Dear Christian friends,
On the issue of the Refugee crisis from the “Muslim World” into our “Christian Countries” I have been noticeably silent. I have been troubled on this point for some time. Between researching scriptures and what God has been showing me through others, I have come to a conclusion on the matter and I feel it is time to share that with you.
Those of you that follow my articles know that I am an outspoken voice against Islam. In my writings I am clear that it is an ideology more dangerous to the world than Nazi fascism. (for more on this please check out my article entitled “If I were a Muslim…)
I have also spoken out for the defense of Christians suffering martyrdom at the hands of Islamists; advocating for military force when needed. I have stated clearly that Christianity is not a pacifist religion and defending the defenseless is within the bounds of our faith (for more on this please see my article entitled “Binding the strong man of the house)
So, before anyone discredits what I am about to say by claiming I have become so open minded that my brain has fallen out, please note that no one I know has been more outspoken on the above points in recent years than have I.
All of that said, It has become my firm conviction that Christians in “Christian nations” should be leading the way in welcoming refugees from nations torn by Islam. Please, read on with an open mind and allow me to share with you here, how I have come to this conclusion.
As one that has served in the U. S. Marines, I have a strong bent toward the ideals that “charity begins at home” and I agree whole heartedly that our veterans should not be neglected whilst we see to the needs of the impoverished from other countries. And in this modern political climate, it is easy to allow these separate issues to become one and the same when the attention span of most readers can handle little more than a quote on a Facebook meme (which makes the chances my readers will make it to the end of this article woefully slim).
I also feel strongly that we need to take precautions to ensure those coming here are ready to become Americans, and not to be a burr under our blanket. If you are going to enjoy the benefits of our blessed nation, then you must be willing to respect it; to stand when our anthem is played, to say the pledge of allegiance, to embrace the principles our nation is founded on.
But something of the knee jerk reaction from the Christian community to oppose the Arab refugees coming to America has rubbed me wrong from the start. Is it a fear of Islam taking over our countries? Is it an unconscious racism born from decades of war in Arab countries? I have been torn. And so I have held my peace.
When I moved to Washington DC a little over a year ago, I began attending and, eventually, joining the music team, of the National Community Church. A big part of that church’s outreach has been, and continues to be, to Middle Eastern refugees. I was not engaged in that ministry, but prayed that Id keep an open mind.
Also, about this time, I also met a Saudi Arabian minister that was traveling around America, sharing Christianity to refugees. She had escaped her family after accepting Christ, while they were in the UAE on for medical care. She had lived so much of her life in a burqa that she walked right passed her brother, unrecognized, because she was unveiled. A Middle Eastern version of the “underground railroad” helped her to escape through a series of countries and ultimately to America. To this day, she cannot use her real name for fear of repercussion.
Were these things placed, by God, in my life to soften my heart on the topic? As a military man, with an education in theology and a degree in Biology, I try not to let emotions, feelings or circumstances govern my ideals. To me, they must be tested and proven. And so I set about to dig into the facts and see what resulted.
I’ll innumerate how I have come to this conclusion by first showing some statistical evidence and, secondly, I will share what we should be gleaning from our Christian Scriptures on this topic.
I. Arab Conversions
The newest revival in Jihadism was as much a response to a dramatic spread of Christianity in the Arab world as it was to political and militaristic actions. My research has shown that prior to the formation of ISIS and their subsequent persecution of Christians in their regions, Christianity was spreading like wild fire, not by the “sword” but by the charity of Christians.
In the decade of the 2000’s it was estimated that more Muslims were converting to Christianity than in all the 1500 year history of Islam combined! During that decade more than 1 million Sudanese Muslims converted to Christianity, bringing that nation’s total Christian population to 5.5 million. Pakistan’s Christian population had grown to 2.5 to 3 million, with entire border villages converting to Christianity. Many of Egypt’s 2.5 million Christians were recent Muslim converts. Iraq’s “born again” Christian population grew from a known estimate of around 600 to 70,000 in the last decade. 24,000 of Iran’s 220,000 Christians in that decade were recent converts to Christianity. Even Saudi Arabia, home of Islam’s holiest city, had become 4% Christian.
These mass conversions were taking place, not despite the suffering and persecution of Christians by Muslims in those countries, but because of it. It is a sad truth that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The more darkness tries to extinguish the light of truth, the more that truth has spread. Whether or not this spread of Christianity continues, depends entirely on how we, as the the “body of Christ” respond to our current refugee crisis.
II. Prophetic times
We are living in prophetic times. But we, as Christians, are so stuck in our “Left Behind Series” theology that we are all missing what is so plainly unfolding before our eyes.
The book of Revelation prophecies of a time when Christians will be beheaded for refusing to deny Christ (Revelation chapter 6). It paints a picture of these martyrs in Heaven crying out to God for vengeance, asking
“How long How long, O [k]Lord, holy and true, [l]will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
They are, rather given white robes to replace their bloodstained ones, and troubled to wait a little longer, while more of their brethren are martyred before judgment falls on the wicked.
Because of our evangelical movies and fiction novels, we have come to expect a “One World Order” in black helicopters and black uniforms to insist on a movie like antichrist allegiance. We have these pictures in our minds of French style guillotines for all who reject this antichrist and maintain allegiance to Christ.
This has made us blind to the fact that this passage is being fulfilled before our eyes. It is hard to avoid the scenes of Christians all over the middle east being decapitated by the sword for the very reason that they will not deny Christ. Why do we not recognize “the hour of our visitation?” Is it because they are Arabs and Africans? And not westerners like our fiction portrays? Is there yet some underlying racism amongst us? These are our brothers and our sisters, martyrs nobly living faith in the face of death and fulfilling the prophecies of the Bible.
Three judgments are prophesied of in the New testament. One is the “Bema Seat Judgment” where Christians are judged. The third is the “Great White Throne” judgment where all the dead, will stand before God and receive judgment. But the second is less known. It is the “Judgment of the Nations.” This judgment determines which nations will be able to enter into the millennial reign of Christ, intact as nations.
Jesus says, in the Gospel of Matthew 25, that in the battle of Armageddon, He will separate the nations like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Again, notice. This is a judgment of nations. Not individuals. That judgment comes later.
What is the criterion Jesus uses to separate the sheep nations from the goat nations? It could be argued that He basis this judgment on how they treat refugees!
To the sheep nations, He says,
‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
The sheep nations reply,
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
To the goat nations He says,
‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
The goat nations reply,
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not [e]take care of You?’
Then He will answer them,
‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
I firmly believe that that we, as nations are being judged by how we treat the “least of these our brethren.”
I can hear my detractors now. “But these aren’t our brothers, Jonathan! They are our enemies.” But so many of them are. And so many of them will be, if we only display the charity our faith teaches!
To your rebuttal I will again ask us to honestly and circumspectly examine ourselves and our motives to ensure that anti Islam has not become anti Arab. Islam is the professed enemy of Christianity. It is true. But not the Arab people. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness. These desperate families are not our enemies. The ideology that has enslaved them is.
Of course we must guard ourselves. Of course we must carefully screen everyone that enters our country. If someone isn’t willing to stand when our anthem is played, if someone isn’t willing to pledge allegiance to our flag, is someone isn’t willing to embrace the American governmental structure, then they should not be here.
Let us kill our enemies with kindness. Let us destroy our enemies by making them our brothers and sisters. Don’t allow the atheist and secularists to take the lead in the charity that has been the hallmark of our faith.
The smallest light can chase away the greatest darkness! What are we afraid of? (And I speak as one who also struggles with fear of loving like Jesus loves). Do we believe Islamic ideology will prevail? Of course not. Nothing suffers from examination but error. Let them live beside us in a republic where ideals can be openly explored and discussed, where Christianity is not persecuted. Let them see the love of Christ in us. Let us show them the grace and mercy He has shown us. And the light will continue to spread in darkness; and darkness can never extinguish light. We have a great opportunity to evangelize a people that have been shut off from us for 1500 years. Let’s not squander it.
Dear Christian friends,
A Christian defense against the Book, Wilderness and the American Mind.
