A Christian Pastor’s Sermon, Muslims, and Religious Violence

There is certainly way too much religious violence in the world. But here in Perth WA who are the violent ones and who are the victims?

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I don’t get along to church much these days. Maybe thats why people send me sermons and stuff. Anyways… I heard a sermon recently by a Pastor Gerard Keehan from Globalheart Church here in WA. In the closing few minutes of his sermon he talked about Muslims. The following is a transcript.

God loves the Muslim people. We need to not be having resentment with people in any way because God loves every Muslim person dearly. But the ideology we’re now seeing around the world- ongoing problems from the ideology which is not ending. It is increasing. (Pastor Keehan then lists approx. 20 extremist terrorist attacks committed since 1993 )

We need to join the dots people. Its not about bad people but there is a problem with an ideology that will not co-exist with anybody else. And Surah 2. 191 in the Islamic book says, “Kill all infidel wherever you may find them”. There is no scripture in the Bible that says anything like that. “Kill all the infidel” So, anybody who is not converted to Islam, you are free to kill them. That is an outworking of an ideology that you won’t hear too much about because they don’t want you nailing the scripture. But if you nail the scripture. Its actually a natural outworking of the scripture in Islamic teaching…

We have challenges. But we have a God who is bigger. But I’m talking to you like this just for us here in Australia to say “Hang on, I need to be awake!” ..They need us writing to government, writing to Islamic leaders saying, “This is not acceptable. This is not acceptable.”

https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/sunsetcoastclc-podcast/id286138574
Solidarity Sunday. Released 11/3/14.

Ok. (Deep breath) May I make a few suggestions to Pastor Keehan.

First: If someone were to quote a section from the Bible to make a negative point about Christianity I would hope that they would use the text fairly and in context. So.. lets look at Surah 2.191 in context.

002:190 
YUSUF ALI: Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.
 
002:191 
YUSUF ALI: And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.
 
002:192 
YUSUF ALI: But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful

002:193 
YUSUF ALI: And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.

I’m no Islamic scholar and am open to correction but my understanding is that this passage refers to a time when an Islamic region had been attacked by an external aggressor. In that context the above seem to be reasonable rules of engagement… i.e… fight the aggressor, with reasonable limits, wherever they are and if they stop fighting then you should stop fighting. This appears to be not dissimilar to the rules of engagement followed by our own Australian military.

Second: The pastor said, “…there is no scripture in the Bible that says anything like that.”

Well, truth be told… there is.

In Deuteronomy 7, The Israelites have completed their 40 years of wandering in the desert and are about to take possession of the promised land. Here the Israelites were the external aggressor. This is what the Bible records as God’s command to them.

Deut 7:1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

This appears to be a command to genocide and if carried out today would amount to a War Crime. Im not saying that God commanded genocide. I know that the God revealed to us in Jesus isn’t like that. To understand the Deuteronomy 7 command one must do some very honest and hard thinking about the principles one employs when reading scripture.

What I am saying is that when it comes to superficially quoting and cherry picking isolated and offensive scriptures for shock value,  i’ll wager that our Muslim friends have as much ammunition to fire at us as we have at them, probably more. But, thank God, here in Australia our muslim friends appear to be gracious enough not to do that. Perhaps we could take a leaf from their book.

Third: The Pastor lists some 20 random terrorist incidents from around the world carried out over the last 20 years, declares this to be unacceptable and encourages his flock to write to the government and Muslim leaders.

Really?

If I might borrow the good pastor’s words and logic, but with the shoe on the other foot…

“The KKK as a Right Wing Chrsitian Organisation continues to promote violence and racism today.
Right Wing Chrsitian anti abortion extremists have carried out dozens of bombings and shooting and arson attacks in the US and other places in the world in the last 20 years. (I could list them but… just check wiki…)

We need to be awake! We need to write to the government and to our Christian leaders! This is not acceptable! This is not acceptable!”

‘Nuff said?

Last: There IS religious violence happening right here in Australia and there are very real victims of that violence. The violence comes as leaders from a powerful majority religion speak ill-informed words that incite community fear and suspicion against a vulnerable minority religious group. That minority group, by and large, feel powerless against the wave of prejudice now sweeping over them. Their worship centres are being desecrated and vandalised. The members of that vulnerable, minority religion, especially the women and children are verbally and physically assaulted in their own neighbourhoods, schools and shopping centres. This is occurring right here in Rockingham WA. and is being reproduced across Australia.

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Globalheart’s website states the following

“Since our establishment in 1998 we have continued to grow in influence and impact, enabling us to give better service to our community.”

Yes. Pastor Keehan’s words do have influence and impact and the potential to serve the community. Words are important. They can build up walls of fear and suspicion or they can break them down. I look and hope for a country where the leaders of the majority, the powerful, use their words to promote tolerance and understanding rather than fear and ignorance. Then, perhaps a “fair go Australia” can start to become a reality and not just a myth.

And…to our Australian Muslim friends I say Thankyou. Thankyou for your grace, tolerance and for being patient with us. I know that this will probably be hard for you to believe but Christianity really IS a religion of peace.

(Hey there reader. I know I haven’t blogged for what must seem like “a time, times, and half a time”. (Rev 12.14) Thats apocalyptic code for “quite a while”. But I haven’t stopped campaigning for LGBTI stuff in the church. Its just that blogging hasn’t been a part of that campaign of late. Fact is…I can’t stop. Every time I do the words of MLK get thrown at me in some random way…

In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

And my own spiritual journey continues. Into dark places… but there to my surprise I have found unexpected dazzling light. Might talk again soon.)