August 19, 2010

Flanders Does Islam

Why does just about every Evangelical blogger on the planet think he’s an expert on Islam? Have you ever noticed that? Any mention of Islam in the news and they’ll go off on the Qur’an and all the evil things it supposedly teaches. What’s so crazy about this is that these people can’t even agree about their own scriptures. Just get a group of them together and ask what the Bible says about, say, baptism or eschatology, and you’ll be amazed at all the fights that erupt. And yet they think they have credibility when telling us, with the utmost of confidence of course, that they understand the Qur’an?

Now I myself have never read the Qur’an. I’d like to. Just as I’d like to one day read Finnegan’s Wake. But you know how it is: too much to read, too little time.

Nonetheless, I have a suspicion that most of what these Evangelicals say is total crap. More than anything else, I base this suspicion on the way I’ve seen them butcher their own holy book. Prooftext, prooftext, prooftext—’tis the mantra of most Christians today. Never mind understanding a passage’s historical context. Never mind trying to get at the author’s original intent. Your average Evangelical can twist almost any verse of Scripture to justify pretty much anything he desires.

Now I know the Qur’an has some problem passages. But so does the Bible. In the Old Testament, for instance, Yahweh repeatedly commands his people to commit genocide, sometimes even demanding that they slaughter innocent children. And in the New Testament, we find Jesus commanding his followers to hate their parents and spouses and children. And we find the Apostle Paul telling women to submit themselves to their husbands. Yet these Evangelical bloggers, with all the chutzpah humanly possible, claim that it is Islam, not Christianity, that is the religion of violence, hatred, and injustice.

I’m not trying to impugn Christianity. And I’m not suggesting that there aren’t adequate explanations for the above passages. But, for crying out loud, why don’t these Christians extend the same charity to Muslim apologists that they would like for themselves? Why all the energy spent slandering Islam? It’s not like discrediting Islam will somehow prove Christianity.

If these Evangelicals want to see their numbers increase, if they want to lead others to Jesus, then they should try showing a little restraint, exercising a little humility. Because, when you get down to it, people join religious communities, not because of dogmas, not because of arguments, but because those communities make them feel loved and accepted. And this, it seems to me, is why so many young people are turned off of Christianity and why church attendance continues to fall.

[Originally published August 25, 2009]


Liberty said...

Very good, and I agree. Its silly, how like, every Christian you talk to is an immediate Qur'anic expert. It would be rather amusing if it weren't so sad. ^.^

Kevin Carson said...

It's been a long time since I read the Quran for a college class in Middle Eastern history, but as I recall it was mostly material borrowed from the Old and New Testaments. That makes sense, when you consider that Islam claims to be a restoration of the earlier revelations of God imperfectly preserved in the scriptures of the Jews and Christians, and a correction of the latter's perversions of the original Islamic teaching given to the prophets.

The material was heavily schematized and abstracted from its historical context, in which the interactions of assorted prophets from Adam to Isaiah to Jesus with "the people" or wicked rulers were presented with no clear idea of the time or place in which they occurred.

And it was also pretty modular in organization. The most popular stories (e.g. the prophet Joseph vs. Pharaoh) came up again and again in a number of suras, and the individual suras can be read separately and in no particular order.

At least that's my impression after all these years.

And I second what you said -- there's not really much in there you'd bat an eye at, if OT stuff about "killing every one that pisseth against the wall" or "dashing out the brains of their little ones" doesn't give you qualms.

Anonymous said...

why they pretend to be experts on the Quran?

Because evanagelicals like to convert people to their kind of Christianity and one of the hardest groups to convert are Muslims----because the Quran already talks of Jesus Christ(pbuh) and the Quranic version makes a lot more sense than the Evangelical version.
---so---they need to come up with arguments that would discredit the Quran. However, the tactic hasn't been particularly succesful--so these days, some Evangalicals have come up with a new (controversial) tactic where they are telling potential Muslim converts that they can remain Muslim and still be a Christian.!!!!

Roger Young said...

The biggest mistake Christians make is listening to their preachers.

Don Emmerich said...

Liberty -- Thanks for your feedback.

Kevin -- I'm really impressed you've read it. Interesting thoughts. I hope to get there one day.

Anon. -- Thanks for your comments. It's so sad that so many Christians put so much energy into bashing the Qur'an. Really sad.

Roger -- Amen to that! Obviously there are good preachers out there, but so many of the ones I've met are total buffoons and losers.

Kevin Carson said...

Anonymous: With all respect to your beliefs, I don't know how the mainline Christian view of Jesus is any less rational than that of Islamic teaching. As I recall (for example), the Muslim view was that Christ only appeared to be crucified and die -- a position which was presumably influenced by the Docetist heresy, which was held by some of the more extreme versions of the Gnostic and Docetist heresies percolating through Greater Syria and into Medina. That view of the historical Jesus seems pretty a-historical to me, FWIW.

And there are other bits of the Quran that seem to reflect stuff picked up from the throwaway lines of this or that Church Father, which were never recognized by the Catholic Magisterium. For example, I think the suggestion that Satan's rebellion involved a refusal to pay obeisance to Adam was originally found in the speculative writings of one of the Early Fathers.

Perhaps you're thinking of Trinitarian or Christological doctrines when it comes to stuff Muslims have got it right on? I know those doctrines are major sticking points for Jews and Muslims, who see them as a radical affront to the uniqueness and unity of God--but as an agnostic I really don't have a dog in that fight.

Don: No need to be impressed. It's a fairly short read, and I got class credit for it. (Although the Muslim commenter might argue, probably with some validity, that I didn't study the Quran with anywhere near the attention required to do it justice -- not to mention the common objection that it's impossible to translate the text into languages other than Arabic without distorting its meaning beyond the breaking point).

My only real point is that I found nothing in the Quran to justify the exaggerated shock and horror emanating from the professional anti-Islam industry. In terms of "radicalism" and "extremism," the Quran probably stacks up as about average against the scriptures of the major world religions, and the Muslims I have known have been pretty sane, normal people--no more violent or fanatical, on average, than the Baptists and Pentecostals I live with here in Northwest Arkansas. I think there are just some folks out there who need an excuse for a witch-hunt.

Don Emmerich said...

Kevin -- It's always nice to hear from a fellow agnostic. In order to defend any of the major religions, you can't help but adopt "creative" ways to interpret certain facts, stretch logic more than you normally would. This isn't to say that any of the major religions are necessarily false. This isn't to say that they don't help people cope with life. But, intellectually speaking, they can certainly have their problems. For this reason, it’s always refreshing to hear another agnostic give his/her take on things.

Don Emmerich said...

And oh how I miss the days of reading difficult, important literature for college credit. I thought I was such a badass at the time -- "Hey, look at me, I'm reading Nietzsche. Nietzsche." But, of course, I haven't read Nietzsche since college. It's so easy to read some of this stuff when you're required to for class. But once you graduate, it's so easy to put that stuff aside and spend your free time watching movies, surfing the web, etc.