“Their Bible contained all they needed to know in order to hate the wilderness.”
-Roderick Frazier Nash, in “Wilderness & the American Mind”
My Macedonian Call
When I first decided to devote my further education and ministry to creation care and environmental theology, I received the same reply from countless people: “Have you read Nash?” “Have you read Wilderness and the American Mind?” I had heard of the book. It was required reading for my friends majoring in Environmental Studies at the University of Maine, where I studied Wildlife Biology and Zoology. In writing this book, Nash has dramatically shaped America’s conception of itself, its past, and its beliefs.
It was not until a couple years later, though, that I realized why so many brought this book to my attention. A friend of mine- an environmental student- came to my lecture at the University of Maine’s Scholar’s Symposium in 2012. When it was over, she brought me her copy of Wilderness and the American Mind. “The things you just presented, about Christian theology on conservation and ecology” she said, “are diametrically opposed to what Nash has said about Christianity and conservation. Will you please read what he wrote tell me your thoughts on it?”
I began working through her copy of the book right away. Most of what was underlined in my friend’s copy were the anti-christian accusatory statements of Nash, with her own comments written in the margins like, “Really?” and “Even God worked against the wilderness?” Whatever Nash had hoped to achieve with the first few chapters of his book, he certainly succeeded in undermining my friend’s faith, and making it seem beyond question that Christianity was the cause of western civilization’s devaluation of wilderness.
I sat down with her over coffee and explained why so much of what Nash says about Christianity in this book is wrong. But I feel it would be good to voice my criticism of “Wilderness and the American Mind” to the world. For I am certain that there are many others who have been mislead by his assertions.
This was a well written and perfectly timed book, to ride the wave of American consciousness into ecological awareness. Sadly, however, Roderick Nash built his work on a very poor foundation. This foundation was an all out attack on Christian theology. And a theologian, Nash is not.
It has been popular, in recent decades, for westerners in general, and American Christians in particular, to exercise a self-deprecating, self flagellating masochism. In recent years, no one has come to hate the middle classed evangelicals as much as themselves. In this new vogue, the greatest praise always goes to those who criticize their roots. Certainly there is much there to criticize. But let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Or,as my genetics professor was fond of saying, associating does not prove causation.
Syllogisms are rhetorical devices used in logical argumentation. Syllogisms consist of three parts: Two independent facts that, when joined, form a third concluding fact. An example of a proper syllogism would be:
All dogs are canines.
Fido is a dog.
Therefore, Fido is a canine.
But syllogisms can be used to form incorrect conclusions, or “Syllogism Fallacies,” as they are called. An example of a syllogism fallacy would be the following:
Some televisions are black and white.
Zebras are black and white.
Therefore, some zebra’s are televisions.
I know this is a ridiculous example. But I will suggest to my reader that Nash’s treatment of Christianity and wilderness, is as ridiculous a syllogism fallacy as our tv zebras.
Nash’s unspoken syllogism is;
“Early Americans were Christians.
Early American’s didn’t value Wilderness.
Therefore, early Americans didnt value wilderness because they were Christians. “
Nash lays the blame for past generations apathy and disdain for nature squarely at the feet of Christianity. I hoped to work my way through this faulty foundation to his book, and then enjoy the rest of the book (as Christians are often forced to do in all forms of media). This proved impossible however, as it was a recurrent theme throughout.
The premise upon which he establishes the entirety of his work is that European colonists saw the wilderness as their nemesis. Since European colonists were from “Christian cultures” he makes the brash assumption that it must follow that their disdain for the wilderness stemmed from their Christian theology. He then goes about cherry picking and misappropriating random and inapplicable passages of scripture to support his bias to the biblically illiterate.
BC: Before Christ
He begins by doing a good job establishing the psyche behind primitive and classical man’s angst against the wilderness. He points out that being pitted against the elements and the wild beasts would naturally engender ideas of what is “good” and “bad” in the primal mind.
He then goes on then to discuss the evil monsters that lurked in the wilderness of Greek mythology. Again, in his exposition on central and northern European mythology, he argues that- in essence- wilderness is a place of evil.
But I feel certain that a strong case can be made to the contrary in each case. For we know that druidism and even early Celtic Christianity, for example, was very nature-centric in its theology. But an exploration of classical mythologies are beyond the scope of this essay.
Soon enough, Nash’s crosshairs come to rest, and Judaeo-Christianity is the recipient of his primary arsenal.
His first error is in lumping the Old Testament words for desert and wasteland with the word wilderness. This would be forgivable if he did not know that these distinctions existed in the original language. But he tips his hand and reveals that he knows there are distinctions in these passages by saying, “in some cases the identical root” word is used. This statement, leads me to the sad conclusion that he has looked at the original language and the words used, but is counting on his reader’s biblical illiteracy. After setting this false premise, he can now use verses that use any of these words to call biblical theology into ecological question.
But before we go on to consider that very different words are translated “wilderness,” let us consider his statement that some of these words come from “the identical root.” Think of the ridiculousness of this when put into terms we all can understand. The words “kindness” and “unkind” have the same root. Do they not? And yet they do not mean the same thing, do they? In this way, he goes on to use biblical passages about rainless and desolate places as negative statements of wilderness when it is obviously speaking of desert. It is not that these places are evil, rather that they are inhospitable to human habitation.
“300 Words for Snow”
Allow me to set the record straight on the issue of Wilderness in the Christian Scriptures. Studies of the Sami people of the Scandinavian arctic have shown that they have nearly 300 different words for and snow and ice conditions. Why? Because it is where they live their daily lives. From the comfort of our modern climate controlled homes, we can lump it all in as snow, but to those who live and work in it, it is obvious that snow types are very different and can make travel easy or difficult, safe or hazardous.
Likewise, the people of biblical times lived in close proximity to “wilderness.” Hebrew scholars are clear that there is no Hebrew equivalent to our word, wilderness. Not because they were unfamiliar with it, but because the word is not descriptive enough to be of value to a people so intimately associated with it. They therefore had many words for various types of wilderness. The word wilderness itself appears nearly 300 times in the English Bible, and there are several Hebrew and Greek words that are translated into our English Bibles as “wilderness.” Let us look at a few.
The word “Midbar” means an uncultivated and uninhabited land that is good for grazing of domestic livestock alongside wild animals. But when it is translated into our Bibles, we only get the word, wilderness.
“Arabah” depicts a desert, but it is often translated into our Bibles as, “wilderness.”
The word “Yishimon,” translated as “wilderness” in our Bibles, would more be used to describe a land without any water for livestock and crops.
We also find the word “Eremos” translated wilderness in our Bible. This would literally translate to “an isolated place.”
On the flip side, this single word, Eremos, with some 48 occurrences in the New testament, is translated as desert, desolate, wilderness, open pasture, secluded, and unpopulated.
I point this out to show how reckless Nash’s treatment of this topic is. “He isn’t a Greek or Hebrew scholar. He was unaware of all these nuances!” you say? Precisely! He should not have based his work on a premise outside of his expertise, and lead so many astray with his poorly concealed hostility toward the faith of so many of his readers.
Nash’s Commentary on the Bible
In Judeo-Christian scriptures, “Even God changed the wilderness” Nash states disapprovingly. To illustrate, he references passages where God promises to open brooks, streams, and fountains into a now desolate and parched land. I understand and appreciate a desert ecology as much as the next naturalist, but if an “act of God” opens again the “floodgates” to allow water to restore life to a wilting ecosystem, how is this bad? Nash is really reaching in order to portray these passages as anything other than what they are: God restoring the ecology of a parched land. This “act of God” would not only serve to help humanity, but the plants and animals that also call the region home.
In the Bible the “Wilderness was the environment of Evil,” Nash preaches, “A kind of Hell.” He then seamlessly switches to references of what he calls “Hebraic folk imaginations” or Hebrew folk lore, not Hebrew scriptures, to illustrate his point: again, banking on his reader’s biblical ignorance. The unwitting reader would surely have been left with the idea that these ridiculous illustrations Nash sites are Biblical. The mythologies he sites are nowhere to be found in Judeo-Christian teaching, and yet these ancient and unknown folk tales are dredged up from the depths and presented as influential parts of the European colonists psyche. Then, without missing a beat, he throws out a scriptural reference as though he has been within the leather bindings of the Bible all along.
Next, his cavalier treatment of the scapegoat and theology of substitutionary atonement shows his true ignorance of the waters he has waded into so emphatically. Here, one will see that the words outside the quotation marks are far more directive than those within, and it becomes glaringly obvious that he has taken an eisegetical approach to Christian environmental theology.
In turning to the Garden of Eden story, Nash summarizes the Biblical narrative by wrongly paraphrasing that the trained and tame garden was paradise, while without was this evil desolate wilderness. Nash again is exposing His ignorance of Christian theology here. None of creation was evil. No place on the planet was “bad.” Sure, there was provision for man in the garden (and I’d like to see Nash make it through life without the benefits of a garden) but biblical teaching is that humanity’s later failure brought disorder to the created world. It was not Heaven within and Hell without. All the earth was as it should have been until the failings of man brought disorder. This is what the Bible teaches.
“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over every living thing that [b]moves on the earth.”
On this passage, Nash postulates that the scripture Genesis 1:28 made “the fate of the (American) wilderness plain.”
In the scripture Nash is citing, God tells Adam and Eve to have children and to establish dominion over the earth. Again, Nash’s careless (at best), deceptive (at worst) and cavalier handling of scripture banks on a Biblical illiteracy of his reader. And, sadly, he has this in his favor, as few Christians know their Bible well enough to defend the faith from such assertions.
I cannot speak for the colonists. I am certain that some unlearned amongst them had the misconception of the mandate God gave Adam and Eve that Nash is setting forth here. But I assure you that this interpretation of the passage is misguided.
In Nash’s application of Genesis 1:28, a discerning eye can see a few faults. The primary fault is that it shows an ignorance to the fact that Lucifer (now known as Satan) was first given dominion over this planet in the time period referred to as the preadamic earth (or “before Adam”), by scholars. Under Lucifer’s reign, the planet fell into disarray as a result of his rebellion against God. God set forth to recreate the earth, and to set humanity up as the new and righteous rulers of the planet. This is called the “gap theory” by theologians. And it is supported by the same verse. Notice that God instructs Adam and eve to replenish (to fill again something that has been depleted) the earth.
The word “subdue” is Kabash and literally means to conquer or tame. The first king (Satan) was still present in this world, with his fallen followers. Therefore, God was, in effect, coronating man as the rulers of the planet, knowing that there was a battle yet to be waged before that lordship would be exercised. Man must first take from Lucifer what he had destroyed in his tyranny.
The word translated here as “domain” is Radah. It is used nine times in the Old Testament, and every time it is used in a military sense of ruling over an enemy. As has been shown, and will be shown, it is Lucifer (the “king of this world” as Jesus called him in John 12:31) in the earth, that must be conquered in order for the earth to enjoy it’s reign of peace.
Now I know the notion of humanity having lordship over the planet, rather than merely being part of the mosaic of the planets ecology, is unpalatable to many of my fellow environmentalists. But I will here again state what I have stated elsewhere, that it would be willful ignorance not to acknowledge that the human race has the greatest ability to work good or evil upon this planet. What other species could wipe out entire species from the planet at will, or to rescue another species from extinction? No other species has had the ability to heal and destroy the entire planet as we. With this power, comes great responsibility. A responsibility we have failed in, as a race.
How are we to have dominion over the earth? Well, ultimately, we are only representatives, caretakers of our Kings property. “The Earth is the Lords and the fullness therefore”, after all! So we should apply this word” Radah” in the same way God does. How does he? That answer we discover in Psalms 72:8, 12-14 where the Psalmist proclaims that God will rule (Rabash) from sea to sea and from the rivers to the ends of the earth, not for the purpose of subjugation alone, but so that he can “save the needy” and “rescue the oppressed” for they are “precious in his sight.”
His conquest is not as man’s conquest. His is a conquest of Love, Grace and Compassion. And as his active agents in the world, our dominion of earth must also be a conquest of Love, Grace, and Compassion. If a king is benevolent, His reign is praised. If he is a tyrant, he is despised.
“…creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Romans 8:21-22)
Moving to the Biblical Exodus narrative, Nash is forced to acknowledge that the wilderness served as a refuge from oppressive society and offered one the opportunity to draw closer to God. He discredits this though, by again superimposing his bias and saying that “ there was no fondness in the Hebraic tradition for the wilderness itself.” Has this man never read the Bible? As one who has spent his life studying it, I can testify that anyone who has would not come to Nash’s conclusion, unless it was their preconceived notion.
The fact of the matter is, as Nash is forced to concede, the Bible does offer the wilderness as a place of refuge and renewal, not an abode of evil. Those who withdrew themselves into the wilderness to become closer to God and to see His purpose for their lives reads like the “who’s who” of the Bible. Nash would have us believe that it was only the solitude they sought in wilderness. But this is not true. For solitude can be had within ones inner chamber of behind closed doors. No. The prophets of old withdrew themselves into the wilderness to be enveloped by the direct works of God’s hand. To remove oneself from a chair that a man built in a house that a man built protected from the elements and warmed by the hearth fire a man built, and to go out into the climate God controls, in the house God built and sit upon the chair of moss or stone that God has hewn, is to be nearer to God, not to be in the abode of evil. This, is the teaching of Christianity. “For from Him, through Him, to Him, are all things.” (Romans 11:36)
Following this, Nash gives us examples of early Christian saints, prophets and teachers living in wilderness, loving wilderness, and advocating for wilderness, but insists to His readers that these pillars of our faith are outliers, exceptions. No, sir! Mr. Nash. They are the rule and not the exception; no matter how much damage this truth does to your thesis.
If the bias of Nash is not apparent to the reader by now, it soon will be. For Nash spends 8 pages proposing that Christianity is not a friend of the planet, and then he follows with only two pages of discourse on three other major world religions. Of course, Nash gives as poor support for his resounding praise of their theology as he has supported his disdain of Christianity. No fair, balanced and informed mind could read this and for a moment pretend Nash is even attempting an objective review of Christian theology.
Buddhism and Hinduism “emphasizes compassion for all living things” Nash lauds. “Chinese…sought out wild places in the hopes of sensing more clearly,,,the unity and rythem they believed pervaded all the universe.”
Dear reader, do not be fooled by his blatant bias. All of the aforementioned praises of other religions can readily and easily be shown factually to be true of Christianity! From Saint Basil to Stain Francis, who preached to the animals as equals to humans, to the Celtic Christian monks that stood in the icy north Atlantic waves as part of their meditations, so that they can be in unison with the rhythms of nature. And further back to those within the Bible that were protected by nature, and the prophets that were fed by the benevolence of the wild animals God used to sustain them. No, dear friends, the writer of Wilderness and the American Mind is on a mission to unfairly and deceitfully undermine the true Christian world view.
Nash gives one very long paragraph to describing a Chinese painters comments on man’s connectedness with nature and landscape. Although No such flattering grace is extended to the voluminous passages in Christian scripture, tradition and history on the same subject. Nash’s criticism of Christianity is four times as long as his praise for the other three world religions. So great is the wealth of pro- nature Christian teaching, and so little negative, that it must surely have been a concerted effort of an anti-Christian mind to have formulated the conclusions here presented. And the use of such sparse evidences as an Chinese artists comments to show the affection of nature in other traditions, this apologia demanded to be written.
If we had not been certain of Nash’s motives throughout the first chapter of his book, any doubt is erased in its conclusion, where he states emphatically that, “freed from the combined weight of classicism, Judeism and Christianity, eastern cultures did not fear or abhor wilderness. Nor did they feel the conflict between religion and appreciation of natural beauty…”
To this I must come to the conclusion that Nash himself is ignorant of Judeo-Christian theology. That he is a product of a generation of self deprecating westerners that so naively buy into the notion that the West has always had it all wrong, and the East has had it so right, that we must detest what we are and love what we are not.
As a Christian reader with a passion for wilderness, I felt relieved when I finally reached the end of His opening chapter. Taking a deep breath, I thought, “now I can enjoy the rest of the book’s offerings.” Those hopes were dashed, however, when I discovered that he picks up the antichristian theme again, just seven pages later.
Because of Christianity, Not despite it
I think Nash hit on the reality of the problem in chapter three and would have done well to have begun from the position he postulates there. The fact is that urbanites can appreciate wild beauty in the natural world, more easily than those pioneers who have to struggle with it to eke out a living from day to day.
Like a maiden taking pleasure in coddling an infant before returning the child to it’s mother when it screams for a diaper change; urban people can more easily romanticize the often savage realities of true nature and return to the comfort of their homes when it no longer suits their notions.
Pioneers felt the bite of the cold, the bite of the serpent, the squelching heat, the effects of drought on their crops, the effects of floods in their fields. So it would be far more difficult for those early settlers to romanticize the infant they loved, yet daily labored over. Like a sleep deprived mother in the dead of night hearing her screaming child awaken yet again; nature was not loved less, but not romanticized so much.
And so it was from those comfortable at their hearth, that Ameica begins its love affair with the wild as Nash rightly points out. But, again, Nash shows his bias by ignoring what seems to be glaringly obvious. It is the Christian community that begins the groundswell of praise for the American wilderness.
Men like Thaddeus Mason Harris, an 1805 Harvard educated minister that wrote, “There is something which impresses the mind with awe in the shade of silence of these vast forests. In the deep solitude. Alone with nature, where we converse with God.”
Men like Jeremy Belkin, a congregational minister who wrote of the New Hampshire White Mountains in 1784, “Almost everything in nature. Which can be supposed capable of inspiring ideas of the sublime and beautiful is here realized.” And went on to write, “the sublime in nature captivates while it awes, and charms while It elevates and expands the soul.
The truth is that America’s environmental consciousness springs from the Christians faith. Most of the early American nature writers and explorers were clergymen or devout Christians; many of which Nash cites in his early chapters!
Far from finding nature the abode of evil, these early Christian Americans saw it as a place of great inspiration! Consider the words of Charles Landham with me, when he wrote in 1846, “Those glorious forests, the home of solitude and silence, where I was want to be so happy alone with my God.”
Somehow Nash cites these men, with a straight face, hoping we will not make the connection! These men, and many others, sang the praises of nature because of their Christian faith, not despite it.
Theology in The Geography
The father of the American conservation movement, John Muir, said that nature is God’s first Temple, and to that I would add that, (according to the teachings of Scripture) wilderness is God’s first Book.
“The things of God are clearly seen by the things He has made…” (Romans 1:20)
“The devil is there in the wilderness” you say? Yes, but the Spirit of God, the voice of God, is there as well! The wilderness in the Bible represented all things intense. It was the place for intense experience, as it is today. Hunger, thirst, isolation, divine deliverance, renewal, self discovery and close encounters with God. According to scripture, these things seem to be facilitated by the natural environment. Theology itself is obtained in the geography of the wilderness, we discover in Scripture. At every critical juncture in the life of Jesus, you could find him in the Wilderness. The Spirit of God Speaks in the wilderness (Luke 3:2-4). The Revelations of Jesus came to John the revelator, when he was called out into the wilderness by the Spirit of God (Revelation 17:3, 21:10). John the Baptist was “the voice of one in the wilderness calling prepare you the way of the Lord.”
The Psalmist David removes all doubt as to the value, not only of cultivated land, but of wilderness, in Psalm 65:9-13 where he paints the picture of God, as though he is a benevolent gardener, tending to the entirety of the earth as his garden. There the psalmist says God waters the land and fills the streams with water, not only to give man grain and bless crops, but also to cause the wilderness and grasslands to overflow and with bounty and to be clothed in joy.
God used the wilderness to purify and test and strengthen His people, to develop their dependence on him as we see in Ezekiel 20:34-36, where he tells the people that he will call them too, out of the cities and into the wilderness, like he did their forefathers.
The conclusion, when all has been heard…
God chose, in His sovereignty to culminate the teachings of the Bible with the book entitled the “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The only book of prophecy found in the New Testament, it is only here that we get a glimpse of what God intends His church’s relationship to be with wilderness. As I have already pointed out, this Revelation came to the Apostle John when the Spirit called him into the wilderness, but the greatest glimpse of Christian environmental theology is also here exposed.
In chapter 12 of Revelation we read of a pregnant woman clothed in the sun. She is a symbol of the bride of Christ- the church. A fiery dragon (Satan) draws a third of the stars of heaven (angels) with his tail. But this dragon knew the child being born would take His place as the “king of this world” so he sought to destroy the woman and her child. But the eagle gave her wings and she fled into the wilderness to be protected from evil. Please hear me reader, she did not run from the wilderness to the tamed cities, but ran from the cities into the protective arms of the wilderness. When the dragon discovered she was in the wilderness, he issues forth persecution like a flood of water against her and her child. It is here that we see the most amazing thing (and the most damaging to Nash’s narrative). The roles are reversed, and instead of the woman protecting the earth, the wilderness, rises up against the evils of Satan in the woman’s defense.
Far from being our adversary, we have been given stewardship over earths fragile beauty. And like those stewards in the parable of Jesus, we will be judged by how well we have cared for what God has entrusted us with. According to the Bible, All the earth groans under the weight of man’s sin. Longing for the day it will be partaker of the rebirth of the sons of God. And in our day, the earth is suffering the birth pains to bring this about (Romans 8:22). And someday, at the end of this age, when humanity is in its darkest hour, that which we have protected, will rise up as our protector. Like subjects willfully taking up arms in defense of their beloved king, Nature will come to the defense of those who have reigned tenderly over her.
Whether you buy into the prophecies of Scripture or no, it must be acknowledged that this is the teaching of Scripture. This is the teaching of Christianity.
Some men are like knightly warriors; fearless and bold.
They can be counted on to rise to any challenge.
They can be counted on to ride against the savage.
They can be counted on to protect their home stronghold.
They can be counted on to slay the fiery dragon.
They can be counted on to win the fiercest battle.
They can be counted on to save the distressed damsel.
Their lives are characterized by boldness and passion.
Some men are like farmers, diligent and consistent.
They can be counted on to keep daily life simple.
They can be counted on to make life predictable.
They can be counted on to grow gardens, persistent.
They don’t fight wars, so there is no need of victory.
They don’t stand in battle, so no enemy rises.
They don’t complicate life, so there are few surprises.
Their lives are characterized by calm stability.
Admittedly, the most appealing seems the farmer.
Life’s reality, however, is that enemies arise, unprovoked.
And it is well to have readied warriors, cloaked.
I can be both, her farmer and knightly warrior.
If given the chance, I’d pledge to her that I will be
the slayer of her dragons and shoveler of her snow.
I’ll fill her days with peace and vanquish every foe.
I’ll grow her garden, and build her fortress by the sea.
Every day- a life filled with charms and secure from harms.
I’ll rescue the damsel; and her crown I will fashion.
I will fill her life with stability and passion!
Until we draw our last breaths in one another’s arms.
19th century dogsledding explorer, the first to climb Mount McKinley, Episcopal Missionary, and a hero of mine, Hudson Stuck once wrote:
“The time threatens when all the world will speak two or three great languages, when all the little tongues will be extinct and all the little peoples swallowed up, when all costume will be reduced to a dead level of blue jeans and shoddy and all strange customs abolished. The world will be a much less interesting world then… The advance of civilization would be a great thing to work for if we were quite sure what we meant by it and what its goal is.”
He wrote these words 120 years ago…
How prophetic were his words!? How prophetic, and how sad!
If only other missionaries of his time were so attuned as he to respecting local peoples and indigenous cultures- if they had all understood that the world must not be westernized to be Christianized!
I came to a great illumination concerning this while on a medical missions trip to Nicaragua that I’d like to share with you.
