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As we reflect on the anniversary of 9/11, I think it important for us to reflect on the contrast between how the genuine Christian faith is advanced with how the religion of Islam is advanced. Robert Spencer is one of our nation’s most articulate and spot-on critics of Islamic extremism. He is the author of The Truth About Muhammad, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), as well as other books on the relationship between Islam and terrorism. His more recent book, Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, includes a short bio that informs readers that “Spencer lives in a secure, undisclosed location.” The reason for his self-imposed seclusion is because he fears for his life.
Considering what we know about Islamic radicalism in words and deeds, you would think that there would be dozens of authors who would be issuing similar warnings. Sadly, it’s not the case. Instead, we find shelves of books warning about Christian fundamentalism. “In 2006 alone,” Spencer writes, “major New York publishing houses unleashed such titles as”—
American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips.
The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us by James Rudin.
The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege by Damon Linker.
Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg.
Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical’s Lament by Randall Balmer.
Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom by Barry Lynn.
Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right by Mel White.
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America by Chris Hedges.
The impression I get from a list like this is that these authors consider conservative, Bible-believing Christianity to be America’s biggest threat. It is not unusual to hear some critics of Christianity point to the Crusades as an example of the violence of Christianity, and yet the study of Scripture and history illuminates the fact that the Crusades were often only ostensibly Christian—ambitious politics wrapped in Christian garbs. The Reformation happened to correct many of the deceptions and ignorances behind many of the ideas and practices involved in the Crusades. Some will then point to examples of retaliatory persecution by Christians in the 1500’s when Christians were still cleansing away from their understanding hundreds of years of humanistic syncretism from the mindset of the Church.
Then again, as I noted in yesterday’s article, it may be that as humanism has taken a renewed stranglehold over the worldview of many in the Church of America, misconceptions about violence’s place in advancing Christianity are misleading many Christians again today, and this has led Jewish people such as Mark Alan Siegel to view Christianity once again as a violent faith. We may well ask ourselves: Have our military operations in much of the Middle East over the last 60+ years been built on some of the same misconceptions as those behind the Crusades?
Make no mistake. Whenever we look into history and see where Christianity truly advanced in the world, it was not by the tip of a sword or the barrel of a gun. It was not accomplished by forcing western culture imperially on third-world countries. God has sometimes been gracious to allow the Gospel to spread in spite of such missteps but not because of them. To think otherwise would be to substitute humanistic methods for the method Jesus prescribed in Matthew 28:18-20.
Whenever Christianity has truly advanced, it has done so by taking root in the hearts of the people of a land, not by forcing external Christian facades on them. (Christianity does not teach, as does evolutionistic humanism, that man is merely the product of his environment.) It was done under circumstances of patient and charitable perseverance through hardship and sometimes even martyrdom. It was the Holy Spirit who moved powerfully in the hearts of people as frail human instruments of God faithfully preached the Word of God. The greatest advancers in Christianity from the Apostle Paul to Augustine to Bradford to Carey, have been those who personally sacrificed to persuade and build. We think, for example, of the ministry of Patrick in the British Isles. What a contrast to the history of Islam, which has almost exclusively advanced and maintained its control by threat of force.
The next time you go through security at an airport, ask yourself why you have to show your ID at least twice, put small bottles of liquid in a quart-size bag, remove every bit of metal from your body and place the whole lot in a plastic container, remove your belt and shoes, take your computer out of its bag and place it into a plastic container, undergo a near-strip search if one of the metal detectors goes off, be subjected to a forensic analysis of your carry-on bag due to a random call out. Is it because TSA suspects that Bible-toting, fundamentalist Christians might hijack the plane or that a group of Islamic extremists who have just prayed to Allah might do it?
Spencer highlights the absurdity of the near paranoia of liberal, leftist, anti-Christian pundits by recounting a story from February 2006 when he and Dr. Andrew Bostom were engaged in “an animated conversation with a liberal writer from New York who is well acquainted with Islamic terror” and now resides in the Netherlands. She “insisted that Christian fundamentalism was just as dangerous as the Islamic variety, and that equal attention should be devoted to defeating both.” As the conversation was winding down and it was nearing dusk, she told Spencer and Bostom “that she had to be going, as she was on a bicycle and couldn’t be out after dark, or she risked being attacked. ‘Who is going to attack you?’ asked Dr. Bostom. ‘Christian fundamentalists?’”
Of course, she had no such fear from Christians. It wasn’t a Christian who shot Theo van Gogh eight times while he was bicycling to work in Amsterdam on November 2, 2004. It wasn’t a Christian who then cut van Gogh’s throat, nearly decapitating him, and stabbed him in the chest with two knives and left them implanted with a five-page note attached. It wasn’t a Christian who wrote the note threatening Western governments, Jews, and former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali who has been in hiding ever since.
Spencer’s book is a horror and a delight. It’s a horror because it describes the goals and tactics of radical Islamists. It’s a delight because it describes the goals and tactics of radical Islamists and shows that there is no comparison between them and the goals and tactics of Christians.