WRF Board Chairman Rick Perrin Discusses "On Being Nice to Muslims"
A friend of mine forwarded a blog by Dr. Matthew Stone, a former Muslim, entitled, “Why Christians Deterred Me from Leaving Islam.” In the context of the refugee crisis sweeping Europe and the prospect of receiving 10,000 of those Muslim refugees here in the United States, Dr. Stone’s thoughts are worth considering.
Dr. Stone was born a Muslim. In the early part of his adult life “he travelled throughout the world introducing Muslims to the [deceptive] tactics of Christian missionaries and designed methods for reaching Christians in the hope they would embrace Islam.” But eventually the truth of the gospel of Christ penetrated his heart and mind, and although he remained outwardly a Muslim, he became a secret follower of Christ. It was in this period that he encountered Christians in what he calls “the buckle of the Bible Belt,” and those encounters were not pleasant. He says, “One major factor in keeping me away from living the truth was Christians.” Their words, their attitudes deterred him.
“I experienced…hateful words directed toward gays, liberals, Muslims, Catholics, and the list just seemed to grow more and more. I also experienced being on that list and was the recipient on more than one occasion of those hateful words… I just couldn’t stand being around Christians.” He says he felt like “a project…just someone to convert.” But then he met a couple of Christians who loved him for who he was, and gradually he dared to admit that he too was a believer in Christ.
OK, we can understand perhaps well-meaning Christians who are insensitive and overbearing in their opinions and whose words are sharp. I have encountered them as well. And there are, frankly, Christians I do not care to be around! That is unfortunate. That type of person often provokes negative reactions and sets stumbling blocks in front of the faith they claim to represent. We might all do well to watch how we conduct ourselves so that we do not give Christianity a bad name. As the apostle says, “So that you behave properly toward outsiders.” (I Thessalonians 4:12)
But then Dr. Stone takes a step too far. He commends Christians who truly love Muslims, who go to live with them uncritically as friends, and who accept them without exhibiting negative or anti-Muslim prejudice. He says he is grieved and saddened when, for example, “I hear Franklin Graham declare that the United States should not permit Muslims to immigrate to this country and that the presence of a mosque in a Florida airport is an abomination.” Dr. Stone is not alone. I have often heard Christian leaders who have little patience for those who point out the dangers that Muslims present. They press for uncritical ministry to Muslims. We should welcome them, they say, and accept them as they are.
The reality, however, is that one side without the other creates an unbalanced picture. If anyone keeps the balance well it is Franklin Graham. He is clear about who Muslims are and warns of the danger they pose. But he has for decades led a major relief agency, Samaritan’s Purse, which responds to victims of natural disasters and comforts refugees and those who are oppressed. In addition he fearlessly proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ, that God offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who will come to Christ by faith. If anyone strikes the balance well, I say, it is Franklin Graham.
We must never ignore the facts: While we desire to reach Muslims with the gospel, (1) Muslims do not assimilate into the host culture as other immigrant groups have historically done. (2) Eighty-five percent of mosques in the United States are funded to some extent by Saudi Arabia and actively preach jihad, cultivating the seedbed for terrorism. (3) The more a Muslim is drawn to the Koran, the more likely he is to become radicalized. (4) One cannot tell by looking—or even by talking--which Muslim individual may be radicalized or could become radicalized. (5) ISIS is successfully recruiting young people through social media to join its fighters in Syria and Iraq. And then shall we mention (6) that mainstream Islam is behind the genocide of Christians in the Middle East? And that (7) Muslim terrorists have carried out deadly strikes here in America and across Europe, killing and maiming innocent victims?
The bottom line is that Islam is not a good or benign religion. Muslims do present a real and present danger to Western Civilization generally and to Christianity specifically. This we ignore to our peril. And if we are going to talk about loving people, surely to love our women and children—the innocent(!), the church of Christ across the world, and the Bible-based values and standards of Western civilization—what is left of them—, requires that we erect realistic protections around them. All of this means that we may not just naively throw open our arms in the name of loving Muslims. Sorry, Dr. Stone.
And beyond this, to leave Muslims with the impression that their religion is an acceptable option, is not loving them at all. Islam is a horrible and evil religion. It is not something we may be neutral about. Not if one takes seriously the claims of Christ. “No one comes to the Father but through Me,” Jesus said. (John 14:6) People’s eternal destiny depends on their fleeing falsehood and embracing the truth!
There is a balance here somewhere, and probably that balance comes at the point of one’s personal encounter with an individual Muslim. I should treat each person I meet, Muslim or non-Muslim, with kindness and with gentle words. Yes, that entails friendship where it is possible. But at the same time, we must recognize that when one engages with a Muslim, he is crossing into another culture, a culture that embraces death, with the hope of rescuing some poor, lost soul. And that is dangerous. When has evangelism directed to unbelievers ever been otherwise?