ISLAM [incomplete study]
[1625 WE ARE IN- As you know the U.S. and our allies have begun enforcing the ‘no fly zone’- in actuality the stated mission is more than a no fly zone, it’s a mission that is too open ended- basically it says we can do anything we need to do to protect the civilian population of Libya- geez- too broad. Now- is this the same type of resolution that Bush had for his 2 wars? No- president Obama has NO resolution from the congress- nada. He’s operating under U.N. and Arab league language- kind of a problem- don’t you think? I heard a major news person say Obama is operating the same way Bush did- without congressional approval. The news broadcaster explained that Bush did not go to congress for Afghanistan or Iraq. Actually Bush went to congress in 2001 for Afghanistan- and 2002 for Iraq. Though the internal debate [now made public] was that the president did not need to go to congress- yet they did anyway. Those defending Obama’s recent action say ‘yeah- but Clinton didn’t get congressional approval for Kosovo- Serbia’ true. Either way- we are there now. If you go back and read my posts on Libya- I was not a hawk on the matter- someone who advocated U.S. military action. But I felt some of the statements from the president [Gadhafi must go] kinda put us on the hook to do something. Though the defense secretary did not want to engage in another Muslim country [not Arab!] yet it seems as if the secretary of state changed her view and Obama decided for limited action. The U.S. will do the early work- and do a quick hand off to France [Britain]. The problem is we never seem to be able to do the darn handoffs! So let’s pray and try and do our best.
As I mentioned above- the media often simply report stuff wrong. It does not help that most of us hold a view of that part of the world thru what we see/hear in the media- a media that gets stuff wrong [not just Fox]. The majority of Arab people are indeed Muslim- but that makes up only 20 % of the entire Muslim world. The most populous Muslim states range from North Africa to Southeast Asia- Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion- and the world’s 2nd largest [around 1.2 billion followers]. Islam also holds huge minority followings in the Western world [Europe and the U.S.]. Most Americans associate Islam with radical Islam- though most of today’s terrorists have come from the radical sect of Islam- all Muslims are not radicals. There is an internal debate in Islam on how to deal with modernity- some scholars teach that true Islam is Patriarchal in nature and the role of women is subordinate. These hold to the idea that a true Islamic adherent seeks for a true Islamic state- ruled by Sharia law. Others believe in a type of separation of Mosque and state- they hold to the view that Islam’s survival depends on its ability to ‘liberalize’ and adjust- like Christianity has done thru the centuries [most Christians are not seeking a theocratic state- though at one time the world was literally governed by the church]. Islam was founded in the 7th century under the prophet Muhammad, and within a hundred years after his death spread into a vast empire [under the Umayyad and Abbasid empires]. Islam also has a sect within her that could kind of be described as Mystical- that is like the Christian Mystics of church history. This branch is called Sufism. So you could say the 2 great institutions of Islam are Islamic law [Sharia] and Sufism [the mystical expression that seeks a more romanticized experience with God- like Christian Pietism].
As an avid boxing fan- I was watching a fight one night- and the official bell ringer ‘rung’ the bell after only 2minutes into the round [rounds are 3 minutes]. At first the ringside announcers- who are not paying attention to the clock- picked it up by simply feeling like the round was short. Sure enough during the break they were told the bell ringer- whose sole job is to ring the bell- messed up. As I watch the coverage unfold over the next weeks/months- and yes- years- I want to try and do my best to stick with the facts as much as possible. I understand it’s not easy to keep all the facts straight [the official bell ringers do at times mess up] and the distinction between the Arab/Muslim world is at times hard to see- I’m sure we will hear lots of reports confusing the 2- but being we are living in a real dangerous time- a time of change thru out the world that we cannot stop [I didn’t even mention the recent events in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia- major events- Yemen ‘snipers’ killed 50 protestor in cold blood- shot in the head/neck. Bahrain cracked down brutally on her protestors- and Syria is beginning to see more of an uprising]. So as we become more familiar with this part of the world- we want to get our facts as straight as possible. In this post I’m just beginning to cover Islam as a religion- over the coming months I want to do some posts strictly on the actual history of Islam- what Islam believes and teaches- and what Islam does not teach. The purpose is not to give a defense to the religion- but to inform each other about a religion that most westerners see only thru a lens of radicalism- thru news reports that fixate on the extreme elements of Islam. Part of our responsibility in the West is to know the subject/people we are dealing with- and for today one of the facts that should help form the coming posts is all Muslims are not Arabs- and all Arabs are not Muslim- the majority of nations that are ‘majority’ Muslim [around 53] are indeed African and Asian. And the latest one that we just engaged in- militarily- is smack dab in the middle of the North African rim that has been on fire- first to its left in Tunisia- and then to its right with Egypt- and we are ‘stuck in the middle with you’.
 PILLARS 1-2.
As the Libya story unfolds- you have some sincere critics of the president [Dick Lugar] and others who just want to find fault. Now- one of the debates going on is who will eventually take over the command of the ‘no fly zone’ [war]. The Arab league- though initially in support of the action, has since said what they signed up for [protect innocent civilians] is not what happened [bombing the country]. Vladimir Putin [Russian P.M.] said ‘it’s a crusade’ Yikes! The Russian president [who I thought was supposed to be a puppet] Medvedev rebuked the words publicly. Before we hit Libya- I started asking a few questions- things like ‘look- I know the leader seems like a nut, but I’m beginning to wonder if there might be some truth to his charge that the Rebels are Al Qaeda’. Sure enough there have been lots of reports that do say the radical element in these protests are larger than what we saw in the other nations [Tunisia, Egypt]. Richard Engel- a top NBC [NOT FOX!] reporter said that 1 in 5 of the rebels are fighting because they want to kill Gadhafi ‘the Jew’. So as we debate when/where the U.S. should take action- we need to also keep in mind that the alternatives to the toppling of leaders might be just as bad- or worse- than the actual leader. Okay- why was the word ‘crusade’ so charged? It plays into the world history of the western nations fighting against the Muslim world. Many in the Arab league are not comfortable with NATO taking charge because of this history. The last few weeks the song ‘from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli’ have gone thru my mind. I remember the old Abbot and Costello shows on the foreign legion and stuff like that. What war is the song describing? It speaks about the wars that the U.S. engaged in- yes- with Libya- many years ago. After the American colonies broke away from England we continued to conduct world trade by the use of ships. At one point [1800’s] the Mediterranean became a flash point [like today] you had pirates and countries who retaliated by disrupting the water ways. America of course fought back- and the Libyans were actually called ‘the Mujahedeen’ yes- the same term used for the Rebels who we supported in toppling the Russian influence in Afghanistan. These were the Barbary wars- Barbary Coast. So- we need to be careful that our actions don’t play into the idea that the U.S. is actually waging a 21st century crusade [this is also why it was unbelievable that Bush actually used the term crusade during his term].
Okay- let me do a little more on Islam [the teaching series I started in the last post]. Islam has 5 Pillars- basic tenets that all Muslims hold to;
1- The declaration of their faith ‘There is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is the messenger of God’. To become a Muslim- one simply has to accept/confess this statement. Muslims believe that the final/complete revelation of God to man has come thru the prophet- by way of the Quran. As Christians accept Jesus as God’s final prophet/Messiah to mankind- so Muslims see Muhammad as the final and complete authority.
