Making Jesus Accessible

A Congressman Weighs In….

I wanted to share a post from another guest blogger on the Why Do You Fear Me? website. This post was written by Mark Siljander, former Republican U.S. congressman & deputy U.S./U.N. Ambassador.

Can a Muslim be a Good American?
By Mark Siljander

The title above is the head of an email I have repeatedly received from concerned friends. That particular letter is not unique among the hundreds of perhaps well-intended books, articles, emails, and videos condemning Islam, often from Christian authors. They warn us that “radical Islam” is intent on dominating the world, destroying Israel and our Western way of life. While I will not debate their findings, we must first stop and realize that these tactics operate from a “bad news” spirit of fear.  Meanwhile, the Bible tells us not to fear 200 times. Can we truly share the message of “Good News” while basing our sense of reality in fear?

Like the author of the e-mail, I too am upset that the Muslim radicals are winning the war on terror. The extremists are bankrupting us, radically altering our lifestyles, culture and politics. I am embarrassed that Westerners, especially Christians, are so terribly ignorant of Islam and only parroting what others have told them about the radicals. I am sick and tired of my inbox filling up with countless of these types of emails and my mailbox with DVDs, and having encounters with Christians whose only goal, it seems, is to frighten us with a paralyzing fear of the Islamic threat.

I am not an apologist for Islam, but the comments in many of these resources are for the most part, ignorant, reflect only the militant’s view or are simply wrong. Even if every point was 100% correct and once we are all in a state of fright, what do we do about it then? I have yet to read or hear of one rational strategy to thwart the dreaded onslaught. When confronted for solutions, my friends retort that we need to “beef up our military” and “convert Muslims to the Christianity.” Frankly, these have already been proven a failure.

I, and others like me (see WhyDoYouFearMe.com), are working towards a “Good News” approach for new solutions. The vast majority of Muslims are struggling to break the growing political grip of radicals with the power of a peaceful expression of their faith. The West’s hyper focus on radicals and fear-based approach only alienates and isolates them rather than empowering them. Many Christians understandably replay over and over the same videos and quotes of the murderous nuts and megalomaniacs, but then generalize that all Muslims follow the same narrow and murderous view of Islam. Perhaps we should replace our insecurity, fear and anger (that insults what the average Muslims cherish, i.e. their religion, holy book, prophet and traditions) with an emphasis on what we both value as positives and the good news of Jesus.

At the beginning of my journey learning about Muslims, I was shocked to find that Jesus is actually a prominent and supernaturally endowed Messiah in both Muslim and Christian traditions. Ironically, he can serve as a bridge to connect us, rather than divide.

The actual and historical distance between Christians and Muslims exacerbates the problem of misunderstanding. Much is lost when attempting to communicate across cultures. You have much more shared history and understanding with a family member than with a stranger. How vast is the potential for misunderstanding between people who are often continents away from each other, each with their own history and worldview.

Jesus used love as his strategy for change and inspired the largest people movement in history. This approach might actually attract more people to Jesus the Messiah, rather than perpetuating revulsion.

I am often challenged when I read Jesus’ teaching regarding love of neighbors. The lawyer in Luke 10 wished to justify his actions when he asked Jesus who his neighbor was. Instead, Jesus’ story of the merciful Samaritan showed that everyone is my neighbor. The bottom line in loving is to show mercy.

What does this mean for followers of Jesus as we discern how to respond to those of Muslim faith? Certainly there is much to discuss. Please join us in walking towards a rejuvenated Biblical strategy that embraces the hope and love proclaimed in the Good News–one that casts out fear.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear is tormenting. He who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

“The gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” (I Thessalonians 1:5)

Comments

  1. al ballard says:

    Carl, Mark,
    Thank you for writing the blog and expressing a need for a word that is hated in some parts of the christian world, “tolerance.”
    For a period of time I have been touched in how believers have become polarized. This division makes it very hard for those who have some tendencies to have compassion, especially those of us who fear the swift judgment of those who have been taught one thing and only one perspective.
    For the Holy Spirit to convict american christians to accept Muslims, a first step is in them accepting the person sitting next to them at their worship service.
    And it takes the courage of pastor’s to address the issue of division within the body, community and country. I praise the trinity for both of you, your hearts for compassion, mercy, understanding, I will continue to pray for some break throughs in American churches, allowing all to feel comfortable in where God has them.
    Blessings, Al