I used to scoff at writers such as Sam Harris, Kevin Phillips, and Chris Hedges when they warned that Christians were a major threat to American freedoms. Now, I'm not so sure. Of course, all their talk about Christians imposing a theocracy on America has about as much credibility as the "truther" theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government/Mossad conspiracy. But I wonder now if Christians, in their naivite and in their desire to be thought tolerant, aren't inadvertently paving the way for an eventual Islamic theocracy.
It seems that quite a number of Christian churches are now involved in "outreach" programs with local mosques. The typical outreach is for a church to invite an Islamic leader to come in and explain Islam to the congregation. Naturally, the imams present Islam as a religion of peace and love. And naturally in their desire to appear loving and accepting, the Christians lap it up. The imams know how to press all the "tolerance," "outreach," and "respect" buttons, and the result is that the Christians end up thinking Islam is just another nice, brotherly religion like their own. As a result, they can probably be counted on not to oppose the building of a local mosque, or for that matter not to oppose any Muslim agenda or initiative. Islamic leaders have done a good job of framing their grievances as civil rights issues, and this, of course, has great appeal to the many Christians who see the pursuit of social justice as their main mission. Mentally, many Christians still live in the days of "We Shall Overcome" and lunch counter sit-ins. They think that in supporting and defending Islam they are like the Christians in the sixties who linked arms with civil rights marchers, and sang hymns together.
Lately, Muslim leaders have been taking advantage of the Christian disposition for outreach by offering outreach programs of their own. 20,000 Dialogues is a nationwide interfaith initiative that helps local level imams set up outreach programs, and provides films and speakers to facilitate the dialogue. The current offering is a film titled "Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Think." The film is based on a study of Muslim attitudes conducted by John Esposito of Georgetown University's Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and Dalia Mogahed, Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Like the study, the film massages the polling data to make it appear that Islam is a predominately peaceful religion.
One such outreach was conducted on July 24th at the Lamb of God Church in Fort Myers, Florida. The guest speaker was Imam Shaker Elsayed of the Falls Church, Virginia mosque, "Dar Al Hijrah"—the same mosque where Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki mentored Major Nidal Hasan, the perpetrator of the Fort Hood massacre. Elsayed himself is the former Secretary General of the Muslim American Society, an organization which has been described by Stephen Schwartz as a "major component" of the "Wahhabi Lobby."
Aside from the dubious connections of the speaker and the dubious nature of the film, the most interesting aspect of the presentation was the response of the 400-member audience. With a few exceptions they liked it. And they didn't like the attempt by some members of ACT for America and the Florida Security Council who were present to ask tough questions during the Q&A session. Although Imam Elsayed portrayed Jesus in a way that should have been offensive to Christians, the audience was much more concerned with Muslim sensitivities. Their sympathies were obviously with the representatives of Islam, and against the critics of Islam.
The other interesting aspect of the presentation was the ability of Daniel Tutt, the young and articulate director of 20,000 Dialogues, to weave the critics' attempt to tell the other side of the story into his own narrative of "building bridges" and "avoiding stereotypes." Interviewed afterward by a TV reporter, Tutt said that the dissent "clearly emphasizes the need for more communications." In other words, those who criticize Islam misunderstand it and need to be educated. And how is Islam to be understood? Answer: in a positive way. "We feel," said Tutt, "that by reaching 20,000 dialogues we will help to create a measurable shift in the negative understanding that Americans have toward Muslims." The whole premise of the "dialogues" endeavor is that an unfavorable opinion of Islam is an uneducated opinion. This also seems to be the opinion of the Reverend Walter Fohs, the pastor of the Lamb of God Church. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, "Much of the hype, fostered in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, may be caused by Christians' lack of understanding of their own religion, said the Rev. Walter Fohs…" Fohs went on to say that there are more violent chapters in the Bible than in the Koran.
This moral equivalence argument sits well with many Christians because, like Americans in general, they have been nurtured on multicultural myths about the essential equality of different cultures and religions. So they are quite happy to nod in agreement when they are informed by the Islamic representative (or by their own pastor) that Islam is no more a threat than the synagogue down the street. For too many Christians, the essence of Christianity boils down to tolerance and non-judgmentalism. Moreover, Christianity in America has become so mixed up with therapy and pop psychology that, nowadays, the surest sign of election is feeling good about oneself. It is, of course, much easier to feel good about yourself if you can congratulate yourself on being tolerant, sensitive, and respectful of differences. It's likely that many of the Christians who attend outreach presentations like the one at Lamb of God Church aren't really interested in being educated about Islam. What they are really seeking is confirmation of their existing multicultural assumptions. So their sympathies will lie with those who tell them that it's reasonable to keep dreaming dreams of interfaith harmony, and they will resist those who want to wake them from the dream.
