Monday, January 09, 2006
Façade of Muslin Unity Threatens Schism
Unlike Christianity in America, Christianity in his home country suffers from actual persecution. (In America, persecution of Christianity is a fiction used to fuel talking heads.) Christians are a small minority, about 10 percent of the population. But despite, or perhaps because of the persecution, it is growing quite rapidly in that country.
Here are excerpts from the Wikipedia article on religious persecution in his country:
- the government has banned usage of the (…) -language Bible and (…) language Bible, both known by the name "al-kitab". The reason for the ban is that both books use the term Allah for God. However, there is no closer translation from the original Hebrew since both Allah and the Hebrew word for God come from the same Semitic root. Other Christian materials in the (…) language have been banned at various times.
Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of The Christ was restricted in 2004. Officially, the movie was open to Christians only. Attendance was discouraged since tickets were not carried by the usual box offices. Christian groups such as the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship arranged block bookings of cinemas and distributed tickets to various churches. An initial run of two-months was extended, making it appear doubtful that only Christians viewed the picture.
(I deleted the references identifying the country because the bishop plans to return there and I've not discussed this writing with him.)
Most of the Christian sects in that country claim to have the only truth. They claim that adherents to others sects will go to hell. This infighting in the Christian community keeps the religion from taking full advantage of recent easing of persecution and restrictions. It hampers efforts to spread the gospel. And, of course, it runs counter to the idea that all believers in Christ are part of the "body of Christ," as expressed by St. Paul.
The bishop then went on to talk about Islamic unity, hidden divisions, and some of the implications.
He compared the state of Islam today to Christendom before the Reformation. Of course, in Christian nations before the reformation, adherents to other religions were persecuted, just as Islamic nations often persecute non-Muslins in those countries. Before the Reformation, the Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church were two sides of one monolithic religion. In Islam, we see two sects, Shi'ah and Sunni; though they are often in conflict.
The bishop has become convinced that Islam is no more unified in practice than Christianity. He cited an Islamic author who wrote recently on the subject (don't remember the name - sorry.) But tradition decrees a façade of unity, a fiction that all Muslins regard themselves as brothers and sisters. The resulting tension between practice and avowed tradition, between the pretend unity and actual diversity, has produced what the author called "dishonesty" in Islam. Christianity confronted and dealt with similar "dishonesty" when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg's Castle Church in 1517.
So, from the bishop's point of view, Islam's development lags Christianity by about 500 years. That religion is ripe for a “Reformation” of its own. We may live long enough to see it.
GOD INITIATED ONE WAY.
HIS NAME IS JESUS.
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