Yesterday, an online magazine called Charisma (which seems less and less “Christian” every time they post something) posted an opinion piece called “Why I Am Absolutely Islamaphobic” by a guy named Gary Cass who is apparently an actual pastor somewhere. (As of this writing, the piece has been taken down and Charisma has made no statement regarding why. Here’s a cached copy that won’t contribute to pageviews.) The piece painted all “true Muslims” as militants who want to kill or convert everyone else. It culminates with Cass saying,
ISIS has done us all a favor. The true face of Islam is on full display even as Muhammad is burning in hell. We will have to face the harsh truth that radical Islam has no place in civilized society. Militant Muslims cannot live in a society based on Christian ideals of equality and liberty. They will always seek to harm us.
Now the only question is how many more dead bodies will have to pile up at home and abroad before we crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus’ Name?
That’s right. In a relatively short space, Cass straight-up called for a genocide against Muslims, and baptized it in Jesus’ name. He claims, in essence, that if Jesus were running things right now, he would kill every Muslim on the planet (that’s what “in Jesus’ name” means.)
Obviously, that’s a foolish position. But what is an appropriate Christian response to Islam?
First, Christians should get our facts straight. The reality is that not all Muslims are violent. Many Muslims are committed to peace, to living peaceably with neighbors who have different faiths. And contrary to Mr. Cass’ dubious historical reconstructions, Muslims quite often lived peaceably with Christians and Jews, especially when they were in power.
Of course nobody would deny that some Muslims are violent. We live in a world of ISIS persecution and execution. But the question Cass’ comments raise point to the heart of Islam: can a person be a good Muslim without being violent? Or does following Islam faithfully require a person to be violent?
Cass claims all “true Muslims” are violent. That the only proper response to them is violence. Cass’ claims are obviously in response to ISIS and other militant Islamic violence (surely extending back to and including 9/11).
Without denying the existence (and danger) of violent Muslims, we can acknowledge that a response like Cass’ is decidedly unChristian.
A simple, straightforward ethic Jesus gives us we now call the Golden Rule. Jesus told us,
Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.
So, should a good, Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian assume, because some Muslims are violent and the Koran has some verses that advocate violence, that all faithful Muslims are violent?
Not if that’s not how we would like to be caricatured. Because every charge Cass levies against Muslims could be laid at a Christian’s feet as well. Our history is at least as violent as Islam’s (remember when European settlers used the Bible to justify genocide against Native Americans and enslave millions of Africans?). And there are plenty of bible verses that could be used to justify genocide (though notably, Cass doesn’t even bother to cite Scripture in his xenophobic rant).
No Christian wants to be lumped in with the lunatics who protest military funerals or that God hates gay people enough to throw tornadoes at them. And if we don’t like it when non-Christians do that do us, then it’s sinful and unChristian for us to do the same to our Muslim neighbors.
So how can we be better neighbors to Muslims?
A good place to start is education. Learn more about what Islam actually teaches and what it doesn’t. I highly recommend Miroslav Volf’s fantastic book Allah: A Christian Response. You can also check out my World Religions podcast – I dedicated a whole week to what loving Christian dialog with Muslims sounds like (and who doesn’t like a shameless plug?).
Ignorance always breeds fear, and Cass’ post was nothing if not ignorant. Christians can and must be better than that. We must be good neighbors, modeling love and generosity in our dealings. We cannot caricature or assume the very worst of any religion represent the rest.
To my Muslim friends, please know that we do not all believe the worst about you. We’re sorry for the hateful words spewed by Cass and those like him. We’re sorry for the hurt they cause you. We know you stand with us in condemning the actions of ISIS, the Taliban and others who enact violence and injustice in the name of God. Please bear with us as we learn not to react out of fear. Not to stereotype. Not to treat others as we’d rather not be treated.