The Lonely, Murderous Sons of Allah: A Psycho-analytic View

Just read an article by Phyllis Chesler.  See vita. This article is her look at the lonely sons of polygamy, reminding us that Osama bin Laden was one of 57 children.

Both men are lonely sons of Allah, yearning for paternal attention, even affection, in a polygamous culture in which fathers have too many children and little incentive to pay close attention to any one of them. This is devastating, especially to sons, because the culture overly values fathers and men, and grossly undervalues mothers and women. Thus, the attention a son may receive from his mother (if she is not sent away, as Bin Laden’s mother was) does not make up for the missing and longed-for father.

One can only gawk at the amazing demographics and psychological dynamics this puts into play. This does not alone explain terrorism. But it can go some way to understanding drives and needs that might underlie a culture and push it in certain directions.

Do the Crusades justify continued Muslim jihad against the Christian West?

The received understanding of the Crusades is that the Church brutalized peaceful Muslims at the high point of Islamic culture and were motivated by sheer greed, barbarity and a religious triumphalism that sought conversion at the point of the sword. Osama bin Laden and many other jihadists regularly refer to the Crusades, and in innumerable discussions I have had about Christianity the Crusades have been offered as evidence of the true motivation and nature of religion and Christianity in particular.

It is such received “wisdom” that it has become the accepted explanation of the Crusades. Rodney Starks in his book, God’s Battalions: The Case for The Crusades, says, “Excuse me, but I think I have a different and better explanation.” Prof Starks is not a religious nut job writing curriculum for Christian homes schoolers. He is a respected academic.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. In 2004 he joined the faculty of Baylor University. He has published 30 books (see them here) and more than 140 scholarly articles

Hear Rodney Stark interviewed here.

Author Stark identifies four great lies that have become common wisdom in recent decades, all of which (he insists) are demonstrably false:

-That the Crusades were unprovoked assaults on a peaceful, enlightened, highly sophisticated Muslim civilization,

-That they were “the first round of European colonization.”

-That they were conducted for the purpose of conquest, riches, and the forced conversion of Muslims,

-That the Crusaders were brutal barbarians assaulting highly civilized Muslims who were culturally superior in every way.

In fact, with no unity of civil administration like that given by Rome before its fall in 410 AD, it was the church which stood in the gap as Islam waves of conquerors knocked at the door of Western Europe. Christian pacifists have a lot to be thankful for. The church understood the times and knew what was at stake in mobilizing Europeans to the power of arms.

There are justifiable accusations on the part of Arab peoples concerning actions of Western, Christian nations. The Crusades are not one of them. Stark has the evidence. It’s out there for all to read.

By the way, some have used such a movement of the Crusades as a call for Christendom and not just Christianity.  Christendom is the culture of Christianity mixed with the power of the state, more in the Western model than the Eastern model. In the West the Pope crowned the King but in the East the Emperor chose the Bishops. But in either case Christianity had become a cultural fact and upon it was built a political, military and economic kingdom. Today the church is largely dependent upon the good will of the state. Christendom is when the state is also dependent upon the good will of the church.


I am persevering in reading the Qur’an

As I read and utilize “Blogging the Qur’an” by John Spencer, my brain is spinning fast trying to make connections between the different verses and keep a narrative going. It ain’t easy. Apparently the translation I have, the only one at the bookstore inexpensive enough to afford, has different verse designations than most others and the ones John Spencer refers to. It is the translations by John Rodwell (the version actually used in “Lawrence of Arabia”).

I hesitate to say categorically that I find myself in the world of the Old Testament, since I believe the Old Testament has more of a narrative and is more redemptive. But you get what I mean. It is hard to believe that the Qur’an was written after the completion of the New Testament. While it so far references some of the NT teaching concerning Jesus, there is no parallel to its elevated spirituality. At least, not so far. I am at p.69 of a 450 page book. And yes, I do mean to go all the way.

In the back of my mind I am sensitive to all the ways the OT can be read as barbaric, vengeful, bloody and eye for an eye. I am also mindful of the Book of Revelation and its military portions and clear triumphalism. Of course, I read all these in context of the Christ hermeneutic and the exalted Christology of the Apostle Paul. But if I am willing to give myself some slack in these things, I must also look to see if there is an exalted spirituality that is at work behind the Qur’an as well. Is there something there that will make the “bloody” less barbaric than it at first seems to me? I’m looking.

Spencer in his “Blogging the Qur’an” gives references to traditional interpretations of the Qur’an. I at this point have to take his word for it. He clearly wants to demonstrate that a good Muslim can only be a bad Muslim. In other words, the more seriously a person takes the Qur’an, the worse of a person he will be. And since Islam has an article of faith the literal truth of the Qur’an, ipso facto, Islam cannot produce, in being Islam, a good person. (Peter Kreeft tries to ameliorate this conclusion by seeking some kind of substratum which can make a Muslim a person who is responding positively to the light of conscience and therefore Christ.)

Even as I read and study the Qur’an, moments like these balance the purely academic.

