As noted several times in recent weeks, it is quite natural for traditional forms of Christianity and Islam to collide -- both are missionary faiths that seek to convert others. Both faiths claim to be the universal faith for all people in all cultures. There are major differences, however, in terms of how believers in these two faiths are called to accomplish this task. It is also clear that in traditional Christian doctrine, the world will contain both believers and unbelievers at the time of the Second Coming of Jesus. The goal is to offer the gospel to all people and cultures, but it is clear that some will embrace Christian faith and some will not.
Meanwhile, Western Christianianity now includes millions of people who believe in "universalism," the belief that salvation is found through all faiths -- not just through salvation in Jesus. Universalists tend to shun those who believe that evangelism is a must. Some would even say that Christian evangelism is, in an of itself, an evil form of cultural imperialism (as opposed to spreading Planned Parenthood franchises around the world). And what about claims of free speech and common human rights?
This is a major difference between modern Christianity and modern Islam, according to reporter Anthony Browne of the Times. Writing in The Spectator, he recently noted:
Of course, Christianity has been just as much a conquering religion. Spanish armies ruthlessly destroyed ancient civilisations in Central and South America to spread the message of love. Christians colonised the Americas and Australia, committing genocide as they went, while missionaries such as Livingstone converted most of Africa. But the difference is that Christendom has -- by and large -- stopped conquering and converting, and indeed in Europe simply stopped believing.
Righto -- try to find even one Islamic college or seminary run by a univeralist.
I bring this up because Browne goes on to make some other rather blunt statements about modern Islam, and Saudi Arabia in particular. One of his most interesting points is that some outspoken Muslim leaders are quite mad at al Qaeda's terrorism tactics for a unique and disturbing reason -- they believe that terrorism may awaken the West to the threat of Islamic takeover by other, more peaceful means.
In other words, if evangelism, high birthrates and immigration are doing the job, why bomb cities? Why not be patient and allow the West to collapse into a spiritual void that will cry out for rescue? Besides, there is evidence that Americans will surrender certain cultural institutions -- such as the military -- quite willingly.
Saudi Professor Nasser bin Suleiman al-Omar declared on al-Majd TV last month, 'Islam is advancing according to a steady plan, to the point that tens of thousands of Muslims have joined the American army and Islam is the second largest religion in America. America will be destroyed.'
Islam is now the second religion not just in the US but in Europe and Australia. Europe has 15 million Muslims, accounting for one in ten of the population in France, where the government now estimates 50,000 Christians are converting to Islam every year. In Brussels, Mohammed has been the most popular name for boy babies for the last four years. In Britain, attendance at mosques is now higher than it is in the Church of England.
Al-Qa'eda is criticised for being impatient, and waking the West up. Saudi preacher Sheikh Said al-Qahtani said on the Iqraa TV satellite channel, 'We did not occupy the US, with eight million Muslims, using bombings. Had we been patient and let time take its course, instead of the eight million there could have been 80 million [Muslims], and 50 years later perhaps the US would have become Muslim.'
It's crucial for journalists to realize that these concepts are central to Islam in its normative, orthodox forms, especially in settings such as Saudi Arabia and in the waves of mosques being built in the West with oil money. This is simple logic and there is a word for modernized Muslims who do not hold these beliefs: infidels.
Islam has captured territory with the sword (see Turkey) and through the relatively peaceful spread of its culture (see Indonesia). The faith continues to spread rapidly, even into areas in which Christianity is also alive and well (see Nigeria).
Missionary faiths will do what they do. They will seek to grow and win converts. The issue is how they chose to do this. Here is a summary from Browne.
I believe in a free market in religions, and it is inevitable that if you believe your religion is true, then you believe others are false. But this market is seriously rigged. In Saudi Arabia the government bans all churches, while in Europe governments pay to build Islamic cultural centres. While in many Islamic countries preaching Christianity is banned, in Western Christian countries the right to preach Islam is enshrined in law. Christians are free to convert to Islam, while Muslims who convert to Christianity can expect either death threats or a death sentence. . . . In the West, schools teach comparative religion, while in Muslim countries schools teach that Islam is the only true faith.
A final question: How many Christians are moving to Islamic cultures and, with the cooperation of the local governments, building schools and churches? Just asking.