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turning the other cheek and moslem reciprocity

Reader comment on item: The Vatican Confronts Islam

Submitted by Roger W (Australia), Jul 7, 2006 at 00:52

I would like to make two points, the first about Christian teaching, the second about 'Moslem reciprocity'.

Jesus teaching about turning the other cheek is a statement that one should be prepared to suffer personal loss in the course of endeavouring to demonstrate God's love to someone you are trying to influence. Thus if someone at work is very rude to me about my faith - I do not take offence; he's an idiot, or ignorant, or something, but I am not personally offended, in fact I probably like him, and make a big effort to think the best of him. In the same discourse Jesus said that if you are being sued at law for a coat - 'give him your cloak also' - and 'resist not evil'; the meaning is clearly one of not acting in a spirit of vengefulness, vindictiveness - 'bless your enemies, do not curse them'. Clearly one has enemies, but they are to be blessed and not cursed. There is also law. Government, the secular authority, as the executor of law, is stated in the Bible to be 'of God'. The exercise of law,which must include force, is therefore good. There are therefore two Christian methods of opposing evil - 1. Personal kindness, non-vindictiveness, towards evil individuals, enemies. 2. Legal methods - eg imprisonment. In both ways, for example, Christians fought communism - speaking, working in a hundred ways against its ideas and helping individual communists find faith. The idea of this gentleman in the Vatican of ceasing to turn the other cheek to Islam is therefore foolish. There should never have been, for Christians, on an institutional, legal level any idea of rapprochment with Islam, which is implacably opposed to Christian faith, an enemy, and should always have been treated as such. Discourse, dialogue - yes; with the understanding that we are dealing with an enemy. We arrive at a situation nowadays, partly because of the appeasing sort of stance, where an ill-informed secular society has put all 'religion' together in one basket and says we must treat Islam and Christianity the same - but they are not the same; apart from anything else, Christians recognise and support the legitimacy of our western governments wheras Islam, or certainly Islamism, wants their overthrow. There should always have been, on the part of institutions which claim to be Christian, a steadfast opposition to Islam, a recognition that it is an enemy and a desire to see it destroyed. ( And a strong desire for the welfare of the 100's of millions of people involved in the Islamic system.) Opposition is twofold - the spiritual, exposing the grave weakness of Islam - and physical, meaning that when Islam goes on the offence militarily it meets immediate reprisal.

Both these arms of opposition to Islam are working, and they support each other.

Moving on to the reciprocity issue, one aspect of Dr Pipes outlook surprises me. He's a terrific expert on Middle East affairs, the history of Islam etc., but perhaps not on the religious. Islam cannot by any means, according to what I have read and experienced, for doctrinal, political, social... ANY reason allow any kind of reciprocity, any form of reciprocating openness towards Christian faith.

Maybe it can tolerate a little secularism - it seems that Moslem countries want western technology, which brings its own values with it - but Christian faith it cannot and won't deal with. The doors of Moslem countries are shut tight against legitimate Christian witness, and even Indonesia, which is not formally Moslem, seems to be moving towards a closed society. Many countries ban Christian witness. The Soviets used to put believers in psychiatric hospitals; witnessing or 'proselytising' as it tended to be called, was illegal. This of course was restrained compared with tendencies in some Moslem countries, where conversion from Islam to Christian faith is, according to the Moslem book, punishable by death, punishment which on occasion is exacted, and exacted by family members. (Islam, one might say, kills Christians, and turns its own followers into murderers.) So the aspect of what Dr Pipes says that surprises me is if there is some idea that calls for reciprocity might be acted upon. However it is good news that there is an awakening of sorts in one major ecclesiastical institution, and the suggestion that this might lead to a sharpening of attitudes all round.

Submitting....

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