This is a JD Grear video on the personal dimensions of sharing Christ with Muslims. Even as I study Islam and read the Qur’an for understanding this people movement, evaluating and judging, this video is a reminder that personal evangelism moves outside of the mere “who’s right, who’s wrong” modality.

I think we all are generally of the opinion that religions should not attack other religions but affirm them in some way, like Paul in Athens, seemingly complimenting the Athenians for being religious. But I wonder. Are there some religions whose trajectories and track records are so brutalizing and barbaric that Christendom best witnesses to Christ by a full-scale assault on them.

If you take the word “religion” out of the equation and substitute “world view” the options broaden, or so it feels. Mounting a vigorous academic assault on a dehumanizing worldview doesn’t sound evil to me.  And I wonder how many of those oppressed by that worldview but enslaved to it by family bonds, ethnic roots and cultural pressures desire to have someone(s) storm the gates of the prison with the veritable canons of truth, logic and empirical data. These people know they can only be saved from the outside, and those on the outside must have the courage to relentlessly attack

Can we have a true “inter-faith” dialogue with Muslims if Roman Catholics aren’t at the table?

Christianity Today reports the recent event of the Global Faith Forum held at North Wood Church in TX. It was a meeting of chosen representatives from the evangelical Protestant wing of Christianity (of which I am a part), Muslims and Jews (though no Zionist Jews).

Somewhere way down in my gut I have alarms going off. Not that such an event should not happen (it should) nor that it could not be profitable (it seemed to be), but that until you include the heavy guns from the two largest parts of the Christian Tradition who represents at least 2/3 of those who profess Christianity, you aren’t having a real conversation yet.

I have been an evangelical long enough to know we are easy pickings. There is very little we won’t do or give up to get someone to attend our church, sign our petitions, and generally be nice to us.  The Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Patriarchs tend to tighten things up a bit, don’t you think? If I see enough vestments in one room, I find it hard to even swallow, much less carry on an honest conversation. Okay, maybe that is the point.

But this conversation feels like recess to me. So let’s call it that. Recess has some value. But it’s still playtime.

Fitna, a 2008 short political film by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilder

Fitna is a 2008 short political film by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders with his view on the religion of the Islam. Approximately 17 minutes in length, the movie shows selected excerpts from Suras of the Qur’an, interspersed with media clips and newspaper cuttings showing or describing acts of violence and/or hatred by Muslims. The Arabic title-word “fitna” means “disagreement and division among people” or a “test of faith in times of trial”. Wilders, a prominent critic of Islam, described the film as “a call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamization”.

Wikipedia has the following information.

In January 2009 the Amsterdam appeals court ordered prosecutors to try him for “inciting hatred and discrimination, based on comments by him in various media on Muslims and their beliefs”. “In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to… draw a clear line,” the court in Amsterdam said. Mr Wilders said the judgement was an “attack on the freedom of expression”. Prosecutors said that they could not appeal against the judgement and would open an investigation immediately.

Jordan is preparing a criminal case against Wilders, noting that it might be considerable time before an indictment is issued. Meanwhile, the groups making the complaint (The Messenger of Allah Unites Us) have urged the boycotting of Dutch products, and blame The Hague for not indicting Wilders themselves for inciting hatred of Islam. Less than a month later, the chief prosecutors in Amsterdam issued statements to the effect that Wilders will not be indicted on incitement to hatred charges within the Netherlands. Chief prosecutor Leo De Wit further noted that the content was “offensive to Muslims, but that they had to be taken in the context of the political debate around Islam in the Netherlands”. De Wit concluded, “we find Wilders’ remarks were limited to Islam as a religious movement”. Dutch foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen has ordered an analysis of the risks faced by the MP, noting the possibility that Wilders, while abroad, could be arrested and deported to Jordan at the latter’s request.

On 12 February 2009, Wilders was denied entry to the United Kingdom after being invited by the Lord Pearson of the United Kingdom Independence Party to show his film in the House of Lords. He has declared this ‘a sad day for the United Kingdom’ and accused the UK Government of cowardice. Wilders appealed the ban, and on 13 October 2009 it was overturned by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. The UK Home Office has stated its intention not to appeal the tribunal decision; and Wilders’ planned visit to the UK went ahead, with his arriving in the country on 16 October 2009. Wilders described the decision to overturn the ban as a “victory for freedom of speech”.

Some have asked why political and cultural liberals in the West have not been outraged by the hard side of Islam. Perhaps they are blinded by their “anything but Christianity (or Roman Catholicism)” mindset. Or perhaps there is an anti-Americanism mindset also at work, and at this level Islam is a co-belligerent.

I am increasingly of the view that the clash of Western civilization with Islamicized cultures will the story of our children and grandchildren. While on a personal level Christians will evangelize through humble love and service, at the macro scales of cultural formation, there is a conflict into which all people of good will are called to engage. At the heart of the Christian story is the quiet and humble description of a God who creeps down the backstairs of history with a baby in his arms and lays him in straw poverty in a manger. This story yet wins hearts today but the its imaginative power and appeal to the truth that love is the greatest power in the world.