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Thoughts on religion, education, and politics

Reader comment on item: What Are Islamic Schools Teaching?

Submitted by Peter J. Herz (Taiwan), Mar 30, 2005 at 05:11

North America is finally waking up to realize that the religion and education one offers does matter when it comes to politics. The belief that only process matters and that substance can be safely avoided is meeting its limits when it comes to the Wahabbis and Salafists; in the present conflict, an attitude of moral equivalence and relativism can only help the terrorists.

Christian fundamentalists may believe that lots of their neighbors are going to Hell, but their book tells them that the wepons of holy war are spiritual rather than carnal (II Corinthians 10:4), and are NOT called on to hurry anyone on his way to Gehenna. In their systems of church order, they usually follow Congregational or Presbyterian practice, which means consultation and consent of the people in the pew (even shows of hands!) rather than appointment by distant authority. Anyone of them who gets a national following has to be a first-class consensus- and coalition-builder (see how many Evangelical denominations and fences to straddle there are!). Dedicated to the Old and New Testament, acceptance of a minority position under Babylon or Rome is understood as "normal" at times; while service with the unbelieving state can be justified by the examples of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament and the centurion Cornelius in the New. Of course they're out to make a sea change in the culture; but not by violence. In short, it's a religion made for constitutional or republican government. Indeed, many a historian has found the roots of Anglo-American democracy in Puritanism and its heirs.

Evangelicals and orthodox Jews may argue with each other until everyone's blue in the face over whether M'shiach (the Messiah) has come or not; but there's nothing in what both sides see as "God's Last Word" (the post-exilic Rabbinic tradition; the New Testament) which demands a violent showdown.

Further, while the NT teaches the world is divided into wheat and tares or sheep and goats, it also teaches that they must grow together until God's appointed time of harvest (the last judgment) separates them.

Indeed, ex-Muslim Nonie Darwish's description of an Evangelical pastor who was a "kindly man" described someone who is simply integrating the dogma, eschatology, and ethics of his sacred book. It seems that for many Muslim-background Christians, the practical contrast between the "fundamentalisms" (forgive me, Dr. Pipes, I once chided you for using this term for non-Christians) of the two religions was one of factors leading to conversion (hint hint to any of my brethren lurking out there).

Islam, however, has at its roots a military showdown; and a division of the world into dar-al-islam and dar-al-harb. It accepts the jihad of the sword as a proper and legitimate means of spreading the faith. It has never understood a situation in which the rule of unbelievers over the people of God (the British Raj in the subcontinent, the Hui in China, the Balkan and Russian Muslim minorities) is anything but a glaring anomaly. Much of Islam's problem is that there's nothing in its source materials akin to Tisha B'Ov or Passiontide (except, perhaps, in Shi'ism's Ashura). It seems every Muslim group that tempers the doctrine of jihad seems to have its Islamic credentials called into question (Ahmadiyya and Bahai'ism come to mind).

How sweet it is to worship a God who took a little over two millennia rather than a single lifetime to speak His whole mind!

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