A “Betrayal of Islam”? Or Its “Commonest and Noblest Work”?
…the Turk’s Koran, or creed, teaches him to destroy not only the Christian faith, but also the whole temporal government. His Mohammed, as has been said, commands that ruling is to be done by the sword, and in his Koran the sword is the commonest and noblest work. Thus the Turk is, in truth, nothing but a murderer or highwayman, as his deeds show before men’s eyes…
…Who would not rather be dead than live under such a government, where he must say nothing about his Christ, and hear and see such blasphemy and abomination against Him? Yet it takes such a powerful hold, when it wins a land, that people even submit to it willingly. Therefore, let everyone pray who can pray that this abomination may not become lord over us and that we may not be punished with this terrible rod of God’s anger…
…I think…that neither emperor nor princes believe themselves that they are emperor and princes. For they act as though it lay with their own judgment and pleasure whether they would rescue and protect their subjects from the power of the Turk or not; and the princes neither care nor think that they are bound and obligated before God to counsel and help the emperor in this matter with body and goods. Martin Luther, “On War Against the Turk”
LONDON | Thu May 23, 2013 6:58am EDT
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron said the brutal killing of a soldier who was hacked to death in London by two men shouting Jihadist slogans was a betrayal of Islam….
“This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam* that justifies this truly dreadful act.”
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton, editing by Stephen Addison)http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/23/us-britain-killing-cameron-islam-idUSBRE94M0EZ20130523
Really, who gave political officials the authority to pronounce judgments on what is or isn’t an authentic expression of a religion’s piety or theology?
How did David Cameron get to be an authority on Islam?
How did newspaper columnists and TV anchormen become trusted authorities on what is permitted by Islam and what is a betrayal of it?
Many Muslims think it is a betrayal of Islam if a Muslim taxi driver permits someone into his taxi with alcohol; others think it is a betrayal of Islam if a woman fails to wear a hijab in public (i.e. cover her hair.) Could you ever imagine David Cameron, President Obama, or Bill O’ Reilly or whoever going on the record to declare that failures to wear a hijab are a “betrayal of Islam?”
No, they only make these statements when Muslims give incontrovertible evidence that Islam, or at least quite a few of its adherents, are implacable enemies of Western values or virtues like religious tolerance or non-violent resistance to injustice. These values and virtues are often either explicitly Christian or have roots in Christian doctrine and morals.
Cynicism suggests that this is because Western leaders in government and media hate their ancestors and Christianity and want to destroy every memory of either.
“All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall”
But that’s probably not right. It’s probably more that, no longer rooted in Christianity, the West has forgotten (or rejected) the doctrine of original sin, although we have not completely forgotten some Christian virtues–mercy, love for enemies, etc. But virtues without Christ are like chips of stained glass broken out of a pane.
Believing that people are basically good at heart, or at least not believing that they are born evil, the West finds it too painful to distinguish between good and evil. Because Europeans have frequently done evil or killed the innocent because they were sure that they were in the right and that God was on their side, they now are unable to bring themselves to fight against a foreign culture and religion that has no such doubts.
Spiritual and Temporal Authority—the Lost Protestant Doctrine
This self-doubt and willingness to turn the other cheek is part of Christ’s teaching. But the Protestant Reformation–particularly the Lutheran Reformation–rightly recognized that while this is appropriate for private individuals, it is disastrous for rulers and governments (and probably for any calling God gives Christians on earth.) If the Reformers and the princes who accepted the Reformation had allowed Jesus’ commands to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, not judge, and so on, to prevent rulers from fighting wars, executing criminals, and maintaining courts of law, the Reformation (along with society in those regions that accepted the Reformation) would have collapsed. Princes in Protestant lands had to maintain armies and fight for the right to proclaim the pure Word of God in their churches–whether against “the murderous Pope [or] Turk”. If instead of executing or otherwise punishing those guilty of capital crimes they simply absolved them, the states in which the Reformation was introduced would have quickly collapsed.
I think that’s what’s really behind our political leaders’ and media’s insistence, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, that every act of jihadist terrorism is a “betrayal” of Islam, the “religion of peace.”
It’s not that they are purposely trying to pull the wool over our eyes. I think it’s because the vestiges of Christian faith and morality remaining in the Western cultural psyche, being isolated from the other articles of the faith and thus perverted–make our leaders just as blind as they try to make us.
