Why I am Not Anti-Muslim

all_men_are_terroristsThis is the phrase I put on the board for my students last week. They were not overly fond of my logic. But I had built us up to the moment. I noted a number of terrorist attacks from the last generation, which included various religious and anti-religious backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, ideologies, philosophies, politics, classes, and mental states. I noted the one thing that terrorists had in common: they were men.

After a moment of silence, one student noted that there was a potential female terrorist in Paris. Another noted Palestinian suicide bombers that were women. And there is the IRA of the 20th century.

So I amended my logical statement:

“99% of terrorists are men, therefore 99% of men are terrorists.”

This wasn’t satisfying, not least for the men in the room. But I would suspect that most readers know of quite a few men that are not terrorists. The logic doesn’t seem to work with everyday life.

Yet this is the hidden logic in some of the media and social media presentations about the terrorism of recent weeks. The next President of the United States, Donald Trump, responded to the Paris Attacks by suggesting that he would look at closing mosques in the U.S. One of the most publicized thinkers in one of the most powerful and creative countries in the world is reacting with the kind of logic that my 1st year students, right out of high school, knew was suspect.

The result of this fuzzy thinking in culture is that while millions face dislocation, cold, and hunger as they flee a region destabilized by the post-9/11 war on terror, there is a gut-level reaction against Muslims. Some respond by reminding folk that the refugees are the victims of Islamist extremism, not the perpetrators. Others remind us that 1 in 6 of the refugees are Christians and other minorities that have faced generations of oppression. And others, like Waleed Aly—an expert in terrorism who finds himself as a host of a humorous pop culture news show—has reminded us that the Paris Attackers meant to bring out bigotry and panic in all of us.

While all these responses are valid, I want to appeal as a Christian to reactions against Islam as a whole.

This has been a really difficult post for me to write. I know that some readers will be offended by what I have to say. Some may even feel betrayed. But my job as a Christian scholar is to offer an understanding of how to think Christianly. It is your job to consider that view, and critique it or apply it as you think best.

911-flagI remember when the Oklohoma bombing took place. I was sent to me knees by the thought of daycare children lying beneath the rubble, and felt a connection to a city I did not know for the people that they had lost forever. I was quite young, and still didn’t have a way of thinking about violence all around me.

Part of me was worried about the cause of the attacks. When it was announced that Christian white supremacists were behind the violence, I groaned inwardly. Here we go again, I thought, another round of atheist attacks against Christianity.

Any thinking person knows that simply because a terrorist is Christian, it doesn’t mean that Christianity is inherently violent. And most of us recognize that the American limb of racism that came out of the Christian community is a diseased twig, not the main branch.

Still, every time Christians did or said something dumb, I faced a barrage of “there you go!” confirmations by anti-Christians. It grew tiresome as the shrill pitch of the New Atheists began to hit social media, especially from people who should know better. 9/11 meant a switch to the Muslim world, and among the New Atheists, the question, “is there something wrong about religion as a human experience that leads it to destroy others?”

strawmanBesides learning that I shouldn’t feed trolls, my main lesson from this period was that social media and superstar commentators very seldom described the Christian faith in a way that I could recognize. It felt to me like they designed a frail and thin Christianity, and then showed the world how easy it was to knock over. Still, to this day, I feel marginalized by media. And as an academic I have come to recognize that many don’t understand the things they are critiquing.

I got tired of this cherrypicking approach to Christianity, and I do not like it when I see applied to others.

I believe in the uniqueness of Christ, the reality that God has entered the human story as a human child in distant culture and time to bring hope to all peoples and transform the universe into a space of truth and beauty. This is a belief that is rejected by Muslims, who venerate Jesus (and Mary), but see him as a great prophet, not God-in-flesh. Muslims have fundamentally rejected what I think to be the best understanding of what God has done in Jesus.

Christians like me are “other” to Muslims; we are left to think about how we live together in this world. Sometimes in history that has gone well. Often enough it has gone badly.

And that’s the crux for many Western Christians, I think. When people have anxiety about refugees, they aren’t thinking really about the theological distinctions of who Jesus is or how to read the Bible.

Most people who are worried about Islam and refugees are worried about violence, terrorist, threat and war.

9-11 empty streetIt is hear that I am not anti-Muslim. I have studied Islam enough to have rejected it, but I am not convinced that it is all evil. Or even mostly evil. I do not think our media and pop culture sources have presented this part well. I also think that some preachers and commentators have done a disservice to truthfulness and self-honesty.

Just because the extremism and violence of this last generation has come from Muslims, does not mean that represents the best or most central part of Islam—any more than American racism or Irish religious war or the Rwandan genocide or Ugandan anti-gay laws tell us about Christianity. Having studied Islam’s beliefs and history, I think that the violence of a few hundred terrorists in the last 35 years does not tell us much about the billions of Muslims of history or about the people that founded that religion.

Age_of_CaliphsMuhammad was a tribal leader, and engaged in warfare. Most of us have not fought, so perhaps we are not best to judge. But some of the blood he shed seems problematic to me. Within a century of his death, the tribal confederacy that submitted to Muhammad’s rule had conquered a huge swath of land. Much of West Asia and North Africa was Muslim at the close of the 7th century, though not all by the sword. Byzantine Christian cultures, in particular, invited the renewal of faith that the Muslims brought with them.

