Defending Islam … and Christianity

If you haven’t read Skye Jethani’s excellent post – “Why I Defend Muslims” – by now, you certainly should. It’s made the rounds of the blogosphere, and it’s an excellent call for balance that I hope is convicting for many Christians.

It certainly was for me – not because I have a hard time defending Muslims, but because I have a hard time defending Christians.

Jethani’s post starts as a defense of Islam:

Here’s the truth. First, I believe Jesus calls us to love our neighbors, including our Muslim neighbors, and we cannot love them if we are gripped by fear. The distortions and hysteria regarding Islam since 9/11 is unfair to our Muslim neighbors and preventing Christians from loving them as we are called. I simply want to help the church move past fear to a posture of faith where love becomes possible.

Second, I believe the message of Christ can stand on its own merit without having to misrepresent other religions or showcase the worst elements of other faith communities or their pasts. Heaven knows Christianity has some skeletons in its history closet, and if we want to have a showdown between the worst expressions of Islam and the worst of Christianity, count me out. I’m not interested in defending Christendom/European imperialism. I’m interested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

At this point, all the people on the left side of the room stand up and cheer.

I want to live in a society where Muslims enjoy every freedom to believe, think, practice, and promote their faith, because only in such a society will Christians be free to do the same. But sadly not every state promises the freedoms we have been blessed with in our country. I encourage everyone to read the cover story in the new issue of Newsweek by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a former Muslim now atheist), titled “The War on Christians.”

She reveals how the West has become increasingly sensitive to Islamophobia and the crimes committed against Muslim minorities in Europe and North America. But the media seems reluctant to publicize the horrors being suffered by Christian minorities in North Africa, the Mideast, South Asia, and Indonesia. Violence against these Christian communities is on the rise with some radical groups advocating genocide. In addition, Christians are not protected by state laws and in some cases denied even the right to worship privately in their homes.

I tend to associate paragraphs like this last one with the right side of the political and theological debate. But defense of religious freedom in every country for all faiths should not be a liberal or conservative position.

This probably has more to do with my baggage than anything else, but sometimes defending Christians, even in other countries, feels like ceding ground to those who argue Christians are persecuted or are the focus of some kind of religious war in the United States, which I hope we all can agree is ludicrous. So I’m grateful for posts like Jethani’s, which remind me that just because the persecution of Christianity is largely a myth in this country does not make it so in many others – and that we should be vocal in seeking protection for the oppressed minorities of all beliefs in all countries.

I am not interested in a cultural holy war between Christendom and Islam. The issue at hand is not world domination of one faith or a winner-take-all crusade/jihad. Rather it is human dignity and religious liberty. Followers of Christ, perhaps more than any others, should advocate that all people be free to believe, worship, think, and preach without fear of persecution.

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