Islamophobia Is Not In The Bible

When a person who attended seminary and now pastors a church writes an article advocating Islamophobia, my interest is piqued. Perhaps it’s a satire, I thought, or a thoughtful exploration of people-group phobias and how Christians can overcome them.

It was neither satire nor thoughtful exploration.

It was screed.

Others have addressed that aspect of the article. They’ve addressed the pastor’s insistence that Muslims should not be the focus of broad evangelism, that every Muslim in the United States should be deported, that violence is the Bible’s mandate as a “lesser pain” for the Muslims than what Christians might experience if they don’t get violent now.

It’s nonsense, of course, but that’s not what I want to address here.

I’d like to focus on how the position he takes is completely contrary to the prophecies found in the book of Isaiah.

Ancient Promises Of Blessing For The Middle East

The nation of Israel in Isaiah’s time found itself being battered literally from both sides: the Egyptians to the southwest and the Assyrians to the northeast were in constant battle with one another, and Israel found itself perpetually fought over as the two empires battled.

If Israel tried to align with Egypt, the Assyrians came through and laid siege to the walled cities. If Israel tried to appease Assyria, Egypt would chip away at the southern borders, overrunning villages and taking farmland and grazing pastures. Israel’s glory days as a mighty military and economic power under David and Solomon were long past.

In the midst of this unceasing oppression from all sides, Isaiah brought a promise from God: Egypt’s days were numbered.

In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them. (Isaiah 19:16.)

The prophecy promises that Israel will be mighty again, but the interesting aspect of this passage is that Egypt is going to experience not utter military defeat but rather the same type of discipline Israel had experienced repeatedly whenever it turned away from God.

The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them. (Isaiah 19:22.)

If you substitute “Israel” for “Egypt” in that verse, it would sound just like earlier passages directed solely at Israel, the chosen nation of God. But the similarity gets even more striking:

When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them. (Isaiah 19:20.)

God is promising Egypt the same thing he promised Israel. And it turns out this promise will be a blessing not only for Egypt to the south but for Assyria to the north.

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:23-25.)

God calls Egypt his people, Assyria his handiwork, Israel his inheritance. There’s not a phobia to be found among them.

Islamophobia Is Not A Virtue

As for the pastor who wants to exalt Islamophobia as a Christian virtue, I suggest he reacquaint himself not only with Isaiah 19 but Acts 10 as well.

Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.

The voice spoke to him … , “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:9-10, 15.)

Surely the pastor promoting a phobia-driven persecution of Muslims has read that passage as well as Isaiah 19. Why then does he feel free to question the promise God made to Egypt and Assyria, to call irredeemable those God has promised to redeem?

The gospel of Christ is a gospel of hope, of redemption, of peace, of love. Anytime someone preaches a contrary gospel, a gospel of hate, of violence, of fear, of phobia, I recall this:

If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:9.)

And I urge that pastor to reconsider his post. It’s not the gospel.

***

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34 Responses to Islamophobia Is Not In The Bible

  1. Laura Droege says:

    I read his post (along with his explanatory notes) before I read your post. (Seemed only fair, as I didn’t know what he’d said.) I agree with you, Tim.

    Several things stood out to me in his post:
    1) “A true follower of Mohammed is one who takes what Mohammed did and taught seriously, just as a sincere follower of Christ takes Christ’s example and words seriously.” (Does Dr. Cass realize that Mohammed doesn’t play the same role in Islam as Christ does in Christianity? Christians worship Jesus; Muslims don’t worship Mohammed, though they consider him the greatest of the prophets. So the phrasing in his sentence is misleading, as it puts Christ and Mohammed in the same role as model for behavior in their respective religions.)

    2) “First trust in God, then obtain a gun(s), learn to shoot, teach your kids the Christian doctrines of just war and self defense, create small cells of family and friends that you can rely on if something catastrophic happens and civil society suddenly melts down.” (Um, not every Christian believes in just war, so it’s not necessarily a “Christian doctrine.” Also, I find it curious that he follows the “trust God” statement with “obtain a gun”; I’m not sure I could even buy a gun–legally–with my medical diagnosis, even if I wanted to do so. Honestly, his statement comes off as trust God AND guns.)