In regard to Islam most Christians can be placed in one of four categories. First, there is a small but growing number of congregations that do see the danger from Islam, and are trying to raise awareness. They are the ones who invite speakers such as Brigitte Gabriel, Nonie Darwish, or Mosab Hassan Yousef to explain the Islamic threat. On the other side of the spectrum is the religious left—the Christians who sign up for any cause that will hurt America and help its enemies. They can be found at every pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli rally, and they can be counted on to actively enable stealth jihad. A third grouping is made up of liberal Christians, many of whom genuinely want to do "the Christian thing," but too often take their cues from the Christian left as to what that "thing" is. They are the ones most likely to extend invitations to Imams. The fourth group—if they can be called that—are the large majority of Christians who are so busy raising families and paying bills that they haven't had much time to think about the Islamic threat. They are, to paraphrase the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, "the muddled masses yearning to be free of complexities and inconveniences." For many of them, their faith is a personal, private affair, and they would much prefer to be busy organizing the church food drive or the vacation bible camp rather than be drawn into a debate on the "clash of civilizations." It would better suit their disposition if their pastor were to reassure them that there is no clash of civilizations, only a minor misunderstanding.
This emphasis on the personal nature of faith puts the fourth group at a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis Islam—a religion which considers faith, not as a private matter but as a political battering ram. Pointing to the audience at the Lamb of God Church, Daniel Tutt observed, "In communities like this, these are the people who vote, these are the people who shift the agenda in this country about how Islam is understood." With his goal of initiating 20,000 dialogues, Tutt seems to believe he can shift the attitude of many in this fourth grouping.
Like their liberal brethren, the majority of Christians in the middle can be counted on to want to do "the Christian thing" when it comes to Islam. But what exactly is the Christian thing? In recent decades the notion has grown that the Christian approach is always one of acceptance, inclusiveness, and non-judgmentalism. In the long run that could prove to be a fatal idea because it constitutes one of the main obstacles to recognizing and resisting the threat from Islam. It's important, then, to call the idea into question. The simplest way to do this is to point out that, by contemporary standards, Christ could be both intolerant and judgmental—and this was especially true of his dealings with religious authorities. "What would Jesus do?" is a question that Christians often ask themselves. The question seems a bit presumptuous, because Christ's responses were rarely what people expected. In many cases we simply don't know the answer. But as to the question, "How would Christ respond to Islam and its official representatives?" there is considerable evidence that he would not be nearly as accepting as many contemporary Christians are. The evidence lies in his treatment of the Pharisees.
On numerous occasions Christ lashed into the Pharisees. He upbraided them for hypocrisy and iniquity, for laying burdensome rules on men's shoulders, for neglecting justice and mercy, and focusing instead on minor ritual observances, and for "teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." We tend to forget how little patience he had with them. He warned them, he insulted them, and on several occasions he provoked them. Even when the Pharisees asked what seemed to be reasonable questions, he often cut them short or rebuked them. They were "liars," "hypocrites," "blind guides," "whitewashed tombs…full of uncleanness," "serpents," "vipers," "children of hell," and worthy of "being sentenced to hell."
The point, of course, is that official Islam is far more pharisaical than the Pharisees ever were. And the pharisaism of Islam goes far beyond the ritual prayers, ritual cleansings, and the innumerable restrictions of Sharia law. Christ came to set men free; Muhammad came to inform them that they were slaves to Allah and, in effect, slaves to Islam. If Christ was hard on the Pharisees and Sadducees, would he be favorably disposed to Muslim apologists? If he thought the Pharisees were deceivers and hypocrites, what would he think of imams who say one thing in English, and something quite different in Arabic?
Once again, there is no certainty about "What would Jesus do?" but it does seem that the burden of proof is on those Christians who think that "the Christian thing" is to seek for common ground with Islam while overlooking its brutality and oppression. On one occasion the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery before Jesus. The law commanded that she be stoned. What did he have to say about it? His reply, of course, was not along the lines of, "I respect your diversity," or "There are many paths to God." He simply shamed them. Modern Christians, however, are more into sharing than shaming. As a consequence they prefer not to be reminded about the crimes of Islam.
Two thousand years into the Christian era, Sharia law still stipulates that a woman caught in adultery should be whipped or else stoned to death. Sharia law also punishes thieves with amputations, permits forced marriages of youngsters, winks at honor killings, treats women as the property of men, and mandates the death penalty for apostates. That is the kind of society you get once Islam becomes the dominant force. Do Christians want to be the ones responsible for smoothing the path of Sharia? Would that be the "Christian thing" to do? Islam stands for everything that the Civil Rights marchers marched against. In Muslim societies non-Muslims are not only considered inferior, they are considered unclean. Why would Christians want to march hand-in-hand—either literally or figuratively—with the official representatives of such a repressive system?
So it may be that Harris, Phillips, and Hedges will turn out to be right after all when they say that Christians pose a major threat to society—only it won't be for the reasons they adduce. The threat comes not from "Christian" militias and theocrats, but from all those well-meaning Christians who act as unwitting enablers for Islam—and, also, from their pastors. Shepherds are supposed to protect their sheep from wolves, but at the Lamb of God Church and places like it, the pastors are handing the lambs over to the wolves. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Mt. 7:15). It's an apt warning for our times. Unfortunately, too many Christians and their pastors live in a bucolic dreamworld where thoughts of wolves and false prophets are never entertained.
William Kilpatrick's articles have appeared in FrontPage Magazine, First Things, Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Jihad Watch, World, and Investor's Business Daily.