The following is excerpted from an article by Anita Wadhwani that appeared in The Tennessean on 11.29.06. It was submitted by Muriel McConnon for our consideration. I thought it important enough to post and to offer some commentary. You may see some other thoughts worthy of pondering beyond what I offer here.
To live peacefully with Muslims and Jews, Christians must put aside the notion that their faith requires the creation of a Christian kingdom on Earth, a Lipscomb University theologian told an interfaith gathering at the university.
“We are not going to get very far in our relationship with Jews or Muslims if we do not let go of this idea,” Lipscomb professor Lee Camp said at Tuesday’s conference.
The unusual gathering of several dozen clergy and lay people was devoted to resolving religious conflict in Nashville and around the world.
“We need to forsake the Christendom model,” Camp said. “The most basic Christian commitment … is that we say we believe in the Lordship of Jesus. But, if we claim that, how can a Muslim or Jew trust us, if we say Jesus is the Lord of all Lords?”
…For Kahled Sakalla, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville, some of the answers lie in better education about Islam in the non-Muslim world.
Allah, the God Muslims worship, is the same God Christians and Jews worship, and the Quran recounts the same biblical stories of Mary and Jesus, he said.
“Yes, we have differences, but it’s important to focus on commonalities,” said Sakalla, one of four panelists representing different faiths who addressed the Lipscomb conference. Mark Schiftan, rabbi of the Temple in Belle Meade, said he also believes people of faith must begin to look for common ground.
“If all of us believe we were created in God’s image, then we have to believe that everyone else is also created in God’s image,” Schiftan said…
But the issues that have divided the world’s religions for millennia are so deep and fundamental – ranging from the question of whether the land of Israel rightfully belongs to the Jews and whether there is one way to salvation – that tackling them will require both dialogue with other faiths and a more introspective look at one’s own beliefs, panelists said.
Some liberal theologians have suggested that different faiths are all variations on one another and that beliefs are all basically the same, a position with which Camp deeply disagrees. Instead, he believes, Christians must not back away from their beliefs but further examine them and their own history. First, Christians must examine their “sins of omission,” he said – such as not taking the time to learn about other religions. Then they must look at their “sins of commission.”
“We have such short historical (memory) spans as white Christians,” he said. “There is a history of anti-Semitism, the violence and bloodshed of the crusades and cultural imperialism. We have to deal with the reality of what Christians have done, which in some cases has been to kill people.”
Camp described himself as a conservative Christian but conceded his opinions may be viewed as “radical” by other evangelical Christians. Christians must shed the idea that they need to promulgate a worldwide Christianity, he said.
“If I hold to a model of Jesus … what I’ve committed to in my baptism is loving my enemy,” Lee said. “I’m committed to not killing you, but to serving and honoring you. It’s an exclusive commitment to the way of Christ, not to the exclusive authority of Christ.”
Sakalla said there may never be reconciliation on the fundamental theological divisions.
“Every religion has different teachings,” he said. “For Muslims, it’s: Do you believe in one God and that Muhammad” is his prophet? “I don’t think we can teach individuals that the way you go to heaven in other religions is OK. You have to teach differences.”
This form of politics mixed with false teaching has helped to contribute to the steady decline of the truth. But it is also what keeps most of these fellows in a job. And it is used to prop up the view that Islam has been victimized by Christianity. None of this has any hard truth to it.
To the notion that the Catholics (and that is who you are talking about when you mention the crusades) should be at the top of the list of the all time mass killers in the name of religion — I would suggest that people should do a little research prior to formulating such an opinion.
For starters, much greater numbers have been killed by the forces of totalitarianism than could ever be attributed to all the religious misadventures in history of every kind combined. Yet the oxygen deprived continue to ignore this inconvenience and keep trotting out the crusades as “Christendom’s” low point, as if it were the worst atrocity in all of history. While it may be the low point for the misguided that call upon the name of Christ, and there will be no denying that, it cannot compare to the killings in the name of the state — any state. And in reality, this has nothing at all to do with the Christian religion as taught by Christ and his apostles. This is simply a form of the Kansas City Shuffle — make them look left and then you come at them from the right — an attempt to blindside and to have people accept bad information and to foist an opinion on them so that you can deflect attention and suspicion from what you are actually doing.
All of the crusades together do not account for a good percentage of the total loss of life taken by the killing empires of mankind, or of even that of the mother of all the godless totalitarian regimes from the twentieth century (the reader may remember the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The loss of life in the crusades pales in comparison to the total destruction to human life when compared to the combined losses caused by the despotic, totalitarian and fascist empires just of the last century- these are one and all the godless empires of men. If you concentrate only on the foibles of religion and the body count there, you will ignore or probably never grant a moments thought to the hundred times higher figures killed at the hands of the godless minions of the kingdoms of men in the last century alone. See if you can put names to a few of them without any prompt from me. Nor can the killings of the Inquisition when added to the loss of the entire crusades raise the total of that even one tenth of a single percent. The whole loss, at its most extreme, and though huge, does not comprise two million souls. The Soviet Empire alone sent more than 100 million to their deaths.