    I find his position on Muslims converting to Christianity baffling: “not biblically doable”? I’m scratching my head on why he’s limiting God’s power to break through to anyone and bring them to salvation. I’ve seen God working with people from Muslim backgrounds; it is possible. But if we, as Christians, start labelling others as “unclean” and write them off as “un-save-able”, then we’re not trusting God to be God the Almighty. We might just be worshipping a small god who isn’t the God of the gospel.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, Laura. In the first one, I also see that if he is not meaning to place both people in the position of deity then by equating Jesus and Mohammed he is placing them both in the level of moral teacher. Jesus is not a moral teacher and the New covenant is not about living a more moral life.

      On the second one, I agree too that he elevates just war theory to a place in Christian doctrine that it just doesn’t hold. His comments there sound more like survivalist doctrine and nothing like Jesus ever taught. Then again, Christian survivalists get a lot more mileage out of the verse on obtaining a sword than any reasonable reading of the text would allow.

      His concept of God really is quite small, as you say.

      • Laura Droege says:

        I’ve often wondered what Christian survivalists do with the passage in the Gospels where Peter cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear, and Jesus not only stops Peter but heals the servant’s ear. (I’ve also wondered how Jesus did that: pick up the ear from the ground and put it back on, or touch the ear-less head and “grow” a new ear? And did the guy’s hearing become perfect at that point?! Sorry, I’m off topic.)

        • Tim says:

          Not off topic at all, Laura, in the context of what love for others looks like. And as for how he did it, I always pictured it as Jesus touching the guy’s head and the ear appearing there fully healed. I never thought about whether that meant the one on the ground moved back to the head or it was replaced by a new one. Jesus knows, though, and maybe we will learn about these and so many more details of his life on earth when we are with him in eternity.

        • Mary Anne says:

          What I always carry away from that passage is that “the name of the servant was Malchus.” Malchus = King, from the Hebrew word melekh. The servant was king . . . and the reverse was also true at this moment.

          I heard that story the first time when I was a child, but it never occurred to me until much later that Peter wasn’t just trying to cut off the guy’s ear; he was aiming for the whole head . . . =8-O

  2. nmcdonal says:

    I’m glad you brought this up, Tim. Islamophobia is becoming rampant in Christian circles. I was a little shocked to hear a chapel speaker here at GCTS who I highly, highly respect give a presentation that came across as Islamophobic. He talked about how the greatest threat to Christianity today is Islam – which may in fact be true in one very particular sense. But no word was mentioned of the types of things YOU’VE brought up in this blog post — how about loving our enemies? How about praying for them? How about hoping in God’s promises that he will convert nations through his people, NOT EXCLUDING Muslims in the Middle-East? I was disheartened to hear such a pessimistic attitude toward God’s kingdom from our guest speaker, and encouraged to read your more kingdom-oriented response. The greatest threat to Christianity isn’t Islam – it’s members of God’s kingdom living in fear. Islamophobia is a type of that fear, and it’s not something we ought to promote. God wins. End of story.

    Thanks.

    • Tim says:

      I wonder if anyone spoke to that chapel speaker afterward, Nick. The gospel we are to preach is certainly not a gospel of fear, because the Spirit in us is not a Spirit of fear but of love in the family of God. (Romans 8:15.)

      God wins is the best end ever.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for this Scripture-based analysis, Tim: it sure puts a different spin on how God sees Muslims. When I read that original article last week I first thought maybe it was a very poor attempt at satire — but unfortunately it wasn’t.

    • Tim says:

      It turns things on their head to see who God views Israel’s oppressors: they are his people, they are his handiwork, and they receive a Savior.

  4. janehinrichs says:

    Whenever we start looking at a group of people as a group rather than individuals we are going down a path that will only cause us problems: sometimes small, sometimes catastrophic. When we see people as only part of a group we forget they are human. We forget they love and cry and have babies and have dreams. There are so called “bad” people in every kind of group we can separate people into, but I sure hope we don’t judge the whole group by the behavior of a few. Oh wait…..we do do that too often. God doesn’t though. Neither should we. Thanks for this post Tim. I didn’t read the pastor’s article but I read the comments here. May Jesus save him!

  5. Brian says:

    Wonderful post ! I have read these scriptures and others and love them,I do get perplexed over the common teaching that there is a blessing to anyone who supports or blesses Israel and the obvious special place Israel has or holds with the Lord.I have however enjoyed the teaching that “anyone” who loves the Lord ” They” are the true Israel of God ,BUT some scripture such as Romans how the Jew is an easy graft once enlightened by the Spirit seems to imply there is a special place Israel holds with God?