Since I had gone through a great sifting in my life- a great faith crisis- I had done little in the way of ministering to the needs of others. I had bought into the notion that a sick physician was little use in healing others. And I was spiritually sick; spiritually tired. I was asked to accompany a medical missions group to Nicaragua. I did not know why I was going, but I felt it was time I tried to reengage; to take my mind off of my personal struggles and focus on the needs of others.
This was to be the first missions trip I had ever participated in, although I had spent years doing inner city ministry. I had developed a rather cynical view of most missions trips like this- and even a bit of cynicism toward most missionaries. For the most part, I felt it much better to equip natives to do the work, than for westerners to go and do it. “Missio-Tourism” was my phrase for the throngs of Christians pouring in and out of third world countries for a couple week glorified vacation.
Our first few days there served to reaffirm my initial feelings. Each of our teammates had invested roughly $2,100 to be on this team. “What could the local pastors have accomplished, if we had sent them the $16,000?” I mused. And everyone in our group made a concerted effort to be unassuming and unpretentious. But wasn’t our coming to them to bring light to their darkness in itself a presumption that our American society was somehow better, lighter, than theirs?
As we worked through the capital of Managua and saw the poverty there, and then flew to the Miskito Coast and served in Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas, and there witnessed even greater poverty, another question began to nag at me. “Why are the countries of the northern latitudes so prosperous, when the equatorial countries of the world are, by and large so poor and sickly? Why, do they fight to feed themselves in a land where food literally fell from the trees, while countries in the far north of the planet have fared so well in such inhospitable climates- where the Earth begrudgingly offers up sustenance?” The answer to my question was to come to me on the second half of our mission- deep in the interior of Nicaragua.
Traveling out as far as we could from the capital of Nicaragua, by landrover, we then switched to horseback to reach the most remote homesteads and farms dotting the countryside. Our home base was a little village that is not to be found before or since on any map I have studied. It was the Village of El Cedro.
I know of no other surviving true horse culture, as what I experienced in El Cedro. With no permanent roads, no electricity, no gasoline, no cars, these people lived and died by their horses and their cattle.
My epiphany began during the journey, before we even reached the remote village. As one who had lived the homestead life off grid in Maine for a few years, I told my fellow travelers with a great degree of certainty, “I bet you the people we are about to meet will be the healthiest and happiest we have yet met in Nicaragua.”
My words proved true. These were, compared to the urban dwellers of Nicaragua, a very happy and healthy people. They were a people with no identity crisis. They were a people with a culture.
They smiled and laughed a lot. At first I thought they may be laughing at our peculiarities, but soon learned through observation, that this was their true nature. The men were affectionate to one another in a way western culture would find awkward. They would touch hands, lean on one another, and even put their arms around one another as they stood about and talkedto show their solidarity.
Since I had arrived with my Tennessee cowboy hat and boots on, they assumed the American cowboy would know how to ride and paired me with the most spirited horse of our group. While I have grown up riding horses recreationally, I knew that, compared to these people that had grown up in the saddle, I knew nothing. They did seem pleased, however, that I rode hard with them, without fear, unlike many of the gringos they’d guided before.
“What is my horse’s name?” I asked the locals through the interpreter. They laughed. “Bestias.” came the reply. Beasts, in English; for they do not name or anthropomorphize their animals as we do.
They did, however, give me a nickname. And I was the only one of my group they gave a nickname too. “Chilé Pelón.” Roughly translated, Whitie. I was not sure whether or not to take offence but the guide assured me that it was a compliment- that they felt close enough to me to give me the name and not be so formal. The camaraderie became more apparent as the days went by, so I accepted the nickname with pride.
Because I was the only member of our group that had been a preacher, I was asked to speak on three occasions, in the local church. I refused at first, but I was becoming more aware of the reason God had brought me here. See, I had lived by the opinion that I had to somehow be whole again, before I could help others. What God was showing me in El Cedro, was that my healing was coming as I helped others. It was this, more than anything else that made me repent of my negativity about missions trips. Were we helping to fill a need? Yes. Were we encouraging the local believers by our presence? Absolutely. But a great truth, known to those who serve on these trips, is that the lives changed the most, are often not those in the third world countries, but the lives of the westerners going there to serve. And for me, God seemed to be saying, “You thought you needed to be well to serve, but it is through service that I will heal you.”
The other great truth that El Cedro taught me is that it is not for a lack of intellect, or ambition, or favor, that these cultures falter. It is because they have forsaken their way of life in an attempt to be like the Americans. Through our movies and our disposable goods, we have exported our western ways into cultures that thought themselves happy and rich before, and now have entered the race for the “latest and greatest” clothes and cell phones and technology.
Do not misinterpret my motives. I am not speaking against the western way of life, or capitalism, or any other earthly political or economic model. I am thankful for the structure we hold dear as Americans. What I am speaking against is the presumptuous naivety with which we have exported our way as the only way, to the rest of the world.
Many well meaning westerners (even missionaries) have unwittingly propagated the idea that “our way is better.” Not realizing that Christianization and westernization is not the same thing. Did we not see this with the Native Americans? Has Canada not seen it with the Inuit and First Nations peoples? A once proud and bold people, now, often struggling with an identity crisis?
Here is the seed thought Of Hudson Stuck, and what came to fruition in my spirit while living with the horsemen of El Cedro: The real beauty of the teachings of Jesus is its’ universality. Unlike other religions of the world, Christianity does not assign a certain type of dress. There are no dietary laws in Christianity. Christianity does not prescribe a certain language to be spoken in prayer and worship. Sadly, though, many missionaries of the past, missed this great truth. Preferring your neighbor over yourself, never letting them suffer want when you have excess, accepting Christ as your redeemer and loving God with all your heart, is a transcultural message.
In short, El Cedro taught me that the Kingdom is beautiful for the same reason Joseph’s coat was so illustrious- diversity.
So let us not repress diversity but celebrate it- sustain it- before, as Hudson Stuck prophesied, the whole world is reduced to two or three boring languages, blue jeans and button down shirts. Surely, as he said, the world will be a less interesting place without diversity. And surely the Kingdom of Heaven is enriched by diversity.
Our last day there, our group asked the women of the village to present their vision for the future of El Cedro. This was an intentional move to help empower the women. They were unified in their greatest desire for the village: they wanted a road that would be drivable, year-round, out of El Cedro to the major cities. It was a reasonable desire, born from the hearts of mothers- mothers with children that could die from a lack of access to emergency medical care at a well equipped hospital. In fact, we ended up evacuating the granddaughter of the village elder when we left the next day, to the nearest city, for medical care.
I surely could not fault them in their desire for a road, and the road would surely come, eventually. But I knew that with that road, would come cars, electricity, entertainment, disposable goods, and ultimately, discontentment, materialism and poverty.
I prayed that night that, somehow, the people of the world would come to a place of harmony with the created world- that the women of El Cedro could have their road, without losing the El Cedro I’d fallen in love with.
There’s a place where two lovers sleep side by side-
Up where the snow finally reaches the sky
For love does not always unfold as it should
And free will derails divine plans for our good.
The trials we face and the problems to solve
May serve to dissuade or to test our resolve.
All that’s worth having is worth fighting for.
A forty mile river I’ll dig you, and more.
Can a princess who peers into a pauper’s eyes
Be infected by the love that there resides?
Eagerly my eyes ask “ghorbanat baram?”
While our moments march on, my Shirin, joon-am.
There’s a place where two lovers sleep side by side-
Up where the snow finally reaches the sky.
The raven alone knows where those lovers hide…
In your temple, without shame,
I stand, without regalia.
Although you’ve withheld your name
I know you are Justilia.
Your eyes are prophetic pools-
discerning truth from lies.
You’ve been blindfolded by fools.
Remove the scarf from your eyes.
Slide your sword into my soul
(I do not fear what you will see).
Weigh the treasure that it holds.
Fair skinned goddess, look on me.
Those who know me may find this hard to believe but I (a former U.S. Marine Infantryman that has studied Asian and- more recently- European martial arts from childhood) have been struggling intellectually with whether or not Christianity calls me to be a pacifist. I am a peace loving man and I’m not prone to fits of anger or violence. Although my father later changed his position, I was raised by a minister who was a contentious objector during Vietnam. This was not to get out of going to war. His pastor counseled him to forgo a scholarship to the University of Tennessee because they believed that even competitive sports were ungodly. Which counsel he heeded.
I understand and feel both the position of the “just war” and the “non-resistance” camps. The recent acts of violence being committed around the world in the name of Allah, have roused the issue again in my heart. Although I have always been an adherent to the notion of a “just war,” I have been ever aware of inconsistencies and unanswered questions in my position. I have felt drawn by the Sprit to reevaluate my position and find a way to answer the nagging questions and harmonize what has seemed to be incompatible truths in my soul.
I set out, therefore, to reexamine the issue of Christianity and non-resistance. I have read everything I can get my hands on from both sides and have listened to multiple debates from leading Christian thinkers on the issue. I’ve maintained an open mind and my position has changed in significant ways, I am pleased to say. I’d like to share the results of my study with you here.
Jesus The Revolutionary
It is certainly true that the teachings of Jesus were revolutionary. The great conquerer, Napoleon, once said concerning Jesus, “I know men, and I tell you Jesus is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist… His empire, His march across the ages and realms, is a prodigy, a mystery insoluble… a mystery which I can neither deny or explain.”
If the teachings of Jesus were philosophy, one could philosophize against Him. If Jesus were a general, one could muster an army against Him. But he is none of these things. He was the incarnation of Love. And what can one do against Love? Therein lies the revolution of His His message- His empire. Love. Of all the revolutionary things Christ taught, perhaps the most revolutionary was His “Sermon on the Mount.” And of the things taught in that sermon, perhaps His chain of “You have heard it said… But I say unto you…” statements is the most ground breaking. In these statements he immediately distinguishes Christianity from the other Abrahamic religions of Judaism and (what would come hundreds of years after) Islam. In this sermon Jesus distinguishes His teachings from the establishment by saying (and I paraphrase),
“You’ve heard it said do not murder… do not commit adultery… if you want a divorce simply give your wife a notice of divorce… When you swear a vow don’t break it-
But I say to you, if you are mad without cause or curse someone without cause you are in danger of Hell… if you look at another man’s wife with lustful intentions you are already guilty of what you have purposed in your heart… you can’t just put your wife away without cause… you should not swear vows but that your “Yes I will” or “No I wont” should be binding enough.” We see in these teachings a pattern. That pattern is that the motive of the heart is what is being judged and not the actions alone. Of these teachings, the ones that apply most directly to our topic are when Jesus says,
“You’ve heard it said “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” but I say do not resist an evil person… when they slap your right cheek offer the other cheek as well… If you are sued for your shirt, offer your coat as well… If a soldier demands you carry his load a mile carry it two miles.” Jesus continues,
“You’ve heard it said, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I say love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you.”
The Reverend Dean Taylor, a noted Christian pacifist, rightly asks, “What if Jesus actually meant what he said here?” The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is that He did mean what He said. He does expect His followers not to resist when they are affronted by evil people. He truly expected His disciples to pray for their enemies and to love them. What’s more, Jesus exemplified this love by not defending Himself when He was tried and crucified. Like a “lamb to the slaughter” he offered no defense of himself even though he could have called “legions of angels” to His defense. Jesus even prayed for His enemies while they mocked His nakedness as He hung dying on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” The teachings and example set forth by Christ is to endure persecution and to sacrifice one’s self for the wellbeing of others.
“So then the case is closed?” you ask? It would be closed if this was the entirety of Christian teaching on the subject. The truth is that Christ, and His disciples demonstrated through their teachings and actions a more developed doctrine on non-resistance and when it is just to fight. Please consider with me the following points.
Cleansing the Temple
First, it is evident from Scripture that Jesus was not a pacifist. For example, all four of the Gospel narratives of Christ’s life, we are told the story of His “Cleansing of the temple.” In this story, Jesus comes into the temple and sees the money changers-those people whose job it was to exchange Roman and Greek money (at the worshiper’s expense) for Jewish money. He also sees the livestock that has been brought for sale to the “tourist” worshipers at exorbitant prices.
Jesus was angered by what He saw so He sat down and wove a whip. Using the whip, He drove the money changers and the livestock out of the temple and flipped over the money tables saying, “My Father’s house is to be a house of prayer- not a den of thieves!” The premeditated nature of His violence (taking time to make a whip) shows that this was not a “heat of the moment” action. These are clearly not the actions of a pacifist.
Jesus and the Roman Soldier
Next, consider the Roman centurion that came to Jesus to ask healing for his servant that was back at his home dying. The centurion believed in Jesus so much that he said to Jesus, “You don’t even need to come to my house. You are a man of great power and authority. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” Instead of scolding the Roman soldier for His profession, Jesus commended him saying, “I’ve not seen one person in all Israel with as much faith as this man .” While Jesus often spent time with sinners, He always charged them to change their ways. If Jesus saw the soldier’s profession as a sinful one, he would surely have charged him in the same manner.
John the Baptist and Roman Soldiers
Similarly, Roman soldiers came to John the Baptist to repent and be baptized. They asked John what they needed to do to be saved. John the Baptist gave them three charges- don’t extort money, don’t accuse people falsely and be content with your wages- nothing was said concerning leaving their military careers to please God.
The Apostles Peter and Paul on Soldiering
While we are on to other New Testament figures, let me point out that two Apostles write in the Bible that being a soldier, or other type of peace keeper, is actually a ministry.
“The one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword (or we would say, the gun) for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on wrongdoers.” -The Apostle, Paul
“Governors are sent by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” -The Apostle, Peter
In addition to this, the first non Jewish convert to Christianity was the Roman centurion, Cornelius, and his house. In his sermon, Peter did not exhort Cornelius to leave soldiering. In fact he didn’t have such an opportunity. God deemed him so fit for Christianity that Cornelius was filled with the Holy Sprit with accompanying gifts before Peter could even finish his sermon.
Can a Christian be made a sinner by the same action (serving as a Policeman or Soldier) that makes a sinner a minister of God? It should go without saying that something cannot be at once a ministry from God and a sinful profession at the same time.
Jesus and Pilate
When Jesus was being interrogated by Pilate before his execution, He was asked why his followers did not raise up in arms and fight in His defense. Jesus answered by saying, “If my Kingdom were of this world, then would my followers fight. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
It could be well argued that there is, in this statement a justification for fighting in defense of an earthly Kingdom. For if it was never justifiable to defend a kingdom, Jesus would not have offered this reply.
Defending Your Household
Often in such discussions of pacifism, the “what if” scenarios arise. The most common “what if” posed to pacifists is akin to, “What would you do if a homicidal maniac had broken into your home and was brutally killing your family? Would you not defend them?” Did you know Jesus, himself, used this same analogy when addressing satanic possession? Only Jesus inferred the use of force to protect a man’s household goods as well.
“How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Only then can he plunder His house.” -Jesus
I think it can rightly be deduced from this illustration of Christ that a strong man would be expected to use his strength in defense of his family’s possessions.
What Is Your Motivation?
How then can we harmonize these points with the Words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount when he told us not to resist an evil man? When he told us to do good to those who do evil to us and to pray for those who use us? When he told us to turn the other cheek?
The answer comes in looking the context of these sayings and to discern the pattern. As with all of Christ’s teachings, He establishes that God does not just judge our actions, but that He looks at our hearts- the motives that drive your actions. Motives are what an all knowing God judges, not merely the black and white actions we commit. It must be understood that Christianity is not married to a secular governmental system, like Islam, because His is not an earthly kingdom. Therefore, the words Jesus spoke were directed to the individual and not to a governmental institutions. Also consider that his words here are addressing the insult, and not the assault of a Christian.
