In the last 48 hours, I’ve had four different conversations with people about the Islamic faith. Three of the four conversations all began with questions…good questions…about Islam and its beliefs. And the questions were, in all honesty, framed in the fear and nervousness triggered by statements being made in the media, most of which are ill-informed and unhelpful.
So please allow me to take a moment and clarify something that’s really important:
The Islamic faith is not the same as Islamic terrorism. Period.
While I am not an expert in Islam, I have read and studied enough of the Koran, and have spoken with enough Muslim leaders to recognize a fundamental truth about their faith and their people: The overwhelming majority of Muslim people want to live peaceful lives. The Koran teaches peace.
Are there sections that talk about violence? Yes there are. However, very similar statements can be found in the Bible, in sections of the Old Testament. Taken out of context, some of these texts have been used historically to justify some terrible things.
The truth is that the vast majority of Muslims despise the violence that is taking place in the name of their religion.
Radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is to Islam, as the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity.* The KKK is, for all practical purposes, a radical terrorist hate group that uses Christianity to justify its actions. But the KKK doesn’t represent me…it doesn’t represent you…and when they use scripture to rationalize the terror it causes, well in all honesty, it makes me kind of sick to my stomach.
Likewise, Islam cannot be equated with the actions of radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. And the articles I’ve read written by Islamic religious leaders, and the people I’ve heard interviewed are afraid of being painted with the same brush as those who harm others, or cause fear in the name of their faith.
There are stories and ideas floating in the media that are spinning out of control, and that are affecting the way people think about our neighbors of a different faith.
It is time for Christians to take back control of the narrative, and to speak the truth in love. No matter who is perpetuating it, violence and persecution is wrong. It is not the will of God. Jesus teaches us that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) He didn’t qualify this command to say that we should only love those whose beliefs are the same as ours.
As people who follow Jesus, the love of God is best shown both through our words and our actions. So speak with kindness and love of our neighbors. And may God grant us all the courage to speak the truth when we hear statements about our neighbors that we know are not true.
God’s love is God’s love and it is not up to us to decide who qualifies for it and who does not. We believe that the grace of God is intended for all of God’s people. Our call is to let that love shine through us, and to bring light to the dark places.
May God bless us as we follow!
* I’d love to take credit for this analogy, but I first heard it on the TV show “The West Wing.” Watch the scene here.