This evening at our church’s annual congregational meeting, a leader of the mission committee stood up and talked about a recent trip he’d taken to Uganda. He commented that this time, he noticed more Muslim mosques in the towns they visited, and said this was evidence “the enemy is advancing.” I almost fell out of my seat.

mosque

What a terribly ethnocentric, narrow-minded, UN-Christian, and sad statement that was. How unfortunate and foolish it is to believe Muslim people, who comprise a fifth of the world’s population, are “the enemy.” This is NOT true. For Christians who read the Bible and follow Jesus, “the enemy” is SIN and the author of evil in this world: Satan. That Being was not and is not the Prophet Muhammad. It is shocking as well as depressing to see how misguided some of our respected community leaders are here in Oklahoma when it comes to basic issues like this involving Islam and Christianity.

I don’t write often about Christian themes on this blog, I set up Eyes Right as a Christian team blog to share most of my thoughts and posts which relate directly to religion and Christianity. I thought this post was worth sharing here, however, because these issues are not “just” a matter of faith.

I suppose in the minds of at least some Oklahomans (I pray not a majority) our nation continues to wage war in the Middle East “against Islam.” The last time I checked, The US Department of Defense as well as the Department of Homeland Security called this “the global war on terror,” not the “global war on Islam.” This is not an inconsequential semantic difference.

Speaking as a U.S. citizen, a voter, and a Christian, our nation (the United States) is NOT waging war on Muslims or the Islamic faith. We are striving to combat terrorism, which sadly has been with us since time immemorial and likely will remain so. I agree with those who observed that instead of “militarizing” the war on terror following 9-11, our long term as well as short term national interests would have been better served by focusing on terrorism as a criminal act. (See “Time to Weed the Garden” posted on 9-14-2001.) I do not have my head in the sand. I know there are many folks “out there” who hate our nation and everything it stands for, and are ready to use any means at their disposal to harm us. I am not a pacifist, and believe we need a strong military. We certainly do NOT need to continue deficit spending to keep the stocks of our military industrial complex riding high, however, and we DEFINITELY do not need to have community, state, or national leaders making statements like I heard tonight that “Islam is our enemy.”

For more of my thinking along these lines, see my January 2009 post, “Iran, Sovereignty, Colonialism and the Values of the West.”

At least one Oklahoman (that would be me) rejects the premise that all Muslims are enemies of the United States and Christendom more generally. We are all God’s children, and I pray my brothers and sisters in Christ in Oklahoma (as well as everyone else in other places) can and will understand this. Labeling one fifth of the world’s population as “the enemy” is racism I must reject.

ADDENDUM: Based on some feedback I’ve received on this post via email as well as post comments, I’ve renamed the post “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Muslims are NOT our enemies” instead of the previous title, “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Islam is NOT the enemy.” It is very important to differentiate individuals who choose to be Muslim from the Islamic faith as a whole in this context. Works-based religions like Islam ARE in direct opposition to the grace-based salvation of Christianity, and the sharing of the Christian gospel definitely IS vigorously opposed by certain Muslim groups in different countries. There IS direct and inevitable ideological conflict between Christianity and the Islamic world today, as there has been for centuries. The reality of this conflict SHOULD not correlate, however, into attitudes or perceptions of other human beings or ethnically/religiously defined groups of human beings as “enemies.” Muslim people are NOT enemies of Christians, and should not be considered as such.

Enemies do exist, and a compelling case can be made that individuals who choose to engage in violent, subversive acts of terrorism are enemies of not only nation-states (the United States included) but also more universal human values.

It appears my statement about “Islamic racism” needs correction and clarification as well. I’m told Arabs make up only about 16% of worldwide Islam adherents. All races are represented within Islam, as they are within Christianity, so the term “racist” may not fit/work in this context well.

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On this day..

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  • open_ur_eye!!

    thx god coz still got ppl like u.. how write what u know by ur self.. not what u hear from other… im as muslim.. fell so sad about ppl now days who think islam is terrorist.. they just hear and follow what other said… their mind folded… n only talk what they heard n not from what they know, what they see… only muslim ppl know what is islam… islam is not terrorist.. we just fight 4 our freedom n justice.. our right.. the problem is we cant speak 4 our right n its limited…. ppl over the world likely just 100% belive what media said about islam… islam teach to never n ever insult other religion… i really100x hope that what u hv here write can open ppl mind n their thinking about islam…. may god bless you..

