Chrislam and friendship between Christians and Muslims

This article was published in the St.Catharines Standard.

Recently, I was told by a critic that I am a “Chrislamist”. Not sure exactly what the term meant, I did a little research. First I discovered that I am not the only one so accused. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California, recently responded to similar accusations. He pointed to Proverbs 14:15, which states, “Only a fool believes all that he hears.” Amen, to that.

What is “Chrislam”? The essential idea is that Christianity and Islam are compatible, that one can be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time. Chrislamists don’t claim to have a new and separate religion; they just blur the distinctions between Christianity and Islam. Advocates view Chrislam as a solution to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, as well as the political tension between the Western world and Islam. Some suggest that the two largest monotheistic religions have similar teachings on morals, and the need for the two to stand united against the onslaught of modern atheism.

While there are undeniable similarities, there is an all important question that divides Christianity and Islam, “Who is Jesus and what did Jesus do?” To Gospel believers the identity and work of Jesus Christ is crucial.  Christ’s deity is non-negotiable, for without it, His death on the cross is insufficient to put away the sins of the entire world. Here is the Christian Gospel in a nutshell. Jesus is God from God, entering the human race to show humankind who God really is, and to erase human shame and sin by His death and resurrection. The different view on Jesus is what separates.

As I see it, the real problem and the real danger among Christians is Islamophobia, and recently, “Chrislamophobia”. Any Christian, who seeks friendship or dialogue with Muslims, is branded. This is very different from what we see in the early Christian history. The apostle Paul is on record of having such faith in Jesus Christ that he did not need to speak against other religions; speaking for Jesus Christ was enough to get the job done.

In an effort to keep Christianity pure, some preachers quickly go on the attack, criticizing anyone who befriends Muslims. It is not hard to see why I am a suspect. In my book, My Muslim Friends, I make a clear case for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while advocating dialogue and mutual respect towards Muslims. The book explains why I conduct “Friendship Dinners” with clerics of other religions. Yet, to some Christians such activity is suspect. One person approached me recently, saying, “Peter, I like every other book you have written, but I refuse to read the one about friendship with Muslims”. I countered by explaining how the book focuses on Jesus Christ, offering it for free, but to no avail. The man didn’t want to even consider another viewpoint.

Preachers who warn against Chrislam often state that anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ is an Anti-Christ. Others go much further. Remember the Florida pastor and his thirty or so parishioners, who had their fifteen minutes of fame for “burning the Quran”. It should be noted that the media co-operated by providing the zealous pastor all the publicity he could ever have wanted. Ultimately this incident led to the death of several American soldiers, as militant Muslims responded in violence.

I am not a Chrislamist, but neither am I supporter of a bunker mentality type of Christianity, that hides itself in a theological fortress, firing Bible bullets at anyone who disagrees. When Christians and Muslims meet in friendship, it doesn’t mean that either side is compromising. Being interested in others and listening to others doesn’t constitute a reneging on your own faith. On the contrary, an unwillingness to listen could be an indication of insecurity in one’s own beliefs.

The Quran contains more than 90 references to Jesus, calling him the Messiah, the Word, sinless, a healer and Judge. That’s more than faith in Jesus Christ than many ministers of the United Church of Canada or Anglican bishops exhibit. Just this week I spent three days speaking in a large Anglican compound in the Middle East. Recently I showed a short clip from a Hollywood movie to illustrate a point in a sermon. Neither of these activities were to show my support for everything The Anglican Church or Hollywood stands for. Similarly, when I meet with Muslims, it is not an indication of anything, except that I believe in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in all worlds. Let’s stop the phobias. I believe the Gospel is the most fantastic message in the world: Come on Christians, we have nothing to be afraid of.

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