Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Why I'm Not a Muslim

It was almost a quarter of a century ago that I arrived on the streets of Cairo, as a missionary.  I had read many books on Islam up that point and had many Muslim friends. We had been the host family for Yemeni students at a Michigan university for four years, not to mention the summer I had spent in Abu Dhabi and Pakistan.

Soon after arriving, I met an American evangelical missionary.  He made a statement to me, that I will never forget. "Mike," he said, "when you get to the point of being strongly tempted to convert to Islam, only then do you truly understand it."

Well, either I never understood it . . . or he was wrong.  I think he was wrong. After all, once I got to know him better, I saw why he felt this way.  He was so Islamic, in his thinking, that he called himself a "Christian Taliban (this was before the rise of the Taliban but he used terms that meant the same, extremely fundamentalist  and ruthless Muslims).

I never became an expert on Islam. I did have many conversations with many Muslims and read many more books before my dance with that culture came to an end. I have forgotten much of it now. But, I will readily admit, while not tempted at all to become a Muslim, I was smitten by the beauty of the culture and the language.  I am so smitten that I'll always conniving of ways to get back, even for a visit. Even tonight I hope to be buying tickets for Dubi so my wife and I can go and celebrate our anniversary there in the fall. I would love to retire in Morocco or Algeria.

So if I were to try to put into words why Islam is not appealing to me, I would simply say that at this time in history, of all the things I hate about evangelicalism . . . in Islam those issues are worse.  I will break it down into a few of those.

In the spirit of this blog, one huge issue for me with evangelicalism is its infatuation with dualism. Simply, all things of this physical world are inferior to the "spiritual." But because reality is no so divided, the evangelicals live much of their world in a fantasy. So to them, the emotions don't exist . . . only the spiritual.

At this time in history Islam is more dualistic than Christianity . . . but it wasn't always so.  During Islam's enlighten (and formative) years (The Middle Ages), they carried the torch for scientific discovery while Christianity was suffocating under the black waters of dualism.

The way that this translates is that when you are a dualist, you loose the insight into your own psychological phenomena. The reason is, if the physical world has no value, then the matters of the brain and psychology have no value.  So then you start to use the so-called principles of the "other" to get what you want and you want those things from simple psychological ( and egocentricitic ) reasons.

In case I lost you (and this is where I wished I had the vocabulary of a Leonard Cohen) I will illustrate.  If you deconstructed what the Taliban want, it would come to this. They want to have sex with many women, even very young girls and they want those girls to be totally loyal to them. They want to dominate other people ( not just women) and have them severe them. Part of that domination is keeping people ignorant. Ignorant people are much easier to enslave. That is why Ken Ham doesn't want you to send your kids to college. I could go on an on. But it is no coincidence that God spoke to Joseph Smith and told him that he should take multiple wives, the younger the better.

I remember sitting in this very remote, oasis, village in the mountains of Oman. The group of about 20 houses clustered around a deep wadi and spring, where they could grow some wheat and raise some sheep.  One household (of women and children) invited me in for tea, dates and bread.  As we were eating, we were trying to figure out who each person was in the household.  The master was not at home. The six women were his four wives, one of his wives' mothers and even an ex-wife. She had no place to go so she was still living there after the divorce.

I asked the ex-wife why he had divorced her. She said that Islam only allows four wives and her ex-husband wanted to take a new wife. She pointed at this girl (looked like she was 10 but was made up to look like an adult) who was his most recent acquisition. The ex-wife I was speaking to must have been in her forties (but looked much older under the parching sun).

I asked her how she felt about being replace by a very young girl.  Tears started building up in her eyes and running down her cheek. She wiped them quickly with her sleeve, (in Arabic of course) she said, "Oh, I am delighted because this is God's will. Her husband was a very noble man and only took the young girl ( remember to have sex with) as his wife because he wanted to honor God and if the girl was left without a husband her whole family would be dishonored."

So, while Islam is centered around a God who is just (without compassion) they live in practice and promote a horrible, egocentristic injustice.  To quickly get a sense of this cultural injustice, I suggest that you do a read (would take about 2 hours at most) of Craig Thompson's graphic novel Habibi . That book will also introduce you to the some of the beauty of Islamic art.

So, I, by no means, am saying that American, evangelical culture is more just. If you take Christianity's history as a whole, when they were even more dualistic back in the Dark Ages, Christian atrocities were even worse than the Taliban.

I may be back to add more . . . or maybe not.


Jaimie said...

Big fan of Craig Thompson's after reading BLANKETS. I have had HABIBI in my wish list for a year now. After this recommendation I will push it up. :)

JakeJustus said...

I just found your it. I really "get" it. I can't wait to read and comment some more this week. And I read Habibi last year and was very impressed. His artwork and imagery really brings the context of the story to life. Cheers and Jesus bless!!!

jmj said...

Yeah Jake, Habibi is beautiful and tragic at the same time . . . kids in a cruel world.

Anonymous said...

I found it surprising that you would use the Taliban and their attitudes toward women and people in general as a reason that you are not Muslim. I have absolutely no personal experience with Taliban memebers, but I have no reason to doubt that you are probably right about their desire to have sex with young girls and so forth, but would that also be true about Muslim men in general? I kind of doubt that, but as I said, I've not personally been around any Muslims.

jmj said...

Anonymous, I'm sorry you misunderstood the point I was trying to make. I have to take the blame for not being more clear. The Taliban have nothing to do, as a movement or group, with the reason I'm not a Muslim. I agree with you that they are an extreme oddity within Islam. It is easiest to represent a point when you use the most extreme example of that point . . . that is the only reason I name-dropped them.

Anonymous said...

OK, thanks, I'll reread the piece keeping that in mind.