  • http://drzreflects.com Leigh Zeitz

    Wesley,

    I want to thank you for taking the stand against these racist views. Such bigotry indicates a faulty perspective that causes people to stereotype individuals by what they believe or how they appear instead of who they are.

    It is important for us to differentiate the war on terror from a war on Islam. The radicals who choose to use terror tactics to make political statements are no more representative of Islam than the Ku Klux Klan is of Christianity.

    We live in a difficult time now, but I believe the problems we are experiencing are part of the process of tearing down walls and divisions between people. The connections between people around the world are more apparent than ever before and as we expand those connections, hopefully we will expand our understanding of one another which will ultimately reduce conflict.

    Peace,

    Leigh Zeitz

  • http://education-realitycheck.blogspot.com Dave Winter

    Well I for one appreciate that you are taking time to speak and consider what the world would be like as an intolerant place. I worry about these voices being given weight by hard times (when people join together to protect themselves not out of need but rather insecurity). Religious belief is valid but not as an excuse for self preservation and hate born from unknowing. Kia Kaha Westley

  • http://wmsmustech.wikispaces.com Susan Hurst

    I appreciate your thoughts too, Wes, and am often troubled by the same responses that I hear from many of my fellow Oklahomans and Christians.

    I would highly recommend these two books about and by Greg Mortenson and his work in Pakistan and Afghanistan: “Three Cups of Tea” (http://www.threecupsoftea.com/) and “Stones into Schools”(http://www.stonesintoschools.com/). They offer a fascinating look into the role that education (especially for girls and women) plays in changing the influence of radical Islam and an insight into what the “real” Muslim faith is about.

  • JJ

    I totally agree with every word you wrote, with the exception of the implication that this view is more prominent in Oklahoma than elsewhere. I’m a fellow Oklahoman and a Christian, but I strive to respect the views of all people everywhere. I do not equate Muslim with terrorism although I know that is the mindset of all too many throughout the nation. It is disheartening to hear those views expressed in a public forum, especially in a church.

  • http://web.me.com/larryasmith/Larry_Smith_Carpentry/Welcome.html Larry Smith

    You’re right, sin is the enemy of man kind. Perhaps the observation of the increase in Muslim mosques was meant to illustrate an increased path away from the salvation that Jesus gave on the cross to philosophies developed by man. In that sense Islam and all the other philosophical religions are the enemy of man. These religions offer a hope in works to reach God while Christianity in it’s unpolluted form offers an endless relationship with God to those who would accept the gift Jesus offered on the cross and return that love.
    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8 NIV.

    These philosophy based religions are not the enemy in the sense of armed combat, nevertheless they do serve as paths that lead away from the salvation offered by Jesus and what He did on the cross.

    [Posted again to correct artifact punctuation from the copied and pasted Bible verse quote.]

  • hydra12

    I have a different take on this. First, I do agree with you that Muslims are not the enemy. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus died for everyone, no matter what their nationality, ethnicity, etc. I also believe, as a Christian, that Jesus is the only way to God, which by definition makes the Islamic religion wrong – not bad, just mistaken. That doesn’t make Muslims bad people – I believe that there are good and sincere Muslims, but I believe they are sincerely mistaken about who Jesus is, who God is, and how He wants us to live. I took the quote about the enemy advancing to mean this (obviously, this is filtered through my above stated views) – the enemy is Satan, not Muslims or any other ethnic group. Satan’s goal is to mislead people and keep them from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Islam is probably the fastest growing religion in the world. Every person who converts to Islam is someone who is not following Jesus Christ. Since that is Satan’s goal, then it follows that the advance of Islam in the world further’s Satan’s plans. Therefore, seeing more and more mosques means that Satan is advancing in his war against God because more and more people are following a faith that does not center on Jesus Christ.

    Please don’t think I’m a racist – I’m not. I have nothing against Muslims. I would dearly like to see them come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord because I believe that is the only way to God. I don’t view them as the enemy.

    FYI – I’m a bi-vocational minister and a technology teacher, which is how I found your blog.