As the middle ages progressed, I discovered in my research on the roots of antisemitism that the Muslim world was often friendlier to Jews than the so-called Christian world of Europe. And although the University finds its roots in 13th century monasticism, Europe was struggling to find creative new outlets for the exploration of philosophy, science, medicine, and art. Whatever evils came of the Crusades and the late Muslim pressure on Europe from the 8th-15th centuries, the result was that Christians learned from widespread Muslim advances in shipping, literary criticism, languages, philosophy, astronomy, theology, medicine, and the brewing of ales.

paris-attacksThat Islamic renaissance would fade as Europe found its feet as a global force. But when you consider the negative parts of European renaissance—global wars, normative antisemitism, race-based slavery, environmental and cultural destruction in colonial expansion, and a collective loss of faith—I struggle to see Islam as the sole bad guy here.

In fact, I would go farther: man to man, culture to culture, year to year, blade to blade, Christian leaders have caused as much pain as Muslim leaders ever attempted to perpetrate. 15,000-20,000 victims of terrorism in the last 35 years are a drop in the bucket compared with centuries of European conquest and fratricide.

And this from Christian people who claim to follow a man who chose to lay down his power and take up the suffering of others upon the cross.

celtic cross shoreI struggle to see how we can call Islam a religion of violence without saying the same of Christianity. In this my atheist friends have always been consistent.

Perhaps, though, there is something at the root of Islam that is poisonous. Even if the tree bears good fruit, its violence is buried deep within it. After all, Muhammad and the earliest leaders (the Rashidun) shed a lot of blood. So maybe the terrorism and bloodshed of today is the result of deeply embedded violence.

This is a powerful argument, but I don’t think a Bible believing Christian can make it consistently. If we honestly look into our own Scriptures, we see warrior leaders like Moses, Joshua, and David perpetrated exactly the same kind of violence as Muhammad and the Rashidun. The key difference is that the Rashidun were far more successful than the Israelite leaders ever were.

Don’t get me wrong: I have rejected Islam. I believe that God-in-Christ took violence into his body, suffering for us. Instead of taking up the sword, he carried the cross. The myth of violence is turned inside out in Christ’s self-sacrifice—a sacrifice that we are supposed to act out in our daily lives with our friends and enemies.

crucifixion copyI don’t think that Islam gets to the heart of the human condition in its teaching because it does not reflect Christ’s action on the cross. This is where European Christianity failed too. The European church confused the cross and the sword when it took up violence as a tool for Christian discipleship.

So I have problems with Islam, but I don’t think they make Islam inherently or essentially or altogether violent. It is a complex, diverse religion spread all over the globe. The largest communities of Muslim are not Arab, but from the Subcontinent and Southeast Asian regions. And this generation is such a small part of the last 1400 years. To judge all of Islam by Paris Attackers or imams in Tehran or 9/11 murderers is wrong.

What do I do, then, with my Muslim neighbours?

The same thing I do with neighbours who are Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Atheist, gardeners, hockey lovers, bakers, artists, vegetarians, and lovers of model trains. I believe that Christians are called to be cultural transformers—not merely by having awesome blogs or clever horton and his cloverapologetics or good art, but by living simple, good, Holy Spirit-filled lives in the midst of a world that likes to crush things that are beautiful. By meeting tyranny with love—as Christ did on the cross—and by living lives of self-sacrifice, we will bear out the truth of our beliefs.

This is why I’m not anti-Muslim: because I believe the gospel calls us to die to our own desires and prejudices and live in radical love. Any other path to victory is not Christian victory, but a kind of worldly supremacy. This sort of “win” doesn’t interest me, whether it comes in excluding refugees, closing Mosques, or launching clever tweets out into a Babel of voices.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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56 Responses to Why I am Not Anti-Muslim

  1. wanderwolf says:

    Thank you for this balanced and well-informed post. It described a lot of the things I’ve been feeling lately, bu haven’t been able to articulate. I’m not anti-Muslim, but it is hard to figure out why such a large number of terrorists in the past twenty years have been Muslim. Is there a correlation? You provide some answers without saying that there has to be, and that’s the important part I think, in moving forward.
    Really interesting and I’m going to reread it now, too.


    • Thanks for the note. Whether it is the Sicarii in Greco-Roman Jerusalem or US anti-negro lynchmobs, young passionate liberators in Northern Ireland or Palestinian suicide bombers, “terrorists” are a complex make up of factors. In Palestine, there is a sense of anger and hopelessness, as the 5th and 6th generation are born into concentration camps, pressed between Israeli protection mechanisms, their own corrupt governments, and Western culture that undermines faith and culture. It is about desperation. 9/11 is a sign of weakness, not strength–the last gasp of a dying political movement. ISIS plays on a series of factors, but restless youth, desperate poverty, Western influence, and religious apathy are factors that make bullets fly.
      So I think there are lots of reasons.
      There are also men who want to move history. Like the Marxist radicals in Japan or the Quebecois in Canada in the 1970s. Both violent and nonreligious, hoping that single events will bring some sort of public change of heart. That might be what Paris is about (if it really is ISIS).
      Finally, there are some who just want to cause as much damage as possible. I think the Tokyo Gas bombings count here–though they are “religious” in an apocalyptic sense. Some of the white supremicist attacks are like this too, and some Nigerian Boko Haram events. These actions are both symbolic and meant to create damage for damage sake.
      Sorry I can’t be of more help here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • wanderwolf says:

        Can’t ask you to be of more help! You’ve done more in thinking responses to these event through than I have, and it sounds like you’re helping your students work through it themselves. Nothing that affects large amounts of people and varies so much in causes can be seen or explained clearly in a few hundred words. I appreciated from your post that you didn’t try to say you were an expert on the political, anthropological, sociological, etc. front. You established your ethos in the religious scholar front, and so your comments on that end helped a lot… Ja. Not much left for me to say. But thanks again!


        • Thanks so much for the conversation. I am not an expert on any area, really, except thinking about religion. There are some interesting and complex thinkers out there when it comes to politics or human movements. I don’t know much, for example, about the Yazida on the run from Iraq.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a very, very important post, well thought out and powerfully expressed. I have many Muslim friends, and I have Christian friends who fear and have to be reminded to love Muslims. I indeed feel called to be a cultural transformer. I want to share your message, and I hope that I have some credibility as someone who is living a simple, good, Holy Spirit-filled [life] in the midst of a world that likes to crush things that are beautiful. Thank you so much, Brenton.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In reality – “terror” is only an intellectual emotion, it cannot be a physical army or actual force that can ever be measured accurately. We can all terrify others or be terrified by others.Perhaps it is the unscrupulous politicians and their managed media who are the real terrorists when they use – “terrorism” as a term in a way that means nothing, anything and everything. The effective use of the word in political rhetoric by politicians is only due to the fact that there is no consensus about the meaning or definition of what ‘terrorism actually is. Extremists invoke the word “terrorism” whenever extremist activity is required as political persuasion, it’s never called “terrorism” when your own political extremist activity supports whatever your own political motives are. Muslims just happen to be the current scapegoat. How susceptible are you to the persuasiveness of your media ?


    • Your astute comment about “terror” includes some of my thoughts when the 2003 “shock and awe” campaign began in Iraq. I suppose, specifically, I’m suggesting that the fact that some politicized Muslims are targeting civilian populations on a non-state to state basis is not necessitated by the core of Islamic faith.
      I’m not sure the Muslim extremists are scapegoats. There are really problematic and troubling things going on. But it is easy for real world people to make the connection of ISLAM=VIOLENCE today–as it has been of Christianity at times past.
      I am probably susceptible to media, but try to multiply sources to mitigate that. What are you thinking, specifically?


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I’m not sure this is the origin of modern use, but it’s interesting that the Wikipedia article on “Reign of Terror” (to which “The Terror” redirects) includes, “On 5 February 1794, Robespierre stated, more succinctly, that, ‘Terror is nothing else than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible’ ” – which seems very much (like) an example of “when your own political extremist activity supports whatever your own political motives are.” And, more extensively, “If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself, than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the patrie.”

        In browsing Dickens’s Child’s History of England in response to your previous post, I encountered (ch. 2) of “the Picts and Scots” after the withdrawal of “the Roman soldiers”, “They plundered the richest towns, and killed the people; and came back so often for more booty and more slaughter, that the unfortunate Britons lived a life of terror.” It does not seem an unjust or unintelligible use of the word. While there may ontologically and soteriologically be no limit to the number of people at a given place and time who may be brought to letting not their hearts be troubled, neither being afraid, it seems uncommon in human experience.


        • Terror is as terror does, perhaps. The word has stretched and moved and perhaps is of no use. But “non-state militant extremists” seems gaudy.
          I must say that if were in charge of prosecuting a war, I would do it in such a way as to set the enemy into a state of fear: solid, decisive, successful, unrelenting power is perhaps more compassionate than long, slippery, ill-fought wars.

          Liked by 1 person

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            This invites more discussion – e.g., with respect to fear of just exercise of power and of unjust, such as the opponent who threatens extermination as an alternative to immediate and unconditional surrender, and the opponent who does nothing of the sort – or the misrepresentation by one’s own ‘ higher ups’ of the latter as the former.