2- The second Pillar is Salat [prayer]. Muslims pray 5 times a day while facing Mecca- the holy city where the Kabba is [Kabba- the house of God believed to have been built by Abraham and his son Ishmael]. Once a week on Friday Muslims pray corporately at noon in the local mosque or Islamic center.
The next few days I’ll try and cover the other 3 pillars- I actually think the 3rd pillar is more in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and the bible than what most Christians practice- it deals with the Muslim practice of giving to meet the needs of the poor. For today that should cover it- remember- the reason we are covering Islam as a religion is so we can have a better grasp on what Muslims believe. Too many of us are only familiar with the more radical elements that the media focus on when an attack takes place. At the same time there are also prejudices in Islam as well- many young Muslims are taught a radical hatred for the Jew- these wrong ideas are formed in their minds as young people- and they too need to reject these anti- Semitic ideas. As the U.S. begins engaging in the 3rd Muslim country in the last 11 years- we need to be very careful that we are not playing into the hands of those who embrace radicalism- there is a very real extreme element in Libya. Al Qaeda has operated out of the nation for many years- we need to be careful that we are not being ‘useful idiots’.
 MUSLIM IN AMERICA- THE PRESIDENTS SPEECH AND OTHER MUSINGS.
Last night the president finally spoke to the nation in defense of our military action in Libya. He made the case that there are times when the U.S. can/should act if we feel we can avert a humanitarian disaster- he also said we can’t always intervene in every conflict. I guess for the most part this makes some sense- it’s just the way he handled it [going on vacation- congress in recess]. There are still lots of questions to be asked/answered. Today the rebels are on the outskirts of a western city that is ‘pro Gadhafi’. The city is called Sirte and like other cities in the west they favor Gadhafi more so than the rebels. The question is; how do we justify the bombing of Gadhafi’s military- in order to protect civilians- while the rebels are getting ready to overthrow a civilian population- with force- against the majority of the will of the people? We have indeed enabled the rebels to advance this far west, and we are basically on the side of the rebels- in this case- against the populace.
The other night I watched a CNN special on Muslim discrimination in America- most of you who read my posts [blog] know I try and take the more moderate position of not branding all Muslims as radical. I do think there are times when Muslims are discriminated against wrongfully because of their faith. Yet at the same time the media often show their bias. The show did a good job at revealing how Muslims face discrimination in America- the host- Soledad O’Brien- kind of showed the ‘ignorant’ Christians versus the moderate Muslims. The town was Murphysboro Tenn. [yes- they picked a spot that would be a little more redneck than usual] and they interviewed a few American Muslim women whose sole experience of Islam comes from an American perspective. These women, as sympathetic as their causes are- do not even begin to breech the absolute discrimination and oppression that many Muslim women experience around the globe on a daily basis- it was just unfair for CNN to portray Muslim women as victims of Christian discrimination while overlooking the real problem- expressed by many women who have chosen to speak out- against the oppression women face when living in countries that have Sharia law as the law of the land.
As I continue to teach the study on Islam [so far have only done 1 post on it] I want to try and approach the strained relationship that exists between Western society and Islam- yet I don’t want to be an apologist for Islam. I’m currently going thru a course on Islam that is taught by the official govt. teacher on the subject. I believe he was sitting in the second row of the president’s speech last night. Over the years I have studied on lots of subjects- years of utilizing the public library system, buying university level books [not pop culture Christian stuff on how to ‘get what you want’] and I have also ordered courses [C.D. and book] from the top professors of the universities of the world. These course are not cheap- yet they are cheaper than actually getting credits for the courses [you can take the same courses as extension courses from the universities and get credit- but that’s way too expensive- especially if done thru the elite universities- Harvard, etc.] So instead I simply purchase the courses and do them on my own. Now- the reason I say this is to explain a ‘funny thing’ that happened on my study of Islam. When I first ordered the course I noticed the ratings were not that great. Most courses are rated in the 80-90 percentile- from others who have done the course- this one was in the 60’s. I hesitated to get it- but the other courses that dealt with Islam also dealt with other religions- and I didn’t want to do an entire comparative religion study at this time. So these courses are taught by the top tier professors in the world [these professors are peer reviewed and deemed to be in the top 10 %]. This one on Islam is taught by the person who teaches Islam to the incoming govt. employees under president Obama. As I’m going thru the course- there are times where I feel like the teacher is too defensive of Islam- sort of like the CNN special. At one point the professor defends Muhammad as a religious leader who freed women from oppression and instituted an open and liberal society for all people- especially women. Geez- stuff like this is very problematic- I know enough about the current world nations that have Islam as the official religion of the nation- these nations are without a doubt very oppressive to women.
Like many things in life- we all try and do our best to give people the benefit of the doubt- and as someone who has disagreed with the president and been openly critical of him- yet I try not to be so biased that I find fault with everything he does. The media has far left defenders- who never find anything wrong with the man- and far right critics who never find anything right. At this time- the revolts in North Africa and the Middle East are really getting out of hand- the Christians in Egypt- an ancient Christian church [Coptic] have lived there since the early days of Christianity- they have just voted in Egypt to recognize Sharia law as the official law of the land- this referendum was passed by 70 % of the population- and the Muslim Brotherhood showed their organizational abilities by gaining a majority of the vote for the things they wanted. So now the Christians in Egypt might face the same fate as those in Pakistan- being put to death for blaspheming Islam [which often means witnessing for Christ]. The rebels who we are fighting for in Libya are much more radical than Gadhafi- yes Gadhafi was/is a madman- yet the rebels have more Al Qaeda influence than Gadhafi- they have been enemies in Libya for years. Do we really want our people dying for the Rebels?
There are still lots of questions to be answered- I am uncomfortable that the course I’m going thru on Islam is so skewed to the point of defending Islam as a great liberator of women and their rights- I was even more troubled to have seen ‘my instructor’ sitting in the 2nd row at the president’s speech.
 EPISTEMOLOGY- Lets do a little more on how we learn- know stuff. The actual ‘study’ of how we know things is called Epistemology. Today’s popular movement is called Post Modernism- a challenge to the classical idea of Modernism. The classical way of looking at knowledge said there are things that are ‘really true’ and things that are not- this is called Objective Truth. The Post Moderns say words are limited [true to a degree] and because words are simply vehicles that transmit ideas that are not really ‘true’ in the classical sense, then it is wrong for one group [like Christians] to say to another group [non- Christians] that Jesus is the Way- Truth and Life [Johns gospel]. So the battle lines are drawn. It should be noted that a growing number of believers are describing themselves as Post Modern and they argue that it is possible to be Christian and Post Modern at the same time. Okay- as more of the classical type- I believe it is possible to get to objective truth- that the pursuit of what’s true is not a vain pursuit- and yes- though we are all limited in our understanding, yet to even have this conversation requires an element of Absolute Truth. If the Post Modernist says ‘words have no objective truth- only relative truth- they only convey what the hearer decides they convey’ then I can say ‘Oh- so if I take your words to mean there is such a thing as objective truth- that’s okay’? O know you idiot- you’re not hearing what I’m saying! So you see that the Post modernist needs his words to mean something- to convey a specific thing to the hearer- if the hearer can make the words mean whatever he wants- then you can’t even engage in the discussion- got it? So anyway- as I’m thinking about scrapping my Islam course [and just teaching it from stuff I learned myself- in the immortal words of defense secy. Bob Gates ‘on the fly’] I do want to utilize whatever objective truth I can pick up along the way- while at the same time realizing all people have their own biases and we need to listen with a careful skepticism. I ordered a course on Physics a while back- good course- but the instructor- though smart- made a classic mistake in Logic as he taught the course. He often said ‘the universe was created BY CHANCE’. Now- as a purely grammatical- logical argument- this incorrect [a fallacy]. Why? What he really means to say is ‘there are unknown causes in the universe that created the effect of existence- we do not know what these causes are- but we believe that thru a series of actions- which have no particular direction [chance] these unknown causes have caused the effect of the universe’. Okay- I don’t want to be nitpicky- but when I hear an intelligent person say ‘everything was made BY CHANCE’ and for him to get away with this without a rigorous challenge- then the Christian thinker has failed in his task to challenge the skeptic on his own terms- to show that even though the person may be an expert in his field [Physics] yet this does not mean he can get away with fallacious arguments- arguments that are invalid from the get go. So as we progress over the coming weeks/months on the various fields of study- we want to be open to learn from others who have specialized in their particular fields of study- we want to be open minded enough to learn from people who reject the faith- yes atheists can teach us things- there are areas of knowledge that all people have that can benefit the rest of us. And we want to weigh all things that we hear- we all make mistakes- and are susceptible to error. Just because my Physics ‘teacher’ screwed up in a classic way- a way that most apologists recognize right off the bat- I mean you have to be an amateur ‘arguer’ of truth to make this type of mistake- yet I didn’t reject the entire course- I still learned valuable insights from the man. So I think this is the best approach to take- listen to all sides of a matter- doubt the things that seem a little off- do some research- check into it yourself- and at the end of the day let a variety of sources be your pool of knowledge- don’t just rely on one source. Proverbs says ‘In the multitude of counselors there is safety’. Be sure you’re listening/hearing from the multitude [broad range of thought and learning] because often times single sources can be right in one area- and off in another.
 3rd PILLAR- ZAKAT.
As I was debating whether or not to continue my study on Islam [today] the spot I stopped at last was the 3rd pillar. Sure enough yesterday [and the rerun at 1 a.m.] Beck did an interesting show on Zakat. He had on a few experts- who are known to not be sympathetic to Islam- and they covered the subject of non violent Jihad- those who advocate for an Islamic society thru non violent means. Now- I know some Beck supporters have been upset with me in the past because I criticize Beck- it’s not that I don’t think he actually brings up things that other networks don’t- sometimes he does reveal stuff that the other networks don’t because they are so ‘in the tank’ for the president. I never thought I’d see the day where a news host actually would describe his ‘feelings’ that come over him when he hears the president speak- he actually used sexual connotations to describe it [a tingle goes up my leg]. Now- I’m not saying this to be cute [okay- maybe a little] but to say I have never in my life seen the media- the so called 4th estate- so one sided. So Beck [Fox] does serve a purpose. Now- Beck covered the groups that raise money under the banner of ‘charity’ and yet they have ties to radical Islam, and they discussed the ancient Islamic practice of Zakat [or Tithe].
In the Muslim community Zakat is giving a portion [2.5%] of both goods and finances for the sole purpose of providing for the poor. In Muslim communities the Zakat is like social security. The word literally means purification. The word itself is not a terrorist term- nor the practice. It is important for Beck and others to cover stories about the use of Zakat given to charitable groups for radical purposes- yet most Americans have probably not heard of the term before- and their first introduction to it was seen thru an association to terror.
Years ago I had a chance meeting with a Muslim- I’m sure he didn’t realize he ran into some nut who studies just about everything a person can study [I was working at the fire house and on duty]. He was a devout Muslim- dressed in Muslim garb an all. As we talked I gave him the biblical history of Abraham and his 2 sons Isaac and Ishmael. I traced the lineage of Christians and Jews from Isaacs’s line, and the genealogy of Muslims [Arabs] thru Ishmael. I spoke about the coming of Jesus in the 1st century of the Common Era as the promised offspring that God originally told Abraham about. I explained the purpose of the Messiah [Jesus] as being the predestined one sent by God to unite all people and tribes under one new nation- the Kingdom of God. I explained to my friend that Christianity teaches that Jesus was not simply a prophet- but one who died for the sins of the world and rose again as the final sacrifice that would ever need to be made for the sins of men. I was surprised to see my Muslim friend hearing the whole story- for the 1st time. He told me he was not familiar at all with the history [even though it is both biblical history and Islamic- the part about Ishmael which is found in the book of Genesis]. He seemed so grateful to have heard it thru ‘this angle’ not from the angle of the Crusades- or of Western Colonialism- but from the angle of the grace of God that has come to all tribes and races thru Jesus Christ.
As I watch the media day after day- seeing more unrest in the Middle East than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Seeing the growing strain between Christians and Muslims and Jews [the Fla. Pastor went and burned a Koran and Muslim demonstrators in Afghanistan attacked the U.N. building and killed and beheaded some workers]. As I see the lines being drawn in the sand- I come back to the story of my Muslim friend- who obviously was dedicated to his faith [wearing the robe and all] yet he never clearly heard the gospel- which actually means Good News. The bible commands us [Christians] to live in peace with ALL MEN- to love our neighbor as our self- to even love those who hate us- to pray for those who persecute us and to do good [a type of Zakat] to our fellow man. While I make no excuses for the killing and beheading of the U.N. people- yet to burn the holy book of another religion is also not living peaceably with all men.
I believe the Islamic practice of Zakat is closer to actual biblical teaching than what most Christians practice today. The majority of Christian giving- often wrongfully referred to as the Tithe- goes to the function of media ministry- church buildings- salaries- etc. under 10 percent goes to meeting the needs of the poor. Yet in the teachings of Jesus and in the New Testament the majority teaching on giving is in context of giving to meet the needs of the poor [go read my books under the Feb- 2010 posts- and also the study called ‘what in the world is the church’ under the Feb posts]. So in a very real way I do think the Islamic Zakat is closer to the biblical practice than what most 21st century Christians practice.
I will obviously have many things I will not embrace about Islam in future posts- I will try and cover those differences as respectfully as I possibly can- without being a biased defender of Islam [as my current instructor on the course seems to be]. And I will make the case for Christ as well. At the end of the day hopefully we can learn more about our various beliefs- try and have respect for those who differ- and root for the moderates among us. I reject the Koran burning pastor in Fla. And I hope most Muslims will also reject the radical elements within their ranks. The history of the 3rd Pillar of Islam is a good one- a practice that centers around the teachings of Christ- it’s a shame that some in the Muslim community have hijacked it for violent Jihad.
 LESSON FROM A MUSLIM-
I read a story in my local paper yesterday- there was an ecumenical dinner held this week between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Christian staff writer who attended shared how it helped her to overcome previous prejudices that she had. She told what the various speakers discussed and I was particularly impressed with what the Muslim speaker said- she talked about how true religion is not performance, putting on a show- but is expressed in reaching out to those in need- the poor and hurting.
In fact she was basically quoting the New Testament book of James- James says ‘pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows and to stay clean from the world’. A few weeks back one of my homeless buddies stopped by- he’s basically a genius when it comes to the bible- I mean it’s sort of an autistic thing to be honest- he knows- by memory- much more than the average preacher. As I visited with Henry I gave him the latest bible studies that were sent to me over the last few months. Years ago I heard a N.J. Jewish preacher- who pastors a Messianic congregation in Lodi, N.J.- he had a short radio show on the same station I’m on- and as a courtesy I sent him some of my books and told him hi and all- being I’m a former Jersey brother and all. Ever since he has sent me these really great bible studies every month.
The studies are really in depth- and he usually only sends them to partners [those who support his ministry with money]. But I guess he appreciated my sending him a nice note and he forever put me on the list. Now- I’m an avid reader- I’ve read just about everything you can get your hands on- but these past few years I’m trying to stick with scholarly stuff- not that I’m ‘too good’ for the basic stuff- It’s just I really don’t have the time to just read tons of stuff that’s in the category of ‘devotional’ material- stuff that just kind of talks about Christian things.
So I hate to throw the stuff out- I mean they’re great bible studies. I don’t want to write Jonathan [the pastor] and say ‘take me off your list’- so I save them up and give them to Henry- he devours them and even quotes them back to me the next time I see him. So anyway we had a good talk. Somehow we got into discussing the book of James [the verse I quoted above] and I told Henry how it’s funny that James [we believe this letter in the New Testament- called James- was written by the James who was Jesus’ brother- mentioned about in the bible. He was the same James mentioned as one of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem in the book of Acts, chapter 15. To my Catholic friends- it might sound strange ‘Jesus had a brother?’ these words are found in the New Testament. Catholic teachers don’t deny this- they just interpret it to mean ‘cousin’ or near relative- some say its speaking of ‘Christian brother’. Don’t want to debate it- just thought I should mention it].
Anyway- I told Henry how it’s strange that one of the key leaders in the early church- who was closer to Jesus than all the other disciples [he lived in the same house] that he would write such a scathing indictment against the rich- and he would defend the poor so strongly. James’ letter is one of the strongest rebukes against the rich that you will find in the bible. Anyway Henry agreed with me- of course Henry’s poor- homeless- but he knows his stuff. He said ‘you know John- as true as you are- you never hear this from the famous pulpits in America’. He was agreeing with what the Muslim lady said at the dinner- that true religion is not fame and glory- but serving those in need.
I liked the spirit of the article I read- It does not mean I will not continue to advocate for the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus- that Jesus is truly the only way to God. Pope Benedict has also come under some heat for saying the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the only way of salvation- to which I agree.
Yet at the same time- as we make our case to our Muslim and Jewish friends- we can also sit down with them- live as citizens of the same community with them- and even learn something from them every now and then.
NOTE- To any of my friends who might be ‘rich’. The early church did have certain individuals who were rich- and it was oaky. The person who gave his grave spot to Jesus- Joseph of Arimathea- was rich. Also in the books of Acts there were believers who sold their real estate and dedicated the money to the church. So the bible doesn’t just outright condemn those who are rich- but there are many warnings against being rich in ‘this world’ while forgetting to build riches in the kingdom [works of love and charity]. That’s the main theme of James’ letter.
 THE ARAB SPRING-
This week the president took some criticism for identifying the struggle going on in the Arab/Muslim world with the struggle for freedom that the Jewish people experienced- and commemorate during this Passover season. The president- who celebrates the Passover meal- said that the present Arab struggle for freedom- what is sometimes referred to as The Arab Spring, is much like what the Jews went thru when they too felt oppressed by their leaders many years ago. I actually just did an entire study along these same lines [Insights from a Revolution].
The president’s critics tore into him ‘how dare he compare a radical Muslim terror campaign with the honest struggle of the Jewish people’. Beck had John Hagee [the famous Pastor out of San Antonio] on his show- as well as a Rabbi and another Israeli official- they discussed the subject of God being on the side of the geopolitical decisions of Israel- and how the Arab/Muslim world just want to ‘kill everybody else’.
Hagee offered his friendship to the Rabbi- stating ‘though we disagree on who the Messiah is [no small disagreement!] yet we can still overlook our differences and work together’. Now- I would simply ask- why not take this position with the Muslim/Arab world too? The difference that Hagee was willing to ‘gloss over’ with his Jewish friends is quite a leap- though I too agree with it- that is even though our Jewish friends do not embrace Jesus as the Messiah- yet we should love them as Jesus commanded- and fight for their rights as a people.
We should also extend this hand of friendship- as much as possible- to the Arab world. ‘What- are you nuts- don’t you know the Koran has verses in it that are incompatible with Christian doctrine’- actually I do know this- but that 'incompatibility’ is just as severe- doctrinally- as saying Jesus is not the Messiah. According to the Apostle John- this denial is the worst doctrinal denial one can make [Johns 1st letter found in the New Testament ‘if anyone denies that Jesus Christ is the Messiah- come in the flesh- he is anti Christ’].
Okay- the point? Why couldn’t Beck, Hagee, and the other multitudes simply give this same benefit of the doubt to the Muslim world? In Genesis chapter 16 we read the actual history of the Arab/Muslim world- yes it’s in our bibles. Sarah [Abraham’s wife] tells her husband to sleep with her maid Hagar and have a son. Sarah was barren and this was an acceptable thing at the time to do- sort of like a surrogate mother type thing. After the maid gets pregnant there arises tension and jealousy in the home and Abraham says ‘look- she’s your maid- do what you want’ and Sarah kicks her out and the maid winds up crying in the wilderness..
God sends an angel to talk with her and God promises her that her son- Ishmael [the father of the Arab/Muslim people- who is also the son of Abraham- the father of the Jewish people!] will become a great people and that the son- Ishmael- will be a wild man and he will be at war with all the nations around him and all the nations will fight with him. Now- does this history sound accurate to you? Does the Christian bible say God is the one who multiplied this group of people? If these things are true- and recorded in our Christian bibles- why not at least give them the same chance as our Jewish brothers?
Look- I am not advocating glossing over the serious doctrinal differences between Islam and Christianity- but the Evangelical community- for the most part- has managed to ‘gloss over’ a pretty major doctrinal difference with our Jewish friends- why not with Muslims? I mean as people who live together on the same planet- as people whom God said ‘I am the one who increased them’ surely we can take these same verses and use them as a bridge- to bridge some serious gaps for sure- but a possible bridge that God has given us- in our bibles- that states that God himself is concerned with the Arab world and the present ‘war’ between Ishmael and all the nations around him- well that too was recorded in God’s plan.
 ANTI COLONIAL REDO
Let me try to cover a few current events. This week we had a few presidential hopefuls drop out of the race- and a few announce. Newt Gingrich did his first Sunday news interview since officially getting into the race.
