Religion and Politicks and Dialogue.I've just finished reading Mosques and Miracles by Stuart Robinson, a Melbourne evangelical pastor who preaches not far from me. I don't go to his church - never been invited, never felt like dropping in.
His book has provided the best bio of Mohammed I've read yet. It is purely a statement of facts. No opinion on his behaviour, no judgements either positive or negative. Bald facts.
He has supplied lots of up to date information on what is happening in the Ummah, as he is also known to visit the frontlines in Islamic areas to check out the scene.
He also provides a guide for those Christians seeking to spread the Word amongst Muslims. It is, as the rest of the book, practical, logical, and remarkably devoid of major bible-thumping.
It's on my Christmas book list now, too.
I bring this up because one of the things I've noticed when discussing Islam in comparison to the 'Western' World, or pretty near any other world, the minute you bring up the Scripture, you get accused of being religious.
I find this incredibly tiresome.
Do I have Faith in God? Absolutely. I don't understand it, I can't express it in any logical form, but I know that God is there somewhere. I got my wakeup call (aka the kick in the guts) back in my early 20s, and regardless of where I've been at in life - and there have been some trying times - I've always felt His presence within me.
Oh, and as a minor clarification, I don't think of God a gender-specific. He's beyond all of that, the He and Him stuff is pure convenience. God is God. That's it.
Getting back on track, is my being religious relevant to any discussion on Islam? I don't feel so. When we talk about what is happening with Islamist extremists, or fundamentalists, or however we choose to describe them, we have to take religion on board. How can we not?
Whatever else we think, there is no denying that Islam is a religion. As a wise man once told me, "Your religion is your relationship with your God." A Muslim has a relationship with Allah, through their belief in the Qu'ran, their desire to emulate Mohammed and live by sharia.
Their religion is out in the open, while mine is within, as with plenty of other people.
Just because we don't display our beliefs or our faith doesn't mean we lack any. Just that we carry it inside us.
Perhaps all this disgust with the West is because of this. (I am speaking more of the peaceful Muslims, not the fanatic). It's something I need to explore further.
How I see it, in a nutshell, is this:
My God loves EVERYBODY!
God loves us all so much, that He's given us free will to make our choice. Irrespective of whether He thinks that's a bright idea or not. (And I've made some spectacular mistakes in my time.)
If you're Catholic, He loves you.
If you're Protestant, He loves you.
If you're Hindu, He loves you too.
If you're and atheist, yup, He loves you.
If you're a witch, Baptist, Jewish, agnostic, pagan, Buddhist, or confused, you're there, too.
And if you are a Muslim, he especially loves you.
How can he not, with your Faith so strong?
I was recently talking with a Pastor (before I knew he was a Pastor) from one of the local Baptist churches, and we spoke of the nature of religion.
One thing he said was that all the major religions recognise our striving towards enlightenment, however we perceive it. They all acknowledge that on this plane, in this life, we have to continually work to gain a higher spiritual level. (sorry if that's clumsy - he put it so much more eloquently than I can on a saturday night.)
All the major religions also accept that it is unattainable in this life.
And this is where Christianity is different.
God loves us all so much that he has provided us with help. He sent Jesus Christ, his Son, or the Word of God, if you will, to show us the way.
The biggest difference, I guess, is that God doesn't demand you be Catholic, or Protestant, or Baptist, or Jewish, or Muslim, or anything else.
He asks that you be you, and you accept that He loves you.
He gave us Jesus, as his Son, or the Word made flesh. A manifestation of how much He accepts us as the flawed beings we are. Because when we allow Jesus and God (the same thing, really) into our hearts, then we can finally have the intimate relationship with God that we really want.
It's just that because we do have FREE WILL, and there are so many options out there, that God's voice sometimes gets lost.
We just have to listen.
(Mind you, sometimes if you're like me, it's not a small, still voice. It's bloody deafening and lifechanging and the most amazing thing you will ever experience.)