            Liked by 1 person

      • I suppose I am saying specifically that “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what kind of person you are” [C S Lewis] and that the susceptibility to the intensity and suggestion of the impression of any culture on an individual is proportional to that individual’s level of spiritual communion with Reality and Truth. (Christ being the Reality of Life, Truth and Way.)
        To be less specific though. Today, (and I refer to both the Alternative Media and the Main Stream Media as potential sources of facts and images, and from which I assume you have drawn from both when you say “multiple sources”), we endeavour to have our thoughts and writing thought of as “objective” if we are considering facts and “subjective” if we are considering values.
        Because facts are ostensibly discovered and values are made (dynamically related to different circumstances), values can be used or dismissed by those who are in the position to arbitrarily impose or dispose of them. There are now no objective values being used to govern the source or use of facts, so, who governs the facts and their use becomes all-important.
        If, as an author, you have no personal relationship with the individuals governing the organizations that source and manage the facts you use, you have no way of determining their values or their value and then, as C S Lewis observed during the first World War …. “To read, and to use our countries involvement in foreign wars as an example of an issue, without military knowledge or good maps and geographical knowledge accounts of fighting which were distorted before they reached the Divisional general and further distorted before they left him and then ‘written up’ out of all recognition by journalists paid to emphasize particular political persuasions, to strive to master what will be contradicted the next day, to fear and hope intensely on shaky evidence, is surely an ill use of mind and emotion.” … and therefore … “none of us can escape the appalling waste of time and spirit involved in reading “the news” or taking more than an artificial part in conversations about the issues selected for and highlighted in “the news”.[Surprised by Joy]
        This also means that any media education in facts these days is never value-free. No reporting can therefore be truly objective, and the danger of this is that any systematic training by the media in objectivity will eliminate from your mind, one by one, the things you hitherto regarded as grounds for action, leaving you with a sense of guilt and/or a sense of helplessness, which may or may not have been the initial objective of those governing and releasing the facts as and when they do. Another danger is that motives that are not objective also encourage “Scapegoating” or the process of both denying and projecting your fears and hatreds. It is called “scapegoating” from the Jewish ritual of putting your faults on a goat that was then whipped out into the desert (see Leviticus 16:10) – “The object of your wrath, like the poor escaping goat is completely arbitrary and artificial. It has nothing to do with truth or reason. It has to do with fear. The amazing thing is how well it works. We rather easily displace our fears onto other people, other issues, other places and other times. Anything seems better to us than bearing the burden of me-fear-here-now-myself. The most effective and common way to turn social hatred into social harmony is via a scapegoat. It works so well, it gathers the community so quickly, that is has perdured through most of human history. It gives us a sense of order, control and superiority, which is exactly what the ego wants and the small-self demands.” [Richard Rohr] Which also, may or may not have been the initial objective of those governing and releasing the facts as, and when, and in the form they do.
        I apologize in advance if this comes across as judgemental or critical, it was not intended to.


        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          A couple scattered responses (perhaps pendng a proper one?):

          Arend Smilde once prepared a little anthology of Lewis’s (and others’) journalism-critical observations – perhaps he could be encouraged to consider posting a version at Lewisiana!

          “No reporting can therefore be truly objective” – no reporting can probably ever succeed at being thoroughly objective, but there have been and are still particular journalists and shared approaches to journalism that aspire to objectivity. The website getreligion.org is interesting for its attention to such matters where (‘ Old’ and ‘ New’ Media) journalistic treatment of religion is concerned.

          With respect to the extent that “you have no way of determining their values or their value”, it is worth considering how easily or not you can do this from ‘outside’ as, for example, any reader or scholar (like Lewis) of works from the past is compelled to do. Denis de Rougement is very interesting about this in Journal d’Allemagne (1938), about his experience of working in Germany after the Nazis came to power, and his success in ‘decoding’ Nazi propagandistic journalism to extract information.

          The sweep of “The object of your wrath, like the poor escaping goat is completely arbitrary and artificial. It has nothing to do with truth or reason” seems so drastic as to make any possibilities of analysis in terms of ‘ scapegoating’ extremely limited. Where there is any reasonable possibility of a truly problematical dimension, does it then become impossible to think in terms of something like ‘ degrees of scapegoating’?

          How would or wouldn’t possibilities of ‘scapegoating’ come into what seem Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain’s inadequate addressing of the threats of Nazi Germany, or indeed pre-Nazi Germany (if one considers the analysis of Leopold Schwarzschild in World in Trance (1943) )? For example, did Baldwin think the Nazis were made a ‘scapegoat’ by those not wanting to address a Soviet Russian threat? Was Churchill treated as something of a ‘scapegoat’ by those not wanting to address a Nazi German threat?


        • This certainly does not come across as problematic (I happen to think that “critical” is a good word). It is also an intriguing Rohr quote.
          So, I can be more specific. When I say “multiple sources,” I mean sources of competing values that make it difficult to navigate and confirm the facts. For example, ISIS says it did the Paris Attacks, but I have my doubts. I can’t confirm that, though others might. I use not just media in the sense of news, but testimonies on social media, as well as books, commentaries, and texts (sacred).
          Is that clearer?
          I have defined elsewhere that terrorist for me is a non-state ideological militant. So the actions of ISIS are no longer “Terrorism,” and neither was the bombing of Baghdad by Bush Jr. I think both unethical, but not at the same levels or for the same reasons. ISIS and Bush both use “Terror” as a weapon, but I still want to separate out the dozens of other terrorist events I’ve listed here in the notes.
          Are you thinking that I am scapegoating Muslim extremists by calling the Paris Attackers terrorists?


          • I don’t think you are intentionally scapegoating Muslim extremists by calling the Paris murderers “terrorists”. However, I don’t think anyone but a select few are in a position to know whether they were really Muslims or false-flag mercenaries hired to pose as Muslims. The only fact we know with any certainty is that innocent people were murdered. Labelling them or calling them anything besides murderers or the incident anything but an atrocity is feeding the evil behind the unknown motives facts and values of whoever initiated this atrocity. And the evil must have started within an individual, in his/her facts, values and motives at some point. To dig for a deeper source of evil than an individual is to delve into the spiritual roots of evil itself.
            At the height of the slaughter of the First World War, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew the truth the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.” [John Pilger] and only now, over a 100 years later, we discover that back then, during the First World War. Reporters were rewarded and knighted for their silence and their collusion.


