The following is a personal impression, a point for discussion, on which I will happily be corrected.

All religions contain contradiction and paradox.  This is true of life in general, but religious people are particularly adept at explaining away the more troubling teachings.  A mild cognitive dissonance becomes a normal and acceptable state of mind when reading the scriptures.

Still, one reason I am a Christian and not a Muslim is that the key figure of my faith, Jesus Christ, is so uncompromisingly good.  Even in his anger there is love and in his judgements there is compassion.  He did not favour one people group above others.

Islam has a teaching of ‘abrogation’ to explain earlier contradictions, however Muhammad appears to have become only more warlike in later life (for further reading see here).  In contrast Jesus reinterprets the more troubling verses of the Old Testament in clearly peaceable terms (eg Matthew 5:43-48).  His example holds the key difference between the 2 faiths.

Islam aspires to peace.  Yes I believe it does.  A peace that would come through the establishment of a universal law and set of beliefs. A glorious and much-longed-for ideal of unity under Allah.  Perhaps not so different in the hearts of believers to our Christian prayer ‘Lord let your Kingdom come’.  I can only imagine how desperate this longing becomes in the hearts of Muslims who have experienced persecution, marginalisation and injustice.

But it is this very aspiration which makes it terrifyingly easy to justify the destruction of those who refuse to embrace the system.  How else can the only hope, the glorious plan of God, be established, except by removing those who oppose it?

In contrast Jesus leaves no doubt as to whether the end justifies the means: ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’ (Matt 5:44-45)   He is all about loving others whatever the circumstances, even if it brings us pain.   It is how we live right now that indicates whether we are truly ‘sons of our Father in heaven’.   And loving those who are against us is the only recipe for peace.  (Which is not to say we should not sometimes use force to oppose evil.  We can still love, and not hate; we can still regret and mourn the situation).

I know that most Muslims are normal peace loving human beings.   And I would welcome a firm rebuttal of any wrong impressions that I have of Islam.  What I am saying here is that if I was a Muslim I would be deeply troubled by the ease with which my scriptures could be used to justify terrible things, as a necessary means to a glorious end.  And I wonder if my own good nature would be the main source of my restraint more than the teachings of my faith.  I imagine my conscience would strive against the scriptures as I try to submit to them.  And my cognitive dissonance would reach new heights.  It would especially trouble me that ISIS can so easily claim the authority of the Koran for their evil deeds – for example with verses such as Surah 9:5.

But as I have said, all religions hold paradox.  Many troubling verses can be found in the Old Testament, and in the name of honesty I must admit that I have been unsettled at times by the earlier scriptures of my own faith.

Which is why I return again and again to Jesus who brings such clarity and peace.  He is the hope for us all, and I am encouraged to know that Islam itself nudges it’s followers towards Jesus/Isa. The way is open for Muslims also to study the words of Jesus and to discover that these words of peace have not been changed since before Muhammad’s own time.   And even long before that the book of Isaiah prophesied his coming, which we remember at Christmastime:

For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:5-7, 8th Century BC

 

 

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