Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
I’ve been looking at the website of a political organization headed by the pastor of the Christian Revival Center (“Love God and Love Your People”). Unlike most political groups, this one requires members to “profess a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” which seems consistent with its aim to “one day place Christian men and women into seats of public office.” The site has many, many references to the Bible, certainly appropriate for a group which strives to “put Jesus Christ at the forefront of all beliefs.”
The Knights sure think so. After all, they strive to “put Jesus Christ at the forefront of all beliefs,” and their website is filled with references to the Bible and biblical principles.
The problem is that the Knights also teach that “race mixing” is a sin, and that “Biblical Christianity is based on racial principles.” This puts them squarely in the “white supremacist” camp, making them unwanted by most Christians (including me).
It’s not unusual for white supremacists to claim to be Christian, or to have Christian links. I’ve posted about this before: for the supremacists, Christianity is the religion of choice. This does not mean that your average supremacist knows a whole lot about the Bible, or about what the church teaches today. But when they pick a religion, it’s never Islam or Judaism or Buddhism.
Historically this makes sense. Two hundred years ago many, many strong American Christian scholars and pastors taught that it is God’s will that black men and women might be compelled to work all day for no more than food, clothing, and minimal shelter, so that white people might profit. Well-respected church leaders insisted that white men had the right to break up black families, and even sexually abuse black women and men that they “owned” as they wished.
And why not? It’s easy to make this case from the Bible. So well into the twentieth century many American Christians have defended and promoted many other types of white supremacy (segregation being just one example).
Today of course most Christians insist that a “real” Christian may not believe that any race is better than any other. But the supremacists maintain the older biblical arguments to insist that God wants white Christians to live separately from blacks and other races, and from members of other religions.
Is the Knights Party a Christian group? We Christians don’t want to say “yes,” because we do not want anyone to think that Christianity is OK with racism. Christians accept different views about a lot of things, but in twenty-first century America, we do not accept anything that looks like racism (at least, not officially).
So, Christians can say that the Knights are not a Christian group only if we Christians decide to apply a strict “test” to who is and is not a Christian. This means that a person’s claims to believe that Jesus Christ is both God incarnate and God’s son, and that Christ was crucified and buried, and rose again on the third day, and that he is the only means of salvation, and that the Bible is God’s word, are not enough. We accept people as Christians only if their other beliefs about all sorts of things are in line with the way we interpret Christianity.
Since this blog is about Islam, you can probably see where I’m going. If Christians get to say that Knights Party and other groups like it are not Christian, then we need to let Muslims decide who is and is not Muslim.
Some “hate” groups like to try to attract Muslims; others shoot for Christians. If we can insist that the Knights are in no way “Christian” (“radical,” “extremist,” or otherwise), then we have no business using terms like “Radical Islam” to describe ISIS, al Qaeda, and the rest.
Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts
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