[My heart continues to ache at the lives lost on September 11, 2001, and to grieve with the families and friends who continue to live with the heartache every day. There are many responses we can offer. One pastor gave the wrong response for the 2014 anniversary of the tragedy. Here’s my analysis from the archives.]
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.