Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims
An old joke that missionaries and evangelists like to tell each other goes, “some Christians are like vaccines. One dose inoculates people against becoming a Christian!”
Christians who spend a lot of time talking to unbelievers about our faith experience this all the time. I routinely am asked questions like, “Why is it that Christians supported Hitler,” and “Why did so many Christians support slavery/ segregation,” and “What about Joel Osteen/ Ted Haggard/ Jim Bakker”?
Each time I have to try to patiently explain that Christians make mistakes, and that sometimes large groups of Christians make big mistakes. I hope that we learn from our errors, and I hope also that non-Christians will not hold our mistakes against our Lord Jesus Christ, or against our faith. But when Christians do evil things or fail to do the right thing, either as individuals or as a group, it’s hard to blame non-Christians for thinking that Christianity isn’t worth all that much.
This is why I am regularly disappointed by Christian responses (or more precisely, lack of response) to the repeated nasty comments made by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Like many other parts of American society, the church is deeply split over support for the President. Trump famously received 81% of the “evangelical” vote, even as many other Christians have strongly opposed him. Trump has a gift for bringing out strong feelings in people.
While many Christians are very firmly pro-Trump or anti-Trump, I accept that each side may be correct. One can make an argument that God wanted Trump to become President, and that God wanted Christians to vote for him. And although this blog tends to be critical of him, I have at times lauded him. I’m willing to give credit where it is due.
But I’m very disappointed that most pro-Trump Christians do not complain when he makes some outrageous anti-Gospel comment (like this past week’s reference to “s***hole countries”). If we support someone as the “best” of the alternatives, Christians cannot later decide to ignore that leader’s bad behavior. When Trump says something nasty about people he does not like, God’s people become obligated to say, “NOT acceptable!”
Yes, when Trump says wicked things, lots of people complain, including many Christians. But when well-known Christian leaders like Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell Jr. will not object to Trump’s bigoted comments, it is not only they that lose their moral authority, but Christianity itself suffers.
This is the meaning behind Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Graham, Dobson, Falwell, and others have the President they want, and they know that if they criticize Trump, they risk hurting Trump’s ability to do what they want him to do. But by supporting Trump while ignoring his nasty behavior, they lose their effect as God’s spokesmen for good in the world. Is it worth it?
When people ask me how to tell Muslims about the Good News of Jesus Christ, I always tell them to be as loving and just as possible. The kind of evangelism that works best is not about making clever arguments; it’s about showing people that our faith actually help us to be kind and caring, willing to fight for good things and to oppose evil.
I’m a Christian who wants Muslims to become Christians also. If you’re like me, then take the advice of Jesus. Be the “salt of the earth.” When Trump tweets an anti-Muslim video, or makes an anti-immigrant slur, or offers support for White Supremacists – speak out, and don’t stop speaking out. Yes, it can get tiring, but as Paul says in Galatians 6:9, “let us not become weary in doing good.”
Let’s be salty. If we can speak truth about Trump, we will build credibility with a world that needs to hear about the truth of Christ’s love.
A Christian blog and podcast by Ray Burns.
Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts