take it as incumbent on us, as Christians seeking a united society, to seek them out and reassure them that they are our loved neighbors."
I wholeheartedly agree!! It is up to the Christians of America, the Jewish of America, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Ba'hai, the Sikh et. al. - and yes, the Muslim, to work for peaceful coexistence in our land. That is the ideal offered All in the tenets of our country. It is difficult and, historically speaking, quite unique.
We are commanded to love our neighbors...how can we if we don't go and say "Welcome"?
Posted by: D.A. | August 30, 2006 at 09:29 AM
"And all over the kidnapping of two soldiers."
Actually, the kidnapping of two, the killing of several more, and the immediate and unprovoked launching of missiles into occupied civilian settlements. Let's not regress into minimizing what was an overt and aggressive act of war by Hezbollah.
"Perhaps there's a point there, but no excuse for grouping all people with the most radical among them."
Interestingly, that seems to happen here all the time. Usually, though, it is the Christian that is being accused. I agree, however, that it shouldn't happen at all.
"So perhaps we should take it as incumbent on us, as Christians seeking a united society..."
As Christians, we are not to seek a "united society". Rather, we are to seek a united Kingdom under Christ. Our great commission is not to go and make friends of all nations, but to make disciples of all nations. Perhaps Paul said it best in his letter to the church in Rome...
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Posted by: SC in KC | August 30, 2006 at 11:17 AM
Thank you, Bill.
Absolutely we are going to have to learn to live together, each person, each individual. People need to treat their neighbors they way they expect to be treated. It is not Christians vs Jews vs Muslims vs ... .
We have to correct the false idea that we as a country have mistreated this group or that group. No, some individuals have mistreated others and their actions should be condemned, regardless of group affiliation.
That's why it is promising to hear some criticism of Hezbollah. Individuals mostly want peace in this world, but it's hard to stand up against the evil.
We need to put blame where blame is due and not slander or bear false witness against those who do not condone or do anything wrong, but just happen to belong to one group or another with people in it that are doing wrong things. But, also, each group must police its own to avoid serious problems, too.
20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "
1 Cor 5
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 30, 2006 at 11:30 AM
If you can't seek a united society as a Christian, can you at least seek a united society as an American?
Posted by: Steve S | August 30, 2006 at 11:45 AM
"If you can't seek a united society as a Christian, can you at least seek a united society as an American?"
Absolutely, I can and I do. I just don't want to confuse the mandates of each. As an American, I absolutely would love to see society united under our allegience to our nation, our neighbors, our communities. As a Christian, however, I am called to unite the church under the banner of Christ, without regard to nationalism, patriotism, or any other -ism. When we start misrepresenting Christian doctrine to fit a social, economic, or political expectation or predisposition, we are heading for the kind of apostasy that culminates in slavery, bigotry, and genocide.
Posted by: SC in KC | August 30, 2006 at 12:35 PM
Leviticus 19:18 says "...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
I don't see a distinction of loving only Christian neighbors.
And my comment...I think Patricia's, too...was directed more at being an American, than being any particular denomination. For this nation to succeed, Religious freedom must be honored. And the only way to achieve that is through dialogue to establish commonalities and respect for one another. And no...telling someone of a different faith, or even a different denomination that they are "wrong" is NOT respect, nor love.
SC writes: "When we start misrepresenting Christian doctrine to fit a social, economic, or political expectation or predisposition, we are heading for the kind of apostasy that culminates in slavery, bigotry, and genocide."
Isn't it striking that we've already experienced Slavery, Bigotry and Genocide that *some* utilized Scriptural justifications to commit?
Posted by: D.A. | August 30, 2006 at 12:54 PM
It is difficult to accept a
religion, philosophy , or lifestyle such as Islam whose stated doctrines are to either covert me or kill me trying to do it..
Posted by: milwolf | August 30, 2006 at 01:28 PM
Ask the Magyars about the Christian conversion doctrine.
Posted by: Steve S | August 30, 2006 at 01:46 PM
"And my comment...I think Patricia's, too...was directed more at being an American, than being any particular denomination."
Then you should have stated, "As Americans seeking a united society...", instead of "As Christians seeking a united society...". That would have made the point without misrepresenting Christian doctrine. It so happens that I share your desire to reach out, as an American seeking a united society, to people of different cultures.
"And no...telling someone of a different faith, or even a different denomination that they are "wrong" is NOT respect, nor love."
Then what, exactly, do you think Jesus was doing for the three years of His ministry? As a Christian, you might want to re-read the gospels.
"Isn't it striking that we've already experienced Slavery, Bigotry and Genocide that *some* utilized Scriptural justifications to commit?"
It's not only striking, it's horrifying, and that was exactly the point I was making. When we apply our preconceptions to Christian doctrine instead of taking it as it's offered, we inevitably fall into just this kind of apostasy. Why do you think I'm constantly harping about the critical necessity of Christians to study Scripture? Familiarity with the Word is the best defense against apostasy.
Posted by: SC in KC | August 30, 2006 at 01:46 PM
Harping on the fundamentals can sound like music to the ears, too. The state of believers is so fragile that wandering too far away from discussing fundamentals can lead to destruction. Discipline is such an important part of making a disciple, or doing anything meaninful, and you seem very experienced at making disciples.
So it's good to stress the fundamentals always through Scripture to keep everyone grounded and behaving toward their neighbor as they ought. That's the only way for Christians to police themselves, especially in virtual congregations with no governing authority.
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and is destroyed when the Word fades or it is not understood.
11 "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. ....
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 30, 2006 at 02:41 PM
If I, as a Christian, am commanded to bring all unto the banner of Christ - then isn't ANY interfaith dialogue that does not condemn the religion of others contribute to this apostasy...and thus condemn my soul in the process?
Seems to me, then, that I should be avoiding all contact, all communication with other faiths unless it is to point out the wrongness of their beliefs - for then I will be saved.
A new neighbor moves next door. He is Muslim. I knock on the door and I say..."Hi, Welcome to the neighborhood. Because I love you like I love myself, I should tell you that unless you cease believing in your faith and believe only in mine, then you will be forever damned. Can I borrow a cup of milk, now?"
Posted by: D.A. | August 30, 2006 at 03:48 PM
The Magyars and those participants in the Inquistion were not following the teachings of the Bible...
Christainity comes from the heart, not from the sword.. The Apostles and early Christains spread the
Gospel through the power of persuasion, not the sword as did
Mohammed and his followers. The
Bible teaches that God has given us freedom of choice, but holds us
accountable for our choices.
The stated goals in the Koran is to either submit or die. I hardly equate that to Christainity .
Posted by: milwolf | August 30, 2006 at 04:26 PM
You wrote: "Hi, Welcome to the neighborhood. Because I love you like I love myself, I should tell you that unless you cease believing in your faith and believe only in mine, then you will be forever damned. Can I borrow a cup of milk, now?"
I like that cup of milk thing at the end. I laughed out loud.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
There's one for the refrigerator, to remind ourselves, our children, and even our neighbors. I wonder how the pro-slavery people thought about that one?
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 30, 2006 at 04:31 PM
As Christians, we are called, not "commanded". We are not called to convert the world, but to spread the seeds of the faith by sharing grace and truth. We are called to make disciples of all nations, but we have to understand what "making disciples" is.
The root of the word "disciple" is the same root as the word "discipline". The patient instruction, correction, rebuke, and encouragement that is necessary to discipline ourselves or our children are also necessary to make disciples. The only question that remains is, "disciples of what?"
Jesus is the subject of our discipleship. He is also the means by which discipline is achieved. What is required of us to fulfill our commission is to share Jesus with the unbeliever, in word and deed. Telling someone that, "I'm okay, you're okay", isn't going to get the job done. Cloistering yourself away from the rest of the world isn't going to get the job done.
A new neighbor moves in next door. He is Muslim. I knock on the door and say, "Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. Because I love you like I love myself, I would like to invite you to church, small group study, or dinner. Do you need a cup of milk?"
Posted by: SC in KC | August 30, 2006 at 04:44 PM
"Then you should have stated, "As Americans seeking a united society...", instead of "As Christians seeking a united society...". That would have made the point without misrepresenting Christian doctrine."
Perhaps I did not state myself well, but let me try to explain what I meant and believe.
a. That as Christians, it is our responsibility to reach out and love our neighbors as we would ourselves.
b. That as Americans, we need to be united.
c. That as Christians, it IS our responsibility to unite among ourselves and with other religions through whatever common purposes we can find or simply because of our humanity, work together for goodwill, and to bring peace to the world.
I do not ascribe to your interpretation of scripture that does not allow religions to work together in harmony, S.C., or that sets some of us above others as the chosen who can judge and correct and rebuke. Only Jesus had that right. Your personal Christian doctrine is not infalliable nor is it my Christian doctrine.
I am first and foremost a disciple(follower) of God and his directive is to make disciples(followers) of other people and nations through actions and good works.
"Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. Because I love you like I love myself, I would like to invite you to church, small group study, or dinner. Do you need a cup of milk?"
I think, perhaps, S.C., that you do not understand how incredibly judgmental and insulting this "kind offer" is. Your neighbor is a Muslim. He has chosen a religion and you essentially disrespect that with an invitation to be converted to your religion. The mere action implies that his religion is inferior and yours superior. Which, as I have listened to it expressed and have seen it in action on this blog, is not truth. The kindest, most humble, and respectful person here has been Muslim.