  • http://dunner99.blogspot.com/ JDsg

    As a Muslim who stumbled upon this post, I thank you for your level-headedness and good words regarding Islam and Muslims. Unfortunately, the perception among non-American Muslims is indeed that the US is waging a war against Islam, and people like the speaker whom you quoted are the ones whose message gets sent through the clearest. So it’s good to see your type of essay. May Allah (swt) bless you for your efforts.

    @ hydra12: Just to let you know, Muslims do in fact hold Jesus (pbuh) in the highest regard. In the Qur’an he is mentioned about 25 times (and only Moses (pbuh) is mentioned there more often). Our qualm is not with Jesus (pbuh) himself, only with the doctrine of trinity.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback. Larry and @hydra12, in light of your points as well as some I’ve received via email, I changed the title of this post (though not the permalink) and added the following at the end of the post:

    ADDENDUM: Based on some feedback I’ve received on this post via email as well as post comments, I’ve renamed the post “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Muslims are NOT our enemies” instead of the previous title, “Message for Oklahoma Christians: Islam is NOT the enemy.” It is very important to differentiate individuals who choose to be Muslim from the Islamic faith as a whole in this context. Works-based religions like Islam ARE in direct opposition to the grace-based salvation of Christianity, and the sharing of the Christian gospel definitely IS vigorously opposed by certain Muslim groups in different countries. There IS direct and inevitable ideological conflict between Christianity and the Islamic world today, as there has been for centuries. The reality of this conflict SHOULD not correlate, however, into attitudes or perceptions of other human beings or ethnically/religiously defined groups of human beings as “enemies.” Muslim people are NOT enemies of Christians, and should not be considered as such.

    Enemies do exist, and a compelling case can be made that individuals who choose to engage in violent, subversive acts of terrorism are enemies of not only nation-states (the United States included) but also more universal human values.

    It appears my statement about “Islamic racism” needs correction and clarification as well. I’m told Arabs make up only about 16% of worldwide Islam adherents. All races are represented within Islam, as they are within Christianity, so the term “racist” may not fit/work in this context well.

  • hydra12

    @JDsg – I know that Muslims hold Jesus in high regard. One of the big differences in our faiths is that I hold Jesus to be equal to God and you do not. From my point of view, that makes me right and you wrong. Of course, from your point of view, you are right and I’m wrong :-) I’d love to see every Muslim become a Christian. You would probably like to see Christians become Muslim.

    Anyway, we have some very different (and mutually exclusive) views about Jesus. I don’t view people who’s view are different from mine as my enemies. I believe that would be wrong and contrary to Jesus’ teachings. If you lived near me (out in the middle of nowhere in Texas), I’d invite you out for a coke and some cordial discussion on our differences :-)

  • RustyBadger

    Thanks for this article, Wes. It echos many of my own feelings about my fellow Christians’ attitudes toward people of other faiths.

    The sad fact is that Islam is less of a threat to Christianity than other things: apathy for the plight of our fellow Man; greed and the doctrine of Prosperity Gospel; racial intolerance within our own communities; pride in our accomplishments and an attitude of self-righteousness. In addition, as a non-American, I would add to that list that American Evangelicals seem to feel their ‘brand’ or model of Christianity is the only True Way, and that those of us who worship God (and yes, Christ as His equal) in different ways are “DOIN IT RONG!”. These these are larger stumbling blocks to the acceptance of the Gospel than the efforts of Islam. And of course, our true Enemy works overtime to make sure we’re distracted by inconsequential arguments and petty bickering over eschatalogical issues and foolish sociological rabbit-trails, rather than spreading the Gospel to those who need it most.

    Do I believe that Islam is not the true faith of salvation? Of course- it’s THE key tenet of Christianity that the only way to Salvation is through Christ (pbuh). That does not, however, mean that Muslims (or Islam) are my enemy. Furthermore, only God can judge the heart of a Man, and I fully expect to be surprised by who my neighbours are in Heaven.

  • Anderson

    I am not a Christian, nor Muslim, nor Buddhist, nor Jew, nor….
    I read your original post and admired it for what you said concerning your fellow parishioner’s statement.
    But, in the back of my mind is a niggling question…what had he been doing in Uganda, I have no way to know…but, was he there promoting the draconian “death to gay people” legislation? Was he there to speak against it? Or, was he there spreading the “word” but not listening and seeing.

