Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's the Christian Equivalent of "Jihad Cool"?

As I was listening to Asra Nomani being interviewed yesterday on NPR's Talk of the Nation, I was struck by a couple of things. She had written an op-ed piece for The Daily Beast (an online news & opinion site) about the struggle of American Muslims to deal with, as she put it, the failure to "give disenchanted yet talented young Muslims nonviolent avenues for protest to lure them away from the temptations of jihad cool."

First, I was reminded that it's much too simple to stereotype religious adherents by the behavior of a particular individual who claims that faith... or even a group of people who claim that faith. Hearing callers talk about their experiences as Muslims in America - both hearing the pro-jihadist teaching and finding mosques where those kind of teachings are not welcome - paints a multi-dimensional picture of Islam.

Of course, that bleeds over into my own background as an evangelical follower of Jesus Christ. I wouldn't want you to assume things about me & my personal practices of faith based on the rantings of Fred Phelps & his Westboro Baptist Church... nor the soft-headed writings of retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong.

Second, it occurred to me that we inside the Christian faith have some of the same struggles present in our own "house." With the exception of some Aryan hate groups who have co-opted the language of Christian faith to their own purposes, the primary issues we face are not of physically violent believers. Instead, we have the temptation in our churches to nurture Christians who shut themselves off from the rest of culture, looking down their spiritual noses at those who don't believe (or don't believe in a particular set of cultural markers)... who, in the words of Loyd Boldman, are "gonna live the life (they've) chosen while the world rides to hell in a shopping cart."

Ms. Nomadi suggests that Muslims need "to watch where they're going on their websites, what kind of sermons they're hearing, what they're learning at Sunday school" if they want to influence their children towards a healthy and non-destructive interaction with the world around them. I think the same is true for us as follower of Jesus Christ - you need to pay attention to what your kids are taking in. For that matter, you need to pay attention to what YOU are taking in... don't just let the sermon and/or the lesson wash over without a second thought!

She closes with a final response to another caller who believes that she is overemphasizing the problem and points to the great things that Muslims are doing inside his local mosque. Ms. Nomadi responds: "I appreciate what youre doing inside of the community, but I have to say I'm just shaking my head because I think that, you know, the world is just so tired of us inside of our community not acknowledging that we've got a problem. It's not a demonization of Islam. This is a recognition of interpretations inside of our faith that are being used to draw young men into militancy, and that's being used to justify suicide bombings. I mean, as many carwashes and walks and soup kitchen moments we may have, it's beautiful because we need that. We need to be involved in our community, but we also need to take on this ideology of violence that is very real... Until the uncles and the elders realize we've got a problem, we are losing that battle."

The same is true for those of us who claim Christ - all of the good stuff going on inside our buildings, in our small groups & Sunday Schools is wonderful, but the world around us needs to see us take on false teachings, esp. those that advocate hatred & bitterness. To sit silently under the banner of "they'll know we are Christians by our love" in inexcusable... love is not passive but active. If we love someone, we point out the destructive error of their ways, not plop down and act as spectators to the train wreck of their lives. The same must be true philosophically & theologically.

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