A friend recently asked for my opinion on a video doing the rounds among some Christian groups. I am not an expert on Islam, but I have lived and worked in the Middle East, and have studied and paid attention to Christian-Muslim engagement for over 30 years.
That video link is hosted at a website called “Israel video network” – although David Wood is a Christian. He clearly wants to make a point that Obama is a Muslim apologist (he makes it seem like Obama is quoting a whole series of Quranic passages himself); so probably a Republican. He doesn’t clarify when he is reading from the Quran vs the Hadith (essentially the oral tradition of saying and teachings of Muhammed, collected long after his death). So, I am starting from the perspective that this fellow wants to manipulate the understanding of his listeners – he has an ideological point to make.
That being said, there is a social, historical and political examination of Islamic civilization that largely corresponds with his 3 points. He is not addressing the subject of classical Islamic theology and practice (think orthodox Christian teaching).
An examination of the social, historical and political trajectory of Christian civilization will tell a largely similar story. Think, the Holy Roman Empire; the Crusades, the birth of capitalism and the advance of “Christianity” as a civilizing mission – Columbus, the East India Company, US Manifest Destiny, etc. (with Scripture quoted in each case) From a Muslim perspective, it is exactly the same kind of storyline.
Wood is articulating the case for “clash of civilizations” theory; a theory espoused by social/political conservatives (just war, etc).
A key piece for me is that the apostolic and early church era (0-300AD) is understood to be the normative story for orthodox Christian teaching – the founding era. On the other hand, moderate/classical Muslims want to make the normative period in Islam as 800-1100AD (about 200-400 yrs after Muhammed, i.e, not the founding era); the reasons for this require a bit more explanation than a short post here. Radical Muslims (not the majority) want to make the founding era normative; hence the violent jihadist notions.
So, a complex story – not simplistic. Which is the issue -- any reductionist version of history and social development is doing a disservice to the complexity of reality, to make an ideological point. Andrew Coyne has an interesting article here on the use of rhetorical language on this topic, contrasting Obama and Harper's language.
Now if we want to talk theology and texts, and reasonable conversation in a pluralist society, that’s another topic. Miroslav Volf’s Allah: A Christian Response is an excellent resource; as is Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.
I am not a just war theorist (more of an Anabaptist), which inevitably leads to the use of violence as a response – reference the last 25 years of world history.
As a Christian and missiologist, I would like 1) the opportunity for Christians to live their lives in peace, even in the midst of a Muslim majority country (Orthodox Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine); and 2) to be able to articulate my faith as an option for consideration in a pluralist society without fear of shaming or death (whether Canada or Libya).
But I don’t believe that normative Christian theology and practice (apostolic and early church era) support the use of violence to achieve those desires. Only “live such good lives among (them)…” 1 Peter 2 & 3 are very instructive in this conversation.
my two cents in a world of multiple perspectives...