There are those who see all religions as evil. There are those who see all religions to be basically the same. There are those who don’t consider themselves as belonging to any religion. Most people (IMHO) don’t really see the question as having much to do with them at all. I see the question as having more significance and relevance than practically anything in life.
Some Muslims have made the claim that theirs is a religion of peace. Yet while most Muslims are peace-loving, faithful people who don’t smoke, drink, curse, gamble cheat on their wives, etc., a few are radical crazies who seem to want nothing more than the total destruction of all who are not part of the family of Islam. What is behind their radicalism, and why are they given such a free rein in certain cultures?
To understand why, we have to look at the tenets of their faith. And no aspect of that is more significant than the question of paradise. Christians and Muslims both believe in something they call paradise (although Christians usually use the term Heaven). The key, though, is in understanding what the two faiths teach as the prerequisites for admission to Paradise.
Christians are taught that “there is no one righteous, not even one. All have sinned and fallen short”, we are taught. In other words, we are unable to gain admission based on whether we have lived according to God’s standard, because that standard requires perfection. And as we all know, nobody’s perfect. So since nobody qualifies, God himself has made a way. All who believe in Jesus, who is one of three persons of the Godhead (more on that later), who repent of their sinful past, and obey his instructions for living will be saved.
Islam, on the other hand, teaches that there is only one sure way to make it to paradise: to be killed in Jihad. Beyond that, the way in is to live in perfect accord with the Q’ran. The trouble with that is that it’s open-ended. There are no criteria Muslims can count on that will assure one that he has met the standard. So think about it. If that’s the culture you have been immersed in your whole life, so that no other alternative view seems possible, what seems more attractive, continuing to live in a world of pain, trouble and lack, or die in a righteous and noble act, and instantly achieve paradise?
So what we believe as a society matters very much. We in the United States of America are mainly a secular nation. We are not, as President Obama has proclaimed, a Christian nation. We are, however, a nation founded on Christian principles by men who for the most part had a deep commitment to Christ. And because of that, we truly love liberty and justice. We see all men as having been created equal, and Constitutionally acknowledge that all have certain “unalienable” rights – rights given to them by their creator – rights that no one can take away – rights that no government can either give or take away.
To be sure, there are those who have lived as privileged beneficiaries of those beliefs, who want to see them dismantled. And their number seems to be growing. Yet we Americans look at our prosperity and our freedom as having been won because there is something more industrious, more noble, more skilled in us than in our counterparts in other countries. We think of ourselves as being smarter, more creative or more productive than citizens of other “free” countries like France or Spain or Japan. But is it true? Are we successful – to the point of being the economic center of the world – because we are American? Or is it because we value liberty and justice, and would lay down our very lives to protect it against those who would take it from us?
Those people who think of themselves as somehow superior to other people have been the cause of great suffering over the years. Think of the Romans, the Nazis, or even American slave owners.
All people are created equal. Many, if not most people believe that. They talk the talk. I just wish all people walked the walk. Sadly, we all too often give only lip service to the noble ideal.
But I digress.
The point is that we are not superior at all. We are merely free – free to live where we choose, free to do the kind of work we choose, free to make and accumulate money and property, and free to speak out against those who would take those freedoms away from us. We are the land of the free. And most of us have no idea what the source of our freedom really is.
Well, here’s the truth. The source of our freedom is Christ. Another way to say that is to say that the source of our freedom is God. I believe what the Scriptures say – that God is three persons in one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Before the creation of all that exists in the physical universe, they lived together in perfect unity and perfect diversity. Jesus, the Son, became a man and walked among the people he had made for just over three decades. His actual ministry lasted only three years. And as the end of it drew near, he said “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”. And he had said earlier that he had come to set the captives free.
So we are free because of Him. That’s the truth. We are free because we believe Jesus’ words to us when he said “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” So when we think and behave as we were taught, we do not attempt to gain our own happiness by denying others’ rights to their own. We do not rob, cheat, kill or destroy in order to gain wealth or power or fame. We do not maim, kill or destroy in the name of our Lord, who we revere as “the Prince of Peace”.
Muslims have a different morality. They seem to honor men, especially holy men, but too often treat women as chattel. And they see no reason to humble themselves. They worship a God who promises them paradise, but only after Islam covers the Earth. In the meantime, it’s OK to maim, kill, and destroy, as long as it’s in the name of Allah, who apparently has them all believing that the ends justify the means.
Our leaders in D.C. like to say that we are at war with “terror”, or “terrorists” or “terrorism”. They are afraid to say that we are at war with religious zealots who seek nothing other than our complete destruction. They either don’t understand, or are afraid to acknowledge that we cannot win this war unless we overcome evil with love. We need to lay down our swords and take up our crosses!