          • Apologies Brenton, I couldn’t answer your question below because there was no “reply” selection available below your “like” tag. Do you have to insert the “reply” selection or does WordPress restrict the number of replies?


          • John Pilger did not elaborate in his article – http://johnpilger.com/articles/war-by-media-and-the-triumph-of-propaganda – not a Christian but from my exposure to him very Christian in his actions, someone with integrity and a good and reliable resource for comparative perspectives.


        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Do you think that in early September 1939 you would be likely to have said, ‘I don’t think anyone but a select few are in a position to know whether they were really Poles or false-flag mercenaries hired to pose as Poles’ who were responsible for the Gleiwitz attack? Or would you still say that? What did – or do you think would be necessary to – convince you it was the Nazis themselves? Or, again, do you think that in April 1865 you would be likely to have said, ‘I don’t think anyone but a select few are in a position to know whether they were really Confederates or Confederate sympathizers or false-flag mercenaries hired to pose as such’ who were responsible for the assassination of Lincoln?


          • I think that when you look at what happened after the Gleiwitz attack in 1939 (“peace in our time” then the 2nd WW) it proves that there were an even more select few that did ask the question and historical evidence has proved that it was the Nazi’s (who were probably mercenaries at the same time) posing as Poles to support Hitler’s foreign policies and that the “false-flag” method and pattern of politics is not a myth or “conspiracy”, but a reality. So, to answer your questions.
            1. I would definitely not have been in a position to ask the question in September 1939 or at any of the other political events you mention, I would not have been one of the select policy makers and enforcers
            2. I still say it was the Nazis posing as Poles
            3. a more radical freedom of access to real facts would have convinced me.
            I thank God for the fact that brave investigative journalism still exists because it is only the freedom of access to facts and images on the internet that has provided us with sufficient documented evidence today that allows (more than a select few of) us to ask what do you think the odds are of finding at the scenes of these evil atrocities pristine passports belonging only to people who just happen to be the nationality of expedient enemies?
            I detect some scepticism of my perspective in your questions ? In this TRANSCRIPT with all links and videos from James Corbett of https://www.corbettreport.com (another investigative journalist and one of my comparative sources) he echoes, in a humorous way, some of my scepticism of events around 9/11, the 5 minute video on Youtube asks the questions even more effectively :
            On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men armed with boxcutters directed by a man on dialysis in a cave fortress halfway around the world using a satellite phone and a laptop directed the most sophisticated penetration of the most heavily-defended airspace in the world, overpowering the passengers and the military combat-trained pilots on 4 commercial aircraft before flying those planes wildly off course for over an hour without being molested by a single fighter interceptor.
            These 19 hijackers, devout religious fundamentalists who liked to drink alcohol, snort cocaine, and live with pink-haired strippers, managed to knock down 3 buildings with 2 planes in New York, while in Washington a pilot who couldn’t handle a single engine Cessna was able to fly a 757 in an 8,000 foot descending 270 degree corskscrew turn to come exactly level with the ground, hitting the Pentagon in the budget analyst office where DoD staffers were working on the mystery of the 2.3 trillion dollars that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced “missing” from the Pentagon’s coffers in a press conference the day before, on September 10, 2001.
            Luckily, the news anchors knew who did it within minutes, the pundits knew within hours, the Administration knew within the day, and the evidence literally fell into the FBI’s lap. But for some reason a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists demanded an investigation into the greatest attack on American soil in history.
            The investigation was delayed, underfunded, set up to fail, a conflict of interest and a cover up from start to finish. It was based on testimony extracted through torture, the records of which were destroyed. It failed to mention the existence of WTC7, Able Danger, Ptech, Sibel Edmonds, OBL and the CIA, and the drills of hijacked aircraft being flown into buildings that were being simulated at the precise same time that those events were actually happening. It was lied to by the Pentagon, the CIA, the Bush Administration and as for Bush and Cheney…well, no one knows what they told it because they testified in secret, off the record, not under oath and behind closed doors. It didn’t bother to look at who funded the attacks because that question is of “little practical significance“. Still, the 9/11 Commission did brilliantly, answering all of the questions the public had (except most of the victims’ family members’ questions) and pinned blame on all the people responsible (although no one so much as lost their job), determining the attacks were “a failure of imagination” because “I don’t think anyone could envision flying airplanes into buildings ” except the Pentagon and FEMA and NORAD and the NRO.
            The DIA destroyed 2.5 TB of data on Able Danger, but that’s OK because it probably wasn’t important.
            The SEC destroyed their records on the investigation into the insider trading before the attacks, but that’s OK because destroying the records of the largest investigation in SEC history is just part of routine record keeping.
            NIST has classified the data that they used for their model of WTC7’s collapse, but that’s OK because knowing how they made their model of that collapse would “jeopardize public safety“.
            The FBI has argued that all material related to their investigation of 9/11 should be kept secret from the public, but that’s OK because the FBI probably has nothing to hide.
            This man never existed, nor is anything he had to say worthy of your attention, and if you say otherwise you are a paranoid conspiracy theorist and deserve to be shunned by all of humanity. Likewise him, him, him, and her. (and her and her and him).
            Osama Bin Laden lived in a cave fortress in the hills of Afghanistan, but somehow got away. Then he was hiding out in Tora Bora but somehow got away. Then he lived in Abottabad for years, taunting the most comprehensive intelligence dragnet employing the most sophisticated technology in the history of the world for 10 years, releasing video after video with complete impunity (and getting younger and younger as he did so), before finally being found in a daring SEAL team raid which wasn’t recorded on video, in which he didn’t resist or use his wife as a human shield, and in which these crack special forces operatives panicked and killed this unarmed man, supposedly the best source of intelligence about those dastardly terrorists on the planet. Then they dumped his body in the ocean before telling anyone about it. Then a couple dozen of that team’s members died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
            This is the story of 9/11, brought to you by the media which told you the hard truths about JFK and incubator babies and mobile production facilities and the rescue of Jessica Lynch.
            If you have any questions about this story…you are a batshit, paranoid, tinfoil, dog-abusing baby-hater and will be reviled by everyone. If you love your country and/or freedom, happiness, rainbows, rock and roll, puppy dogs, apple pie and your grandma, you will never ever express doubts about any part of this story to anyone. Ever.