    I am sorry when I hear words concerning the “enemy” as it is perceived by various people…I am worried when the “enemy” is my brother, my aunt, my son and maybe the sons or daughters of your readership and your fellow religionists.

    Thank you for speaking out (here, there is no word whether you confronted him on the spot or not.) Speak out and listen to the voices of the hurt.

    Andy Andeson
    Thailand

  • arah
  • Jeff

    I have one thing to ask of the people who claim their respective religion is the “only” path to God, and that is to ask themselves what happens to people who are atheistic or of the “incorrect” religion, but are truely good people? Does this mean that they are never saved, never loved by God in heaven (or whatever you believe happens when you die)?It is an interesting question, one that I have wondered often, especially when some christians claim that the path to God is only through embracing Jesus.

    Jeff – a high school student who stumbled on this article

  • Pingback: Is Jesus the only path to salvation?()

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Jeff: Great question.

    In the case of Christianity, I go back to what CS Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity.” A lot of people want to put Jesus in a box and say something like, “He was a good moral teacher but not the Son of God.” Lewis says Jesus was either a raving lunatic or exactly what he said he was: God on earth. Jesus in his teachings was clear about “the path to salvation” being through a narrow gate. This is a HUGE stumbling block for many people who consider themselves Christians today, but have a more unitarian / universalist view of salvation. It may sound much nicer to say “all religious roads lead to the same path” but that is not what you’ll read in the Bible. So a fundamental question to answer for yourself in this regard is, “Who do I believe Jesus was and is?”

    Jesus, of course, did not endorse a terrible list of evils which have been perpetrated throughout time in his name: the inquisition, the crusades, actions by white supremacists, etc. These are big issues that keep many people from understanding Jesus and his message as well.

    Christianity is differentiated from all other religions in the world in one significant way: Grace. In every other faith, you’ll learn about how you need to work and “do things” to earn your way to salvation. For the Christian, a transformed life is one filled with good works for God– but salvation is not a result of works. You don’t find this in Islam, Hinduism, or any other mainline religion but you do in Christianity.

    My encouragement to you is to keep seeking the answer to the question you’ve asked here, keep asking other people, and keep praying to God to open your eyes and reveal Himself to you. Read the Bible and seek God’s spirit through it, especially reading the gospels.

    Ultimately there are MANY things we don’t know and can’t answer with certainty, even when we have a strong faith and conviction in knowing God. He is infinite and so definitionally He’s beyond our limited abilities to fully understand. This is not a cop-out, I think it’s actually wisdom which you will find with many “religious” people, Christian and non-Christian alike. This does NOT mean truth is relativistic and “unknowable” either, but it does mean we aren’t going to get everything figured out while we’re still all mortals on this planet.

    If you see or hear someone who claims to be a Christian espousing damnation and a condemning judgement on others, in a hateful spirit, be wary. When you read about the life of Christ in the Bible, you learn he never acted that way toward everyday people. He was most severe and condemning when he criticized the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees. Believing that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and the “narrow gate” through which we are able to be forgiven and accepted by God does NOT mean we are to go around condemning everyone we meet who doesn’t believe the way we do. Jesus simplified all the laws in the Old Testament in these two commands: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. There’s not any condemning in those commands.

  • Hang Didik

    Assalamu’alaikum,

    You are right, Islam is not the enemy but why so many countries creating enemy? Islam, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu can peace in my country, Indonesia. But how in Palestine? No freedom, no right, no justice. G B U Palestinian, Alloh never sleep. Thank you for your writen.

    Wassalamu’alaikum.

  • Pastorsurya

    I absolutely agree with you. 
    I am a pastor and do my best to convince muslim brothers and sisters about the truth in Jesus. But we should never treat them as enemies. We have lots of muslims in the southern part of Nepal (my country) and they are considered the most honest and hard working people. Certainly, there are some chaps who have been terrorizing the world in the name of Islam. They hoodwink innocent muslims into thinking that through their brutal bombings they have been protecting Islam. No, They are defaming Islam.Let’s not fight or argue in the name of religion. If we are true followers of Jesus, we will spread the fragrance of Jesus’ love not hatred.People are more important than our mere ideologies!

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