The losses in the name of religion are shameful, heavy and sad, but they pale in comparison with the other. I am trying neither to lighten these things nor to elevate the other. I am not trying to sanction what was done and has been done far outside of God’s word and wrongfully in the name of Christ. I am only suggesting that people need to check the facts and get things in perspective. one side far outweighs the other. Don’t concern yourself with the barking dog when there is a lion in the house. I am not lightly taking the heavy loss of souls. I am only asking that people use their intellect and look at the information.
Therefore “Christendom” is in a paltry position to be awarded any prize for sanctioned killing. It is a relatively minor player when all of the known incidents are compared to the barbarism and the totalitarianism even in just recent times. And here is a blinding glimpse of the obvious — It stands a poor second also to that of Islam. Now that is really the point of this apologetic behavior isn’t it? One group is using this tactic to deflect suspicion from its own actions and history. This is using selective history and argumentation. I do not wish to suggest that any of these things amount to any good. But if you gin up support by presenting only selective information, you are simply striving to subvert legitimate discussion. So, this is another left-handed smoke shift used by the guilty to obscure truth and reason.
Islam, as a religious and political entity is the odds on leader in the category of killing in the name of god. Do you not know that Islam under the Caliphs swept through and had annexed the entire Middle East shortly after the death of their prophet? And that within a century had conquered all of Persia and much of the Indian sub continent? Did you know that Islam under the Moors and Caliphs tried twice to take all of Europe? Did you know that for a time they enslaved the entire Iberian Peninsula and parts of Southern and Western Europe? Did you know that it took the combined efforts of the Europeans to stop them, and that they were then defeated twice, the last time by an army under the Frank king Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer) at the battle of Tours near Poitier France? They were also turned away near Vienna. Do you suppose this was all accomplished without loss of life? Did they forget to teach you these things in your western civilizations class in college?
From Wikipedia: “[Charles Martel] is best remembered for winning the Battle of Tours in 732, which has traditionally been characterized as an action saving Europe from the Umayyad expansionism that had conquered Iberia. “There were no further Umayyad invasions of Frankish territory, and Charles’s victory has often been regarded as decisive for world history, since it preserved Western Europe from Muslim conquest…”
Have we forgotten the “ethnic cleansings” (a polite term for religious based genocide) in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans prior to World War I, and the millions lost in the last several decades in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the rest of Yugoslavia and the Balkans, in Rwanda, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, in the Sudan, in Ethiopia, and those things going on currently throughout the Horn of Africa? And the drumbeat goes on. Our math is just as bad as our memory and our knowledge of history. We are swallowing the swill of these apologists, these false teachers, followers of false prophets and anti-Christ’s, and from the poor souls they have duped, as fast as they get it to us and as fast as we can get it down. “Christians” just have not been keeping pace when it comes to cultural imperialism. But then, the true follower of Christ will never try.
Another thing that the true follower will not do is to try to placate another religion (or any other group or person), or its false teaching, for every one of them is as empty as a barrel with a hole in it. Our duty is to teach the truth of Christ, which when viewed as it is written contains no falseness, no evil, no politics, no ill will, and no menacing presence. It does not take prisoner and it does not do damage. It is not about real estate and baubles. That all takes some will and some work to accomplish correctly, but the end leads to its own reward. It is not about conquering anything but our own sin. And it is not about making doctrine more palatable or acceptable to the audience – it is about educating people to save their own souls.
Aside from all of this, the conception of the Kingdom of Heaven, that these learned theologians and wise guys hold to, is nowhere found in the scriptures. It is the fabrication of the minds of men and could not be more false. Yet millions buy into this stuff just as millions believe that “Christianity” is responsible for the greatest religious mass killing.
Christ never said that he would ever set foot on this earth again. And the Kingdom of heaven was given to mankind when Christ established his church, and the path to it was opened up in this world by 33 AD (or 30 AD, if you prefer). It is then already present and has been here for a very long time — longer than Islam has existed. That is what the scriptures teach. We should be able to locate it right now. “Ask and it shall be granted, seek and you shall find.”
This is what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews stated: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” If they were in the process of “receiving” the kingdom of heaven (in the present tense) 2,000 years ago, then surely it can be found now, or if not, then it has been completely turned into history and mist? But, the writer does say, “It cannot be shaken.” Have you been shaken from the truth?
Peter was given the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Keys unlock things, but are of little value if the holder is dead or if he never located the lock on the door.
Jesus did say that he will return “in the clouds.” But, as noted, he never said that he would circle and land. He did say that this time around, when he returns, that it will be to judge the world and to separate “the sheep from the goats.” His return will have all those living “caught up” to judgment and to have each of us to answer for what we have done, and then to give to us our respective reward, either everlasting punishment or everlasting life. He also said that at that time, the earth and all the “works therein” will be destroyed. Read the written word and seek to do what has been given — and let us leave the rest up to God.