  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    It is curious that the earliest narrative account of “Mehmet” (as he is apparently called in the original) is that found in The Armenian History or History of Heraclius attributed to Bishop Sebeos, and presumably written down around A.D. 661 – long before any ahadith were committed to writing. The Wikipedia article, “Sebeos”, has an external link to one translation and quotes (if I’m not mistaken) another, about how he called “the sons of Ishmael” from the polytheistic idolatry they had fallen into so that “Abandoning the reverence of vain things, they turned toward the living God, who had appeared to their father–Abraham.”

    I have read accounts of (and, I think, by) people who have grown up within Islam whose experience of it has come to be of a praeparatio Evangelica. But I do not know if there are any Islamic legal schools or exegetical traditions that think anything but putting to death is the appropriate treatment of such people. Do you happen to know more about this?


    • I can’t speak to specifics, honestly. Partly because of the diversity of schools. There are at least 4 Shariah schools that I know of, and they give much different context than what we here of today (mostly as anti-women programs of “justice”). And the shariah stream is just one of many. I think if you ask the average Muslim in London or Toronto you would find a different subtlety of answer than one in Islamabad, and another response in Bali or Mumbai.
      I do know that there are some converts to Christianity, atheism, and Buddhism in the middle east, and that depending on country of origin could make a stable refugee claim based on persecution. How far reaching is that? I don’t know. My own evangelical community is a tad overly persecution conscious, so I find it tough to gauge well.
      Other thoughts/


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        To add to the invitation to ´other thoughts´, can you – or any readers – recommend anything in the way of sketches (or even magisterial studies!) of ‘mere Islam’ in the way Lewis attempts and variously discusses (as, in the introduction to Sr. Penelope’s St. Athanasius translation) for Christianity – of ‘common denominators’ or ‘constants’ across broader (e.g., ‘ Sunni’, ‘Shia’) and finer (e.g., traditional legal schools) distinctions, also where specifics are concerned?

        And, for that matter, any broader ‘suggested reading’ lists that come readily to mind?


        • I don’t have one, honestly. I like Karen Armstrong’s “Islam,” because she defends it while not being of that faith. Most school textbooks are pretty good at generalities. I also like Karsh’s work.


  5. Juan Pablo says:

    “I noted a number of terrorist attacks from the last generation, which included various religious and anti-religious backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, ideologies, philosophies, politics, classes, and mental states.”

    Could you give some examples?


    • I list some on another one of the comments, but the Oklohoma bombings, the IRA bombings and assassinations, the Palestinian, the Rwandan genocide, Israeli perpetrators of violence against Arabs, abortion clinic bombings and sniper attacks on doctors, 9/11, the attacks on daycare children in China, Washington DC snipers, 7/7, Boko Haram, Marxist radicals in Japan, the Quebecois violence in Canada, Tokyo Gas bombings.
      I think that covers the range. Perhaps?


  6. loritischler says:

    EXCELLENT, reasoned, researched evaluation. Thanks again, Brenton!!
    My own, simple yet devotional, ‘research’ has led me through The Word–the Bible–and the dozens of verses therein that speak to:
    1.- Love for ALL others…
    2.- Trust in GOD alone…and
    3.- NOT to fear.) Amen
    Blessings during this time of Thankfulness, Peace and Trust.