I have known many Muslims, having lived in the Middle East and worked in Europe. They are the ultimate in gracious hosts and are very fast to show a guest every hospitality, as well as respect for their beliefs.
A Muslim would never be so incredibly rude, not to mention arrogant.
Posted by: Patricia | August 30, 2006 at 05:26 PM
"The root of the word "disciple" is the same root as the word "discipline"."
That is true in Latin but by the time the Gospels were translated into Latin, the texts were far down the road in having been re-translated and corrupted. It is always best, when you are going to make such leaps of interpretation, to go back to original texts and words.
Posted by: Patricia | August 30, 2006 at 06:34 PM
Patricia wrote: "That as Christians, it IS our responsibility to unite among ourselves and with other religions"
SC Wrote: "Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. Because I love you like I love myself, I would like to invite you to church, small group study, or dinner. Do you need a cup of milk?"
Patricia Wrote: "He has chosen a religion and you essentially disrespect that with an invitation to be converted."
I've accepted invitations to attend worship services with others of different backgrounds. It was great to be able to attend and I felt honored to be invited. They knew my background, but they still invited me. I invited them, too. You never know what will come of such an invitation, but you do know what will come of doing nothing.
So how can expect people to find common ground if they don't know anything about each other? I like SC's offer.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 30, 2006 at 06:53 PM
Patricia, it sounds like you believe all religions are equal in the sight of the Triune God. Can you explain how a religion that does not teach salvation through Jesus Christ can be of any benefit to anyone? Isn't it an act of love to share Christianity with those who adhere to other faiths?
Posted by: Ron | August 30, 2006 at 07:01 PM
I know how much you like to grab bytes of text without reading the context, JT, but SC made it very clear in the body that his mission was to instruct, correct, rebuke, and encourage. And that his attitude was, "I'm OK, you're not."
That's NOT the same as loving a neighbor as he would himself and perhaps offering a church function or information after a relationship of equals has been formed.
If you think that this is such a terrific way to make friends and influence people, I suggest that the next time there's a really attractive woman that you'd like to date, you wait until she has just done her hair and put on a new dress and is feeling fabulous about herself.
Then approach her with, "Hi, I'm your neighbor and I would like you to first come with me to my hair dresser and then we can get you to my plastic surgeon."
The healthiest thing that SC could do is to approach the neighbor with love in his heart and ask if they could arrange for his introduction in Islam, and do so with a humble heart. Listen and learn and then offer introduction to his religion, if it seems as if the invitation would be welcome.
It's what Jesus would do.
Posted by: Patricia | August 30, 2006 at 08:55 PM
"Can you explain how a religion that does not teach salvation through Jesus Christ can be of any benefit to anyone?"
Ron, I'm sure that you didn't mean to make a bigoted remark but the above is. It is also remarkably insensitive to any bloggers who are Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or non-Christian but hold their religion dear.
All religions that serve to create a connection with God and foster supreme love for God are equal. Each person will have to seek and find the religion that allows them to best accomplish same.
Jesus as Savior capable of offering salvation is because he offers a perfect worldly example of Supreme love of God and connection with God.
God is always there as the Supreme grantor of salvation and other religions can access him directly.
Posted by: Patricia | August 30, 2006 at 09:14 PM
Put the shoe on the other foot.
You move to a new neighborhood. You are clearly in the minority - you are Christian, the neighborhood is Muslim.
Your neighbor knocks on your door. "Welcome to the neighborhood!" and then politely challenges the authenticity of your religious beliefs.
Would you take that as Love from him?
Posted by: D.A. | August 30, 2006 at 09:49 PM
Some bytes you grab don't need context, like name-calling, vulgarity, and personal attacks.
Christians are told to "make disciples" (transliterated MATHeteuo) of all nations. That requires a precise understanding of the Gosepl that doesn't come just through actions and good deeds. And I don't think you're going to teach people to obey everything that Jesus has commanded by just actions and good deeds either.
You can disagree with or even dislike someone's methods and tactics, but if you believe you can make disciples of all nations by actions and good deeds only, then Jesus Christ is not your Lord. And if Jesus Christ is not your Lord, then I pray that someone, somehow will have to the opportunity to teach you about Jesus Christ, even if they do less than a perfect job.
Matthew 28:19-20 - Great Commission
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples (MATHeteuo) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 30, 2006 at 10:09 PM
I understand what your getting at with the Jesus stuff, but I'd rather worship another god on Mars Hill, maybe one that looks more like me.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2006 at 10:45 PM