Early on in my studying I found a quote from John Stuart Mill that resonated with me and I posted it for my friends to read and respond to on social media. The quote read,
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”
I was not surprised by the articulate debate that followed in the comments from my friends (because I try to surround myself with brilliant people). But what became immediately apparent to me is the polarizing effect this issue has on people. For example, You would have thought, by the replies, that the quote was a justification for any war that our government would set out to fight. When in fact it was decrying those who found nothing other than their personal wellbeing worth fighting for. I pointed this out by simply asking my friends straightly, “Is there anything that you would see as just cause for war?” To that, none would straightly reply.
I think their silence was due to the fact that we know there are just causes to go to war. We are just so disenfranchised by the thinly veiled economic reasons for which the wealthy drive our countries to war that we feel we must make a strong negative statement in order to counteract it.
But to hope for justice without force- threatened or applied- is a fantasy. We cannot disavow peacekeeping amongst Christians and then pray the “pagan” nonbelievers do the dirty work of defending us so that we can continue to be free.
There is a saying that “The end justifies the means.” In a sense this is true of war and violence. While there may be no “just wars,” there are certainly justly fought wars. What constitutes a justly fought war is, again, the motive. Christians do not fight wars for conquest. Christian conquest comes through sharing the grace and mercy of the Gospel of Jesus- not by the sword of war. A war against war is a justly fought war. The end goal of a justly fought war, is peace, not conquest.
Serving a Higher Cause
Many of my friends were generally against war but supported the use of violence in self defense. Before this study I would have tended to agree with them. My study has brought me to a different conclusion. Biblically, when faced with taking a life or sacrificing yourself, the noble and Chrisitan thing may well be so sacrifice yourself. Christian justified violence is not so much in the defense of ones own self but in the service of others.
This harmonizes all of what we have read. Self defense is one of the worst reasons for a Christian to resort to violence. If we understand that our goal is to serve values higher than ourself- the liberty, emancipation and defense of others, then all of the Christian teachings come into perfect harmony. Christianity is about Love. Our judgement from God will be based on our motives. Can someone kill anyone in love? I answer that killing cannot be the motive. But if you are taking a life to defend those who are defenseless and to protect those who cannot protect themselves, then the taking of that life could well be motivated by love.
I will, therefore, strive to crucify more of my own pride and be more willing, personally, to suffer injustice. But I can, and will, in love protect and defend and war against war- toward the goal of peace.
“Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Seven Major Points of Disagreement between Mohammed and Jesus.
I strive to avoid being “anti” any group in my writings. There is typically little need for it. My hope is that I could simply be Pro truth and let the rest sort itself out-even when I know some ideologies are dangerous. On the issue of Islam and Christianity, my tongue has been bleeding for quite some time.
This article marks my breaking of silence on the issue.
The straw that broke this camel’s back came this week when a good friend of mine was arguing that fundamentalist Christians are just as dangerous as fundamentalist Muslims and that neither religion is any less violent than the other.
Then the cover of the January, 2015 issue of TIME magazine caught my attention. The headline article was on the early January terrorist attacks in Paris, France that claimed the lives of 17 people. The line that broke my silence was a few sentences into this 3 page article. It read, “Paris was not even the deadliest scene of the week, which saw up to 2,000 people massacred in Nigeria by the militants of Boko Haram (Muslim) and nearly 40 people killed by an al-Qaeda car bomb in the capital city of Yemen.”
That is upwards or 2,057 people killed in a single week by Islamic terrorists… “Why am I reading an article about 17 in Paris when 2,000 Christians had been murdered in Nigeria?” I thought.
Though I have been reluctant to wade into the frey, I can no longer hold my peace on this issue. I therefore hope everyone that reads this will take this into consideration as you judge my words.
As abrasive as the title of this article is, it is my hope that my purpose for it will be obvious to my readers by the end. But let me start by saying clearly that I stand by the statement. And no, it isn’t for the “72 virgins” we hear so much about.
The politically correct mainstream tells us daily that Islam is a religion of peace. Liberal Western Muslim clerics are lined up on talk show after talk show to assure us that the violence perpetrated around the world in the name of Allah against Christians and Jews is not endemic of the Religion itself and Muslim terrorists, or “martyrs”- as they call themselves- are universally painted as extremist whackos that don’t represent the mainstream of Islam. While these Islamic states and terrorist groups may not represent the “mainstream” of the religion (how ever that may be defined), are the teachings of the religion responsible for their aggressive and murderous acts?
The only way such questions can be honestly explored is if we free ourselves from some misnomers. Islam is not a race or ethnicity. It is a religion and an ideology. There are Christian Arabs, and there have been Arab Christian sects for five hundred years longer than there has been an Islamic religion. Therefore, to criticize Islam is not to criticize a race or ethnicity. In fact, it would be a racial stereotype to think that Arabs are Muslims or that Muslims are Arab.
Also, we aren’t judging adherents of either faith but the faith itself, on its own merits. When ever I look at Christianity and Islam through the critical lens of comparative theology I hear heartfelt and honest rebuttals such as, “I know muslims and they are loving people.” or, “Christians have in history done things just as bad as what the Muslim extremist do now.” Or, finally, “It turns me off to all religion because they are all fundamentally the same.” I agree with those who would argue that it is unfair to judge all Muslims by the actions of a few, just as I would not tolerate being judged by the evil acts of those who claim Christianity. Let me go a step further and say that it is wrong to judge a religion- any religion- by the acts of those who claim it as motive for evil acts.
Since a stream is no purer than at it’s source, it is just to compare the lives of Mohammed and Jesus to judge between the merits of the religions they founded. A good Christian will look to Jesus as his paragon or example and a good Muslim will look to Mohammed as his role model. It stands to reason, then, that comparing the lives of these two men, as presented in their own holy books, will be the most equitable way of comparing these two religions. It is a fair and just inquiry to compare and contrast the origins of these religions. It is even prudent to compare the holy books and the teachings of the founders of these religions. It is right to judge a religion on these terms.
Just as we can determine that the Nazi cult or human sacrifice is evil, even so, we can look at the founders of these two religions and their founding books, to judge whether or not they are good our bad. I believe it is the obligation of every thinking man or woman to do so.
Looking beyond the actions of modern terrorists and medieval crusaders- back to the teachings of Mohammed and Jesus themselves and placing their teachings side by side, we will come to an evaluation of their comparative merits. This is what I set forth to do here, briefly in this article. It is not meant to be an exhaustive comparison, but I will deal with, in particular, those points that address the issue of violence in the modern manifestations of Islam. This is a comparison in contrast. I will not spend my time dealing with the great many similarities. For surely that has been done already “ad nauseam” by others seeking to convince the world that these religions teach essentially the same thing. As you will see herein, nothing could be further from the truth.
It should already be obvious to the reader that I come to this subject as a Christian, but I have excluded in this presentation, a great many arguments made by Christians that I felt were unfair to the Islamic position or misrepresenting the teachings of either persuasion. As I confess a Christian bias, I hope my readers will grant me the trust of my honest comparison of these two historical figures.
Here they are- Mohammed and Jesus- seven major points of disagreement.
1. On Holy Wars and Violence
Mohammed himself, not his disciples, launched the very first crusade or “holy war” against Christians and Jews long before Europe responded with one of their own. In 630AD. Mohammed said, “Fight against those who believe not in Allah… and those who will not acknowledge the religion of truth (Islam) amongst the people of the scriptures (Christians and Jews).” (Sura 9:29)
Mohammed massacred over 800 men whom he had captured in war and doled out their wives and children as slaves to his men. After conquering Mecca, Mohammed had 12 people executed, which included three slave girls that had made fun of him.