    • Tim says:

      I’ve wondered about that too, Brian. Are we to read Jesus’ words in the gospels and the letters to the Romans and Hebrews as saying temporal Israel still has a special place, or is all of that symbolic of the Church?

  6. Beth Caplin says:

    I’ve been horrified at the blatantly paranoid, fearful, and ignorant posts about Muslims coming from my Christian friends; particularly from one of my former seminary professors. We’re so quick to defend our own when someone tries to hold us responsible for the atrocities of the Inquisition, the witch burnings, the cover-ups of abuse in the Vatican, but it’s okay to judge all Muslims as ISIS enthusiasts? Not to mention, how does no one see the correlation between conspiracy theories against Muslims being related to the conspiracy theories against Jews in the 1930s? This is how real persecution and violence begins. I’m so disgusted and disappointed.

    • Tim says:

      I remember a couple decades ago people asking me how I could be a Christian when a certain prominent television Christian was doing things. I tried to explain that he was an anomaly, but non-Christians don’t always understand the nuances among people ni our faith.

      And on the subject of persecuting Jews in the 1930s, I happen to have a post on that coming up tomorrow.

  7. Scott Postma says:

    Tim, Thanks for providing a kingdom perspective (as Nick said). One thing that often troubles me with issues such as this one, is how Christians tend to mesh kingdom responsibilities and national (e.g. America) responsibilities. They seem to want treat constitutional America the same as the church and fail to distinguish the differences. For example, I think Dr. Cass has a valid point about westerners’, particularly the PC crowd, need to understand Muslim ideology and the worldview of committed Muslims. I’m convinced the leadership in Washington–and most of the American demos–is ignorant about Islamic beliefs and their religious agenda. Many are confused by a perverted application of tolerance mixed with an individualistic, live-and-let-live western philosophy. Europe is, in fact, a good illustration of how the Islamic enterprise intends to carry out their religious mission of worldwide Sharia law. It is vital that Americans not be ignorant or apathetic about this very real threat. And further, it is the stated purpose of the govt. to protect the rights and liberties of its citizens. So there is some responsibility there. But, that said, you, and some of the commentators who made this point, are absolutely right Christians should give no place to islamophobia…We have not reason to fear. We have a better Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7-8), a perfect love (1 John 4:17-18), a transformative message (Romans 1:16-17), and a greater kingdom (Luke 10:11; Rev 12:10). That means as believers, followers of Christ, Christians, we have the opportunity and responsibility to share the love and hope of Christ with a lost (light-lacking) world–even with the Islamically-lost world. Of course this is much more complex of an issue to unpack than a single blog post or comment, but I would say, like Ayn Rand, Dr. Cass got part of the problem right, but the solution very wrong (yes, I just compared an atheist with a Christian :~) ). Thanks again, my friend.

    • Tim says:

      I’m glad you stopped by, Scott. That Ayn rand comparison is outstanding!

      When it comes to governmental policies, I keep thinking that Laissez Faire never works domestically so why would anyone think it would work in foreign affairs? I think no one actually does on the intellectual level, but in practice it seems like it is the default position sometimes. Real engagement is called for, though, and that also takes real efforts to study and understand the rest of the world.

      Your description of who we are in Christ – with the Scripture references in support – is the real key here. I am so glad you brought that to the table to show even more clearly that we have no reason to fear at all.

  8. Tuija says:

    Great post, great discussion in the comments. Thank you!
    May I just give a book recommendation? This conversation reminds me of Brother Andrew’s book called “Light Force”. A great read.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Tuija. That book looks fascinating, just like the work God has done through Andrew over the years.

      And I agree about the comments, but then gain I happen to have some of the best commenters on the planet here at the train wreck.

  9. Hester says:

    There are actually even more reasons Cass is wrong than the ones you’ve covered here.

    Arab languages were among those spoken at Pentecost. That’s a pretty clear indication that God doesn’t consider preaching the Gospel to Arabs to be a useless effort.

    There were Christians and churches in Arabia for centuries before Islam came along. It’s pretty well-known that Mohammed interacted with Christians. Where did they come from if Arabs supposedly can’t or won’t convert in large numbers? They couldn’t have all been non-Arab imports.

