Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why are Christians So Afraid of Muslims?

I can perhaps understand why secular or anti-religious people would fear Islam. It can appear to be fearsome, monolithic and intransigent. Strong, single-minded faith is always perplexing to people who have none. But I am stunned that so many Christians seem to be swept away by the anti-Muslim tide. I am particularly perplexed that Evangelical Christians are frequently in the forefront of opposing mosques or (shudder) burning the Koran. From an Evangelical standpoint this amounts to, if nothing else, attacking one’s own mission field—at the very least a foolish and destructive thing to do. But there is more to it than that. I wonder—why should Christians be as afraid of Muslims as Muslims evidently are afraid of them?

Sociologist Rodney Stark has argued in his numerous books that the Christian Church has always been strongest when it has faced a challenge. It grew amidst the hostility of the Roman Empire and entrenched paganism. It flourished when it was forced to clearly define itself and live out of its unique and powerful convictions about the nature and purposes of the God of Israel and Jesus Christ, Messiah and Lord. Stark suggests that when the church lacked the challenge of opposition and the necessity of clear self-definition it became flaccid, colorless, and empty. The challenge of the Reformation made the Catholic Church clearly define itself and clean up accumulated abuses. The challenge of varied denominations and traditions made the smaller Protestant churches more effective in mission. It was religious competition, Stark argues, that made the church in the United States strong when the state churches of Europe were shrinking. The challenge of the other made the church pay closer attention to its identity and mission.

The presence of Muslims or Hindus or any other religious tradition in a given area is no threat to the churches of Jesus Christ. These varied traditions can bring out the best in the church by forcing it to identify differences and challenges and pursue new ways of witness and welcome. I would suggest that the fact that most Muslim countries marginalize the Christian Church it or keep it out entirely is a sign that Muslims fear Christian witness and lack confidence in their own tradition and own people. Does the Christian Church in the United States really want to follow the same path? I think not. We have nothing to fear from the “competition” of Muslims. Rather than protesting the mosques, we should welcome them with open arms, with the compassion and generosity of Christ, and with genuine love. I find anti-Mulsim sentiments among Christians extraordinarily repugnant and terribly sad.

John E. Phelan , Jr.


  1. A loud amen from the back pew.

  2. The problem with that idea is that Jesus condemns anyone who does not believe that He is the only source of truth. Muslims do not believe in Jesus, nor do they believe that salvation is by grace and not of works that no man may boast. We can't accept the Muslim faith as equally true with the Christian faith, because the beliefs of the Muslims contradict what is taught in the Bible.

    Christians shouldn't be spewing hatred at Muslims; rather we need to be sharing the Gospel of Christ with them.

  3. Lauren - with all due respect - Jesus never claims to be the only source of truth. He is the truth. A full incarnation of the truth, radiant with the Father's glory. He said that God can only be approached as Father through him. Muslims do believe in Jesus, but not his divinity.

  4. Good i think that as a muslim christians are afraid of muslims but they don't understand taht they are needed and that the church is teaching false prophesy i bealive that yes we as muslims are afraid of christians converting us but not as much as christians are afraid that islam will one day dominate.

  5. What do you mean when you say "They are needed and the church is teaching false prophesy"?

    You should be careful with what you say as that is why extremism emerges and intolerance succeeds.
    Muslims certainly don't like it when muhammad is depicted or portrayed as a false prophet, or islam is violent and intolerable (which many verses may justify such), but rather question your book, for the same reason you have for saying "the Church is teaching false prophesy" (a statement one can only make after witnessing what every church teaches) people release videos online demonstrating why islam is teaching false prophesy, thus causing mayhem around the world.

    Instead try to understand that they same way, you believe your religion right, others do so as well, and therefore all religions are right and no religion deserves greater or lesser benefits. That is the idea of freedom of religion.