Russell Moore wrote an article today against blasphemy laws. He does a great job of also evaluating why blasphemy laws are wrong even if they were “on our side”.
He astutely observes that “blasphemy laws and other uses of state power to enforce religious belief or worship are a repudiation of the beliefs themselves. A religion that needs state power to enforce obedience to its beliefs is a religion that has lost confidence in the power of its Deity.” He goes on to say “Christians should fight for the liberty of Muslims in America and around the world to be Muslims, to worship in mosques and to freely seek to persuade others that the Koran is a true revelation of God. This isn’t because we believe in Islamic claims but precisely because we don’t. If we really believe the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, we don’t need bureaucrats to herd people into cowering before it.”
Dr. Moore is right on here. And his thoughts have prompted some further thoughts on my part. I believe that too many Christians are unwilling, in their personal lives, to stick up for the liberties of Muslims. Even unwilling to be fair or generous to them.
Like Dr. Moore, I am no gushy religious pluralist. I unreservedly uphold the truth claims of Christianity and its exclusivity. I’m not about to call everyone to come to a campfire and sing “kumbaya”. I’m merely talking about basic human dignity and basic obligations Christians have toward their neighbors. And, I’m not talking about this as merely a strategy for evangelism, though spreading the gospel is very important and what I am saying is pretty important for evangelism. I’m talking about this more on a level of basic humanness.
I love Dr. Moore’s attitude in this article. He reflects a humility and generosity that is very winsome! Unfortunately, I think we as conservative Christians often don’t exhibit his attitude toward the Muslims. I think too often we exhibit a certain smugness. We rightly scorn persecution and fanaticism in Muslim lands. However, we tend to be a little smug about how things are here. If the discussion turns to mistreatment of a Muslim here, it will rarely be long before one hears something similar to: “Oh, you aren’t equating things between here and there, are you? They have it so much better in this land, why are they complaining!” I will freely grant that in most, if not all cases, when a Muslim person moves from a Muslim country to North America, they are entering a freer, more prosperous situation. But that seems besides the point. Does that waive them of their basic dignity or their right to justice or equity?
Another smugness I’ve seen is evidenced when there is a horrible act committed in Muslim countries against Christians or Westerners. Inevitably, before long, someone will ask “Why don’t you Muslims speak out against this and condemn it?”. Right off the bat, this response is usually untrue, because there are almost always people speaking out against things–they may just not have the attention of the media. Some of them are even risking their lives by speaking out!
However, more importantly, there is a lot of smugness buried in this question. Often those who ask it wouldn’t lift a finger to speak out for the freedom of a Muslim, even though it would cost next to nothing in this country! From this “easy chair”, so to speak, the person condemns the Muslims for doing nothing, when for many of them speaking up could mean a death sentence. If you or I wouldn’t defend or deal kindly with a Muslim in a minor matter (when you could comfortably do it without anyone even raising an eyebrow), how in the world can you expect Muslims to literally put their lives on the line to stick up for Christians? Here’s a question all of us ought to ask of ourselves before asking why no Muslims speak up: Would you be willing to go to court to defend your Muslim neighbors good name if it would mean potentially being murdered when you leave the courtroom? We should chew on that before we get too smug about the expectations we have.
I think our smugness would quickly go away if we grasped on the simple Biblical truth:: “To him that has much, much will be required”.
Simply put, we have freedoms that a large segment of the Muslim world wouldn’t dream of. In a Muslim theocracy, showing public kindness to a Christian is a radical, costly act. For you or I to show a Muslim kindness is a relatively cost-less act. We have much. So much will be required of us. What have we done with this great opportunity we have? Has the way Christians have treated their Muslim neighbors in the last few years given them a sweet or sour taste of Western freedom? And, much more importantly, has it given a sweet or sour taste of the gospel? We are amazingly advantaged. What have we done with that advantage?
I wholeheartedly believe that some North American Christians, perhaps not a majority but nonetheless a notable segment, if they had their way, would use the force of the law to repress Muslims in certain circumstances. There is so much fear, distrust, and misinformation circulating. If not blatantly, at least subtly. It comes out in political rhetoric, informal discussions, and sometimes even in overt actions! This is despicable. If we really believe in freedom and look so smugly at those “repressive nations”, then we ought to be all the more consistent in extending this freedom to others.
As Dr. Moore so aptly put “Christians should fight for the liberty of Muslims in America and around the world to be Muslims, to worship in mosques and to freely seek to persuade others that the Koran is a true revelation of God”. If we stop short of that, we are being hypocrites, even if we might not go to the excesses of “those other lands”.
Without a strong even-handed commitment to the principle of religious liberty FOR EVERYONE and a understanding that all humans have dignity and ought to be respected, conservative Christians will increasingly be marginalized and their gospel witness will be hampered. And they will seem increasingly inhumane as they continue to perpetuate age old culture wars, rather trusting, sharing, and living out the wonderful gospel.