Islam for the American Public

We get “Good Morning America” a day later than America actually does, but we do get it. Wes woke me up early this morning to watch a segment that Diane Sawyer was doing on Syria. I’m not sure that it was clearly explained at any point in the telecast exactly what was going on there, so if this assumption is incorrect, my apologies, but I believe this is the time of year for the Shiite pilgrimmage to the mosque there in the ancient part of Damascus. This mosque is the second most holy site (second only to Mecca) for Shiite Muslims. (There’s a picture of the outside.)

Wes and I were there a few years ago, and we were surprised by some of the comments made for the American public. At one point, Ms. Sawyer pointed out that the mosque honors Jerusalem and Jesus and said to her guide, “So, all faiths are welcome — Jew, Christian, Muslim alike!” The guide agreed. (Actually, no, they aren’t. But I’ll explain that in a minute.)
I’m going to get a little narrow minded here and say something shocking. Are you ready for it? If we as Christians were a little more like Muslims, we would bring more glory to Christ. Huh? Let me explain.

First of all, all faiths are NOT welcome in that mosque. I believe that tour guide was trying to say what would be most politically correct and good PR for Syria in the eyes of the American public. Because that’s what the show wanted. If he was being completely honest, though, he would have said, “Jerusalem? Yes, because that is holy for Muslims. Jesus? Yes, because he is one of our prophets who will return to judge those who have not recognized Mohammed as the true prophet and lived by the Koran.” (Shiite Muslims believe that Jesus will return to this particular mosque to carry out judgment. To help Him descend from the heavens, they’ve left a ladder at the highest point of the mosque so that He can climb down. Dead serious.)
Here’s something I’ve learned in my travels around the world. Buddhists and ancestral worshippers in Japan and Vietnam? Think you, no matter what you believe, are every bit as right as they are. Animists and cultural “Christians” in Namibia and southern Africa? Again, whatever you believe is just as true as what they believe. Muslims in Egypt and Lebanon? They acknowledge that there is TRUTH. And that if you’re not believing what they’ve established as TRUTH, you are clearly wrong. There IS truth; it’s not just relative.
This was perhaps one of the most refreshing things about meeting devoted, Koran-believing Muslims in the Middle East. There was no halfheartedness in their belief. They believed completely what they believed and told you exactly what they believed, without apology. This attitude was also maybe one of the most convicting things. As American Christians, we are so ready to trade in any and all absolutes just to be called tolerant. “Jesus being the ONLY way? Well, that’s really intolerant. So, we’ll just say that you might be right, too!” By saying that, you take all validity out of your own claim! Admit that there IS truth!

I really struggled that summer we were in Lebanon. Not because I doubted what I believed, what I know to be truth… but because all around me, the majority believed something else. And they believed it, lived it out, let it completely be the focus of their lives. American Christianity? Looks NOTHING like that. And I’m not talking about unreached parts of the US. I’m talking about some Southern Baptist congregations! And about myself. Ouch.

Wow, y’all. Just seeing that place today reminded me of some of the people we met and how being a Muslim wasn’t just a compartment of their lives but their WHOLE life. And, frankly, they were intolerant. WAY intolerant. But they felt that they had real truth, life-changing truth, absolute truth. And they believed it was important enough that they would be at fault for not sharing it with others. Even though I believe they were wrong and spent countless hours that summer sharing real truth with them, I still had to admire and respect the strength of their conviction and pray that I would have that same conviction for what is real truth.

Anyway. Rant over.

Sorry that the past two posts have been so serious. I’m sure I’ll return to a chronicle of the baby’s sleeping patterns soon enough. Just some things I was thinking through…

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