    Cass can’t distinguish between Muslims (a religious group) and Arabs (an ethnic/language group). In reality there are both non-Muslim Arabs and non-Arab Muslims. I also assume that the Arabs are not the only people group descended from Ishmael. So according to Cass’ logic, shouldn’t we try and identify the others so we know who’s unable to convert? We’ll waste an awful lot of time otherwise.

    Others have already pointed this out, of course, but his description of the “seed of Ishmael” reminds me way too much of the “curse of Ham” rhetoric used to justify black slavery back in the day. Your ancestor upset God a thousand years ago, so God approves of me exploiting / killing / persecuting you. The similarities to anti-Semitic rhetoric are striking too.

    I’d also like to know if Cass ever objected publicly to the fact that, supposedly at least, forced sterilization occurs in China to enforce the one-child policy. If he did, then why did he propose forced Muslim sterilization as a morally acceptable option (even if he didn’t think it’d be feasible in real life)? But if an Islamic group / state ever instituted forced sterilization of Christians, he’d have kittens. So is it only bad when it’s someone else’s idea and used against you?

    I frankly find this aspect of Cass’ article (forced sterilization) way more disturbing than the end where he tells people to give their children guns; maybe that’s only because I’ve been exposed to Christian survivalists, and calls to buy guns in case of societal meltdown are so standard in those groups. Forced sterilization was used by the Nazis and I’m pretty sure it’s been officially defined as a crime against humanity. IT IS A PROBLEM that Cass suggested it, even as a hypothetical. It’s even more a problem that his objection to it wasn’t that it was immoral, but that it wouldn’t be feasible.

    • Tim says:

      Go easy on me, Hester! I said at the beginning that I was only addressing one point! 😉

      You raise a bunch of other good points, though, and that sterilization one especially should raise red flags for anyone who remembers the euthanasia policies here in the US and across Europe in the years leading up to WW2.

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  11. Pastor Bob says:

    When facing aggression, what is the Christian to do? The model seems to be in part the words of Jesus when he spoke about accepting persecution because one does belong to Him. If this is to be believed, armed resistance is clearly not the correct action.
    This line gets fuzzy when the attacks are against all who do not believe what the aggressor believes – whatever the religious ideals may be. What parent would not protect their child from this type of aggression? Yet – the model of Jesus runs counter to this-or not.
    Pray for the Muslims, talk with them, compromise nothing within the faith. Learn about them and keep praying for them. Be friends with many, keep learning, keep praying. I have won some to the Lord this way. Agree on some social issues, build and WIN.

    There is more…….
    Blessings!

  12. Steven Carr says:

    Muslims pray to God five times a day.

    What a pity God is going to send them to Hell.

    They must be praying insincerely, all 800 million of them.

    • Tim says:

      Steven, the point isn’t whether Islam and Christianity are different faiths that lead to different ends. The point is that Islamophobia is an unbiblical response to that difference.

      • Steven Carr says:

        So the Bible does not teach about something (Islam) that did not exist until 600 year later? Does the Bible teach about ‘a synagogue of Satan’?

        • Tim says:

          Steven, I must confess that I have no clue how your comment relates to Mr. Cass teaching an improper response to Islam. Isaiah’s prophecy shows that God wants us to reach out to people with the gospel of Christ, not hunt them down and kill them as Mr. Cass advocates.

  13. barlebaen says:

    Saw your tweet.

    I must say that I find it intriguing that an American Christian like yourself is upset about the Islamophobia against Muslims in the USA while you remain silent about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Newsflash: There are hardly any Christians left in the area and the ones that remain are suffering terribly.

    Gary Cass solutions are easy and not very creative, but I do get the feeling that that he’s been paying attention to the news. Jesus never had to make the hard choice for the simple fact that he didn’t have a family. What would the reaction of Jesus have been if Satan (through his stooges) would have threatened his kids with rape, torture and beheading? We don’t know. But at least Gary Cass is brave enough to give us his answers.

    On a positive note, I do like the fact that you put your faith in God. I´m not a Christian, but I do believe in God. I believe that we are a part of God and that God is a part of us. So it´s rational to love your enemies, but you also must remember to love your friends…

    I wish you and the rest of us harmony!

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