Islam and the West

Obviously, this is a serious and hot topic. I was driving by the local Mosque the other day and there is a big sign that says, “Islam practices compassion and tolerance.”

One of my favorite books (written prior to Sept 11) is called “Ecumenical Jihad” by Peter Kreeft. In it, he explores the world religions in a kind of narrative form, being both respectful and true to his Catholic convictions. (Kreeft is a philosopher and apologist) He describes fictionally what Mohammed might say in the afterlife, both commending Mohammed for his desire for ‘submission to God’ and critiquing some of his beliefs. In Kreeft’s book, Mohammed restates positively (as the Koran says negatively) his words, “If Allah had a son, I would be the first to worship him.”

What do we do with Islam? Obviously, we condemn the violence of radical Islam, but Islam is not going away. The population of the West is in serious decline, while Muslims in the West are on the increase.

What makes Westerners attracted to Islam even now after terror bombings and all of the unrest in Iraq and elsewhere?

57 thoughts on “Islam and the West

  1. I strongly feel that people should disconnect the person, terrorist, from the religion they may profess, yet use as a smoke screen.
    Terrorists are looking for power. To use their religion as an excuse is as bad/wrong as us blaming their religion as a cause.

    Religion gets used a lot, in ways that do not serve man well.


  2. I have a very difficult time with this subject. And this is the one issue that I differ from my pastor on. I have had many friends from Arab countries who were Muslim. They were not extremist and I love them dearly. I met extremist, but they were not my friends. I had friends from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Persia and Saudi Arabia.We spent a lot of time talking about God and our faith. For all of the signs and public service announcements that I have heard and read, I honestly have to say that “Islam practices compassion and tolerance.” is not the message that I got from them. Let me be very clear, that was the way THEY were, but when we discussed what the Koran actually said,I have to say, it frightened me. The most loving, gentle and tolerant of my friends were the Persians from Iran. Although it appears to us in the West that the Iranians are the most extreme, I honestly believe that because of their history, in reality they are the most misunderstood.

    The thing that has always been the most confusing for me about Islam is that as a progression of God’s Word and will for his people, it never made sense to me. In the beginning of our faith with our Jewish roots, we were under the law, which is said in the New Testament to be our Schoolmaster until the Messiah came. Then when the Messiah came, we were made free from the law, saved by grace, and called to a life in the Spirit. Then Islam came along and said, okay, now we are going back to the law and legalism again. That doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.
    I love my Arab and my Indian friends and we all know at this point my stand on war, but there are no words to describe how happy I am to be a Christian.

  3. Honestly, you hit on my most heartfelt and earnest prayer, to be authentic. To be sincere. To be no one else but God’s definition of what it means to be a Christian.

  4. Speaking from my best understanding of Jesus’ message, a true Christian would simply follow His example. His words, the simple words, gave us all we need to pattern our lives. In that, I believe his message was His example, quite literaly. It’s all there, we may just need new eyes to see clearly how simple His Message was.


  5. I think we exist in the Holy Spirit, but should live as He exemplified. Both are to be understood as part of the whole.

    Seraph, not wanting to write out a whole theology here, I will metnion a few I think are important to better understand:

    “In My Father’s mansion are many rooms.”

    “I and the Father are one.”

    “Enter into the Kingdom as the children.”

    “The meek shall inheiret…….”

    What does it all mean? To you?


  6. Seraph, I realize I did not answer your question as you asked it. I will try.

    Jesus did not preach separation, He taught Oneness. He did not preach fear, He taught healing. Like the children, He taught simplicity, innocence, uncomplicated by the world. He taught that to judge another is judgement of self, the Golden Rule.

    I believe that spirituality is not complicated. I believe that religion is the business of spirituality and religion is complicated beyond necessity.. He went out amoung the people, He did not herd them into a church. He answered their questions from His understanding/awareness of Oneness.


  7. No – not at all.
    Many mansions – remember.

    I feel there is more to be understood about His message. Chuch is wonderful, just don’t leave spirituality there. Live it in all days. Be the child, be the meek, be one with all.
    That is how I believe He would have us live.

    PS, my hope would be to get fear and separation out of religion.

