The World Faith Blog

World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Comment on my Last Post 6 October , 2008

So I had an interesting response that someone wrote to me on my last post.  I will quote it here then respond below.  The response said:

 

“An Alternative Christian Response to Anti-Islamic Extremism”

Mr. Fredericks,

As your brother in Christ, I must fundamentally disagree with your article’s ideology. As with the Obsession video, when exposing individuals to a particular religion’s worldview, which promotes and encourages a certain type behavior, inherently evil in nature, are we then to merely classify the exposure as an “US vs. Them” manipulative dialectic rhetoric? In an attempt to appear tolerant and loving, should we as Christians sacrifice Truth on the altar of political correctness, dense with the aroma of non-confrontationalism?

The Muslim faith is wrong: It’s God (Allah) is false; its alleged historical beginnings distort the promise our Father established with our Jewish brothers and sisters; it supports necessary violence against “infidels” – like Jews and Christians – as well as tyranny. It’s a false religion, cleverly disguised by the enemy with subtle cloaks of moral truth.

Frank, what exactly do you think Christian Love is?

Is it Christ explaining what happens to the ‘wicked and lazy servant?’

Maybe it’s Christ calling the Pharisees “empty” and full of “dead men’s bones; or how about calling them “wicked” and “children of the devil?”

Better yet, what about Christ driving the money-changers out of the temple with a bull-whip. Is that Love?

The Answer: Yes, it’s Love.

Not your definition; not mine; but the Lord’s.

As can be biblically demonstrated, part of God’s Love is making people aware of the Truth – right and wrong; good and evil. The difference between where He is, where they are, and where they should be.

Just because I don’t agree with someone’s religious view, and I openly express it, does not make me or any other Christian a “hater.”

You cited the following as a “general message from the Middle-East:”

“We don’t hate you, and we love your democracy, we are just completely frustrated by the American foreign policy, don’t trust you to spread democracy (with US support of such non-democratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt), and feel humiliated by the western ignorance of our religious and cultural identities.”

Call it whatever you prefer: when “frustration” leads to violence that is a sin, identified as “hate.” Finally, I do believe that Muslims love democracy – not our kind, but theirs; the kind of one-way democracy that says Muslims can say and do whatever their faith promotes. However, no other religion is afforded that same right, especially when the views of the opposing religion are critical of Muslim beliefs.

A Brother in Christ,

Eddie

 

 

Brother Eddie,

Thank you for taking the time to respond.  While I usually write representing World Faith, I will take advantage of this opportunity to address you as a Christian, in theological terms.  Firstly I would like to address your confusion of Love and Judgement from a theological point of view.

Christ, both of the carnes and the logos of God (God in word and flesh) (e.g. John 1:1-3), represents both Love and Judgement.  The instances you mentioned are examples of Judgement, while Jesus called him to follow Him in his examples of Love.

So what is Jesus judging?  Hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who judged others by laws not in line with God’s intention, false teaches, and pride.  He judged the money changers in the Temple, who abused what is Sacred for personal gain.  

Interestingly enough is noting who Jesus didn’t Judge:  First, Jesus did not judge the woman caught in bed with man (John 8:1-11), but rather chose this opportunity to teach us the association of judgement and hypocrisy.  He announced, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”  Thus, in an opportunity of condemnation, Jesus chose to love.  His expression of love occurs while acknowledging her wrongdoing, but chooses forgiveness.  Jesus makes a pattern of this.  Another example of this is when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, who was divorced and living with a man not her husband (John 4:7-28).  What is so telling about this verse is that Jesus was bestowed love to one who was not a Jew, but a Samaritan, a religious community consider apostates by Jews (they were former slaves by the Persians, taken from Israel at the end of Hoshea’s rule in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:1-2]).  Thus, Jesus’s love and judgement are two seperate expression we must understand.

So we know from both the “the first stone” and from “the speck plank in your eye” that judgement is reserved for God, and our duty is to live our live by God’s law, and not judging ourselves, but loving others.  Jesus calls us to love.  He taught, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12-13).

