The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
My heart weeps over increasing numbers of Christians who are opting out just saying: “Christ is soon coming back and we cannot really do anything about the global situation.”
Most of us are following the news and, at times, it’s overwhelming, that’s for sure. The Bible says “weep with those that weep”. I heard the President of France say that they declare war against Muslim terrorists but, he probably did not, for political correctness, use the word “Muslims.” I sympathize because his job is basically impossible. Let us renew prayer, as the Bible teaches that we should pray for all government leaders. In my view, when the cartoons were released against Mohammed, they already declared war against all who are Muslim and honor Mohammed as their prophet.
Why can we not try to understand Muslims and what they believe? We know that’s hard, as they have many streams of Islam, but we know one thing they have in common, even the most moderate liberal Muslims, is their super high (impossible for most non-Muslims to understand) honor, respect and almost worship of Mohammed. Is it asking too much to ask all people to respect that?
That one act in France and other places has turned millions of Muslims across the world into what we call ‘terrorists’. (How dare we say this is not a religious thing?) Just one example (and there are so many): Niger, a land where Christians and Muslims have lived together for a long time and there were quite a few church buildings and peace and friendship to some degree. After the cartoon incident the Muslims completely changed (which is what extremists are working for all over the world and to some degree winning). They went on a rampage and destroyed most of the churches. You can multiply this hundreds of times across the whole world but in different ways. Often the change at this early stage is only in the mind, but with time and circumstance, it turns into action.
Do we really think what happened in Paris would have happened if France via that Newspaper and Social Media had not already without wanting it declared war on Islam? That is the way huge numbers of people across the world see it. If we fail to face this we are on wrong footing. Cannot the major leaders see this? We are not firstly battling people with weapons; we are battling for their minds. They might be some of the most sincere people on planet earth, ready to give their lives for what they believe.
For some years I have mentioned that we could learn from Northern Ireland. How long did it take one of the best armies in the world to bring the conflict under control, and in the end it was winning and changing people’s minds, not bombs and bullets, that made the difference. (The military force was a factor, of course.)
The UK is about to spend funds on 1,000 more spies; it blew my mind when I heard that. How much are we willing to spend to win peoples’ minds and hearts? Most Muslims at present here in UK – and it’s changing – are normal, ordinary people who want to get on with their lives. Most are what could be called moderate, but some extremists see everyone not just as a potential follower, but as a potential suicide bomber. In so-called modern warfare this is by far one of the most complex things to battle. (Study the Sri Lanka model or the Nigerian model.)
This is why every day we delay produces more potential suicide bombers. Let’s look at the ‘Catch 22’ of the masses of Muslim immigrants flooding into Europe. Do you think they are arriving with a plan to attack and destroy us? I don’t think so, but there might be a few that we would call ‘sleepers’ among them. But with the way we are behaving, much in tune with our fallen human nature, you can be sure a percentage will become extremists, and some of them will be ready to die, even as suicide bombers. It’s only a matter of time. This in varying ways is taking place in almost every nation of the world. It means that in time, as France has declared war on them, every nation in the world will become like France right now, and much worse.
So, do we really think this can be resolved with bombs, drones, bullets and spies? I am not a pacifist and I honor the Armed Forces. We must win people’s hearts and minds, but at present (and the big reason I am typing this) is that most people are not even talking to Muslims. (This is the most important sentence in my article).
On the other hand, endless books and articles that are negative about them and that are bringing out all the dark side (as if there is no dark side in Christendom) are producing fear, alienation and much worse. Forgive me, but has anyone even seen a leaflet or a website that give reasons for not becoming a suicide bomber? Do we know what’s going on in some of the extreme schools in Pakistan and other similar nations, including the UK?
Millions are being taught to embrace an extreme fundamentalist form of Islam like they have in Saudi Arabia, which often finances the spread of this all over the world. The great embarrassment that Saudi Arabia and other similar nations face is that this teaching lays the foundation for terrorism. It’s just one step further into the form of Islam embraced by those ready to kill and carry out terrorist attacks. Saudi Arabia has birthed a movement that is now out of control, and one of the main targets of this movement is, in fact, Saudi Arabia itself. If you follow that nation, you know they are more fearful than ever of those in their midst who want to overthrow the present regime and have an ISIL-type nation. It’s like birthing a son who later grows up and wants to kill you. It has often happened in history. The huge division between Sunni (as in Saudi Arabia) and Shiites (as in Iran) also adds confusion and fuel to the fire.
My view is that we as people must change. I believe the best way is, as in my life, conversion and transformation by Jesus Christ. (There is now a film about this, ‘George for Real’ that I would be happy to send you). But let’s be real, most people are not going that way, and so as citizens and members together of the human race, we must believe all people can make the step of just being more loving, forgiving and human.
We must believe in different levels of reconciliation and forgiveness. We, as believers in Jesus, must love Muslims and show them respect. If necessary, we must stand with them against injustice.
I am mainly writing this (I seldom write such things) because of my 60-year love for the Muslim people. One US politician said, “Only allow Christian Syrian refugees into America.” I could hardly believe it. It was countered that this would be considered un-American. Let me say on the authority of the Bible it would be un-Christian. God blessed our work in a huge way in India when we let the Dalit leaders know that we stood with them in human rights and justice, whether they became Christians or not. Our best friend was a political Buddhist. I honor at this time every Christian or anyone else who is purposely befriending Muslims. Even hardball anti-Christian politicians would honor this as what might be seen as terrorist prevention.
We in the so-called Western World are shooting ourselves in the foot with our so-called total free speech and hyper-democracy. In nation after nation, the opposition party attacks the horrible state of the nation under the present government, especially as they move toward elections. By news and social media this goes global and proves to fanatics that our nations are filled with total degenerates and that to bomb some of them or kill them is to honor and obey Allah.
I would really challenge you if you don’t believe that increasing numbers of people all over the world believe this and are getting ready to die. Look at the recruits from Western nations that have gone to fight and die just in Syria. When one of their heroes gets taken out by a drone, who they think of as a martyr and hero, many hundreds more right under our noise sign up to fight. We must wake up! We must all realize this is the information age.
Let Bill Gates put some millions into websites and information that will point out the truth in this. Let every government, church and institution put more money and time into reconciliation. Let every nation spend more money on literature, film and every possible way to tell our story. Let’s have that brilliant leaflet in many languages, not just in English, French, Spanish and German, that will show people how wrong it is to take another life, especially a non-military person and by a suicide bomber. Let’s point out just one key thing in such a leaflet showing how they harm their own family.
These cultures are family-oriented, and we must make use of that. Let all of us in the West, including us Christians, admit our sins and faults. Let humility and reality reign.
More than any time in history this is when the ordinary person just loving and making friends with a Muslim, yes, even a Mullah, will help determine the course of history and will for sure save lives.
There must be a grassroots movement and every person must be a part of it. I am even willing to join hands with an atheist or anti-Christian in order that we might prevent more global bloodshed and horror. I oppose unloving, narrow minded, judgmental Christians, but will even join with them to take this forward. What if it were my family that was blown up in Paris…or yours? Would I just be sitting back trying to be neutral?
In our culture, we spend huge sums of money to save one life (did you see ‘The Martian’?). But here we are talking about millions of lives, and each individual is important. My heart weeps over increasing numbers of Christians who are opting out just saying, “It’s the end times” (Christian, scary conspiracy books are best sellers), “Christ is soon coming back and we cannot really do anything about the global situation”. Election time makes people even more irrational.
What Bible are they reading?
In closing, thanks for reading this. I don’t have much of an idea to whom I will send this. I wish I could get it in the hands of those leaders meeting in Turkey because if ever they had ‘Catch 22’, it is now. I know what I share here is only part of the answer, but for me it’s a vital part. Prayer is Priority, but prayer without action is NOT God’s way.
George Verwer, international speaker and author.
(Written in November 2015. Re-published with permission.)