  8. Could you be more specific? What do you mean by religion? What do you mean by separation and how do you propose to eliminate it?

  9. Angevoix,
    I mean organised religion. Religion is a group gathered under a given faith. There are many names to identify various religions.(many mansions-one Kingdom)

    How to eliminate separation, simply understand there is none.
    I have heard religion tell us to “Live in God”. I think we literaly do live in God, however religion seems to make it a metaphor as opposed to a simple fact. “I and the father are One.”


  10. Sorry, I promise I am not trying to be argumentative, I just want to make sure I clearly understand you. When you use the term “organized religion” Do you mean all religions or Christianity?

    When you use the phrase many mansions in the context of there being no separation, are you saying within the body of Christ, or among all the religions of the world? You realise of course that is not a new concept. It is central to the Bahai faith. And the Mormans also you that scripture in a similar context, stating that it was a specific reference to them.

  11. You are very correct, I do not profess anything new here. I have heard and read and contemplated and have come to a new and different understanding of the words. That is all I am saying. It IS different than they have taught me in the past.
    I assume no argument, nor do I.
    I am honored by your questions, I feel discussion is paramount in new understanding.
    Generaly I mean all religions, although some I may not know of – could be doing a better job of promoting Oneness.
    Sorry, I miss quoted there once – One mansion, many ROOMS. There are many meanings in that, one of which is all faiths are welcome. The religions are separate in the way they operate – teach. The goal is basicaly the same.
    As for the body of Christ, that likely is a metaphor – greatly misunderstood. It is the Spirit of the Christ that we live in, partake of.
    Mormonism? How did I say anything specific to them?

    Here is the big point I make.
    We, you and I are not separate from each other, or from God. He is Omnipresent, by all faiths I believe. I take that literally. He is on High, and in our hearts – literally. Once we understand that the separation vanishes and real power is gained. Jesus came to us as the bridge, to save us from what we thought, to show us how to be.


  12. You didn’t say anything specific to Mormanism, I was just stating that they use the same scripture about the mansion with many rooms in a similar manner. I respect your beliefs but on this, I agree with my pastor, that all will become one under Christ. I abhor war. I abhor division, racism, separation, etc… all who know me know this. But I am also completely and unashamedly sold out for Christ and believe what He said when He stated, “None will come to the Father except through me.” I believe without appology that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father, and that He is the only way.
    Some may call that narrow, bigotted, etc… But I have lived this thing for too long now to be deferential about it. Also I am well acquainted with many people of other faiths. I see their internal longing, searching, struggle… I feel for them. You know, its one thing to study another religion by reading a book, or taking a college course, its a whole new ball game when you meet the followers of a faith and see that their spirits have no rest.

  13. So true,
    “None will come to the Father except through me.”

    I wonder what that really means. I agree with it, at least I will not argue against that.

    Through me – could that mean by way of living My message? To express belief in Jesus would best be demonstrated by livivng the ways he taught.

    What do you think?


  14. I also agree with your pastor, I just say we all ARE one under Christ. We just need to realize it. When we do, we will live so greatly.


  15. To express belief in Jesus would best be demonstrated by living the ways he taught.

    Yes, I would agree with it, once you have confessed Him as Lord. I truly believe that you must confess Him as Lord, believe that He is the one true Messiah, the Christ, the son of God, and that He exclusively is the way to salvation. There is no other name given under Heaven by which man must be saved. James said it best when he wrote, “You say you believe in God. Good! Even the the demons believe that – and shudder.” 2:19. So it isn’t enough to believe in just any God, or that there is a God. He requires that we accept Him on His terms.
    I would say that I wish it weren’t so. I have spent an unbelievable amount of time around people of other faiths. So many of them so very dear to me.But I trust God beyond what I understand, or what seems right and/or even fair to me.

  16. No, but interesting that you should ask that.

    Did you see the contradictions that Hollywood built into what could be seen as a movie with a spiritual message?


  17. Angevoix, we crossedi the mail. My last was to Seraph.
    To you say, You are blessed. True faith is the stuff of miracles.


  18. Why thank you. It is always nice to be able to have a pleasant discussion with someone of a differing opinion.

  19. I don’t think our opinions are much different. I do try to keep it simple though. I see fewer hoops in the way.


  20. Keeping it simple is good. Making it “all one” is not. It gives some of us a feeling that we ARE God. We aren’t.

    Like Angevoix, I’m sold out for Christ. Maybe a little more directly though, I believe that Islam is a heresy with a deeply flawed founder. It has some nice followers who are trying to live a “moral” life and some monsters trying to kill the infidels (us). I want to bring Christ to the former and obliterate the latter. The battle lines are not just spiritual. My grandchildren need a little more than platitudes and oceanic feelings or high sounding prose to protect them from an untimely death or a damaged, insecure future.

    As for Jesus, His “love” and moral teacher character is a Reader’s Digest version of His true character and nature. As Angevoix said, we need to meet Him on his own terms and deal with Him as He is, not as we would have him be.

    In C.S. Lewis’ tales of Narnia, Jesus is portrayed as a Lion, Aslan. He is the source of life, but He is also not cuddly. The scriptures teach, “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Without it, we have insufficient humility to open ourselves to Christ. Our own will will override His. We will design our own “version” of God, perhaps one more inclusive. We will live a worldly life. We will perish.

    Fear is also awe.

  21. How do you want to ‘obliterate’ the radicals?

    Yes Morpheus, I would like to know that as well. I find that as chilling as what I heard from my Muslim friends who said that according to Islam they were commanded to obliterate the unbelievers or infidels, especially those who are Jewish! Serving a God who says that He is not willing that any should perish, and that His arm is not shortened that it can not save… I’m not really looking to obliterate anyone.I truly believe that no life is so far gone that God can not turn it around. After all, He saved me.

  22. ” we need to meet Him on his own terms and deal with Him as He is, not as we would have him be.

    I very much agree with that.

    Now, let me ask the obvious. How do You know how HE is?


  23. I would like to point out that just as in the “Book” of Islam there are things in the Bible that are pretty scary. The crusades were a reslut of some of that stuff. Would we do that again today?


  24. Aren’t we doing that again today already? Many theologians call our policies in Iraq Constatinian Christianity. (Sorry C.)
    And yes you are right, Gary there are definitely scary things about the Old Testament.

    How do we know how He is? I would say through the Word and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately I feel that many times we are unable to see Him clearly because we are interpreting that Word and revelation through our own cultural conditioning. I can’t speak for anyone but myself but it keeps me in prayer. As I said, I’ve been living this a while, I’m still praying to know Him better… but I come with humility, knowing I am in need of answers.

  25. Angevoix,

    No, I do not think it is the same. Changing a government is not the same as converting the people.

    How do you hear the answers that you pray for?


  26. In more ways than I could ever hope to name or remember… sometimes its a still small voice. Sometimes its in the actions of a child. Sometimes its in a dream,a book, a song, a billboard, a hobo, a teacher, a preacher, or even a blog post! God is always speaking…are we listening?

    As far as changing a government, you are right about that. A little ironic isn’t it that we are now going to war to change the government we helped to put in place…? But I feel the support for the war from the Christian Right is fostered on the principles of Constantinian Christianity.

  27. Don’t discount your intuition, as the voice. It is very powerful. The other things you mention I see as syncronicities, and yes there is a message there, as well as providence.

    My point about the books is not to see ourselves, but to see the similarities between us and the Islamics. There is much in their book that most of today’s believers in Islam do not profess.

    We are not that dissimilar. Again I say disconect the terrorists from the Religion. They are what they are – power hungry – despite their excuse.


  28. And aren’t we? The merging of the Christian Right into Republican politics would certainly be evidence of that.

  29. Ange,

    Don’t forget there is a ‘Religious Left’ intent on slaughtering babies in the womb. Many of them are my bosses. I am not sure I would go the Constantine route here with W. Democracy is a secular notion. Plato said that government reflects the soul. The soul of America is not inherently Christian as democracy is not inherently Christian. Democracy is inherently liberal in the best and worst sense, as is the soul of America. I think we (as Americans)have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Middle Eastern mind works in comparison to our own. ‘Freedom’ as we define it is a loaded term full of the liberal (best and worst) presuppositions that the Middle-Eastern mind does not connect with. I don’t know that they ever will. When you say Constantinian, you are referring to a state/religion synthesis (i.e. the Emperor is the hand of God) that simply does not exist here. It does, however, exist in Muslim lands and, hence, therin lies the difficulty. W is not anymore Constantinian than a good Democrat who is Catholic and pacifist would be. Is W in over his head? Maybe. But it is because of our inability to see life in any other way than we do.

  30. As long as you are mentioning government:
    You do realise we are not a democracy, don’t you?
    This is a republic, we elect representatives to do our bidding. Do they? We vote for them, they do what they want. Did we get what we want out of that?


  31. Yes, I agree, abortion is our own little house of horrors.
    Fr. Neo, I would agree with most of what you have said. But I must say I find the term “Middle Eastern Mind” to be a disheartening generalization.

    Is that mind:
    Orthodox Jew?
    Hasidic Jew?
    Secular Jew?
    Protestant Christian?
    Orthodox Christian?
    I have met at least one person from the Middle East of almost every one of the above category. I promise you, I haven’t met any who think alike. I don’t think that they are any foggier on the notion of freedom than we are. If you asked a random group of Americans what thier definition of freedom would be how many do you think you would get?
    I stated that I feel the support for the war from the Christian Right is fostered on the principles of Constantinian Christianity, because of what I have heard from Christian preachers from almost every race and background who support the war. When I say Constantinian I am refering to the idea tha you can impose Christianity on others as opposed to allowing them to make the choice of their own free will. I didn’t really mention the President because my belief is that his motivation is more economic and tied to oil than anything else.

  32. Yes, of course we are not a pure democracy. I am not saying there is a better option btw. I’m just saying it is what it is, secular. Yes, we have Judeo/Christian principles in our government, but it is primarily based on Enlightenment, modern principles that are good and bad. Marxism is also founded on Enlightenment assumptions. I am not offering any other options nor being somehow ‘anti-American,’ I am a man of the cloth, not a politician.

  33. Now you mentioned oil.
    I agree with the intent of your statement about oil and economy.
    However do you know just how important it is that he thinks that way? We are oil dependant. The world, to a large extent depends on the economic survival of the US. If as little as a 3-5% drop in the flow of oil were to occur our economy would be in serious hurt. we are facing that eventuality with peak oil coming soon.
    For now the oil must flow, as we wnat food, need I say more? The big question, will he/we do enough to replace oil before the down slide? If not, one best know how to grow.


  34. I would be the last person on Earth to accuse anyone of being Anti- American for opposing a political policy…ha ha, having been accused of the same crime myself … but I’m thinking you were responding to Gary…

    Yes from what I have witnessed you are certainly a man of the cloth in the truest sense of the word. Not that you need the validation of a Democrat like me…ha ha.

  35. Ange,
    Orthodox Jew?
    Hasidic Jew?
    Secular Jew?
    Protestant Christian?
    Orthodox Christian?

    Exactly! I did not mean that pejoratively (sp?). I am thinking in terms of their memory, historical thinking and cultural ways of doing things that is in marked difference to us. Take the Orthodox Christian and Roman Catholic disagreement over ‘uniates’ in the Middle East(those in Eastern lands and churches who, for a variety of reasons, came under the juristiction of the pope), the Orthodox will still point to the 13th century Crusade that sacked Constantinople as a part of the bitterness felt over the uniates. For us, the 13th century may as well be’a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…’ I’m not saying that either is right or wrong here, only different. I am appreciating the Middle-Eastern mindset and critiquing our ability to see it.

    PS, try to offer a Greek ‘Turkish delight’ and you’ll see what I mean.

  36. I used to think in the same way as you Gary concerning oil. But if I had to walk everywhere I went to save the life of even one Iraqi child, trust me, I would do it gladly.

    And growing suits me just fine. I’ve been undergoing serious negotiations with Fr. Mike for ground outside the old convent to grow blackberries and a sheep. He’s cool with the blackberries as long as he gets his cut in jam. I haven’t gotten the go ahead on the sheep yet…

  37. It’s not how I think. It is the economic reality we have made for ourselves.
    I wish oil could be replaced today.
    We have the technology, but need 10 – 15 years to put it in place. So everybody walk – ride a bike to work(I do, 4 mi. one way thank you ) make oil last that long. (I mean the up side of oil production) not all the reserves.

    PS, don’t get me wrong – I am not for anyone dying over it.

  38. “I wish oil could be replaced today. We have the technology…”

    I don’t believe you. Sorry, but our and most of the world’s economy is based 90+ % on oil. (Plastics, anyone? Nylon? Packaging? Commercial shipping of all good for the economic trades of the continents, intra- and extra- ?) We don’t have an answer. And if the end times don’t come before oil runs out, everything will change, and billions will die.

    Yes, that is scary. And I’m trying to be optimistic.

    Lord have mercy upon us all.

  39. jholder
    To be more clear, transportation oil/gas and electric generation oil and heating oil all can be replaced. An experimental fussion plant is in the works – I say hurry it up.
    As for plastics, yes we can do better there – industrial hemp can produce “biodegradeable” plastics. (not marajuana) Note I said BIODEGRADEABLE, better yet!
    Yes our economy is dependant on it – that was my sorry point.
    But yes there are ways to replace it, much is being done, and one can only pray that it will be in time.
    However this country has survived a crash before, we can do it again. Lets just pray we do not have to. Science is smart enough, we need the political will.

    Be optimistic and pray at the same time 🙂


  40. You know, if anyone wants to help the situation, talk up Industrial Hemp.
    It is not psycoactive (marajuana) and has so many uses. The government required farmers to produce it at one time.
    It can provide biomass, better paper(save a tree), building materials, food seeds, cosmetic oils – not to mention textiles.
    Do you have any idea how much pesticides are used to grow cotton? Those chemicals are getting into our water.

    Please check it out, Ind. hemp is as close to a miracle plant as we will see in a long time. Thank Hurst and Dow for pushing it’s current legal status.


  41. A quick clarification for Angevoix, here, and for Fr. Neo. It is quite clear to me that Islamic militants may not harm my grandson, my wife and my family. They are not allowed. They may also not bomb Denver. They may also not bomb New York City or Washington, DC. I intend to support opposing them militarily, because I depend on the order in society to have the life that allows my grandson to be a cub scout, catch his first fish, go to school and learn about Jesus. I consider those who blow us up to be our enemies. I use the psalms to pray for their early demise and for protection of my family.
    I have pacifist notions, but the evaporate when someone attacks me. Anthony is more important than philosophy. Opposing an enemy who says that they are intent in killing me and my grandson is not out of bounds to me. Call me old fashioned.

  42. People can’t you see, we have to get beyond these boxes and the need to defend them.
    Nationalism may feel good, but it is not for the betterment of spirituality.

  43. “I depend on the order in society to have the life that allows my grandson to be a cub scout, catch his first fish, go to school and learn about Jesus.”

    Maybe its living in the hood, maybe its watching my father die at 53, maybe its attending the funeral of a baby I had loved and coddled in the church nursery, I don’t know…but I have long since looked to God for every detail of my safety and that of my sons. In the final scheme of things, we are all sorely limited in our ability to protect our loved ones, which is why its better, I feel to put it in the hands of the one who is unlimited, after all, I’m sure that there were grandparents in Nagasaki who felt the same as you…we did drop the bomb on Christians too… In fact the largest church steeple in Nagasaki was the target.

    Don’t you see at least a little irony in the fact that the same society that has afforded your grandchild such a beautiful life has failed so miserably with the children I serve every day in the inner city?

  44. Ange
    Yes I do see the failings of society – but what is that?
    It is the aggregate failings of personal responsibilities. I find that people want to blame someone – something for failings/problems, yet far too often do not figure how they play in the picture.


  45. …and yet the average woman in Illinos is paid 70 cents less than a man for doing the same job, the average income of the African American household is 18,000. less than that of Whites, there are more African American young men in prison than in college, and the test scores for African American children are 45% lower than those of White children. Believe what you want about “personal responsibility” but I believe that I am personally responsible for the children of my house, my block, my community, my city, my nation, and this world. Regardless of who is responsible for dropping the ball, children should not be the ones paying the price…

  46. Very true. We need more people like yourself Ange. Teach responsibilty to the young. They play into the picture, as that is where it starts.


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