  7. L.A. Smith says:

    Liked the video, thanks for sharing! Your post was well thought out and gives much to ponder. I honestly don’t know enough about the Koran to be any kind of expert, but it does seem as if there are some parts of it that allow for the killing of the “infidel” and concept of “jihad”. I know that many Muslims say that those parts of the Koran are meant to be interpreted in a spiritual sense, not literally, but of course it is precisely those parts that the extremist Muslims use to justify their acts. And yes, of course, there have been Christians who interpret parts of the Bible to justify their own violence and heinous acts, for sure. Bottom line is that the heart of man is desperately wicked, and it is only through the substitutionary death of Christ that we are freed from ourselves. It’s all so very discouraging to try to bring some sanity into all this, for the bottom line is that in times of uncertainty it seems that, although the best that can be found in mankind is on display at times, the majority of people are motivated by fear, hate, and self-centeredness. May God grant us grace to bring the light into all those dark corners.


    • Interpretation is part of any system. “Jihad”, for example, is a spiritual struggle not just by warriors, but by poets and philosophers and theologians. Words change in meaning. “Fundamentalist” used to mean “sticking to the fundamentals.” Now it means, “any conservative I find distasteful” or something like that.
      Infidel, too, is an interpreted concept. I’m not sure if I am infidel or not.
      I know some who think that the Christians and Jews who do violence are being true to the texts. When I suggest a more sophisticated reading, they say I’m just clouding the issue and making excuses for the Bible. I think sometimes we do that for Muslims.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Could you elaborate a little on what you have in mind when you say, “the Christians and Jews who do violence”? Lewis’s title, “Why I am not a pacifist” springs to mind (though I have not reread the thing itself in years). Do you mean to include people like Bonhoeffer and Pius XII who seem variously to have been involved with plans to assassinate Hitler?


        • Thanks David. In this case, I’m not being terribly precise because of the imprecise nature of the hidden criticism. I respect Anabaptists and advocates for non-violence, like my cousin at Flags of Dawn. But our culture has an unreflective pacifism. We know, somehow in our cultural organ, that violence is wrong.
          It is a symptom of our zeitgeist. We are uncomfortable with hunters, then by steak on sale. We don’t like how chickens are farmed, but we continue to go to fastfood restaurants. We want fair trade coffee, so we feel better when we buy Starbucks because they sell some fair trade coffee (not the cup in our hand, of course). We will buy an organic product from an unconfirmed source halfway around the world rather than a local farmer’s wares.
          And that’s just food.
          But the parable shows how we think these things through.
          On violence, we have to believe that some violence is necessary. Is it good that a policewoman shoots a sniper who is picking people off in Trafalgar Square? She is a taker of life, exhibiting extreme, focussed violence (as is the sniper). If you think the greater good (lesser evil) is the policewoman’s killing of the sniper, then we have bought into violence at the highest levels.
          So the question for “terrorists” or Bonhoeffer or the Pope or George W. Bush is whether they are perpetrating “necessary violence.”
          If it is “necessary,” then it is good (or potentially good). If it is not necessary, I separate state and non-state violence. And among state violence I separate civilian and non-civilian populations, and so on.
          I think the tough part is turning to scripture. So distant, it is hard to see how some of the violence is necessary. And the God of Abraham and Sarah blesses some things that are ambivalent. The text sometimes guides our judgment, and other times doesn’t.
          But one of the reasons that I believe in the Christ myth is what it does with violence. Rather than embracing violence and shaping it for “good” in social transformation (revolutionaries, freedom fighters, tyrants, and civilization builders), or rather than ignoring violence and slicing its effect out of our lives (like Buddhism, or Oprah), the cross event takes violence into the sacred circle and tames it, transforming the power of violence toward redemption.
          Sorry for the long answer!


  8. Jess says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful, balanced post. I agree with you in many of your points. I’ve read the Koran, with some trepidation, it’s true. And it’s been explained to me that many of those verses that get quoted relate to specific historical contexts. It seems in arabic infidel does not even refer to Christians or Jews, who are actually called ‘The people of the book’ in the Koran, Karen armstrong mentions this I think. Some touching verses that I noted were: “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” which is in chapter 2. The one that stood out for me was this, which I kept a note of as it made me smile: “…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82). That told me for whatever else I found problematic, or which was not compatible with the Christian faith, there was plenty of room for common understanding and support and love. We have to live on this planet together, I have hope we will do just that.


    • This is a nice response Jess.
      There are negative passages, like the sword verse. Even if Christians aren’t the target, the US could be viewed as an infidel (unfaithful) country. Still, there is a diversity of perspectives on this point in Islam. I don’t want to tell them what they have to believe based on their scriptures when there are sophisticated ways to read my own. If the larger community of Muslims is also reading the passages you quoted and they say that on balance these ones come to the forefront, I am inclined to let them speak.
      And, frankly, what voice do we want to win in a global society? The violent or the peaceful? Whenever they have debates about whether atheists can have a system for being good, I answer, “I hope so. I want my son living in a world of atheists who have left churches and still try not to run over old ladies in the sidewalk.” So I have a selfish reason for trying to temper the conversation about Islam: I want a more reasonable, peaceful world.


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Lewis seems ‘classically’ to treat Islam as a Christian heresy – for example, the Easter 1945 paper first published in Undeceptions (UK)/God in the Dock (US) as “Christian Apologetics” includes the sentence, “Islam is only the greatest of the Christian heresies, Buddhism only the greatest of the Hindu heresies.” (Parenthetically, who-all have worked on Lewis and Islam (if anyone yet – you’d think someone is likely to have)?)

        However the Koran is read/recited (linguistically), and interpreted, and regarded, by whomever, its references (for some very weighty examples) to Tawrat (Torah) and Injil (Gospel) as such and to what Wikipedia calls “Biblical and Quranic narratives” mean that it, as written text, must have some true relation to those other written texts and the people in those “narratives” – whatever in fact that true relation is. Is the goal not that everyone, not least self-described Muslims, Jews, and Christians, should come to know that true relation and read Torah, Gospels, and Koran as truly as possible – whatever that shall prove to be?

        Historically, for example – I cannot speak to the interpretive truth, but note what I have been given by (Muslim and Christian) scholars to understand is the fact – some Arabic-speaking Christians, like St. Paul of Antioch, Bishop of Sidon, seem to have treated the Koran (and Mohammed) as not incompatible with orthodox Christian self-understanding – in contrast to later Islamic interpretation.


        • Yes, he also notes that Islam is focussed and simple because it is a refinement of Christianity and Judaism. He saw that as a weakness.
          I have not yet encountered a Lewis-Islam scholar, though it doubtless exists in a paper somewhere (though I have looked in the databases). I have written some notes on Lewis and Orientalism re: Edward Said–basically balancing the view of Arabic/Persian images in Narnia against context and expectation. I haven’t gotten that out the door.
          I am getting beyond my paygrade with your last question. But there are Christians who treat Muhammad as either necessary (to correct inneffective Christian neighbourliness and rule) or prophetic (meant to reshape the Christ event for Arabs and Persians and whoever). I can see how Muslims will reject this, perhaps: either Christ is God or not. For those working in regions of Asia, you can see how a sophisticated way through might open up conversations.


  9. You’re last two paragraph are the key to whatever the heck is going on. Enough said. Brilliant I know- and extremely (pardon the pun) difficult – yet the only ‘answer’


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  11. jubilare says:

    “The next President of the United States, Donald Trump” I just threw up a little. Don’t say things like that! Angels and ministers of Grace defend us!

    “Besides learning that I shouldn’t feed trolls, my main lesson from this period was that I was that social media and superstar commentators very seldom described the Christian faith in a way that I could recognize. It felt to me like they designed a frail and thin Christianity, and then showed the world how easy it was to knock over. Still, to this day, I feel marginalized by media. And as an academic I have come to recognize that many don’t understand the things they are critiquing.”

    This is, in words, something I’ve thought and felt for so long now that I don’t know when I first recognized it in myself.

    I am having some of my assumptions about the idea of Christian warfare challenged (not so much because of happenings in the world), but I do believe that giving into the worldly fear and hatred that is being thrown around is the least Christian thing we could possibly do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I responded to your comment on “fear” elsewhere, so I appreciate your thought on that.
      You also helped me find a typo.
      More than that, though, I am glad I am not the only one who feels smooshed or excluded by reductionistic media presentations. I was starting to wonder if I was just paranoid!


      • jubilare says:

        I know quite a few others who share those feelings, but we’re also being out-shouted by louder voices, when we aren’t simply brow-beaten into silence. That is one strong draw I have to C. S. Lewis. From his writing, I get the distinct impression that he saw/felt the same thing.


        • I am careful about doing the “if CSL were alive today” kinds of essays. If he were alive today, he might have had my poor education and become a bureaucrat!
          But I look for “inversive” features in some past authors–ways they turn expectations on their heads. This conversation about CSL and gender is pretty well under way.


          • jubilare says:

            It isn’t so much “if CSL were alive today” as it is “CSL was dealing with the same thing in his day.” He talks about reductionist/unreliable media, about attacks on straw-man views of Christianity, about the seemingly “bottomless ignorance” and misinformation about Christianity, and for that matter, science and history in the public sphere.

            Lewis’s gender bias is something that has always bothered me (one of the things I’d like to argue with him about over a cup of tea), mostly because I think he was, like many, unaware of its problematic aspects. People have called him a misogynist, which I think is entirely unfounded and unjust. Sexist, yes, but sexism and misogyny are different things. Also, I think his late marriage dispelled at least some of his earlier misconceptions about women.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I think Lewis was good at cutting through fuzzy thinking to a core idea.
              On gender, I feel the same, and would add race/culture/colonialism into that mix. Still, I think the seeds of forward thinking in both class and gender are in his bones.


  12. Pingback: Why I am Not Anti-Muslim | jubilare

  13. loritischler says:

    See recent articles on Ravi Zacharias’ website. Totally on this!! (With some miracles and praises on the side.) 🙂


  14. jubilare says:

    “Still, I think the seeds of forward thinking in both class and gender are in his bones.”
    Agreed. And compared to other voices of his time/class/culture, I think he’s very progressive. As much as I enjoy Chesterton, I find him a lot more problematic in all of those areas compared to Lewis.


    • Thanks for your forgiveness of my mixed metaphor.
      Chesterton is more problematic, but also a generation earlier. He is staunchly conservative. That conservativism allowed him to be rooted it ideas that didn’t breeze along with culture too lightly. |So when the topic of eugenics came up, he could think beyond the generation.


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