Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘Were the Crusades terrorism’

Jesus in the Lion’s Den

 

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We were camping on the veldt in Tsavo National Park in Kenya.  Our long line of tents was set up facing an elephant watering hole about fifty yards away.  As we turned in for the night, a sentry armed with a rifle paced between the campfires burning to ward off the animals.

After 11:00 PM a solitary male lion approached our camp on his way to the waterhole. We were an unexpected barrier blocking his access; the fires and the sight of the guard all very intimidating.  So the big cat began to roar as he skulked along the rear line of our tents, first one direction and then the other, back and forth. I fell asleep to the distinctive lullaby of a snarling lion, the king of beasts expressing his violent displeasure.

It called to mind 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  And it struck me, lions don’t roar when they’re hunting.  They roar when they’re angry or threatened.   When Peter warns us to be alert because Satan is like a roaring lion, he’s also tipping us off: all that racket means our adversary is angry and frustrated. It doesn’t sound like a successful hunt, does it?

That’s why we in the Kingdom continue to hear the same old snarling cliches and tired slogans recycled from Hell again and again. Don’t the enemies of Christ ever come up with new material?  If it doesn’t work the first time, then roar louder the next time, right?

Just this morning, a friend asked how to answer an insult hurled endlessly in print and conversation.  How can Christians be offended by Islamist terrorism when we did the very same things during the Crusades?  I just smiled.  In the first place, the Crusades happened a thousand years ago. How is it that people who cannot remember 9/11/01 have such vivid memories of 1095 AD?  But more importantly, the Crusades were launched as a defensive measure to resist the unrelenting slaughter and kidnapping of peaceful pilgrims hoping to visit the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked.  The motivation was never about claiming new nations for Christ or forcing anyone to convert. The Crusaders were always a last ditch response to foreign aggression. Quite notably, the Christian pilgrims were not being killed and kidnapped by offended atheists.  (For details, read God’s Battalions, Rodney Stark’s highly acclaimed defense of the Crusades.)

Earlier this week, I found myself offering encouragement to a frustrated professional who came by my office. He had fallen away from another church years ago and was attempting to explain his rationale for rejecting the faith.  Along the way he assured me that all religions are the same: “Islamic extremists kill people but so do all those Christians who bomb abortion clinics.” I didn’t lose my smile, but I did politely interrupt.

“Which evangelical abortion clinic bombers do you have in mind?” I asked.  Abortion clinic bombings are so incredibly rare that death by falling into vats of chocolate must surely be more numerous.  And just because we know a bomber hated abortionists, doesn’t mean we know he loved Jesus.  In fact, killing innocent people is compelling evidence he didn’t know Jesus Christ and was simply deranged or just mean.  That’s a far cry from the armies of suicide bombers and masked executioners who carry the Koran and shout “Allahu Akbar,” as they wage bloody war on civilians.  The man in my office sighed as he conceded the point.

With all due respect to the sincerity of Islamic State killers and Boko Haram rapists, you don’t have to be a sociologist to recognize those kinds of activities are ghastly and unthinkable to followers of Jesus Christ! There are no Christian majority nations where angry mobs stand in the streets chanting for death to any other nation or even another religious group. Nothing could be more unlike Jesus.

Angry, snarling pagans are still trying to toss Jesus into the lions’ den.  But their arguments are toothless.  Their facts are just fake news.  And even a spoonful of Truth seasoned with gentleness and respect can often shut the mouths of the lions- or at least enlighten the spectators watching from the gallery.  Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel, and don’t let mindless slogans and bogus history lessons lie there unanswered.  But speak the truth in love, with all gentleness and respect.

And lift up the Cross!

 

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The Religion of Peace

LION AND LAMB

Our popular culture is driven by narratives.  And one of the most prevalent narratives at work today defines followers of Christ as angry, anti-scientific bigots who oppose all progress, and cannot get along with anybody.  Meanwhile, Islam is popularly championed as “a religion of peace.” Indeed, we are frequently lectured that radical Islamic terror is merely a delayed response to all the mindless violence heaped upon Muslims by Christians during the Crusades.

That’s the pop narrative, but should we in the church hang our heads in shame?  Christians who have surrendered to this politically correct myth should read Rodney Stark’s fine little book God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades.  Dr. Stark is a highly respected scholar and professor who has authored more than 38 books and 132 scholarly articles published in more than 14 languages.

God’s Battalions opens with a quotation from what became Muhammad’s farewell address to his followers.  “I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.'” That divine calling was included in the Qur’an (9:5;) “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them [captive,] and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.” Only eighty years after the prophet of Islam died in 632, his Muslim empire had killed or removed Christians from most of the Middle East, all of North Africa, Cyprus and most of Spain.

Wherever Islam prevailed, Christian and Jewish citizens were given “the freedom to choose.”  The free choice was stark: conversion to Islam as an alternative to death or enslavement.  People of the Book who refused to convert were known as dhimmis, and official policy decreed they should always “feel inferior… and know their place.”

When Pope Urban II finally responded to pleas for help in 1095, his letter detailed gruesome torture inflicted on Christians traveling to the Holy Land, and sacrilegious destruction against churches and sacred sites.  Muslim armies were steadily advancing on Constantinople where thousands more saints would be murdered, tortured and raped before revered Christian sites would be defiled and lost forever.  He asked for volunteers to defend the people of Christ.

Not only are the Crusades a chapter of very ancient history dating back more than a thousand years, but they were a defensive struggle against the violent ambitions of Muhammad and his followers.  All these centuries later, the masked gunmen of ISIS, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram have hardly hijacked the ideas of Muhammad: they are in compliance.  The same racial hatred that animates their reign of terror is taught in government funded schools and mosques across the Middle East.

Granted, religions frequently evolve over the centuries.  The earliest followers of Jesus Christ were so opposed to violence that they rejected all forms of warfare and even service in the army. Today most American Christians are willing to serve in the Armed Forces to defend our freedom. Similarly, we can be sure there are schools of thought in Islam which now see Jihad as a spiritual struggle rather than armed military conquest.  No doubt, many of our Muslim neighbors here in the USA hold that non-violent interpretation.

But you and I must remember that the real religion of peace is the one established by the Prince of Peace.  Not only did Jesus Christ never carry a sword or call for armed conflict, but he taught us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and forgive those who offend us; remembering that the forgiveness of God is central to our hopes and dreams.  More to the point, Christ requires that you and I must “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.”

The ethos of Jesus requires at least three responses from his followers in this world where saints are at risk while the PC thought police give radical Islamists a free pass:

  • We must pray for those who wish to destroy us.  We support mission strategies in Muslim lands. We will not allow angry accusations or fearful attitudes to quench the love of Christ at work in our hearts.
  • We must be missionaries here at home.  Our Muslim neighbors need Jesus Christ more than anything else. They already accept the fact that he is a prophet. We must help them understand the benefits he offers as savior and Lord.
  • We must be informed.  Don’t just nod and shrug when skeptics say Allah is just another name for our heavenly Father; that Muhammad is a latter day Jesus; or that Islam and the Christian Faith have much in common. Smile and engage with simple truth.

All Americans have the right to worship any god or no god at all; in their own building if they should so desire.  We all benefit from the First Amendment. But as the late Senator Patrick Moynihan put it, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”  Be ready to speak the truth in love, and to do it with gentleness and respect.  We are not here to win arguments: we are here to win souls.

Lift up the Cross!

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