David Gregory- Tim Russert’s replacement on NBC- did an okay interview- but he did raise the question of racism [so soon!]. Yes- he questioned Newt’s speech where he mentioned that Obama is the ‘food stamp president’. That is Newt criticized the economic policies of this administration and said how we have over 40 million people on food stamps. That the lack of the president’s ability to create jobs is seen in the food stamp [and welfare] rates rising.
Gregory questioned whether or not this played into the race game. Now- MSNBC and one of the most biased news people in the media today [Chris Matthews] had on 2 liberal minded men. He got right into the race card- he played it hard and long. To my surprise- both of the liberals he interviewed disagreed with him. They distanced themselves from the race card.
One of the men- Richard Wolfe- is an Obama insider. He has lots of access to the inner workings of the White House. He has written books on the president and he is close to the real sources. I had to ask myself why both of these liberal minded men agreed with me- that to use the race card on something like this is shameful.
I realized that as ‘true insiders’ they know that this type of accusation surely does not play well in Rio Linda. That is the majority of voters- especially white independents- they might not say it- but this stuff does not gain votes.
As smart politicos- these Obama supporters knew this- and for the welfare of the president, whom they support- they did the right thing. Matthews- well he’s a lost cause.
One of the things that gets raised with the Newt debate is the accusation that our president is ‘anti- colonial’ or that he is an ‘anti colonial Kenyan’. In the past I have defended the president against this accusation- yet at the same time others who have defended the president against this accusation have seemed to not know what they are talking about [Matthews again].
These last few years Newt Gingrich has positioned himself for a possible run for the White House. One of the things he has done is he has converted to Catholicism. Now- I do not question his conversion- as a matter of fact if you realize that Newt is an intellectual- than the conversion to a Christian denomination that has the greatest intellectual heritage of them all- well that just makes sense.
As a new convert Newt is obviously going to read the books of other Catholic intellectuals. And a top seller during this time was a book by Dinesh Desouza. A Catholic intellectual himself. The book critiqued the development of the political/social thought of the president. It covered the presidents own journey as he grew up and later learned more about his father’s struggle- and the black mans struggle in general. The president wrote about this in his book Dreams of my Father.
Part of the critique that Dinesh mentioned is that the presidents father- like many Kenyans and other foreign ethnic groups- had what you would describe as an ‘anti colonial’ mindset. What’s that? Our world has gone thru many stages of growth and development. Some stages were good- other times bad [the Hitler stage!] After the great breakthroughs in science and technology that occurred during the 18th-19th centuries- you had European [western] world powers colonizing other parts of the world. Africa [Kenya] as well as other Arab nations became colonies of the west.
The famous struggle of Gandhi was all about India breaking away from Britain’s rule over them. They indeed were ‘anti colonial’. Now- in this conversation many can’t believe [Matthews] that anyone would ever even venture to say that the president might be ‘anti colonial’ as in if this is a bad thing. Geez- America is ANTI COLONIAL for heaven’s sake. We revolted against the English king and became a nation of our own.
So the anti colonial mindset-in itself- is not so terrible. Yet some of the president’s accusers do use the accusation as saying the president buys into the whole spirit of anti colonialism- which in many parts of the world does come with an anti American attitude- why? Well they resent our political influence in their nations.
The present protests going on in the Arab world also play strongly into this feeling. Many in the western media have simplified the reasons for the Arab protests. Some [Beck] simply see a radical world uprising that wants to take over the world. Others are a little more thoughtful- they see the actual religious divisions in these countries [between Sunni and Shii] and they tell the story of one sect of Islam fighting the other sect. But this too is ‘too’ simple.
I read an article a while back- written by a Muslim woman who lives in Bahrain. She said that when the west views the protests in her country as simply a Shiite majority population protesting a Sunni minority dynasty- that this narrative misses the point. She explained how in the Arab world there is a strong undercurrent running thru the unrest- and that this undercurrent is anti colonial in nature.
She explained how many of the younger generation Muslim/Arabs are seeing their leaders as sell outs- that their rulers have a sort of unwritten colonial pact with the west- and that this unspoken agreement says ‘if you work with us in fighting the radicals among you- we in turn will support you- even if you treat your people badly’. Thus you had the uprising in Egypt that ousted the long term president. Mubarak was indeed America’s strongest ally in the Arab world- he had maintained a cold peace with Israel for 30 years- and the west loved it.
So in essence the protests are not really about the religious divide within Islam [The divide itself dates back to the 7th century under the founder Mohammad. After Mohammed’s death he was replaced by another top organizational leader- who was not related by blood to Mohammed. This passing of of the leadership- by ability as opposed to blood- this is called Sunna- the example of the prophet spoken about in the Hadith.
Those who describe themselves as Sunni adhere to this example. The other side- Shii [partisan] broke away from this idea and instead believed that the leadership should pass thru those who have blood relations to the former leader. This division has existed till this day and that’s why in some nations you have the Sunni in charge- and in others the Shii.
In Bahrain- when they repressed the protestors- they appealed to another Sunni led nation- Saudi Arabia- and they sent their soldiers into Bahrain to put down the uprising. On the other side of the coin you have Iran [Shii leadership] backing Assad in Syria because he too adheres to their division.
So some in the western media have played this up as the main cause of the protests- when in reality it plays a smaller role than you would think.
Okay- all that to say this. If the defenders of the president want to defend him against ‘anti colonial’ accusations- then have some background into what’s going on. If you want to criticize Newt for the accusation- realize that it’s not totally unfounded- and it’s not wrong to be anti colonial. All our founding fathers were.
 THIS ROCK
A few weeks ago I mentioned how I want to try and cover the Sunday Mass readings every now and then. I watch the Mass every Sunday [as well as hold a Protestant meeting- home meeting] and I wanted to hit on the verses so my Catholic friends can get a little more into bible study.
Last week one of the readings was from Isaiah 56- the week before chapter 55. These chapters sort of cover one of the main themes that I spoke about during our overview of the letters of the N.T.
If you remember- one of the ‘mysteries’ we spoke about was the truth that in Christ- all ethnic groups are now one in Christ. This was spoken about in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In Isaiah we read about God bringing all nations to Christ ‘you will call a nation that you do not know- and nations that do not know you will come running to you’ ‘My fathers house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’- Jesus quotes this verse when he throws out the Money Changers from the temple. Another one ‘whoever is thirsty- come- drink of this water freely’ the themes of these 2 chapters is God is inviting all groups- they can come and make this Covenant with God.
God is opening the door for all groups to make it in!
On my site- a while back I made some friends from various countries- Muslim countries. I actually did a teaching on Islam- in a positive way- not to ‘trick’ Muslims to convert- but because I felt the anti Muslim feeling in the West- with the world facing so many geo political problems- that we needed to take some positions as Christians that were more gracious to people in general.
Now- I know I too ‘hit hard’ on my site- sure. But I do believe God wants us to live peaceably with ‘all men’. That friends from other religious backgrounds- if they are going through very hard times- then we need to do what we can to help them.
Every conversation with a young Muslim person- who might be struggling with the problems taking place in their nation- we need to also be able to do ‘justly’ see that many of their nations have been oppressive- and all the young people in these nations are not radical Muslims.
