Incoherent Civil Religion
BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary #011218 - 12/18/2001
Incoherent Civil Religion
During a service at a large evangelical church, a Muslim leader -- who had been invited to give the message -- stood at the pulpit and declared: "All of us believe in Jesus. I believe in Mohammed and all the prophets. So our mission here is to introduce people to God." And then he added, "We believe in Jesus more than you do, in fact."
What a thing to hear in a Bible-believing church!
Since September 11, we've seen all kinds of ecumenical services -- from the huge one at Yankee Stadium, to the prayer service at the National Cathedral, to the celebration of Ramadan in the White House to small celebrations all over America. And, yes, it's right to reach out to our Muslim neighbors -- to offer love and support at a time when they may be feeling vulnerable. President Bush is absolutely right to reach out in friendship to Muslims -- to lead the way so as to discourage outbreaks of religious bigotry. But Christians must be careful not to allow support and acceptance of our Muslim neighbors to sink into a kind of mushy civil religion -- one that obscures the truth about both Christianity and Islam. As I have been documenting over recent days, the two are not the same.
One dramatic difference is Christianity and Islam's understanding of Jesus. Christianity teaches that Jesus is part of the Trinity. He is God, the Son who has offered as an atoning sacrifice on the cross to save his people from their sins. By contrast, the Koran denies that Jesus was crucified at all and claims that Jesus was no more than "a Messenger of Allah and His Word." Muslims reject the deity of Christ and His atoning sacrifice. That's a big difference. Contrary to what the Muslim leader says, Muslims do not believe in Jesus more than we do -- pure nonsense.
To suggest that Christianity and Islam are basically the same is not only unfair to Christianity, it's equally unfair to Islam. It compromises both and thus creates massive worldview confusion. People need to know where the lines are drawn to think about Christianity or Islam rationally.
And getting out the truth about how Christianity differs from Islam is more important now than ever. Just before the September 11 attacks, a Gallup survey showed that some 45 percent of Americans had favorable views of Muslim-Americans. Today, 59 percent do. Imagine it -- Islamic extremists attack America, and we think more of Islam than before the attack!
Well, this has happened because leaders on many fronts have cleaned up Islam. They've made a point of including Muslims in public religious events and telling Americans that the terrorists hijacked a peace-loving religion. Those who dare to suggest otherwise, as some Christian leaders have done, are vilified.
Again, while it's right to love our Muslim neighbors, we must redouble our efforts to make sure our children and our neighbors know that all religions are not alike.
The same survey showing that more Americans view Muslims favorably also says Americans -- by a huge majority -- believe religion is gaining influence in American life. The critical question, of course, is what kind of religion is gaining influence. Is it the real thing or mushy civil religious ecumenism? It's time for Christians -- lovingly always -- to make the truth known. All religious beliefs are tolerated -- not all are true.
Copyright (c) 2001 Prison Fellowship Ministries