When the Blind Lead the Blind, Both Fall Into a Pit
They simply cannot permit themselves to believe that human beings are born evil and corrupt and remain so apart from the grace of God. This makes it necessary for civil government to judge and punish wrongdoing, even though there is a risk in doing so that we may not judge and punish according to the justice of God but according to our own prejudice. In fact it is a certainty that this will happen. Much sin remains even in those who have the Holy Spirit, as Luther repeatedly pointed out. It’s impossible to carry our any vocation on earth without much sin, failing, and foolishness. This is a fallen world. It is under the sentence of condemnation and is simply waiting for the condemnation to be carried out on the final day.
Being Born That Way Doesn’t Make it Right
If you understand that human beings are evil, you understand that what comes naturally to people is evil–good things put to evil ends. When people do what they feel, what comes naturally to them, what seems right, they do evil.
Only people who have a false understanding of human nature put a lot of stock in the way people feel and what they intend, or the fact that they “can’t help it.” People doing what feels right, or what they can’t help doing, do evil all the time. They may be born in a religion that teaches them to kill in God’s name, or that teaches them that it is permissible to hate wrongdoers instead of showing them mercy. They may be born in a culture that tolerates sexual abuse or homosexuality, or a culture that doesn’t see anything wrong with bribery or nepotism. Consumerism may seem natural to them. So may gluttony, or drunkenness, or taking half the day off each day to chew qat. It’s normal in the United States to drive everywhere, but the vast majority of scientists agree that this seemingly innocent lifestyle choice–one which is chosen for us, in many respects, by cultural and historical forces beyond our control–will add to climate change that will have catastrophic effects on all the people living on earth.
If you understand that human beings are evil, it follows that the government has to judge between good and evil and punish the evil and call it evil. It has to risk making errors and doing injustice because it believes enough in what it holds to be true and good as to be willing to punish what opposes the true and the good. Otherwise, if we insist that all cultures and religions are equally right, then ultimately the culture or religion which is least willing to tolerate others will prevail and its faith and morality will dominate. Saying, “This is true for me, but something else may be true for you,” simply means that you don’t really believe that strongly in ‘your truth.’ It’s certainly the case that those who believe that their faith is the truth for everyone will hear “this is true for me” talk as an acknowledgment that you are unsure whether it’s true at all. If it’s really true for you, it’s true for everyone.
If you’re really sure it’s true, you will be willing to spill blood for it. Your blood, or the blood of others.
Western Ideals (or Western Idols) Being Shown Up by Muslims
As a Lutheran pastor, I would normally say this in a slightly different way in bible class or when teaching 13-year-olds Luther’s Small Catechism. I would say, “What you fear the most and love the most, what you trust in the most—that is really your god.” Your god is the thing that you are most afraid to lose or to anger. Your god is what you love the most, and what you trust in to take care of you now and forever.
If David Cameron really believes that Western ideals like freedom and self-determination and religious tolerance are the greatest things we have, then he will show it by being less willing to risk those things than to risk the wrath of leftists and Islamic advocacy groups.
Whether or not Islam Commands Terrorism is Irrelevant
Whether or not the killing in the UK is permitted by Islam or is a betrayal of Islam is ultimately irrelevant. We deplore it not because it betrays Islam, but because we are convinced that it is simply wrong and because it violates the laws of our land. If it does not betray Islam, we still deplore it, because it is wrong for a citizen of the United Kingdom to slay a UK soldier on UK soil out of allegiance to a religion or another nation. It’s called “treason.”
We need to be able to say, “If Islam advocates rebellion against lawful government and authority by citizens, if it advocates extrajudicial murder and terrorism, then Islam is wrong. In those things, at any rate. And faithfulness to Islam in those things will not be tolerated here.” If we are unwilling to say that, then we concede that as long as extrajudicial murder and treason are not contrary to Islam, Muslims in the U.K. and the U. S. are not subject to the law of the land. We agree that Islam is a higher authority than the laws and values in our countries.
If this killing is faithful to Islam, David Cameron and Barack Obama and the citizens of their respective countries have to come to terms with the fact that every Muslim living within their countries is an enemy combatant, or is required to be by their religion. And if such an action is really a betrayal of Islam, as Cameron claims, it nevertheless remains the reality that there are many Muslims who see themselves as saboteurs or assassins or covert operatives within enemy borders as they live in Western nations.
Thus it is necessary politicians to say, “Whether or not such a killing is faithful to Islam, it is contrary to our law, and our law is just. Therefore we don’t care whether or not it is faithful to Islam. It is not tolerated here.” It is necessary for writers and reporters not to constantly repeat what we wish was true about Islam, but to give people something like a clear picture of whether or not Islam actually does permit this kind of violence. Just because we can’t fathom it doesn’t mean Islam doesn’t teach it , and just because we’ve gotten used to the idea of the separation of religious authority from political power doesn’t mean that other religions are bound to operate the same way.
Since When Do We Care Whether Religion is Compatible with Western Values?
Leaders in the media and in government have no problem saying this to Christians.
The glaring example is homosexual marriage. Here is the narrative that the kids are taught each day by the television: Homosexuality is normal. Homosexuals don’t choose their orientation. It’s just who they are. Therefore their relationships should be treated no differently than marriage between a woman and a man. Yes, for thousands of years human beings have agreed that two people of the same sex can’t be married, but people in the past believed all kinds of things that were not true. The only reason why homosexuals aren’t allowed to get the rights of marriage now is because some fundamentalist Christians are against it because the Bible says it’s wrong in some places. But the Bible shouldn’t be the law of the land, because there is a separation between church and state.
Never mind that this argument rests on a bunch of untrue or unproven assertions. The point is that our society is more than willing to say, “Look, we don’t care whether marrying homosexuals is a betrayal of Christianity or faithful to it. We’re just doing it because it’s the right thing to do, and if Christianity doesn’t agree with it, you’re free to believe whatever you want, but we don’t acknowledge Christianity as the judge of our laws and our values.”
President Obama has never tried to assert that opposition to homosexual “marriage” is a “betrayal of Christianity.” It doesn’t matter because Christianity is not our state religion. Americans don’t worry about whether or not opposition to homosexuality is “really Christian” or “a betrayal of Christianity”. Regardless of what is the truly Christian view, if the majority of people are in favor of gay marriage, it will happen. If that means people hate Christians and regard them as pariahs, oh well. Even as we speak, the legislature of the state of Illinois is still trying to pass a bill permitting homosexual marriage, even though it must be nearly half of the state (and the state legislature) which professes to be Roman Catholic.
Yet our leaders feel compelled to apologize for Islam every time there is a terrorist attack. They insist that every terrorist attack is un-Islamic, even as the attacks over the last 12 years have by no means slowed their pace.
Worry about Betrayals of Your Country Instead
Rather than worrying about what is or isn’t a betrayal of Islam, Cameron and other leaders in the west should concern themselves with what is or isn’t a betrayal of the Enlightenment’s patrimony to which they are heirs, which emphasizes the separation of church and state, religious tolerance, individual rights, fair trials, and so on. Most of us are grateful for that tradition–even orthodox Christians who lament other results of the enlightenment, such as the de-Christianization of western people.
But, wittingly or unwittingly, Western leaders like Cameron risk betraying those values. By insisting that it is impossible that Islamic doctrine and morality could ever be at cross purposes with the values of the West, they are in danger of betraying Western values to supposed “betrayers of Islam” like the bloody-handed UK killer.
Whether or not that man with the red hands betrayed Islam, I am not completely sure–although I suspect he did not. At any rate, the depth of his commitment toward Islam–whether its observance or its betrayal–is not in question. A dead man on the street, his bloody hands, and a police bullet in his body are all witnesses. If Cameron and Obama and citizens of the UK and the US are as committed to democratic, Enlightenment values as jihadis are to Islam, they and we will need to be ready to have similar witnesses. That’s what it will take. No society or civilization ever survived long without shedding blood. Relatively good societies in this fallen world can’t avoid shedding blood any more than those which are evil.
Turning the Other Cheek—A Lousy Strategy for Government
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (St. Matthew 5:38-41)
This is surely one of the most beautiful teachings of Jesus, and one that illustrates most clearly the difference between Islam and Christianity. As the killer said, “It is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone.” How different Christ is! But He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (St. John 18:36). Jesus was well aware of the fact that turning the other cheek was no way to become king in this present age, the claims of the so-called scholars at the Jesus Seminar notwithstanding. He said as much to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate: “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (St. John 18:36). The meek will inherit the earth (St. Matthew 5:1-9), but not until after they come out of their graves at the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus is speaking to individuals, not governments. A government that does not resist an evil person is betraying its citizens.
The Kingdom of God was won by submitting to the hostility of enemies. The King of that Kingdom, the Son of God and the Son of Man, established His kingdom by being condemned and slain on the gibbet of the cross. But that is a different kind of kingdom—not earthly, but spiritual. Earthly kingdoms are established by shedding the blood of others. The Kingdom of God was established by the King shedding His own blood to make atonement for the sins of Adam and his descendants, who, though they were born corrupt and fallen, Jesus made His brothers when He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin. The citizens of His Kingdom also must take up their cross and follow Him before they enter into the kingdom they are to inherit. They must bear the arms of their Lord—suffering, humility, love for enemies, reproach, curses.
But the kingdoms of this world are won and kept and maintained with the sword. And the king (or the Queen’s Prime Minister, or the Congress of the United States) is “God’s minister” (as the King James Bible puts it) either to commend those who do good or to punish evildoers. With death, when necessary. And it will be necessary, for good kings just as well as bad ones.
If the leaders of the west are unwilling or unable to bear the sword, then someone else will. Someone like the bloody-handed jihadi explaining to a cell phone camera what the media and our leaders won’t—that all religions are not the same:
The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. And this British soldier is one. It is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the Shari’a in Muslim lands? Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you lot are extreme. You are the ones that when you drop a bomb you think it hits one person? Or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family? This is the reality. By Allah if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs. This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur’an, in Sura At-Tawba, through many ayah in the Qu’ran, we must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today but in our lands women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments, they don’t care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? No, it’s going to be the average guy, like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so can all live in peace. So leave our lands and we can all live in peace. That’s all I have to say. [in Arabic:] Allah’s peace and blessings be upon you.
If we weren’t so estranged from our history, we could have learned this in a much less painful way. But we still seem to have not learned the lesson yet. Maybe this latest attack will help our leaders start to look at Islam for what it is instead of what we want it to be. Then maybe we can draw on the wisdom of the centuries of Europeans who had to deal with “betrayals of Islam” like this latest one in London repeatedly for over a thousand years.
… the Turk’s Koran, or creed, teaches him to destroy not only the Christian faith, but also the whole temporal government. His Mohammed, as has been said, commands that ruling is to be done by the sword, and in his Koran the sword is the commonest and noblest work.
Thus the Turk is, in truth, nothing but a murderer or highwayman, as his deeds show before men’s eyes….never has any kingdom come up and become so mighty by murder and robbery as that of the Turk; and he murders and robs every day, for it is commanded in their law, as a good and divine work, that they shall rob and murder, devour and destroy more and more those that are round about them; and they do this, and think that they are doing God service. Their government, therefore, is not a regular rulership, like others, for the maintenance of peace, the protection of the good, and the punishment of the wicked, but a rod of anger and a punishment of God upon the unbelieving world, as has been said. The work of murdering and robbing pleases the flesh in any case, because it enables men to gain high place and subject everyone’s life and goods to themselves; how much more must the flesh be pleased when this is a commandment, as though God would have it so and it pleased Him well! Therefore among the Turks, too, they are held the best who are diligent to increase the Turkish kingdom and who are constantly murdering and robbing round about them.
This second thing must follow out of the first; for Christ says, in John 8:44, that the devil is a liar and murderer. With lies he kills souls, with murder bodies. If he wins with a lie, he does not take a holiday and make delay, but follows it up with murder. Thus when the spirit of lies had taken possession of Mohammed and the devil had murdered men’s souls with his Koran and had destroyed the faith of Christians, he had to go on and take the sword and attempt the murder of their bodies. The Turkish faith, then, has not made its progress by preaching and the working of miracles, but by the sword and by murder, and its success has been due to God’s wrath, which ordered that, since all the world has a desire for the sword and robbery and murder, one should come who would give it enough of murder and robbery.
…For this reason I said above that Charles, or the emperor, should be the man to fight against the Turk, and that the fighting should be done under his banner.…the emperor must truly see himself with other eyes than heretofore, and you must see his banner with other eyes….You must see on the banner the commandment of God that says, “Protect the good; punish the bad.” Tell me how many there are who can read this on the emperor’s banner, or who seriously believe it. Do you not think that their consciences would terrify them, if they saw this banner and had to own that they were greatly guilty before God on account of their failure to give help and protection to their faithful subjects? Dear fellow, a banner is not simply a piece of silk; there are letters on it, and on him who reads the letters luxury and banqueting should pall.
Martin Luther, On War Against the Turk (1529)
- Muslims condemn savage attack on British soldier (religionnews.com)
- The Promise of Islamic Betrayal (beowulfjournal.wordpress.com)
- Please don’t #BlameTheMuslims (culturalkinetics.wordpress.com)
- Woolwich: David Cameron’s dangerous delusions about Islam (jeff-goodall.com)
- Radical Preacher Blames ‘Murdering’ British Troops… (ibtimes.co.uk)
- ‘Islam is not a monolith’ – Mohsin Hamid (loomnie.com)
- Al-Shabaab tweets about Woolwich: ‘It’s inevitable’ (itv.com)
- London attackers of Nigerian origin: Adebolajo aka ‘Mujahid,’ or “warrior,” Cameron Ignores Reality (riehlworldview.com)
- British soldier hacked to death in suspected Islamist attack – Reuters (reuters.com)