Many are women who have been treated badly by the leaders- because the leaders are strict Muslims. So for these people- we need to say ‘yes we see your situation- we are praying for you’ we can’t simply think all the problems will be solved if we only preach to them- without also acting justly- seeing their plight and being concerned and speaking out.
Okay- that’s the main reason I connected with some of these friends. At the same time- obviously I teach the bible- and I hope lots of these friends from various groups [Jews, Muslims, etc..] that they can see that Christianity is not based on the West- or a certain view of Christianity- but its Gods free offering to all men/women ‘come- drink- accept the free gift- it’s for you!’
So of course I want all my friends to feel free to take the benefits that God has given to us- while also respecting them if they choose to worship their own way.
So- this week we saw that in the N.T. the death and resurrection of Christ was Gods way of saying ‘whoever wants to come- come!’. Christ died for everyone- we can all get in.
The prophet Isaiah said this years ago- that God would bring all nations and ethnic groups to ‘his holy mountain’ [kingdom] he would make them joyful- he will accept their gifts [prayers and thanks] and that he is doing all these things for the benefit of all nations- not just one.
As we close the week- go and read these chapters- to my Catholic friends – see what chapters will be in the Mass this Sunday- when you get home after the Mass- read them.
The bible says Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of the spiritual building called ‘the church’. The bible says many people stumbled over this stone- they were offended at him.
Jesus asked once ‘Who do men say that I am’- Peter said ‘You are the Christ- the Son of the blessed’. Jesus says ‘Blessed are you Peter- flesh and blood did not reveal this to you- but my Father who is in heaven’ and Jesus went on to say ‘Upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’
Later on in Peters letter’s- he says we are spiritual stones in this spiritual temple- and Jesus is the main Rock. All the bible hinges on him- we must see everything as it relates to ‘This Rock’.
God made provisions for all people thru his Son- he said ‘whoever wants to drink- drink- come freely- without charge- it’s for you too’.
 THE YEAR UZZIAH DIED
After the debate last night I caught the 1st 7 minutes or so of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As an avid news watcher- I try to catch what the most influential pundits are saying at the time.
Though Stewart is a comedian news guy- yet he usually gives you a balanced view- with a few F bombs thrown in every so often.
So his top skit was today’s vote at the U.N. [well- they won’t vote today on it] the Palestinian request for the U.N. to recognize them as a state [nation- called nation states in that part of the world].
Stewart did a pretty funny [and eye opening] skit. He had one of his reporters ‘report’ from Halifax- Nova Scotia [of course he shoots these scenes from his area- I guess?] And the skit was that the new Holy Land is actually Halifax.
That they discovered this new scroll [in his hand] and the evidence pointed to Halifax as the spot.
So as they talk the reporter also pronounces Halifax with a rolling ‘Hal’ you know- to make it sound Jewish.
So- after this new find- I guess the whole war over the ‘2 state’ solution is now resolved- right? Wrong.
On the split screen you have the Muslim reporter show up- and he makes the claim that Muhammad actually found Halifax first- he even says he has proof that ‘the prophet’ was there- they have evidence that he caught a huge fish once on a visit.
Now of course- these guys are all taking risks with this stuff- but it is funny. So the ‘Jewish’ reporter says ‘okay- show me the picture and I’ll believe it’. Of course- in Islam- it’s blasphemous to depict the prophet in a picture- so they go back and forth on the thing- The Muslim guy pronouncing Halifax with a sort of Muslim drawl [Halalafax].
The sad thing is- even though it’s a comedy show- Stewart showed us how all the religious ‘wars’ and fights- how they look to the ‘outside world’.
As I have been doing a ‘jump around’ study on the Old Testament these last few weeks- in my own study [for the posts] I am at the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is one of the Major Prophets- he is quoted more than any other Old Testament prophet- in the N.T.
There are more famous prophecies from Isaiah- about Jesus- than any other prophet [A Virgin shall conceive and have a child].
When we read the books of the bible- we usually have pretty accurate dates on when the book was written- at what time the prophet lived.
In Isaiah’s case he gives us a specific date to his calling- in chapter 6 he says ‘in the year that king Uzziah died- I saw the Lord’.
King Uzziah [a king in Israel] died in the year 740 B.C.
If you walk down to the Mediterranean shore from Israel- you can look North West and see Italy. In the year 740 B.C. - Rome became a city. Of course it would be centuries before Rome would become the capital of the world empire- yet it was birthed as a city the same year Isaiah was called by God.
If you look west- you see Egypt, Libya and Tunisia- all places where the ‘Arab Spring’ has taken root.
It’s amazing to think- that after thousands of years- this whole area is still one of the most influential news making spots on the map.
After John the Baptist baptized Jesus- the Spirit descended on Jesus ‘like a dove’ and the bible tells us ‘the Spirit DROVE Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’.
In Luke’s account [chapter 4] One of the first events to take place after the wilderness test- was Jesus goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath- and as ‘his custom was’ he ‘opened the book and read’.
Now that’s the way the English version reads. But it really doesn’t give you the full picture. The Jewish people [till this day] don’t have their bibles [Called Torah for Jews- Pentateuch for Christians- which are the first 5 books of the Old Testament] in book form.
They have their bibles in scroll form. It’s actually part of their worship to have these beautiful hand written scrolls- which cost thousands of dollars to make- in this form.
So when you read ‘Jesus opened the book and found the place’ it really means he unrolled the scroll- and came to the spot where the reading was marked for that day.
I have heard many preachers over the years correctly say that it was a scroll- yet they seem to think that Jesus just unrolled the thing and supernaturally came to the spot where he read from.
No- the spot was already marked out the week before- he was just reading from this predetermined spot.
Now- he reads a famous passage ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach’ and the prophecy goes on and talks about the ministry of the Messiah.
Now- for Jesus to have read this- and for the people to have heard-was nothing out of the ordinary- until what happened next.
Jesus then ‘closed the book’ and says ‘This day this prophecy has been fulfilled in your ears’ and the bible says that the eyes of everyone there were fixated on him.
Jesus read from Isaiah 61 that day- the prophet that was called 740 years earlier.
This happened right after the temptation- it was the difficulty- the tests- the very tough things he went through- it was these things that gave him the ability to speak- and for all the people to hear.
As they will present the Palestinian request today- and as this same land- where Jesus walked- Isaiah heard God- the devil tempted Jesus- as this land once again becomes the center of attention- I hope we don’t all look like the caricature that Jon Stewart showed- brilliantly- on his show.
Quite often ‘the world’ sees the church [religious fights in general] as stupid and silly. They see certain adherents willing to fight- and kill- over their beliefs.
They see a never ending feud between groups of people who are so fixated on a certain side- an issue- that it seems almost impossible to sit down and actually treat the other side as human beings- who are all indeed created in the image of God- who Jesus said ‘even if we see them as our enemy- we are to love them’.
Isaiah was a cultured man- not like most of the other prophets. He had influence in the politics of his day- and most Christians today revere his prophecies as at the top of the list- as far as prophets go.
In chapter 6- after he saw God- and heard the call- he responded ‘I am a man of unclean lips- it the middle of people who are also unclean’.
And the bible says an angel took a ‘live coal’ from the fire and put it in on the prophet’s lips. God was saying ‘Yes Isaiah- you are unclean- this whole nation is unclean- man is unclean- yet when I use people to speak to a people- it’s based on my character- not yours’.
Isaiah would fulfill the mission- and be honored by having Jesus read from his scroll on the opening day of the preaching ministry of Jesus- and for him to have said ‘today- this has been fulfilled in your ears’.
 IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Was gonna do one last post [for now] on Libya- we will need to cover the whole development of how we began to view/and act over a 6 month period- we acted [as a nation] contrary to our public statements. We swore- over and over again- that we were not targeting the man [or his family] and he swore [before the U.N. - by his rep.] that we were lying- and did indeed already kill a few of his grandkids [which was true] and were going after him.
Then- on national T.V. - we saw him flee Sirte [his hometown] and get bombed by both NATO and American planes [ours were Drones]. We destroyed a bunch of vehicles- left a lot of dead bodies- but he made it to a tunnel.
Then he got pulled out- ended up with a bullet in the head. O- forgot- this happened a day or 2 after Hillary Clinton visited Tripoli [her first visit] and said ‘we are waiting for you to capture or kill him’ [oop’s!] She later had to ‘clarify’.
She also was caught on tape- laughing and rejoicing over his death- okay- many people did- but if your saying publicly- ‘that’s not what we want’- then it looks bad.
Of course the other Arab nations want the U.N. to investigate- they were being told- by us- that we were not going after him. He begged for a peaceful resolution [he did do this!]. But we basically said no.
There are lots of questions to still be answered on this thing.
Okay- yesterday I wrote a quick note about a conversation I had with a new friend who just joined my site. She was into some new age stuff- we talked a little- I defended historic Christian belief- then she blocked me.
Let’s talk a little about Apologetics/Theology. Apologetics is the field where Christians Defend the Faith.
In our day- it is common for believers to be ‘left in the dust’ when they bang up against an atheistic scientist [they not all are!] or someone versed in Philosophy [Sartre or Camus- atheist thinkers- or Hitchen's and Dawkins].
Many times these various fields of study are too much for the average believer to feel like he can engage in- in an intelligent way- and ‘win’ the argument for the Christian view.
But church history has a long- and very successful- track record doing this very thing.
A few weeks back I did about 5 posts or so on Philosophy- a field I like to study. But if you do too many of those posts at one time- then it can get a little heavy [and boring!] So I try to break it up by only doing so many at a time. The same goes for Theology- Church History- etc.
But over time- if we become well versed in these various fields- it will help us defend the Christian view- in an intelligent way- without being mean about it [I try!]
But sometimes you will offend people- even if you try to be nice- because you’re engaging in a conversation that says ‘yes- as Christians we believe in ultimate truth- and that truth is in the person of Jesus Christ’ yes- that will offend some.
My approach to these types of debates is I’m what you would call Ecumenical- I believe that Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox- and all the other ‘churches’ that profess Christ- I believe they are all Christian.
Now you might say ‘well John- doesn’t everybody?’ Actually no- many of the most knowledgeable Apologists do indeed go after the other groups. Quite often you will have a strong protestant defender [usually from the Reformed faith] that will really hit the Catholic church- in my view- too hard.
While it is true that historically Catholics and Protestants have differences- I have often found that Many ‘average’ Catholics/Protestants are not really aware of the real differences- they often have very limited perspectives about the ‘other side’ and these limited ideas [often wrong] seem to stay with the people- for most of their lives.
One example- the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception- what is it?
The teaching became Official- only in the last 2 centuries of the Catholic church- though it was held by many- it finally became official in the last 2 hundred years [ 1854 for the Immaculate Conception- 1950 for the Assumption of Mary doctrine].
The doctrine teaches that the Virgin Mary- Jesus Mom- was born ‘without the taint of original sin’. Now- what does that mean?
Some Protestants think the Catholics teach that Mary was ‘sinless’ in the same way Christ was sinless.
Actually- that’s not the official doctrine [see- it’s important to know the official teaching when we engage like this]. The actual teaching- that has the churches Imprimatur on it- is that Mary WAS A SINNER- just like the rest of us- but in order for Jesus to have been born from a pure vessel- that the actual work of the Cross- Redemption- it was applied to Mary ‘ahead of time’.
Yes- the official teaching is that Mary ‘was saved’ from her sin- just like the rest of us- thru the Cross. The difference is the forgiveness that came to Mary- came to her before she was born- yes- the teaching does teach that Mary was born ‘without sin’ but not like Jesus was without sin- but she was ‘without sin’ because her salvation was applied ahead of time- way ahead of time- before she was born.
Okay- do Protestants believe in this teaching? No. But is it ‘so way out of line’ to the point where we should view our Catholic brothers and sisters as ‘non Christian’ because of it? No- not in my view.
Plus- many Catholics don’t even realize that this is what the doctrine teaches- many think it is talking about the birth of Jesus- being born without sin- by the act of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Virgin Mary and Mary conceiving.
No- this is what we call ‘The Virgin birth- conceived by the Holy Ghost’. Jesus being born from a virgin with no earthly father.
This is not the Immaculate Conception.
So right here alone [trust me- there are many more examples that I could give] Both Catholics and Protestants usually get the doctrine wrong- yet they remain divided their whole lives- over something that they are not even right about.
So I have found this type of stuff to be a problem while striving for Christian unity- and many Christians prefer to see the ‘other side’ in a negative light- and will continue to view them that way- till they die.
I always feel bad when I lose a friend from the site- sometimes you can’t help it [other times it is my fault!] but sometimes it’s because we have views about things- strongly held views- and when others hold to a different view- well we try and avoid them.
One day I received a Friends Request- to my surprise- it was from a young Catholic priest- I did not know him but he must have read a few posts of mine and liked them. He often gave me Thumbs Up comments on the posts- and at times would tell me he loved the posts.
Most were my Theology/Church history posts.
Often times Catholics and Protestants can agree and enjoy these types of studies. I love studying and teaching on the Church Fathers and early Christian history- and these sources all have a very strong Catholic flavor to them- so I see my fellow Catholics as being a part of a long tradition of Christian history.
Many famous converts to the Catholic Church [Bishop John Newman- converted from the Anglican Church] convert because they read the Church Fathers- and when you read them- it’s obvious to see the catholic nature of the early church in these men’s writings.
So anyway I was very happy to have a Catholic priest as one of my ‘on line students’ [and honored].
But one day- during one of my studies [covering one subject for a month or so] to my surprise I saw he was gone [yes- the dreaded block]. I thought- geez- wonder why?
I realized it was right in the middle of a study I did on Islam- and while I was doing the posts- I was also going thru a study on Islam- by the same guy who teaches it to the U.S. govt. - yes- it was a prof. [I think named Espinoza?] who teaches Islam to our govt. employees [sort of like a tolerance type thing].
Though the teacher was Catholic- yet he was VERY much pro Islam- I mean to the point where I had to reject some of the stuff he was saying- and finish the study from my own education on Islam.
At one point- he taught that the spread of Islam thru out the world had a wonderful- liberating effect on all the women in the lands where Islam spread. I mean it was so obvious that the man had no idea what he was talking about [in this area] that I realized he was not a good source [this happens every so often].
And it was more troubling that this was the guy Obama picked to teach Islam to our govt. employees [don’t get me wrong here- he teaches our govt. workers- not to convert them- but more of an informative type thing- just like you would teach any other course about sexual harassment- or whatever].
Anyway- in one of my posts while teaching on my site- I did refer to Mohamed as ‘the prophet’- now- I don’t receive Mohamed that way myself- but because I was teaching some Muslims who did recently join the site- well I used the title in this way.
I think that might have been the ‘last straw’ for my student/priest- he ‘went on Pilgrimage’ right after that post.
Okay- today’s point is we all should try our best to be ‘tolerant’ that is- we should give people as much grace/mercy as possible- but at the same time we also need to be honest about the Christian faith.
Yes- as Christians we believe salvation comes thru Christ- he was not just ‘one religious leader among many’ no- we believe he is the Way- the Truth- the Life/light- no man comes to the Father- but by him.
Sometimes we do our best not to offend- we might even go out of our way to receive people- other religions and systems that are not Christian- that’s okay- I have Muslim and Jewish and all types of friends- I’m glad they are my friends!
But we also have to be honest about our beliefs- and every now and then that might- just might- earn you a BLOCK.
 ARAB SPRING UPDATE
Been wanting to cover the Arab Spring protests for a while now- but also want to do a few more posts on Catholic/Protestant relations.
Let’s start with the protests- and see how far we get.
To my surprise [and disappointment!] the new ‘leaders’ of Libya have already come out and said they will indeed have Shariah law as the law of the land.
They said- very boldly ‘we are a Muslim land- and Shariah law will be the law’. Did they have Shariah law under Gadhaffi? Actually no- they did have some elements of it [Polygamy] but it was not full Shariah law.
For instance- under Gadhaffi men could have more than one wife [look at him!] yet they needed the permission from the 1st wife. Under the new leaders- you won’t need that.
I saw one of the new team respond to this question- he basically said ‘don’t worry- the woman will get used to it’- no- I do worry.
We need to have some sort of ‘standard’ policy when it comes to all of these types of conflicts- a signed agreement- maybe an informal outline for a new constitution that states very clearly- that the rights of woman and Christians in these new governments will be respected.
We need to say ‘yes- Muslims- as well as all other groups- will have the freedom to be represented- but no group [or groups] will be forced to live under any religious law’.
‘But John- who are we to dictate something like that’? Look- if they ask for our help- to intervene- and in Libya’s case to basically bomb the hell out of the other side- spend a billion [probably more] and to be the air force for the Rebels- then if you want that type of backing- then that’s the new price tag- freedom for all sides- no Shariah law imposed- and freedom for all the women- no more oppressive regimes like the Taliban.
Okay- this concept is difficult for us in the West- we have managed to pretty much make a distinction in our minds between separation of Church and state.
Though you have arguments about whether one political side wants to establish ‘Christian Shariah’ [Heard Frankie Schaffer make the charge again the other day. He is the son of the late Frances Schaffer- an influential figure in the early ‘Christian right’ movement in our country. Frankie is still a Christian- but he is very anti ‘religious right’ but he goes too far- he says that Perry and others like him do want a Christian Shariah law for the U.S.- the problem with this is many of these radical Muslim nations are actually killing Christians and women and others who ‘violate’ their laws- we should not use this comparison- it dilutes the seriousness of what is happening in the ‘real world’] yet for the most part we have made the distinction between govt. and religion.
Yet when you study Islam- Islam is both a religion and a form of govt. - those who embrace Islam have not yet made this type of distinction. Now- there are some moderate Muslim voices who are calling for this type of Reformation within Islam- but they have a long way to go.
Okay- that’s why it’s easy for these ‘new’ nations to say ‘o yeah- Shariah all the way’.
This week- Tunisia- the first Arab Spring nation to fall- did indeed vote in Shariah law. Egypt- the 2nd Arab Spring nation is heading there- and the new leaders of Libya have already stated it- we do have a problem folks.
Okay- I have a few Muslims friends who read my site- and I am very grateful to have them as friends. One lives in Bahrain- and out of the 3 top ‘bad actors’ right now- Bahrain is one of them [the other 2 are Yemen and Syria].
The argument could be made that the leaders of these countries have done just as bad- or even worse- than what Gadhaffi did.
The U.S. has our 5th fleet docked right off the coast of Bahrain- we need them- that’s why our leaders have overlooked the serious oppression that the Bahrain leaders are foisting upon their people.
In the last few weeks they have handed down some very serious sentences to the medical workers who simply helped tend to the wounded protestors. Many of these nurses and doctors are going to prison- for a long time- just because they did their job.
The ruling autocracy in Bahrain is a division of Islam [I think the rulers are Sunni- the majority of the population Shiite- it’s been a while since I studied it- sometimes I forget which is which]. The ruling ‘minority’ do indeed oppress the majority population.
Now- Bahrain does get lots of money- and help- from the U.S. having our fleet there- yet their army is not a strong- huge force. So what they have done is they hired ‘soldiers’ from Saudi Arabia- a fellow country- whose leaders are of the same religious division that the Bahrain leaders embrace- and these soldiers have come in and have been the security for the unpopular rulers.
In Syria- just last night- new reports have come out- Assad [the Syrian leader] has sent his men into the hospitals- they are torturing the wounded protestors right in the hospitals. And in Yemen- the leader- Salleh- has returned from getting treatment from the burns he suffered during an assassination attempt- and he’s back in Yemen- also fighting against the protestors in his land.
In Libya- we- along with NATO [primarily French and British warplanes] decided to team up with a side- a side that did take up arms against the leader from the West [Tripoli].
As I have watched this play out- and have looked at all the angles- I have come to the conclusion that the main reason we intervened there- and not in these other places- was because you had a very pubic threat made by Gadhaffi at the start- he and his troops were right outside Benghazi [the rebels stronghold in the east] and he did publicly threaten to go in and wipe them out.
Now- at the same time- the Arab league and other Arab nations were calling for help- fine. But we should have said ‘okay- but you guys must pay for this’. All the very rich Arab nations that wanted us to intervene- we should have said ‘your oil rich nations will pick up the tab’.
Also- if the criteria for us intervening like this- if we state- over and over again- that we are just doing a no fly zone- then we need to just do that.
In Libya- we did indeed hunt the man down [if that’s what we think we should do- fine- but we must say so]. And if our public statements are saying something different- then we are doing wrong.
I do hope and pray for all of my friends in these nations- I want very much for all the people in these nations to have freedom- and I want for us in the U.S. to make it plain- we want freedom for the woman and the Christians too- even if the majority vote for Shariah- that still is not acceptable- we want no religious rule that will oppress woman and Christians.
Yes- there are some woman who choose to live under Shariah- but the majority of women in these countries want freedom- and if we are going to ‘help’ these nations like we did in Libya- then we need to have some agreements ready to sign- right at the start.
We don’t want to ‘liberate’ another Arab country- to find out that the new leaders are already calling for Shariah law- in my mind- that’s not liberation.