Eddie, you asked ‘what is love?’  Specifically referring to God’s love, let’s use the New Testament as our basis, which is written in Koine Greek.  While Classical Greek had some seven words for love, the New Testament uses three words for Love, one reserved only for God.  The first is storgas, which means natural, family-like love (see 2 Tim 3:3).  The second is phileo, which is friendship, based on knowledge and appreciation (see John 21:15-17).  The final Love, which Jesus embodies, is agape, which is unconditional, perfect love, which requires sacrifice (see Mark 10:51).  This is what we are to strive for, and this is how we as Christians should base our love, off His Word, and His example.

Know that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), and we can’t  “cast the first stone” with sin, we are not fit to judge, and must love.  Now to address your comments on Islam.

While I personally have several irreconcilable issues with Islam theologically speaking, which would deter me of ever converting, I find your comments to be highly misinformed.  While I am not the authority on Islam, I have studied the entire Quran over a two-year period, and have spent 8 months in majority-Muslim countries, often while doing independent research on Christian-Muslim relations.  There are several key things you are mistaken on, which give rise to a deeper issue of misunderstanding.

To address specifics, first you stated that Islam “supports necessary violence against ‘infidels’ – like Jews and Christians – as well as tyranny.”  Firstly, the Quran plainly states that “whosoever killeth a human being, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind,” (5:32).  Many fatwa’s (religious rulings) have been issued reiterating this point, but you won’t see it on the evening news.  Furthermore, in Islam, Christians and Jews are not considered Kafir (infidels), but are Ahl al-Kitaab, or People of the Book. POTB were said to be the blessed.  The Quran states, “Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve,”  (2:62).  This elucidates a lack of exposure to the theology, history, and the debate therein of Islam on your part.

Teaching of violence you say? Acts of violence?  Ironically a friend of mine was suppose to meet me in Beirut, but got stuck in Chicago for the weekend.  That weekend, 18 were shot to death in Chicago, Beirut none.  Yet that isn’t the story as we seem to hear it  from the media.  Or extremist clerics?  Try this quote:

You’ve got to kill the infidels before the killing stops. And I’m for the leader to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Allah.” 

Sound familiar?  It’s actually: “You’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” -Pastor Jerry Falwell

So is Christianity now a religion of violence because one man invokes God to support communal violence?  I pray not, and I know the Bible well enough to know better.  But if I didn’t? Perhaps if all i heard were the crazy pastors (who are plentiful) spewing edicts of hatred, I would fear Christianity as a violent force.  Now let’s bring it back around:  If you don’t know the teachings of Islam, and the media focuses on those who teach unislamic violence, then you probably have a skewed image of a religion of over a billion people.

Getting specific on Obsession, I know the organization(s) that made the film, namely the Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International, and met a representative of theirs during the showing at NYU two years ago.  Fittingly, it was the Jewish students who so vehemently opposed the film, saying, “How dare they (Clarion/Aish) represent us with such a hateful message!”   

in Obsession, the message was clear, “don’t love your neighbor, fear your neighbor.”  Is fear included in love?  Quite the opposite:  John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Fear, as we know, is not of God.

How is this wrong?  Well fear is aroused for no reason, but they serve a purpose.  Whether political, financial, or personal, they abused the Sacred for personal gain.  They, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, are the moneychangers in the Temple.  They are the haters.

So this bring me back to the essence of the op-ed I wrote.  All religions have a those who abuse religious language for political gain.  Rather than getting caught up in that and doing hurtful things, like attacking a filled mosque with gas irritants, rendering scores into hospitalization, we should do something else.  We should take our Muslim neighbor out to coffee, ask our Jewish friends questions about their faith, read about a faith you know very little.  We should love.

Brother Eddie, it is not despite my faith that I have dedicated my life to developing opportunities for young people to understand each other across faith identities, but it is because of it.  This is my mission field, and as I have explained above, it is in pursuit of loving as Christ loved.  I am taking a stand as a Christian and saying I am not a hater.  A god that taught hate and fear would be no god I could worship.  So, Eddie, are you a hater?  If not, then join me for a discussion in a service project sometime.

In Faith,

Frank Fredericks

 

PS  parting quote:  “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne Lamott

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A Christian’s Response to Anti-Islamic Extremism 2 October , 2008

This is an op-ed I am distributing.  We will see if it gets picked up.

For those of you who missed it, a Dayton, Ohio mosque was attacked by a chemical irritant that a was reportedly sprayed into a window during a Ramadan prayer of 300 people, many of which were women and children.  It has so far received little media attention.  Occurring last Friday, September 26, it came at the end of a week where Dayton saw thousands of copies of the anti-Muslim “documentary” Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was distributed in major newspapers city-wide.  This demands both some critical thought, and a clear response from the those who passionately abhor communal hatred and violence, no matter who’s the victim or perpetrator.

So a little more back story for those of you who didn’t see Obsession.  I remember when I first saw the film at New York University, with fellow interfaith activists Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi    Yahuda Sarna.  Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike were appalled at the constant abuse of history to lump secular independence movements with religious, Sunni with Shiia, and Political Islam with Terrorists’ Extremism, giving a message that, “They hate you, so you should hate them.”

Us v. Them

This dialectal rhetoric has been used on all parties to demonize “them,” victimize “us,” and create a common enemy by abusing religious language for political gain.  Obsession gives light on the domestic example of this, where presidential and senatorial candidates encourage fear-mongering to bolster support.  Ignorant Fear breeds ethno-religious hatred, which in turn inspires communal violence.

As an American, I am ashamed.  Our American values does in fact have influence from religious traditions, and those traditions were used to inform equality, securing freedoms for minorities, whether religious, political, or ethnic.  Many of those victims of the Dayton Mosque attacks were Iraqi refugees, who came to the US to escape a regime that used chemical gases their own citizens.  One mother asked, “If not here, where can I go where my children will be safe?”

Countering this, we need to challenge ourselves, both personally, and as a nation.  With some estimates counting over 5 million Muslim Americans, it is time we include this diverse group of South Asian, Arabs, and African Americans into the fold of the American identity, as we have with Irish, Polish, Chinese Americans, and more.  Those of us of the Christian faith do not have a monopoly on religious values that promote freedom and equality, but share them with our fellow Muslim Americans, among others.  It is time we acknowledge our shared values (including freedom and democracy), respect our differences (like culture), and celebrate our common humanity.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a faith-hero of mine, is the quintessential voice on the matter.  His relevance to those times and now is because he did not simply write off on Jim Crowe laws as some morally-ambiguous “wrong,” but addressed the issue by expounding how such laws were unAmerican, and that continued inactivity was unChristian.  His letter from Birmingham Jail was written to religious leaders, which inspired even non-Christians, such as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who soon joined the movement.

Taking action in my own life, the post-911 world inspired me to begin filming a documentary while on a 6-nation Middle East tour developing projects for the NGO World Faith.  The premise was conversations between me, the white Christian American, and different people from various communities, mostly Muslim and Arab.  What ensued are conversations that leave me with a general message from the Middle East:
“We don’t hate you, and we love your democracy, we are just completely frustrated by the American foreign policy, don’t trust you to spread democracy (with US support of such non-democratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt), and feel humiliated by the western ignorance of our religious and cultural identities.”

The worldwide Gallop poll, representing the thoughts of a billion Muslims, support these findings.

Eboo Patel, my friend and a leader of interfaith activism, defined the issue of the Faith Line: it’s not a divide between those of different faiths, but between anyone that uses faith to divide and those to heal.  As comedian Maz Jabroni says it more simply, “There are haters of all kinds…”

So the question is, are you a hater?  Then let’s see some love.  Start with your neighbors, and maybe we can replace “us and them” with “now and then,” making Islamophobia a brief chapter in American history.

About the Author
Frankie Fredericks is the Executive Director of World Faith, a youth-led interfaith community service non-profit active in five countries.  Frank was featured on Good Morning America with Eboo Patel as a Fellow of the Interfaith Youth Core, and interviewed by Al-Akhbar Magazine in Lebanon, Al-Jadid TV, and Nile FM in Egypt.  Residing in New York City, he works as an Online Marketing Consultant, runs the independent label Conar Records, and is an active member of the Grammy Association.

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