When he conquered the Jewish city of Khaibar, Mohammed had a Jewish leader tortured to find out where the cities wealth had been hidden. Then he ordered the man to be decapitated. Mohammed was a plundering warrior who conquered all who would not submit to him by the sword. If I were a muslim, I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
Jesus on the other hand, forbade His disciples from raising up arms in His defense and healed the ear of his captor when Saint Peter had cut it off. When questioned by the Roman governor, Pilate, as to why the followers of Jesus would not fight, Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were my followers would fight… but my Kingdom is not of this World.” (John 18:36) Jesus never killed anyone, but sacrificed himself for others. As a Christian, I seek to emulate Jesus
2. On Earthly Wealth
Mohamed spent his life in search of wealth. First in trade, and ultimately through the spoils of conquest and the trafficking of humans in slavery. Mohammed was a plundering warrior. As a muslim, I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
Jesus cared nothing for material wealth. “Birds have nests. Foxes have holes. But the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus said of himself. When he sent His disciples out to spread the gospel, he instructed them not to worry about bringing money along with them but to trust they would find provision through the hospitality of others. Jesus taught his disciples, “Don’t be so concerned about parishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life…” (John 6:27)
Jesus put little value in earthly wealth. As a Christian. I strive to emulate Jesus.
3. On Slavery
Mohamed owned slaves and profited from the slave trade. Mohommed allowed his disciples to have sex with their female slaves. It is said that “Mohammed had intercourse with her (Mariyah) by virtue of her being his property.” (Tabari 29:194)
Mohammed was a slave trader and involved in the sex trade. As a Muslim, I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
Although Jesus was of a noble lineage in Israel, he owned no slaves. In fact, He announced His purpose in his very first sermon by saying, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be set free, (Luke 4:18) “
Jesus was not a slave owner and saw his mission to be that of a liberator. As a Christian I seek to emulate Jesus.
4. On sexual equality
Mohammed gave husbands the right to beat wives that were continually disobedient (Sura 4:34) Women have a position in Mohammed’s islamic society above slaves and below the men.
In fact, Mohamed said that women were typically so bad that they would make up a majority of those in Hell (Bukhari 1:28). Islamic teaching goes on to say that they will therefore be in a minority of those in Heaven (Sahih Muslim 4:6600) This creates a problem for suicide bombers trusting in its contradictory teaching that there will be multiple wives for every Muslim man in paradise (Sura 55:72-74)
Mohammed was a polygamist that promoted the view of women as property to be beaten when disobedient. As a Muslim, I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
Jesus, on the other hand, healed women, encouraged women and even had women disciples. The teaching of His church is that women are not to be treated harshly by their husbands and that they are to be loved as Jesus loved his people- so much that the husband is willing to die for her wellbeing (Colosians 3:19, Ephesians 5:25). Jesus elevated women in his ministry to a position of disciple and took much flack for it by the religious establishment of His day. As a Christian, I seek to emulate Christ.
To summarize the issues of slavery and the position of women in the Christianity as apposed to Islam, it is said, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. You are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)”
5. On Judging Immorality
When confronted with the issue of sex outside of marriage, Mohammed instructed his disciples to flog and execute those who do it. In one instance, Mohammed told a repentant woman that was pregnant outside of marriage to go away until she had birthed the child. And then again, when the child was born he told her to go away until the child was weened. Once the child was weened Mohamed had the child taken from the woman and she was then, several years after getting pregnant, stoned to death.
Mohammed had women caught in sex outside of marriage stoned. Were I a Muslim, I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
In stark contrast, Jesus defended the repentant woman caught in fornication by challenging her accusers with “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus told the woman caught in fornication, “Where are your accusers now? Neither do I condemn you but go and sin no more. (John 8:11)” Jesus practiced mercy when confronted with immorality in others. As a Christian, I seek to emulate Jesus.
6. On Vengeance or Mercy
Mohammed taught his followers to return an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth., exacting revenge for wrongs done against them (5:45). Mohammed had those who apposed his conquests killed. Mohammed was unmerciful to his enemies. As a Muslim I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
Jesus taught his disciples to do good to those that do evil to you and to pray for those who despitefully use you. “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you don’t resist an evil person. When someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer to him the other cheek also.” Jesus taught, and added, “When someone sues you for your shirt, give him your coat also. (Matthew 539-40)”
Jesus taught and exemplified kindness to his enemies. As a Christian, I seek to emulate Christ.
7. On their dying breaths…
One of the last things Mohammed uttered as he died was, “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built their places of worship at the graves of the prophets.” (Bukhari 1:427) Mohammed died praying curses on Christians and Jews. As a Muslin, I would seek to emulate Mohammed.
When Jesus hung on the cross and looked down at those who had tortured him and were now mocking his nudity- his dying words were, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do. (Luke 22:34)” Jesus died praying a prayer of mercy on those who had tortured Him and murdered Him. As a Christian, I seek to emulate Jesus.
Before one can deal with a problem, she or he must first acknowledge there is a problem. Bad philosophy and theology must be named for what it is. If only half of what I have presented above were true it would be cause enough to put an end to the lie that Islam is a religion of peace and is no better or no worse than Christianity.
To summarize the above points:
Jesus Christ was a self sacrificing shunner of earthly wealth, an emancipator of captives, a merciful judge of those caught in their sins, a teacher of kindness toward one’s enemies that died with a prayer of mercy on his lips for his torturers and murderers. Jesus Christ is the founder of Christianity. As a Christian, I must strive to emulate him.
Mohammed was a murdering warrior, a wealth seeking slave trader, a degrader and abuser of women, an unmerciful judge of single mothers, a teacher of vengeance that died with a curse on his lips for Christians and jews. Mohammed is the founder of Islam. As a Muslim, I would seek to emulate his life. This is why I stand by the title of this article. If I were a Muslim, I would be a terrorist. Because that is the example of the religion’s founder.
Christians around the world- men, women and children, are being drug from their homes and murdered. They are forced from their homes and communities if they will not convert to Islam. So long as the western and Christian world lies to itself and buys into the notion that Christianity and Islam are similar and that Islam is a religion of peace, these injustices will continue around the world. The number one new baby boy’s name in Britain (once the flagship of Christendom) is Mohammed. Their goal- to bring this anti-christian war to the United States- to the “great Satan” as they call us- will become more painfully felt than even what happened on 9/11/2001. I pray everyone who reads this will wake up, heed this warning, reeducate themselves and those around them and defend The Truth.
“Who here is without transgression?
Feel free to cast the first stone.”
Keeping them out. Keeping me in.
With those stones I built my home.
Tall broad and strong, I built my wall,
Forsaking stream and beast and tree.
This wall of stone must someday fall.
To the forest I must flee.
This Fortress has become my cell
Where I resigned myself to live-
A dark and foreboding bastille.
Defenses hold me captive.
Daughter/Daddy Writing Project:
My twelve year old daughter, Eva, is a burgeoning writer. Between a snowstorm and a broken down jeep, I’m hunkered down with my kids for a couple days. She wanted to learn how I write poetry so I offered to write a poem with her and teach her my creative process. I asked her to assign me a subject and she chose “the wall” as my topic.
First we sat down and brainstormed about walls. We discussed how walls can keep things out and keep things in. we talked about how fortresses can become the prison of those who hold up in them. The we talked about walls built of stones, which made us think of the stones that people throw at us and how we can wrongly use them to define ourselves- building walls with them. Then we decided that a meter of 8,7,8,7 would nicely represent the offset pattern of a stone wall.
We set about laying out our page of ideas into verse. Here, above, is the result- my latest poem- written in collaboration with my daughter, Eva.
She is now off trying her hand at her first solo poem about the blizzard that is raging outside. I can’t wait to read it.
Sitting here where we first met
Sipping tea in your domain
Sipping smiles without regret
Daydreams of you keep me sane.
Eager I came to your home
Bearing roses in my hand
As the winter sunset shone
Across the crisp and frigid land.
Your doorman sought to dissuade
Our love and turn me away
But I would not be delayed.
In and up to where you laid.
The more naked I became,
The more your face glowed brighter.
So I exposed, without shame,
The bruised heart of this writer.
Could you hear my lone heart moan,
Laying roses on your bed?
I could not take the long walk home
I will wait right here instead.
Somewhere in the solstice moon
The black wolf peers through green eyes.
This white and windowless room
Resonates the howling cries.
We’re partners in this venture.
This prison cant contain us.
You’re my urban adventure.
I am your forest fortress.
Sitting here where we first met
Sipping tea in your domain
Sipping smiles without regret
Daydreams of you keep me sane.
-Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes