Archive for Koran

Karen Armstrong: Islamophobia: We need to accept the ‘other’

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Islamophobia: We need to accept the ‘other’

A decade after 9/11, the West seems more bitterly divided from the Muslim world than ever. In Afghanistan, there’s been a violent explosion of anti-Western sentiment after last month’s Koran burning at a U.S. base and the slaughter of 17 Afghan civilians by an American soldier two weeks ago. But this hatred is not confined to distant parts of the globe. We’re witnessing a surge of virulent Islamophobia in Europe, especially in the Netherlands and some parts of Scandinavia. And sadly, this seems to have crossed the Atlantic.

In 2002, a survey of Canadian Muslims by the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations found that 56 per cent of respondents had experienced at least one anti-Muslim incident in the 12-month period since 9/11. Mosques or mosque construction sites in Ottawa, Montreal, Hamilton, Waterloo and Vancouver have been targeted by vandals. In January, anti-Islamic graffiti were spray-painted on the walls of the Outaouais Islamic Centre in Gatineau, Que. – the third such attack in four months.

These hate crimes are committed by a small minority, of course. But unfortunately, on both sides of the divide, extremists set the agenda. The news media, for example, inform us of terrorist attacks but don’t give much coverage to those Muslim leaders who regularly condemn them. Between 2001 and 2007, Gallup conducted a massive survey representing the views of more than 90 per cent of the world’s Muslim population. When asked if the 9/11 attacks were justified, 93 per cent of respondents said they weren’t – basing their arguments on religious grounds. This finding wasn’t widely reported and could, therefore, make no impression on the widespread view that Islam is an inherently violent faith.

This belief is deeply engrained. It dates back to the Crusades, when Western Christians were fighting holy wars against Muslims in Syria and Palestine; their brutal ferocity stunned the people of the Near East. Even though Islam had a far better record of tolerance than Christianity at this time, European scholar-monks depicted Islam as a fanatical religion of the sword that was violently opposed to other faiths. They were, perhaps, projecting buried anxiety about their own behaviour onto their victims – Jesus, after all, had told his followers to love their enemies, not to exterminate them.

As Europeans fought their way out of the Dark Ages, Islam, a great world power that dwarfed Christendom for centuries, became their shadow self, arousing in them the same kind of complicated resentment as the United States inspires in some regions today – an image of everything that they were not (or feared obscurely that they might be). This distorted image of Islam became one of the received ideas of the West.

During the 12th century, anti-Semitism also became a chronic disease in Europe. It seemed absurd to the Crusaders to travel to the Middle East to liberate Christ’s tomb when the people who had killed Jesus – or so the Crusaders mistakenly believed – were alive and well on their very doorsteps. Those who couldn’t go on Crusade would often do their bit by attacking Jewish communities at home. Jews were said to kill Christian children and use their blood to make matzo at Passover. This image of the Jew as child-slayer, representing an almost Oedipal fear of the parent faith, persisted well into the modern period and regularly inspired pogroms in Europe. Without a thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe, the Holocaust would have been impossible.

We now know what can happen when unexamined prejudice is allowed free rein. 9/11 was a terrible crime. But if it has stained the reputation of Islam, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have equally tainted the image of the West. Islamophobia is also a violation of essential Western values: tolerance, liberalism and egalitarianism. Founded on fear and ignorance, it also flies in the face of Western rationalism. We have created a global market in which, whether we like it or not, we’re interconnected as never before. If we want a peaceful, stable and sustainable world, we have to learn to live with those we instinctively regard as “other.”

Karen Armstrong, a historian of religion and founder of the Charter for Compassion, received Simon Fraser University’s Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue last week.

What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (III): Saint Ambrose’s Holy War Against Infidels

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Note: This article is page III of a series on the Christian just war tradition.  If you haven’t already, might I suggest that you first read page I (the introduction) and page II (about the early Church).  

Saint Ambrose (Fourth Century)

The relationship between Christianity and imperialism traces itself all the way back to the early Church fathers who enlisted themselves as “prayer warriors” for the Roman armies (read page II: Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?).  However, even though they prayed for the success and preservation of the Pax Romana, the early Christians felt uncomfortable serving as soldiers in a largely pagan military.

This changed with the conversion to Christianity of Rome’s emperor, Constantine the Great (272-337 AD).  Wim Smit writes on p.108 of Just War and Terrorism:

With the reign of Constantine (306-337) and the acceptance of Christianity as the state religion, the attitude of most Christians towards military service changed. The question no longer was: can service to God be reconciled with service to the emperor, but what kind of conditions and rules should be satisfied during battle? This revolution in Christian thought started with Ambrose…and was later systematised by his pupil Augustine (354), who can be seen as the founder of the just war tradition.

Saint Ambrose (340-397 AD) served as a Roman imperial officer and sought to justify the Empire’s wars.  Prof. Christopher Tyerman writes on p.33 of God’s War:

The conversion of Constantine and the final recognition of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire in 381 prompted the emergence of a set of limited principles of Christian just war which, by virtue of being fought by the Faithful, could be regarded as holy. The identification of the Roman empire with the church of God allowed Christians to see in the secular state their protector, the pax Romana being synonymous with Christian Peace. For the state, to its temporal hostes were added enemies of the Faith, pagan barbarians and, more immediately dangerous, religious heretics within the empire. Eusebius of Caesarea, historian of Constantine’s conversion, in the early fourth century reconciled traditional Christian pacifism with the new duties of the Christian citizen by pointing to the distinction between the clergy, immune from military service, and the laity, now fully encouraged to wage the just wars for the Christian empire. Ambrose of Milan (d. 397), as befitted a former imperial official, consolidated this symbiosis of the Graeco-Roman and Christian: Rome and Christianity were indissolubly united, their fates inextricably linked. Thus the war of one was that of the other, all Rome’s wars were just in the same way that those of the Old Testament Israelites have been; even heresy could be depicted as treason. Ambrose’s version of the Christian empire and the wars to protect it which constituted perhaps the earliest formulation of Christian warfare was, therefore, based on the union of church and state; hatred of foreigners in the shape of barbarians and other external foes; and a sharp intolerance towards dissent and internal debate, religious and political.

The term “barbarian” comes from the Greek word barbaros, meaning “anyone who is not Greek.”  The Romans expanded the word to refer to anyone outside of the Greco-Roman world.  It was thought that the “civilized world” referred to the Roman Empire, which was surrounded by “barbarians.”  Prof. Glen Warren Bowersock writes on p.334 of Late Antiquity:

The term barbarian[ was] derived from Greek ideals of cultural “otherness”…The image of barbaricum began at the frontiers…There was the idea of a wall around the empire, separating Rome from the other gentes [nations]…Every “good” emperor set up inscriptions of himself as domitor gentium barbararum [conqueror of the barbarian nations]…Barbarians were contemptible, unworthy enemies…Many stereotypes were simply ethnocentric [racist]…Barbarians were natural slaves, animals, faithless, dishonest, treasonable, arrogant, drunken sots…

Christians were not detached from the construction of these images…Some, like Ambrose, projected barbarians as drunks and faithless savages…

The pax Romana had to be “defended” against these “barbarians,” something which was done by conquering their lands.  This imperial mentality was, from the very start, accepted by Christianity.  The early Church fathers, for example, believed that “God ordained the imperial powers” to “advanc[e] the gospel;” they appreciated “the value of a Pax Romana maintained by force.”  The “barbarians” surrounding the Roman Empire threatened not just the state, but also the Church; their paganism and heresy was a threat against true belief.  Therefore, war against them had to be justified.  Who better to justify this than the former imperial officer Ambrose of Milan?  Prof. Frederick H. Russell writes on p.13 of The Just War in the Middle Ages:

The fuller development of a Christian just war theory was futhered in the writings of Ambrose, a new kind of Christian. Trained in imperial administration and the former prefect in Milan, Ambrose brought a Roman political orientation to his ministry…The courage of soldiers who defended the Empire against barbarians…was full of justice, and Ambrose prayed for the success of imperial armies.

Prof. Russell writes further:

To the Roman animosity toward the barbarian was added the element of religious animosity between believer and unbeliever, thus rendering the internal and external threats to the Pax Romana more politically explosive. To point the way out of this crisis Ambrose about 378 the De Fide Christiana for the Emperor Gratian, who was at the time attempting to consolidate Roman authority on the Danube after the defeat of the Arian Valens by the Visigoths. Ambrose assured Gratian of victory, for it had been foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel and confirmed by Gratian’s faith. Ambrose even identified Gog, the wicked enemy of Ezekiel’s prophecies, with the contemporary Goths, who were thereby destined to destruction.

The just war theory was thus generated as a way “to point the way out of this crisis,” the crisis being the need “to consolidate Roman authority.”  More specifically, civil wars and rebellions within the Empire were to be forbidden, whereas Rome’s foreign wars to be justified.  Indeed, the emerging doctrine was to be applied to fellow Christians in order to prevent themselves from fighting each other when they could be fighting the infidel instead.  Prof. Alex J. Bellamy writes on p.24 of Just Wars:

Ambrose was the first thinker systematically to blend Christian teachings with Roman law and philosophy (Johnson 1987:54). He followed Cicero in acknowledging the possibility of justifiable wars and recognizing the difference between abhorrent civil wars and wars fought against barbarians (Swift 1970:533-4). Wars against barbarians, Ambrose argued, were legitimate because they protected both the empire and the Christian orthodoxy.

Ambrose, the first thinker behind the just war theory, justified his belief in two ways: (1) He was inspired by the wars in the Old Testament, and (2) He argued that Jesus’s non-violent teachings in the New Testament applied only to individuals but not to states.  Prof. Bellamy writes:

Ambrose argued that there were two grounds for justifying war. First, he found evidence in the Old Testament to support the view that not only was violence sometimes justified in order to protect others from harm, it was sometimes required on moral grounds or even directly commanded by God (Swift 1970:535). Second, Ambrose agreed dthat Jesus’ teaching forbade an individual from killing another in self-defence…Nevertheless he argued that whilst an individual may not kill to save himself, he must act in the defense of others…

Ambrose argued that “wars could only be fought in self-defense (broadly understood, as in the Roman tradition), when directly commanded by God, or in defence of religious orthodoxy”(Ibid.).  He ”demanded that the state should not tolerate any religion other than Christianity” (p.112 of Ralph Blumenau’s Philosophy and Living).  Heretics and pagans should be fought, both within and outside the Empire.

Ambrose melded the Church to the state’s powerful military.  ”Ambrose proposed that the incorporation of nails from the Cross into the imperial helmet and bridle symbolised Christianity’s support for enduring secular military authority” (p.77-78 of Prof. Michael Witby’s Rome at War).  He ”used Christianity to uphold imperial power” (Ibid.), but also used the imperial power to uphold Christianity.  The Church provided the state with the religious justification for war.  The Church, in return, benefited from these wars by using the state to enforce the faith and punish “barbarians” (pagans and heretics). Prof. Mary L. Foster writes on p.156 of Peace and War:

Ambrose, former praetorian prefect and then bishop of Milan (339-397)[ was] the first to formulate a “Christian ethic of war.” He drew upon the Stoics, particularly Cicero (106-43 B.C.), and legitimized the view by referring to holy wars spoken of in the Old Testament from Abraham and Moses to Maccaebus. Ambrose further justified the view by arguing that Christianity was, and must be, protected against the barbarians by the armed force of the Roman Empire. Both Augustine and Ambrose saw the Christian Empire as empowered to resist paganism and heresy.

For Ambrose, wars fought against pagans and heretics were, by definition, just: “if a Christian general fought a pagan army, he had a just cause” (Prof. Joseph F. Kelly on p.164 of The World of the Early Christians).  In fact, the machinery of the state should be used to conquer the world under the banner of Christianity.  Prof. Reinhard Bendix writes on p.244 of Embattled Reason:

Ambrose justified war against those who do not belong to the community of the faithful [pagans and heretics]…Warlike actions are justified [against the non-believer]…The goal of Ambrose was to establish a universal faith. All people should be brothers in the common, Christian faith, even if wars against non-believers were needed to accomplish this ideal…

Discrimination against pagans was justified in the eyes of Christian Fathers like Ambrose by the absolute belief in Christ as the only road to salvation. Accordingly, it is man’s religious duty to proclaim, and fight for, this truth in the whole world. Ambrose wrote his commentary decades after Christianity had become the dominant religion of the Roman world, recognized and supported publicly. With this support, Ambrose could presuppose a universal ethic based on a shared belief in [the Christian] God and on that basis fight in the name of the church against the heathens who were still the great majority [outside of the Roman Empire].

Ambrose declared an all-out war against paganism, and recruited the Roman emperors to do so.  ”No one was more determined to destroy paganism than Ambrose,” who was “a major influence upon both [Emperors] Gratian and Valentinian II” (Ted Byfield on p.92 of Darkness Descends).  In a letter addressed to the Roman emperor, Ambrose wrote:

Just as all men who live under Roman rule serve in the armies under you, the emperors and princes fo the world, so too do you serve as soldiers of almighty God and of our holy faith. For there is no sureness of salvation unless everyone worships in truth the true God, that is, the God of the Christians, under whose sway are all things. For he alone is the true God, who is to be worshiped from the bottom of the heart, ‘for the gods of the heathen,’ as Scripture says, ‘are devils.’ (Ibid., p.93)

Here, we see a reciprocal relationship emerging between the Church and Roman state.  The Church legitimated Roman wars to expand the Empire and protect its hegemony, so long as the state enforced the Christian religion by fighting against heretics and pagans.

Jews, for example, were infidels worthy of death.  James Carroll writes on p.104 of Jerusalem, Jerusalem that Ambrose “wanted to kill Jews (since, after all, Christian heretics were being killed for denying details of orthodoxy, while Jews rejected the whole of it).”

Prof. Madeleine P. Cosman writes on pp.262-263 of the Handbook to Life in the Medieval World (Vol.3):

The church’s attitude toward war would indelibly be changed by Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and the so-called Edict of Milan (313), which recognized Christianity as a religion that could be practiced openly; church and state could now be conjoined in the same cause. A momentous meeting in the year 397 of Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan (d. 397), and the emperor Gratian resulted in the declaration of Christianity as the official state religion and the concomitant outlawing of other “pagan superstitions.” Church leaders began to encourage rulers to wage a holy war on pagans for the sake of God and the church to defend the empire from heretical “traitors.”

There is much discussion, even in some scholarly circles, about “just war” vs. “holy war.”  I have read countless books where Western authors write of how it “was only during the Crusades that the Christians developed the concept of ‘holy war’ like the Islamic concept of jihad.”  These are all bogus discussions.  Quite clearly, the Christian just war tradition was the legitimization of “a holy war on pagans” from its very inception.  This is the case starting with the originator of the doctrine itself, Saint Ambrose, who harnessed imperial power to promote the Christian faith, a partnership that would outlast the Roman Empire itself.

*  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer:

None of this is meant to characterize Christianity as inherently violent.  Rather, it is meant to disabuse people of the notion that Christianity’s just war tradition has been any less troublesome than Islam’s jihad tradition.  This article is part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, which answers the question (answered incorrectly by most Americans): Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (II): Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2011 by loonwatch

Note: This article is page II of a series on the Christian just war tradition.  If you haven’t already, might I suggest that you first read page I (the introduction): What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (I) 

The First Three Centuries (0-313 A.D.)

It is often argued that Jesus Christ (7–2 BC to 30–36 AD) preached pacifism and that this was the stance of the early Church.  According to this standard narrative, the Church “fell from Grace” with the conversion of Constantine and it was only then that pacifism was abandoned.   Such conventional wisdom, however, is not very accurate.

As for Jesus of the Bible, a closer analysis shows that he was not opposed to violence (see: Jesus Loves His Enemies…And Then Kills Them All).  He was (basically) non-violent during his lifetime, all the way up until he was nailed to the cross.  At that time, Jesus was not in a position of authority, power, or capacity to do otherwise.  He was at the mercy of his enemies.

However, in the Bible itself Jesus promises to kill all his enemies when he returns.  At that point in time, he would no longer be a persecuted preacher but a “Warrior King” commanding large armies of both heavenly and earthly beings.  How can it then be said that Jesus of the Bible believed in pacifism?  His use of non-violent means was temporal and tactical, not principled and value-based.

It hardly matters what people do when they are not in a position to do otherwise.  It is once they are in a position of power and authority that what they do really matters.  Imagine, for instance, if the Dalai Lama practiced non-violence while his people were still under Chinese authority but at the same time he issued proclamations that he would wage war against the Chinese and kill all their leaders once his country is liberated.  Would anyone think of him as pacifist if this were the case?

As for the early Church, the characterization of it as pacifist is also problematic.  Modern scholarship has moved away from this outdated conception.  For example, Prof. James Turner Johnson, considered “one of the most influential contemporary interpreters of the [just war] tradition today,” notes that the “evidence presents a picture not of a single doctrine [within the early Church], but of plurality; not of universal rejection of war and military service, but of a mixture of acceptance and rejection of these phenomena in different sectors of the Christian world” (p.17 of Johnson’s The Quest for Peace).

There was no one view among early Church fathers with regard to war and military service.  Instead, the evidence suggests that there existed a multitude of views on this issue, a fact that “challenges the conventional view of the early church [as uniformly pacifist]” (Prof. J. Daryl Charles on p.108 of War, Peace, and Christianity).  Prof. James Turner Johnson, Prof. J. Daryl Charles, and many others have argued the point that even those Church fathers who were opposed to military service were so not because of a principled belief in pacifism but (1) because they believed the return of Jesus to be imminent and (2) because being a part of the pagan Roman military would involve idolatry.

Prof.  J. Daryl Charles notes that the early Church’s abstention from military service was due to “the predominance of a conspicuously otherworldly expectation–the expectation of the coming of Christ’s kingdom” and the “rejection of idolatrous practices within the Roman army” (Ibid., pp.109-110).  Neither reason could be used to support a principled belief in pacifism.  As for the first reason, this implies that the early Church was not opposed to the use of violence, only that they were waiting to use it upon Christ’s return (an event they believed would occur imminently, even in their own lifetimes).  If, for example, the Tamil Tigers abstained from violence until their leader was released from jail, would anyone believe this to be support for pacifism?

Furthermore, this “otherworldly” attitude applied not just to military service but to all “worldly matters.”  They were in a state of “praying continually, watching and fasting, preaching to all they could reach, paying no heed to worldly matters, as things with which they had nothing to do, only accepting from those whom they taught as much as was absolutely necessary for life” (p.86 of Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones’ The Church of England, Vol. 1).  They did not involve themselves in matters of state at all, including but not limited to military service.  One cannot equate this to a belief in pacifism any more than it would mean a rejection of governance.

In other words, just because early Christians did not believe that they themselves should not participate in such functions did not mean they thought it was wrong for others to do so.  For example, many Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel enroll in religious schools and are thus exempted from military service.  As religious students and rabbis, they believe that their lives should be dedicated to Jewish studies and many expect the rest of society to support them.  But even though they themselves refuse to serve in the military, many of them strongly support the Israeli military and indiscriminate violence against Palestinians.  When other Israelis criticize them as chickenhawks for refusing to serve in the military (even as they push Israel to perpetual war), the standard response by these Ultra-Orthodox Jews is that they serve the IDF in a religious capacity: they pray for the military’s success.  No rational person would have the temerity to say that these Ultra-Orthodox Jews are pacifist.  They might not want to go to war themselves, but they are certainly not opposed to it.

Likewise, the early Church was not opposed to war or the Roman military itself; they just didn’t want any “worldly” function in it themselves.  The Church fathers actually prayed for the success of the Roman military in its imperial wars against “barbarians.”  Here, we see the emergence of a theme that emerged with the early Church and sustained itself throughout Christian history:  the support for European imperialism.  Prof. Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez writes on p.78 of The Encyclopedia of Religion and War:

In fact, numerous Christian writers in the first three centuries already affirmed that God ordained the existing imperial powers, including their coercive functions, for maintaining order, restraining sin, and advancing the gospel. The injunction of Paul to “be subject to the governing authorities” whose authority has been “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1-7 NRSV; cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17) was echoed in the writings of Justin, Tertullian, and Origen (185?-254?). Each author acknowledged the benefits of Roman order as part of God’s plan and assured the authorities of Christian support and prayers.

Prof. Palmer-Fernandez goes on to say that “these early writers were also expressing appreciation for the value of a Pax Romana maintained by force.”

The Church fathers saw themselves very much in the same way that Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel see themselves, and as pagan Roman priests in that time also did.  Prof. Darrell Cole writes in a section entitled “Fighting Through Prayer” in his book When God Says War is Right:

The Christian pacifism movement claims Origen (A.D. 185-254) as a hero, but it’s hard to decide whether the term “pacifist” can truly and fairly be applied to him, at least in the way we think of it today. To modern ears, pacifism means the complete rejection of warfare as an inherently immoral practice. This was not Origen’s view, though he was certainly opposed to Christians becoming soldiers.

The only work where Origen was concerned with Christian participation in warfare is the polemical Contra Celsum written in response to a Roman philosopher named Celsus…[He argued] that all Christians should be give the same considerations as those in the pagan priesthood who were not required to give physical service in the military, but instead served the cause by praying for the emperor and the soldiers to triumph in battle.

[Origen wrote:] And, of course, in war time you do not enlist your priests. If this is a resonable procedure, how much more so is it for Christians to fight as priests and worshipers of God while others fight as soldiers. Though they keep their right hands clean, the Christians fight through their prayers to God on behalf of those doing battle in a just cause and on behalf of an emperor who is ruling justly in order that all opposition and hostility toward those who are acting rightly may be eliminated. (VIII.73)

Moreover, Origen added, Christians supplied an irreplaceable aid to the emperor. By overcoming in prayer the very demons that cause wars, Christians actually help more than soldiers.  So even though Christians did not go on campaign with the emperor, they did go to battle for him “by raising a special army of piety through our petitions to God” (VIII.73).

This support and prayer for Rome’s military was at a time when the imperial armies were ever expanding the Empire’s borders.  During this time, the Roman Empire was involved in many wars: in the first three centuries A.D., Roman legions conquered lands in modern day Germany, Britain, Wales, Scotland, Romania, etc.   Also included in these conquests (and prayed for by the Church) was the conquest of parts of the Middle East.

The early Christians remained passive participants in the military effort not for long.  In fact, the “evidence…is fairly strong that from A.D. 170 onward there were significant members of Christians in the [Roman] army, and ‘the numbers of these Chrisitans began to grow, despite occassional efforts to purge Christians from the army [by the Romans], through the second and third centuries into the age of Constantine. We may estimate the number of Christian soldiers at the beginning of the fourth century in the tens of thousands’” (p.112 of Prof. J. Daryl Charles’ War, Peace, and Christianity; he is quoting Johnson’s The Quest for Peace).

Once Constantine converted to Christianity, the early Christians no longer faced the barrier to military service they once had: they no longer needed to fear indulging in the pagan practices of the military.  Furthermore, by this time, the Church had realized that Jesus Christ may not be coming back as soon as they thought.  As such, it is no surprise that soon afterward Christian theologians would formally tackle the issue of war.  Is this not a strong indication that it was the issue of paganism, not a principled adherence to pacifism, that compelled the early Church to be so uneasy with military participation?

*  *  *  *  *

According to the “fall from Grace” theory, the Church suddenly changed its views about pacifism with the conversion of Constantine.  If this were really the case, then the question arises: of what relevance is early Christianity’s supposed pacifism during a time when it was not in a position of power?  What does it say about such a belief if, the moment Christianity assumed power, this “pacifism” was suddenly abandoned for a policy of imperialism?

The truth is that there wasn’t a sudden reversal of opinion, but rather a gradual development of an idea that had already taken root with the early Church.  With the Christianization of the Roman Empire, the West’s imperial power and Christianity would formally fuse together.  It would be, as we shall see, a bond that would endure the test of time.

*  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer:

As I mentioned in the introduction, my intention is not to demonize the entire faith of Christianity.  There exists no shortage of Christians today who endorse pacifism and oppose America’s unjust wars in the Muslim world.  Such people have my utmost respect.  If some of them base their pacifism in their belief that the early Church was pacifist, I don’t see any reason to expend energy trying to set the record straight.  I only chose to address this issue since some anti-Muslim Christians forced my hand by continually arguing this point (the early Church was pacifist, look how peaceful our religion is compared to Islam, etc.).

Having said that, I don’t think pacifist Christians should think any of this should stand in the way of their pacifist beliefs.  As I mentioned earlier, the early Church fathers seemed to differ among themselves.  Anti-military views certainly existed, and even if one cannot find clearly principled pacifism, this is still a starting point that the modern-day Christian can draw on.

Furthermore, I think people of all religions–Jews, Christians, and Muslims–would be a whole lot better off if they didn’t feel the need to validate their beliefs by looking at how their religion was practiced in a mythical “golden age” of the past.  This very much limits freedom of thought and religious interpretation.  What is needed are new, more merciful and compassionate readings of the text.

By knowing the reality of one’s tradition, reformist believers will be better equipped to deal with the arguments raised by right-wing followers who will bring up a lot of the same points I brought up to justify their beliefs.  See, for instance, this article by none other than “Dr.” Robert Morey.  Reformist, liberal adherents of religion will be in a stronger theological position if they base their views in fact instead of myth.  Instead of always needing to validate your beliefs by citing some guy who lived hundreds of years ago, why not just use a much simpler line of argumentation like the following:

The early Church had a mixed view with regard to war, with a portion of them rejecting military service.  After reflecting on the issue myself, I tend to be on the pacifist side.  My own reasons might not be the exact same as those held by earlier Christians, but there is much overlap.  Furthermore, I don’t need to be 100% beholden to their views.

Simple.

To be continued…

What I Bet You Didn’t Know About the Christian Just War Tradition (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 11 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

It is common to hear comparisons between  the so-called “just war tradition” in Christianity and the jihad of Islam.  We are told that Jesus of the New Testament was non-violent and that the early Church was pacifist.  According to this standard narrative, it was only with Constantine that the Church “fell from Grace” and accepted a very limited concept of defensive war, one that sought to limit, restrain, and constrain war.  We are told that the violent acts committed by Christians throughout history were done in contradiction to this doctrine.

Many Westerners seem to be under the impression that we can draw a straight line from the ancient Greeks to St. Augustine to Thomas Aquinas to Hugo Grotius to modern international law.  This very selective, cursory, and incomplete understanding of history creates a very “generous” depiction of Christian tradition.  Once this mythical and fabricated history is created, it is compared to the jihad tradition of Islam.  No such “generous” depictions of Islamic tradition are harbored; if anything, the most cynical view possible is taken.

Such an unfair comparison–coupled with a completely Western perspective on contemporary world affairs–begs the question: why is Islam so violent?  Why is the Islamic tradition so much more warlike than the Christian one?

Many right-wing Christians and even secular people of the “Judeo-Christian tradition” exhibit a great deal of religious arrogance, especially when it comes to this subject.  Repeatedly, we are told to compare the supposedly peaceful Christian just war tradition with the allegedly brutal Islamic jihad tradition.

Occasionally, Christian polemicists have some level of shame and recognize that the history of Christianity has been marred by war and violence: the Crusades, the ethnic cleansing of the Americas, and the colonial enterprise come to mind.  We are assured, however, that these occurrences were “in direct contradiction” to official church doctrine.  This is what career Islamophobe Robert Spencer argues, for instance, in his book Islam Unveiled.  This is, we are told, completely unlike the Islamic offenses throughout history, which were supposedly in line with traditional Islamic thought.

In this article series, I will prove that this understanding of the Christian just war tradition is mythical, fanciful, and misleading.  Throughout history, there were serious shortcomings to the Christian understanding of just war–both in matters of jus ad bellum (the right to wage war) and jus in bello (right conduct during war).  Specifically, just war doctrine was restricted to Christians and Europeans.  Its constraints simply did not apply to “infidels”, “pagans”, “heathens”, “barbarians”, and “primitives”.  The Christian just war tradition was not just exclusivist but through-and-through racist.

One could reasonably argue that such a critique suffers from a modern bias: using contemporary standards to evaluate pre-modern societies is not something I generally encourage.  Yet, if we insist on critiquing historical Islam based on such standards, then surely we should be willing to apply the same to Christianity.

Additionally, this shortcoming–the lack of application of the just war principles to infidels–is hardly a tertiary issue.  Instead, it lies at the very heart of the comparison that is continually invoked between Christianity and Islam.  One could only imagine, for instance, the reaction of anti-Muslim critics if the dictates of war ethic in Islam were applicable to fellow Muslims only.  Had this been the case, such a thing would not be seen as a mere “shortcoming” but indicative of the “Islamic supremacist attitude.”  This wouldn’t be understood as something that could be relegated to a footnote or a few sentences buried somewhere deep in a huge text (which is the case with books talking about the Christian just war tradition).  Instead, pages and pages would be written about the injustices of the Islamic principles of war.

This double standard between believer and infidel, were it to exist in the Islamic tradition (and it does, to an extent), would become the focus of discussion.  But when it comes to the Judeo-Christian tradition, such things are relegated to “by the way” points that are minimized, ignored, or simply forgotten.  Western understandings of the Christian just war tradition create a narrative by cherry-picking views here and there to create a moral trajectory that is extremely generous to that tradition.  Meanwhile, Islamic and Eastern traditions are viewed with Orientalist lenses, focusing on the injustices and flaws (particularly with regard to religious minorities).  This of course may be a result of a primarily Eurocentric view of history: how did their war ethic affect people that were like me?

Yet, if we wanted to extrapolate an overarching theme of the Christian just war tradition, it would have to be this: the Christian just war tradition did not limit war (as is commonly argued) but instead, for the most part, served to justify the conquest and dispossession of indigenous populations.  This was not merely a case of misapplying or exploiting doctrines.  Rather, the doctrines were themselves expounded in a way so as to facilitate such applications.  Many of history’s famous just war theorists were generating such theories to provide the moral arguments to justify colonial conquest.  The tradition was more about justifying wars than about limiting violence to just wars.  The Christian acts of violence throughout history were not in spite of Church doctrine; they were more often than not because of it.

Why is it that, even in some scholarly books, the Christian just war tradition towards fellow believers is compared to the Islamic attitudes towards war with unbelievers?  Either the Christian treatment of Christians should be compared to the Islamic treatment of Muslims, or alternatively the Christian treatment of infidels should be compared to the Islamic treatment of the same.  It is the unfair comparison between apples and oranges that serves to reinforce this warped understanding of the matter.

*  *  *  *  *

An error we must avoid is conflating the modern-day just war doctrine with the historical Christian just war tradition.  Although St. Augustine laid down some principles that, through a long process of evolution, found themselves in today’s doctrine, it should be noted that Augustine’s views of just war were, by today’s standards, extremely unjust.  One must compare this proto-doctrine with what was practiced in traditional Islam, instead of retroactively superimposing the modern concept of just war onto Augustine.

Indeed, “one of the most influential contemporary interpreters of the [just war] tradition today, James Turner Johnson, goes so far as to say that to all intents and purposes, ‘there is no just war doctrine, in the classic form as we know it today, in either Augustine or the theologians or canonists of the high Middle Ages. This doctrine in its classic form [as we know it today], including both a jus ad bellum…and a jus in bello…does not exist before the end of the middle ages. Conservatively, it is incorrect to speak of classic just war doctrine existing before about 1500″ (Prof. Nicholas Rengger on p.34 of War: Essays in Political Philosophy).

In other words, for 1500 years–roughly seventy-five percent of Christian history–there was no real just war doctrine. Shouldn’t this fact be stated when comparing Christian and Islamic traditions?  The just war doctrine–as we know it today–arose during a time when the Christian Church’s power was waning, hardly something for Christians to boast about.

And even after that–lest our opponents be tempted to use this fact to their advantage (that the Christian world distanced itself from the Church unlike in the Islamic world)–the just war doctrine that was established continued to be applied, from both a doctrinal standpoint and on-the-ground, to only Christians/Europeans.  This continued to be the case in the sixteenth century and all the way through the nineteenth century.

It was only for a fleeting moment in the twentieth century that just war doctrine became universal.  It is an irony that in no other century was just war theory so horrifically violated, and this by the Western world (with the United States dropping two atomic bombs on civilian populations).

This brings us to the situation today: Jewish and Christian neocons and extreme Zionists in the United States and Israel are leading the charge against the just war doctrine, trying to use legal means to change it to accommodate the War on of Terror.  Many of our opponents are the most vociferous proponents of doing away with such quaint principles as just war, at least when it comes to dealing with Muslims.

Is it this fleeting moment in Christian history, in which for a fraction of a second the just war doctrine really existed, that our opponents use to bash Muslims over the head with?

*  *  *  *  *

The standard meme among Islamophobes–and wrongfully accepted by the majority of Americans–has been that Islam is exceptionally violent–certainly more violent than Judaism and Christianity.  When we look at the scriptural sources, however, this does not bear out: the Bible is far more violent than the Quran (see parts 123456-i6-ii6-iii6-iv789-i, and 9-ii of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.)

Among the many other “fall back” arguments used by our opponents, we are reassured that Judaism and Christianity have “interpretive traditions” that have moved away from literal, violent understandings of Biblical passages–altogether unlike Islam (so we are told).  Robert Spencer writes on p.31 of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):

When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent action against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretive traditions that have moved away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretive tradition. The jihad passages in the Qur’an are anything but a dead letter.

The Islamophobes then temporarily move away from quoting the scriptural sources but instead focus on comparing (1) the traditional interpretations of the canonical texts, and (2) the modern-day understandings of said texts.  In both respects, we are told, the Judeo-Christian tradition is more peaceful than the Islamic one.

In the previous article series (entitled Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?), I addressed the Jewish side of “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”  [Note: That article series is being modified before the last couple pages will be published.  I have decided to take reader input and mellow it out quite a bit, i.e. remove the images, change the title, etc.]  I proved that both traditional and contemporary Jewish understandings of the scriptural sources could hardly be used to justify the argument against Islam.

But when it comes to such matters, it might be more important to address the Christian side of the coin.  Considering that Christians are in the majority in this country, it is more common to hear right-wing Christians invoke bellicose comparisons between their faith and Islam.  Robert Spencer, an anti-Muslim Catholic polemicist, relies on this comparison routinely.

In order to shield himself from possible “counter-attack,” Spencer uses an interesting argument.  In a section entitled “Theological Equivalence” in his book Islam Unveiled, Spencer writes:

When confronted with this kind of evidence [about Islam’s violence], many Western commentators practice a theological version of “moral equivalence,” analogous to the geopolitical form which held that the Soviet Union and the United States were essentially equally free and equally oppressive.  ”Christians,” these commentators say, “have behaved the same way, and have used the Bible to justify violence.  Islam is no different: people can use it to wage war or to wage peace.”

I am one of these “Western commentators.”  Spencer cites ”the humanist Samuel Bradley” who noted that “Central America was savaged” because of “this country’s God.”  Bradley quoted “Spanish conquistador Pizarro” who slaughtered the indigenous population, by his own admission, only “by the grace of God.”

But, Spencer rejects such “theological equivalence,” arguing that Pizarro violated “the Just War principles of his own Roman Catholic Church.”  Spencer is not just arguing that the modern-day just war theory would prohibit the European conquest and dispossession of the Native Americans, but that even in the time of the conquest and dispossession itself the Church’s just war doctrine did.  He is arguing that the Christian acts of violence throughout history were “fundamentally different” than those committed by Muslims, since–according to him–the former were done against the just war doctrine of the Church, whereas the latter were endorsed by the Islamic religious establishment.

But, as I have argued above, this is patently false. The Christian just war tradition was used to justify the conquest and dispossession of the Native Americans, one of the greatest crimes in all of history.  In fact, these doctrines were formulated for that exact purpose in mind.

*  *  *  *  *

Disclaimer:

Naturally, as was the case with the article series on Jewish law, there is the chance of offending well-meaning and good-hearted Christians.  Let it be known, again, that nowhere am I trying to paint the entire Christian faith or community with a broad brush.  There exists no shortage of Christians who oppose war (especially America’s current wars in the Muslim world) and who advocate peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.

Critically evaluating religious traditions can be uncomfortable, but the problems therein should not be ignored nor should we pretend they don’t exist.  Honest evaluations of the past can be the key to coming up with more tolerant answers for the present and future.

I have already discussed some of the problems with the Jewish tradition.  This article series deals with the Christian tradition.  Rest assured, however, that a future article series of mine will take a critical look at the Islamic tradition as well.  However, because Islamophobia has become so rampant and pervasive in our culture, I do not think that this should be done before we first look at the problems inherent in the Judeo-Christian tradition that our society is based on.  Once that is done, we can then look at the Islamic tradition from a more nuanced, balanced, and helpful perspective.  This is the purpose of this somewhat controversial article series.

To be continued…

Update I:  A reader pointed out that I made many claims above but did not back them up with proof.  I should clarify that this page is just the introductory piece to the article series and simply states what I will prove.  It is just a statement of my thesis; the proof to back the thesis up is still to come–hence, the “to be continued…

The Qur’an May Have Reinforced Thomas Jefferson’s Commitment to Religous Freedom

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by loonwatch
Thomas_Jeffersons_QuranThomas_Jeffersons_Quran

There is a frequent attempt by Islam bashers to say that Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Qur’an was due to the dispute with Barbary Pirates in 1780. This excellent article written by Sebastian R. Prange puts that idea to rest,

Sifting through the records of the Virginia Gazette, through which Jefferson ordered many of his books, the scholar Frank Dewey discovered that Jefferson bought this copy of the Qur’an around 1765, when he was still a student of law at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. This quickly refutes the notion that Jefferson’s interest in Islam came in response to the Barbary threat to shipping. Instead, it situates his interest in the Qur’an in the context of his legal studies—a conclusion that is consistent with his shelving of it in the section on jurisprudence.

We also learn that Jefferson knew of Islam and the Qur’an from a work “closer to hand” titled, Of the Law of Nature and Nations by Samuel Von Pufendorf,

The standard work on comparative law during his time was Of the Law of Nature and Nations, written by the German scholar Samuel von Pufendorf and first published in 1672. As Dewey shows, Jefferson studied Pufendorf’s treatise intensively and, in his own legal writings, cited it more frequently than any other text. Pufendorf’s book contains numerous references to Islam and to the Qur’an. Although many of these were disparaging—typical for European works of the period—on other occasions Pufendorf cited Qur’anic legal precedents approvingly, including the Qur’an’s emphasis on promoting moral behavior, its proscription of games of chance and its admonition to make peace between warring countries. As Kevin Hayes, another eminent Jefferson scholar, writes: “Wanting to broaden his legal studies as much as possible, Jefferson found the Qur’an well worth his attention.”

What is most interesting is the idea that the Qur’an may have reinforced Jefferson’s commitment to religious freedom,

But did reading the Qur’an influence Thomas Jefferson? That question is difficult to answer, because the few scattered references he made to it in his writings do not reveal his views. Though it may have sparked in him a desire to learn the Arabic language (during the 1770′s Jefferson purchased a number of Arabic grammars), it is far more significant that it may have reinforced his commitment to religious freedom. Two examples support this idea.

In 1777, the year after he drafted the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was tasked with excising colonial legacies from Virginia’s legal code. As part of this undertaking, he drafted a bill for the establishment of religious freedom, which was enacted in 1786. In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted his strong desire that the bill not only should extend to Christians of all denominations but should also include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

This all-encompassing attitude to religious pluralism was by no means universally shared by Jefferson’s contemporaries. As the historian Robert Allison documents, many American writers and statesmen in the late 18th century made reference to Islam for less salutary aims. Armed with tendentious translations and often grossly distorted accounts, they portrayed Islam as embodying the very dangers of tyranny and despotism that the young republic had just overcome. Allison argues that many American politicians who used “the Muslim world as a reference point for their own society were not concerned with historical truth or with an accurate description of Islam, but rather with this description’s political convenience.”

These attitudes again came into conflict with Jefferson’s vision in 1788, when the states voted to ratify the United States Constitution. One of the matters at issue was the provision—now Article vi, Section 3—that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Some Anti-Federalists singled out and opposed this ban on religious discrimination by painting a hypothetical scenario in which a Muslim could become president. On the other side of the argument, despite their frequent opposition to Jefferson on other matters, the Federalists praised and drew on Jefferson’s vision of religious tolerance in supporting uncircumscribed rights both to faith and to elected office for all citizens. As the historian Denise Spellberg shows in her examination of this dispute among delegates in North Carolina, in the course of these constitutional debates “Muslims became symbolically embroiled in the definition of what it meant to be American citizens.”

It is intriguing to think that Jefferson’s study of the Qur’an may have inoculated him—to a degree that today we can only surmise— against such popular prejudices about Islam, and it may have informed his conviction that Muslims, no less and no more than any other religious group, were entitled to all the legal rights his new nation could offer. And although Jefferson was an early and vocal proponent of going to war against the Barbary states over their attacks on us shipping, he never framed his arguments for doing so in religious terms, sticking firmly to a position of political principle. Far from reading the Qur’an to better understand the mindset of his adversaries, it is likely that his earlier knowledge of it confirmed his analysis that the roots of the Barbary conflict were economic, not religious.

It is amazing that today many in the Tea Party and the anti-Muslim Movement who claim the mantle of patriotism are in stark opposition to founding fathers such as Jefferson. What would those who seek to curtail religious freedom for Muslims have to say about this?

They have more in common with the anti-Federalists who wished to use Muslims as a symbol to further their own political ends.

Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

by Sebastian R. Prange, photography provided by Aasil Ahmad (Saudi Aramco World)

Oacing the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. stands the Jefferson Building, the main building of the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, with holdings of more than 140 million books and other printed items. The stately building, with its neoclassical exterior, copper-plated dome and marble halls, is named after Thomas Jefferson, one of the “founding fathers” of the United States, principal author of the 1776 Declaration of Independence and, from 1801 to 1809, the third president of the young republic. But the name also recognizes Jefferson’s role as a founder of the Library itself. As president, he enshrined the institution in law and, in 1814, after a fire set by British troops during the Anglo-American War destroyed the Library’s 3000-volume collection, he offered all or part of his own wide-ranging book collection as a replacement for the losses, commenting that “there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”

Among the nearly 6500 books Jefferson sold to the Library was a two-volume English translation of the Qur’an, the book Muslims recite, study and revere as the revealed word of God. The presence of this Qur’an, first in Jefferson’s private library and later in the Library of Congress, prompts the questions why Jefferson purchased this book, what use he made of it, and why he included it in his young nation’s repository of knowledge.

These questions are all the more pertinent in light of assertions by some present- day commentators that Jefferson purchased his Qur’an in the 1780′s in response to conflict between the us and the “Barbary states” of North Africa—today Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. That was a conflict Jefferson followed closely— indeed, in 1786, he helped negotiate a treaty with Morocco, the United States’ first treaty with a foreign power. Then, it was relations with Algeria that were the most nettlesome, as its ruler demanded the payment of tribute in return for ending semiofficial piracy of American merchant shipping. Jefferson staunchly opposed tribute payment. In this context, such popular accounts claim, Jefferson was studying the Qur’an to better understand these adversaries, in keeping with the adage “know thy enemy.” However, when we look more closely at the place of this copy of the Qur’an in Jefferson’s library—and in his thinking— and when we examine the context of this particular translation, we see a different story.

O rom his youth, Thomas Jefferson read and collected a great number of books, and a wide variety of them: The collection he eventually sold to the Library of Congress comprised 6487 volumes, ranging in subject from classical philosophy to cooking. Like many collectors of the time, Jefferson not only cataloged his books but also marked them. It is his singular way of marking his books that makes it possible to establish that, among the millions of volumes in today’s Library of Congress, this one specific Qur’an did indeed belong to him.

The initials "T.J." were Thomas Jefferson's device for marking his books: On this page, the "T." is the printer's mark to help the binder keep each 16-page "gathering" in sequence, and the "J." was added personally by Jefferson.
The initials “T.J.” were Thomas Jefferson’s device for marking his books: On this page, the “T.” is the printer’s mark to help the binder keep each 16-page “gathering” in sequence, and the “J.” was added personally by Jefferson.

In the 18th century, the production of books was still an essentially manual process. By means of a hand press, large sheets of paper were printed on both sides with multiple pages before being folded. They were folded once to produce four pages for the folio size, twice to produce eight pages for the quarto or four times to produce the 16-page octavo. These folded sheets, known as “gatherings,” were then sewn together along their inner edges before being attached to the binding. To ensure that the bookbinders would stitch the gatherings together in the correct sequence, each was marked with a different letter of the alphabet on what, after folding, would become that gathering’s first page.

Thus, in an octavo volume like Jefferson’s Qur’an, there is a small printed letter in the bottom right-hand corner of every 16th page. It was Jefferson’s habit to take advantage of these preexisting marks to discreetly inscribe each of his books. On each book’s 10th gathering, in front of the printer’s mark J he wrote a letter T, and on the 20th gathering, to the printed T he added a J, thereby in each case producing his initials. This subtle yet unmistakable signature appears clearly on the two leather-bound volumes in the Library of Congress.

Jefferson’s system of cataloging his library sheds light on the place the Qur’an held in his thinking. Jefferson’s 44-category classification scheme was much informed by the work of Francis Bacon (1561–1626), whose professional trajectory from lawyer to statesman to philosopher roughly prefigures Jefferson’s own career. According to Bacon, the human mind comprises three faculties: memory, reason and imagination. This trinity is reflected in Jefferson’s library, which he organized into history, philosophy and fine arts. Each of these contained subcategories: philosophy, for instance, was divided into moral and mathematical; continuing along the former branch leads to the subdivision of ethics and jurisprudence, which itself was further segmented into the categories of religious, municipal and “oeconomical.”

Jefferson’s system for organizing his library has often been described as a “blueprint of his own mind.” Jefferson kept his Qur’an in the section on religion, located between a book on the myths and gods of antiquity and a copy of the Old Testament. It is illuminating to note that Jefferson did not class religious works with books on history or ethics—as might perhaps be expected—but that he regarded their proper place to be within jurisprudence.

Jefferson organized his own library, and he shelved religious books, including his English version of the Qur'an, with other works under "Jurisprudence," which  under "Moral Philosophy."
Jefferson organized his own library, and he shelved religious books, including his English version of the Qur’an, with other works under “Jurisprudence,” which fell under “Moral Philosophy.”

The story of Jefferson’s purchase of the Qur’an helps to explain this classification. Sifting through the records of the Virginia Gazette, through which Jefferson ordered many of his books, the scholar Frank Dewey discovered that Jefferson bought this copy of the Qur’an around 1765, when he was still a student of law at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. This quickly refutes the notion that Jefferson’s interest in Islam came in response to the Barbary threat to shipping. Instead, it situates his interest in the Qur’an in the context of his legal studies—a conclusion that is consistent with his shelving of it in the section on jurisprudence.

Jefferson’s legal interest in the Qur’an was not without precedent. There is of course the entire Islamic juridical tradition of religious law (Shari’ah) based on Qur’anic exegesis, but Jefferson had an example at hand that was closer to his own tradition: The standard work on comparative law during his time was Of the Law of Nature and Nations, written by the German scholar Samuel von Pufendorf and first published in 1672. As Dewey shows, Jefferson studied Pufendorf’s treatise intensively and, in his own legal writings, cited it more frequently than any other text. Pufendorf’s book contains numerous references to Islam and to the Qur’an. Although many of these were disparaging—typical for European works of the period—on other occasions Pufendorf cited Qur’anic legal precedents approvingly, including the Qur’an’s emphasis on promoting moral behavior, its proscription of games of chance and its admonition to make peace between warring countries. As Kevin Hayes, another eminent Jefferson scholar, writes: “Wanting to broaden his legal studies as much as possible, Jefferson found the Qur’an well worth his attention.”

” We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their
civil capacities.”

— From the Virginia Statute for
Religious Freedom, ratified 1786;
drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777

In his reading of the Qur’an as a law book, Jefferson was aided by a relatively new English translation that was not only technically superior to earlier attempts, but also produced with a sensitivity that was not unlike Jefferson’s own emerging attitudes. Entitled The Koran; commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed, it was prepared by the Englishman George Sale and published in 1734 in London. A second edition was printed in 1764, and it was this edition that Jefferson bought. Like Jefferson, Sale was a lawyer, although his heart lay in oriental scholarship. In the preface to his translation, he lamented that the work “was carried on at leisure time only, and amidst the necessary avocations of a troublesome profession.” This preface also informed the reader of Sale’s motives: “If the religious and civil Institutions of foreign nations are worth our knowledge, those of Mohammed, the lawgiver of the Arabians, and founder of an empire which in less than a century spread itself over a greater part of the world than the Romans were ever masters of, must needs be so.” Like Pufendorf, Sale stressed Muhammad’s role as a “lawgiver” and the Qur’an as an example of a distinct legal tradition.

This is not to say that Sale’s translation is free of the kind of prejudices against Muslims that characterize most European works on Islam of this period. However, Sale did not stoop to the kinds of affronts that tend to fill the pages of earlier such attempts at translation. To the contrary, Sale felt himself obliged to treat “with common decency, and even to approve such particulars as seemed to me to deserve approbation.” In keeping with this commitment, Sale described the Prophet of Islam as “richly furnished with personal endowments, beautiful in person, of a subtle wit, agreeable behaviour, shewing liberality to the poor, courtesy to every one, fortitude against his enemies, and, above all, a high reverence for the name of God.” This portrayal is markedly different from those of earlier translators, whose primary motive was to assert the superiority of Christianity.

In addition to the relative liberality of Sale’s approach, he also surpassed earlier writers in the quality of his translation. Previous English versions of the Qur’an were not based on the original Arabic, but rather on Latin or French versions, a process that layered fresh mistakes upon the errors of their sources. Sale, by contrast, worked from the Arabic text. It was not true, as Voltaire claimed in his famous Dictionnaire philosophique of 1764, that le savant Sale had acquired his Arabic skills by having lived for 25 years among Arabs; rather, Sale had learnt the language through his involvement in preparing an Arabic translation of the New Testament to be used by Syrian Christians, a project that was underwritten by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in London. Studying alongside Arab scholars who had come to London to assist in this work, he acquired within a few years such good command of the language that he was able to serve as a proofreader of the Arabic text.

It is thus not so surprising that Sale turned from translating the holy text of Christians into Arabic to rendering the holy text of Muslims into his native English. Noting the absence of a reliable English translation, he aimed to provide a “more genuine idea of the original.” Lest his readers be unduly daunted, he justified his choice of fidelity to the original by stating that “we must not expect to read a version of so extraordinary a book with the same ease and pleasure as a modern composition.” Indeed, even though Sale’s English may appear overwrought today, there is no denying that he strove to convey some of the beauty and poetry of the original Arabic.

An inscription inside the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. quotes Jefferson's 1777 statute on religious pluralism that inspired the constitutional right that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust."
An inscription inside the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. quotes Jefferson’s 1777 statute on religious pluralism that inspired the constitutional right that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.”

Sale’s aspiration to provide an accurate rendition of the Qur’an was matched by his desire also to provide his readers with a more honest introduction to Islam. This “Preliminary Discourse,” as he entitled it, runs to more than 200 pages in the edition Jefferson purchased. Fairly presented and conscientiously documented, it contains a section on Islamic civil law that repeatedly points out parallels to Jewish legal precepts in regard to marriage, divorce, inheritance, lawful retaliation and the rules of warfare. In this substantial discussion, Sale displays the same quality of dispassionate interest in comparative law that later moved Jefferson.

O ut did reading the Qur’an influence Thomas Jefferson? That question is difficult to answer, because the few scattered references he made to it in his writings do not reveal his views. Though it may have sparked in him a desire to learn the Arabic language (during the 1770′s Jefferson purchased a number of Arabic grammars), it is far more significant that it may have reinforced his commitment to religious freedom. Two examples support this idea.

In 1777, the year after he drafted the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was tasked with excising colonial legacies from Virginia’s legal code. As part of this undertaking, he drafted a bill for the establishment of religious freedom, which was enacted in 1786. In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted his strong desire that the bill not only should extend to Christians of all denominations but should also include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

This all-encompassing attitude to religious pluralism was by no means universally shared by Jefferson’s contemporaries. As the historian Robert Allison documents, many American writers and statesmen in the late 18th century made reference to Islam for less salutary aims. Armed with tendentious translations and often grossly distorted accounts, they portrayed Islam as embodying the very dangers of tyranny and despotism that the young republic had just overcome. Allison argues that many American politicians who used “the Muslim world as a reference point for their own society were not concerned with historical truth or with an accurate description of Islam, but rather with this description’s political convenience.”

“The style of the Korân is generally beautiful and fluent, especially where it imitates the prophetic manner, and scripture phrases. It is concise, and often obscure, adorned with bold figures after the eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions, and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent; of which the reader cannot but observe several instances, though he must not imagine the translation comes up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.”

— from “A Preliminary Discourse”
by George Sale

These attitudes again came into conflict with Jefferson’s vision in 1788, when the states voted to ratify the United States Constitution. One of the matters at issue was the provision—now Article vi, Section 3—that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Some Anti-Federalists singled out and opposed this ban on religious discrimination by painting a hypothetical scenario in which a Muslim could become president. On the other side of the argument, despite their frequent opposition to Jefferson on other matters, the Federalists praised and drew on Jefferson’s vision of religious tolerance in supporting uncircumscribed rights both to faith and to elected office for all citizens. As the historian Denise Spellberg shows in her examination of this dispute among delegates in North Carolina, in the course of these constitutional debates “Muslims became symbolically embroiled in the definition of what it meant to be American citizens.”

It is intriguing to think that Jefferson’s study of the Qur’an may have inoculated him—to a degree that today we can only surmise— ainst such popular prejudices about Islam, and it may have informed his conviction that Muslims, no less and no more than any other religious group, were entitled to all the legal rights his new nation could offer. And although Jefferson was an early and vocal proponent of going to war against the Barbary states over their attacks on us shipping, he never framed his arguments for doing so in religious terms, sticking firmly to a position of political principle. Far from reading the Qur’an to better understand the mindset of his adversaries, it is likely that his earlier knowledge of it confirmed his analysis that the roots of the Barbary conflict were economic, not religious.

Sale’s Koran remained the best available English version of the Qur’an for another 150 years. Today, along with the original copy of Jefferson’s Qur’an, the Library of Congress holds nearly one million printed items relating to Islam—a vast collection of knowledge for every new generation of lawmakers and citizens, with its roots in the law student’s leather-bound volumes.

My God is Better Than Yours (I): Christians Calling Muslims “Mohammedans” a Case of Pot Calling Kettle Black

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 9 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

The anti-Muslim ideologues argue that the prophet of Islam was uniquely violent as compared to prophets of other religions, especially Judaism and Christianity; this is an argument furthered in chapter one of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  Further, they argue that the holy book of Islam is uniquely warlike as compared to scriptures of other faiths, especially the Bible; Spencer argues this in chapter two of his book.

These claims are not well-founded, and we’ve thoroughly refuted them (see parts 1234567, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series).  Clearly, the Biblical prophets (MosesJoshuaSamson,SaulDavid, etc.) were more violent than the Prophet Muhammad; even Jesus, who promised to kill all his enemies, was no exception.  Similarly, the Bible is more violent than the Quran.

There is one specific manner in which the Biblical prophets and the Bible are to be considered more violent than Muhammad and the Quran: they sanction(ed) the killing of innocent civilians: women and children.  Worse yet, they sanction(ed) what can only be described as genocide.  Nowhere in the Quran is targeting the life of a non-combatant, especially a woman or child, permitted; in fact, the Prophet Muhammad strictly forbade such a thing.

For all the obfuscation that the anti-Muslim polemicists will provide in response to this Series, keep this point in mind which cannot be reiterated enough: the most significant difference, and why the Biblical prophets and the Bible are to be considered more warlike than the Islamic prophet and holy book, is that they permit(ted) the killing of non-combatants, including women and children–even to the point of allowing genocide. The Islamophobes can copy-and-paste Quranic verses until they go blue in the face (even with the help of those ever so helpful ellipses), but they can never find a single verse in the Quran like that.

Do Muslims Worship the Same God as Jews and Christians?

In addition to Islam’s prophet and holy book, anti-Muslim ideologues (most of whom come from Judeo-Christian backgrounds) absolutely despise the God of Islam: Allah.  Too ignorant to realize that the word Allah just means “God” in Arabic (or technically, The God) and that the Arabic version of the Bible uses the word “Allah” in it for the Judeo-Christian God–and too ignorant to realize that Jewish and Christian Arabs call their god “Allah”–the anti-Muslim ideologues unload all sorts of invective against Allah.

The anti-Muslim argument has two parts to it: (1) the God that Muslims worship is different than the God of the Jews and Christians; (2) this other, different pagan god is warlike, blood-thirsty, and brutal.  In order to debunk this argument, therefore, it is important to refute each individual part.  First, is the God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims the same?  Second, what are the characteristics of the Muslim God as compared to the Jewish and Christian God?

Do Muslims Worship Muhammad?

The idea that Muslims don’t worship the same god as Jews and Christians dates back to at least the time of the Crusades: Crusader lore had it that the Muslims were “pagans” and that they worshiped the Prophet Muhammad instead of God.  In time, Muslims came to be known as Mahometans, and eventually Mohammedans. This misnomer was used by Orientalists, and continues to be employed by certain anti-Muslim elements today, including some Christians.

This is of course a fascinatingly ironic case of projection: by using this term, these anti-Muslim Christians are mocking Muslims for worshiping a man named Muhammad instead of God.  After all,who but a primitive pagan would worship a man-god? Yet, in actuality it is the Christian community that worships a “man-god”: Jesus Christ.

If Muslims are to be considered pagans for worshiping a man named Muhammad, should Christians be considered pagans for worshiping Jesus?  Even if Muhammad had claimed divinity, how would this have been any different from what Christians claim Jesus did?  Ironically, the pejorative term “Mohammedan” is to Muhammad what “Christian” is to Christ.

In any case, Muhammad never claimed divinity nor have Muslims ever believed such a thing.  In fact, the Quran instructed the Prophet Muhammad:

Say to them (O Muhammad): “I am only a human being like you.  It is revealed to me that your God is One God. So let him who hopes to meet his Lord do good deeds and let him associate no one else in the worship of his Lord.” (Quran, 18:110)

The Quran categorically declared that “Muhammad is no more than an apostle” who can die or even be killed (Quran, 3:144).  Indeed, when the Prophet Muhammad died, his successor Abu Bakr famously proclaimed:

Whoever worshiped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead.  But whoever worshiped God (Allah), let him know that God (Allah) lives and does not die. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:333)

It has even been part of the Islamic tradition to prohibit all imagery of the Prophet in order to prevent Muhammad from being “idolized” as Jesus was by Christians.  This precaution was based on the Prophet Muhammad’s fear of suffering a similar “fate” as Jesus.  Not only does the Quran repeatedly criticize the Christians for deifying Jesus, but Muhammad explicitly warned his followers:

Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary (Jesus), for I am only a slave.  So, call me the slave of God (Allah) and His Messenger. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:654)

It seems that Christians ought to be the absolute last people on earth to mock Muslims for worshiping Muhammad or calling them “Mohammedans.”  But alas, we will see a recurring pattern here: Christians criticizing Muslims for something that is present even more so in their own religion.

In any case, the Quran repeatedly warns against worshiping anyone or anything besides God (Allah):

Say: “Truly my prayer and my worship, my life and my death are all for God (Allah) alone, the Lord of the worlds.” (Quran, 6:162)

It would be very difficult to construct a case that Muslims actively worship Muhammad.  Unbelievably, however, this Crusader-era canard remains alive and well among some segments of anti-Muslim Christians.  Sam Shamoun, an anti-Muslim Christian polemicist, insists that Muslims do in fact worship Muhammad.  Shamoun uses several very weak arguments to “prove” this claim.  Fortunately, his arguments have been refuted here by Muslim apologist Bassam Zawadi.

For our intents and purposes, whether Muslims worship Muhammad or not is largely a theological debate between Muslims and Christians, one which is hardly relevant to our website.  However, it isrelevant to us insofar as this claim is related to the “slur” of “Mohammedan”–an epithet which is used by many Islamophobes today.  It is a vestige of age-old Western confusion about and propaganda against Islam, whereby Muslims are “Other-ized”: Muslims are understood as followers of some alien and strange faith, one which worships a man named Muhammad instead of God.

Lastly, the “Muslims worship Muhammad” canard, which has been used by Christians against Muslims for hundreds of years, gives us the proper backdrop to understand the “Muslims worship the moon-god” conspiracy theory, which has become very popular among Islamophobes today.  The former Crusader-era canard has been repackaged in the form of the moon-god theory and is now being fed to the masses, once again serving to provide the propaganda needed to sustain our wars, our modern-day crusades against the Islamic world.

The Islamophobes “Other-ize” the god Muslims worship, comparing the “God of Love” supposedly found in the Judeo-Christian tradition with the “war and moon god” supposedly found in the religion of Islam.  The stealthy tacking on of the word “war” to “moon god” makes the moon-god theory directly relevant to the topic of jihad.  It is this “theory” that we turn our attention to next.

The “But That’s Just the Old Testament!” Cop-Out (II): How the Christian Right Interprets the Bible

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Refer to page I of this article.

Any and all violence in the Quran “counts”.  Nothing violent in the Bible ever “counts”.

This is the axiom closely adhered to by anti-Muslim pro-Christian elements.  We are told that the Old Testament, which is clearly far more violent and warlike than the Quran (see 1234, and 6), simply “doesn’t count”.  The double-standards used to single out the Quran–and exonerate the Bible–have been exposed on page I of this article.

We proved that the most straightforward, intuitive, and obvious reading of the Bible would support the enduring and even eternal applicability of the Old Testament’s violence.  This does not mean that peaceful interpretations do not exist.  They most certainly do.  But if the anti-Muslim pro-Christian bigots will apply a standard of “well, your text clearly says XYZ” to the Quran, then this applies even more so to the Bible.

Some critics reassured us that we simply did not understand Christian theology–that we are just too ignorant or too stupid to interpret the Bible.  What we have provided, however, is not simply our own interpretation: right-wing Christians themselves interpret the Bible in this way.  They look to the Old Testament for guidance when it comes to matters of war and peace, quite the opposite of what is claimed in debates with Muslims (i.e. “but that’s just the Old Testament” and “the Old Testament doesn’t count!”)

The Christian Right, which singles out the Quran as being “uniquely violent”, is the same group that most often looks to the wars of the Old Testament for inspiration.  Case in point: professional Islamophobe Dr. Robert Morey, a Christian theologian and pastor.  A self-proclaimed “professional apologist” Morey runs a right-wing Christian group called Faith Defenders.  He is a highly regarded figure amongst the religious right, and “is recognized internationally as a professional philosopher and theologian whose careful scholarship and apologetic abilities establish him as one of Christianity’s top defenders.” According to his bio, his works were included in the Christian Booksellers Association list of The Best of the Good Books and he won Christianity Today’s Significant Books of the Year.

Dr. Morey’s Islamophobic works include Islam Unveiled (1991), The Islamic Invasion (1992), andWinning the War Against Radical Islam (2002).  Morey is one of the most recognizable faces in the in Christian vs. Muslim debates.  The influential far right-wing website WorldNetDaily, which is aligned with the religious right and in fact founded by Christian Evangelist Joseph Farah, published a plea requesting $1.2 million to fund Morey’s “crusade” against Islam.  (Robert Spencer also writes forWorldNetDaily.)

Morey’s site, FaithDefenders.com, supports Act for America, the hate organization run by Bridget Gabriel and associated with Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Morey’s books are sold on Ali Sina’s website, the anti-Muslim Faith Freedom International, the same Ali Sina whose work is reproduced by Robert Spencer on JihadWatch.  Daniel Pipes, another one of their comrade-in-arms, also reviewed Morey’s book The Islamic Invasion.  The point is: Robert Morey is a well-known figure in anti-Muslim circles.

More importantly, Robert Morey’s book When Is It Right to Fight?–which has as its fundamental argument that wars of aggression are Biblically justified by the Old Testament–was met with acclaim by the religious right.  For example, John M. Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, effusively praised When Is It Right to Fight? as “one of the best books on the subject.”  Church pastor and famous Christian broadcaster  (“Hall-of-Famer” at the National Religious Broadcasters) D. James Kennedy strongly recommended Morey’s book to “all who love and defend liberty” (if, on the other hand, you don’t love liberty, this book may not be for you).

The Dallas Theological Seminary, a notable Evangelical seminry, called Morey’s book “stimulating, thought provoking and helpful.”  The Biblical Evangelist, a bi-monthly Evangelist magazine, not only loved the book (boasting that “Morey totally annihilates the position of pacifism”) but in fact raved about his books and scholarship in general (“[we have] been extremely pleased with all of them” and “Morey is a very scholarly writer”).  [All quotes above appear on the back of Morey’s book.]

Robert Morey’s book When Is It Right to Fight? can be considered a compendium of the Christian Right’s justifications for waging wars.  In this book, Morey justifies America’s many wars of aggression using none other than the Bible.  He responds to Christian pacifists who claim that we shouldn’t base our lives on the Old Testament, saying:

The unity of the Scriptures should not be broken simply because we don’t like what they say.  The New Testament authors did not hesitate to derive doctrine and ethics from principles contained in the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:16-17) (p.136)

Far from rejecting the wars and warlike prophets of the Old Testament, Morey claims that “the patriarchs and prophets” are “models for us to follow today”:

Throughout the Old Testament, the patriarchs and prophets are pictured as real people struggling with the same kinds of problems we face today.  This is why they are listed in Hebrews 11 as models for us to follow today. In this biblical spirit, let us examine their lives and history for answers to our questions. (p.12)

Morey goes on (emphasis is ours):

Perhaps the best place to begin is with the book of beginnings, Genesis…Genesis opens with the revelation that warfare is going on between God and Satan…This cosmic war between God and Satan now involves the inhabitants of the earth as well as those of heaven.  God is called the “Lord of Hosts”, i.e. “the Lord of armies.”  He is the Lord of the armies of the heaven and on earth.

Throughout Scripture, earthly wars, where the conflict is clearly between good and evil, are viewed as manifestations of the spiritual conflict taking place in heaven.  For example, in Job 1:6-17, the Sabeans and the Chaldeans, as agents of Satan in his conflict with God, raided Job’s flocks and killed his servants.  The violence against Job was a reflection of the war between God and Satan.  Other Old Testament examples can be cited: 1 Chron. 21:1; 2 Kings 6:8-18; Dan. 10:7-14. (p.12)

Not only does Morey support using the Old Testament wars as “models for us to follow today” but notice also that he condones the concept of “holy war”: earthly wars are between “good and evil”, or more specifically, between the “agents of God” and the “agents of Satan”.  Assigning one side to God and the other to Satan almost ensures the idea of holy war.  Morey takes the concept to its logical conclusion, and permits the “agents of God” to use the same methods as God (“utter destruction”) against the “agents of Satan” on earth.

Morey says further:

The New Testament continues the tradition of depicting the course of human history as warfare between God and Satan, viewing it in terms of conflict between two kingdoms (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). (p.13)

Christian pacifists point out that Jesus will return to rid the world of wars.  Morey counters this by arguing that (1) Jesus will only accomplish this task through the use of force, conquering his opponents in war.  This, as we argued in a previous article in the Series, is a conquerer’s “peace”.  (2) The fact that Jesus said he will come back to end wars, instead of simply forbidding his followers from participating in the military or to wage wars, is an indication that wars will continue until the End Times.  Wars will end only after Jesus destroys the forces of evil altogether, and until then the “agents of God” must continue to wage war against the “agents of Satan” in order that the “tyranny of Satan” not reign supreme.  Says Morey (emphasis is ours):

Heavenly and earthly warfare will never be halted until Christ returns to earth to judge the wicked and establish his eternal kingdom (Isa. 65:17-25; Matt. 24:6-8)

The last battle which shall end wars will involve both heavenly and earthly armies(Rev. 12:7-9; 19:11-21).  This last battle is what the Bible calls Armageddon (Rev. 16:15, 16). (p.13)

This quote also refutes the earlier counter-argument raised by our opponents: when we argued that Jesus was not “peaceful” as portrayed by them and that he would wage brutal war when he returns to earth, they argued that during his Second Coming it would be “heavenly” and “celestial” beings that would do the killing–therefore, we couldn’t possibly use this example to compare to Muhammad’s wars which involved humans and “earthly” beings.  Yet, as Morey notes, the wars of Christ’s Second Coming will involve “both heavenly and earthly armies”, which the Bible itself attests to.  The killing will be inflicted by “celestial beings” and men.

Christian pacifists often cite Isaiah 2:4, in which it is said that Jesus will bring an end to wars.  Morey says:

But Isaiah is only saying that wars will cease after Christ returns and judges the wicked (Isa. 2:10-21).  Isaiah is describing the new earth where righteousness reigns (vs. 1-3).

In the New Testament, Jesus clearly indicated that wars will continue until the end of history (Matt. 24:6, 7) (p.13)

The argument goes: If Jesus will fight Evil when he returns, and we should follow his example, then shouldn’t we fight Evil as well?  Christian pacifists often ask “What Would Jesus Do?”, arguing that Jesus would love his enemies.  But in reality, he kills them.  Jesus will only stop fighting them when his enemies are killed or conquered.  So shouldn’t we kill or fight our enemies until they are dead or conquered?

Instead of merely indicating that he would bring an end to wars, why wouldn’t Jesus simply have forbidden war upon his followers?  Writes Morey:

In Matt. 24:6, Jesus clearly stated that wars would remain part of human experience until the end of the age.  If He were a pacifist, then this would have been a perfect opportunity to condemn all wars.  Jesus did not do so in this passage. (p.40)

Morey goes on:

God’s angelic armies do not use the techniques of nonresistance in their fight against Satan.  Instead, God’s army will forcefully cast them out of heaven at the final battle.  If pacifism does not work in heaven, neither will it work on earth. (pp.17-18)

The fact that Jesus promised to use force, violence, and war means that these cannot be viewed as something unchristianlike, for Jesus would never call for something unchristianlike.  Reasons Morey:

If the sinless Son of God is going to use force to destroy His enemies, then it is not possible to view the use of force as intrinsically wrong or immoral. (p.42)

Robert Morey argues:

If the Scriptures taught that the use of force is intrinsically wrong and immoral, how could it describe the return of Christ as Jesus waging a righteous war?

And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war (Rev. 19:11, NASB).

The fact that Jesus will return to punish the wicked with flaming fire reveals that the use of force is not intrinsically incompatible with love, justice, righteousness, or truth.  As long as the war to end all wars is righteous and true, lesser wars fought for the same reasons will always be righteous and true.  Once the righteousness of Armageddon is accepted, the principle of the just war is established. (pp.20-21)

Morey uses the term “just war”, but be not mistaken: his version of “just war” does not restrict warfare to self-defense only.  Once again, he uses the Old Testament to prove his case and argues that restricting war to self-defense runs contrary to the Bible:

It is assumed by some that only wars fought in self-defense are just.  It would be immoral for one nation to attack another nation unless that nation was attacked first.

The problem with the above theory is that Abraham’s use of force was not in self-defense.  Chedorlaomer was not attacking him.  Abraham was initiating the conflict by pursuing and attacking a tyrannical enemy.

In this light, it is clear that wars of aggression in which one strikes the first blow against tyrants can sometimes be viewed as perfectly just and righteous. (p.22)

Morey’s frightening justification for “wars of aggression” gives religious legitimization to an extremely right-wing, neoconservative foreign policy.  He writes (emphasis is ours):

It can also be legitimately deduced from Abraham’s example that it is perfectly just for the Free World to use force when necessary and practical to deliver captive nations everywhere (Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, East Germany, Angola, Cuba, Central America, etc.). (pp.22-23)

Morey’s book was first published in 1985, near the end of the Cold War.  If it could be argued that it is justified for the Free World (the Judeo-Christian West) to attack any country under the sway of ungodly Communism, then it is even more justified to wage war against the even more evil moon-god religion of Islam.  Surely, a government under Sharia Law is worse than one under Communism.

Indeed, not only has Morey since republished his book, he has smoothly transfered his wrath from Communism to Islam (a good right-wing Christian needs something to hate).  Not only should Muslim countries be attacked and occupied, but the war “will not be won until we bomb the Kabah in Mecca” and other Islamic holy sites, as he writes on his website:

First, as I wrote in my book, How to Win the War Against Radical Islam, the war against the Muslim Jihadists will be long and costly and will not be won until we bomb the Kabah in Mecca.  Islam is based on a brick and mortar building that can be destroyed. They pray to that building five times a day, make a pilgrimage to it, run around it, kiss a black rock on the wall, then run between two hills and finally throw rocks at a pillar. What if that building, the Kabah, was destroyed? They could not pray to it or make a pilgrimage to it. The old pagan temple of the moon-god, al-ilah, is the Achilles’ heel of Islam. Destroy it and you destroy Islam’s soul.

In fact, Morey wants to nuke Mecca (and Medina?), which seems to be somewhat of a common fantasy for right-wing Christians and neoconservatives.  (He also supports nuking Iran.)  Posted onMorey’s blog site was this gem:

In the end, just as it happened with Japan (Hirohsima/Nagasaki), Muslim holy sites will have to be destroyed…The qur’an promises Muslims that Allah will never allow these sites to be destroyed by the infidels. Without Mecca, Muslims will not be able to hold their ritualistic prayers on Fridays or anytime for that matter.

It may surprise Robert Morey to know that the Kaaba has been severely damaged and even destroyed numerous times in history, even in the time of the Prophet Muhammad himself.  Muslims believe that the Kaaba was destroyed in the time of Noah and rebuilt by Abraham.  From the time of Abraham to the time of Muhammad, it is said that the Kaaba sustained significant wear-and-tear and damage, periodically being repaired and restored.  Thereafter, the Kaaba sustained fire damage, flooding, and was even completely destroyed during a time of civil war.

To Morey’s complete amazement no doubt, the Kaaba was even demolished by one of the disciples of the Prophet Muhammad himself, in order to be reconstructed and expanded.  And another Caliph after this demolished the Kaaba yet again, rebuilding it to his desire.

Is it not a bit dangerous to offer such a solution–nuking Mecca to destroy the Kaaba–without actuallyknowing the religious views of Muslims?  Robert Morey seems to be under the impression that Muslims will simply throw in the towel should the Kaaba be destroyed: “Ok you guys got us, we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.”  Contrary to what Morey posits, Muslims will most definitely still be able to pray the five ritualistic prayers.  Islam won’t come to an end if the Kaaba is destroyed: Muslims will just rebuild it.  Perhaps Morey, the self-proclaimed “scholar on Islam”, should do some basic research first?  Even Wikipedia would be a good enough place to start for him.

Going back to the subject at hand, Morey finds nothing in the Bible that contradicts the use of nuclear weaponry.  And why should he, when the damage from a nuclear weapon would result in no more deaths than the genocidal wars waged by Moses,  Joshua,  Samson,  SaulDavid, etc. found in the Old Testament of the Bible–in which men, women, children, babies, animals, and “all that breathed” were killed?

But what about the the issue of Mutually Assured Destruction?  Shouldn’t we avoid nuclear war if not for our enemies but for ourselves?  Won’t the enemy retaliate with nuclear bombs and then there would be no life left on earth?  Morey assures us:

Christians need to understand that there is not conclusive evidence that all life would be destroyed on this planet if nuclear war broke out…Many scientists believe that nuclear war is not only survivable but winnable. (pp.130-131)

Furthermore, we should throw caution and restraint to the wind, since God has promised us that we can’t kill all life on earth, no matter how hard we try.  Therefore, feel free to nuke and kill all you want.  Writes Morey:

Another vital point, God’s Word guarantees that humanity will not be annihilated by wars of its own making.  Jesus said that the earth would continue to experience wars until He returned to judge the wicked.  (Matt. 24:6) (pp.131-132)

One suspects that a similarly callous attitude towards global warming can be taken, based on the same reasoning.

In any case, after Morey approves of “wars of aggression” based on Abraham’s example, he says:

If the West could only follow Abraham’s godly example, the Communists would soon abandon their program for world conquest. (p.23)

So, the Free World (the Judeo-Christian West) is to wage a war “everywhere”, but it’s the Communists who have the “program for world conquest”.  It would be interesting to note the Soviet Union’s own “fear” that the United States and the “Free World” had a desire to spread their ideology worldwide (“world conquest”) and would thus have a similar justification to conquer the world first.

Naturally, Robert Morey feels the same way about Muslims, who according to him want to conquer the world and impose Sharia on everyone.  Therefore, it is imperative for the “Free World” (the Judeo-Christian West) to occupy the lands of Islam in order to stop this from happening.  World conquest to prevent world conquest.

In our article entitled Jesus Loves His Enemies…And Then Kills Them All, we argued that the Bible merely prohibits “personal vengeance” by individual citizens and not war waged by governments against other nations.  We wrote then:

How then do we reconcile the seemingly peaceful and pacifist sayings of Jesus with the violent and warlike Second Coming of Christ?  There are numerous ways to do this, but perhaps the most convincing is that Jesus’ peaceful and pacifist sayings were directed towards a resident’s personal and local enemies–usually (but not always) referring to fellow co-religionists.  It did not refer to a government’s foreign adversaries, certainly not to heathen nations…

This is consistent with the ruling given by the Evangelical site GotQuestions.org, which permits governments to wage war whilst forbidding individuals from “personal vendettas”.

Morey agrees, saying:

The Scriptures recognize a fundamental difference between the use of just force and the exercise of personal violence. (p.24)

The peaceful verses in the New Testament are with regard to “personal violence” and have nothing to do with how governments behave, so argues Morey:

When the New Testament condemns acts of personal violence in such places as Rom. 12:19, it is merely quoting the Old Testament’s condemnation.  The Old Testament’s censure of personal violence in such places as Deut. 32:35 is not viewed as a condemnation of the just use of force elsewhere in the Old Testament.  It is clear that while acts of vindictive personal violence are never justified, the proper use of force [by governments] is justifiable. (p.25)

Robert Morey then moves from Genesis to Exodus, arguing that “If God wanted his people to be pacifists, this would have been an ideal time to establish this” (p.27). Instead, “Israel developed an army at God’s command” (p.27) and waged an aggressive war against the native inhabitants of Canaan.

From Numbers Morey goes to Joshua: “Joshua led his people to victory over the enemies of God and Israel” (p.28).  As we detailed in our article entitled Who was the Most Violent Prophet in History?, Joshua engaged in genocide and ethnic cleansing.  Far from seeing this as something despicable (“unlike Muslims who can never see anything wrong with Muhammad!”), Morey says that “Joshua’s leadership in military” matters is “a shining example” (p.28).

Morey then says that Joshua obtained peace through war: “peace was won and maintained by the use of force” (Josh. 21:44-45).  This is more proof that the Second Coming of Jesus will bring peace only in the sense that any conquerer brings “peace” once all resistance is put down.

Morey then discusses Judges, condoning the violent tactics of the Israelites (emphasis is ours):

These brave men and women used assassinations, terrorist acts, sabotage, guerrilla warfare, and open revolt by armed resistance, all under the blessing of God.  At no point in Judges are these freedom fighters condemned because they used force to destroy tyranny.  Let it also be noted that the authors of the New Testament do not hesitate to hold up these freedom fighters as examples of faith and courage for modern-day Christians to follow (Heb. 11:32-40).

If the New Testament taught pacifism, as some imagine, the freedom fighters described in Judges would never have been praised by the New Testament writers as examples to follow today. (pp.28-29)

Not only should “modern-day Christians” use “terroristic acts”–which would be “under the blessing of God”–but so too is the art of assassination to be embraced:

It should also be noted that use of assassination to remove tyrants is viewed in Scripture as thoroughly just and commendatory. Ehud’s assassination of Eglon or the other assassinations committed by freedom fighters to overthrow tyrants throughout biblical history are always praised in Scripture as legitimate and just means of force.  If one takes the biblical record seriously, assassination to remove a tyrant is not murder. (p.31)

Robert Morey then condones assassination of all the Soviet leaders (p.31), and even says that “the same is true for the oppressed peoples in all captive nations” (p.32)–and as he notes elsewhere, “captive nations” means “everywhere” except the Free World (the Judeo-Christian West).  Certainly this applies to the lands of Islam today, which are ruled by the worst tyrants of all.  Thus does Morey give Biblical justification for Ann Coulter’s statement:

We should invade their [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

Morey eventually transitions to the “imprecatory Psalms” [imprecatory: invoking evil upon].  Far from claiming “they are just songs!” as some of our opponents did, Morey uses them as a source for war doctrine.  He points out:

There is not a single psalm which teaches nonresistance to tyranny. (p.33)

Wrapping up his survey of the Old Testament, Robert Morey concludes:

In our survey of the Old Testament, we have found that from Genesis to Malachi, God views the use of force to deal with tyranny and crime as just, holy, and true. (p.34)

Morey reasons, quite reasonably, that the New Testament cannot view something (in this case, the “use of force”) as morally wrong if it was viewed as something morally right in the Old Testament.  He rhetorically asks:

Could the New Testament view something as morally wrong if it was viewed as morally right in the Old Testament? (pp.34-35)

Morey argues further that Jesus and his apostles almost never addressed the idea of war in the New Testament (p.37), and that the condemnations of violence here should be seen as only forbidding individuals from personal vengeance, not nation-states from going to war.  In fact, points out Morey (emphasis is ours):

At no point in Jesus’ ministry did He ever tell Israel or Rome that governments should disarm.  He never condemned the just use of force as taught in the Scriptures, nor did He ever condemn the police for using force to punish criminals.  Despite the clarity of the Old Testament in its divine approval of the use of force, Jesus never once preached against a nation having an army or the state maintaining a police force.

Logically, this can lead us to only one possible inference.  Jesus’ silence meant that He approved of and accepted Old Testament precedent of the valid use of force.  Whenever we study the Scriptures, a biblical and historical precedent stands until directly removed by divine revelation. (p.39)

The bolded part above is important: Morey is saying that it cannot be claimed that one part of the Bible “doesn’t count” unless another Biblical passage clearly proves this.  In the absence of a clear and unequivocal verse in the New Testament that condemns or at least abrogates the wars of the Old Testament, one simply cannot claim that these “don’t count”.  For example, circumcision is condoned in the Old Testament, but rejected in the New Testament.  Had the New Testament been silent on the issue of circumcision, no believer could say this is not necessary.  Morey argues:

The apostles sought to carry on the teaching of the law and the prophets as well as the teachings of Christ.  For them, the gospel was just as much an Old Testament truth as it was a New Testament revelation (Rom. 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:3, 4).  They looked to the Old Testament Scriptures for basic principles of doctrine and ethics.

The apostles were careful to point out when various aspects of the Old Testament ceremonial laws, for instance, were superseded by the finished work of Christ.  The book of Hebrews is a prime example of this.

Therefore, it is significant that nowhere in the Acts or the Epistles do the apostles ever deal with such issues as whether or not the state can maintain a military force or a national police force.  Why did the apostles never deal with such issues?

The Old Testament clearly taught that God leads armies and has established penal justice.  Christ never disapproved of that position in the Gospels.  If the apostles rejected the Old Testament position on war and now taught pacifism, this would have stirred as much controversy as the laying aside of circumcision. (p.51)

He goes on:

If the apostles had condemned the Old Testament teaching on the use of force, they would have generated a great deal of controversy with the Jews…The silence of the New Testament in this regard, coupled with the silence of the Mishnah and Talmud, clearly indicates that the apostolic church was not teaching pacifism in opposition to the teaching of the Old Testament.

When we survey the Epistles, we do not find a single place where the apostles exhorted Israel or Rome to disarm their military forces or where the apostles condemned war or a Christian’s participation in the military.  There is no indication that they taught anything different than what is found in the [Old Testament] law. (p.52)

Morey raises several arguments as to why it cannot be said that Jesus disapproved of the Old Testament war doctrine, including the fact that

when dealing with Roman or Jewish soldiers, Jesus never told them to leave the military or that it was morally wrong to be soldiers (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 6:15)…If He were a pacifist and opposed in principle any violence by anyone, He would not have failed to rebuke those who were in the military.  Jesus was not known for overlooking sin in the lives of those who sat under His teaching.  He denounced sin wherever and whomever He saw it. (p.40)

Morey is referring to several verses in the New Testament in which Christian soldiers are referred to, and there is no condemnation of them for being in the military profession.  This, even though the Roman Empire waged wars of aggression and imperial conquest.  This lends further credibility to the idea that nothing in the New Testament contradicts the Old Testament’s approval of wars of conquest.

Furthermore, the evidences used to prove the pacifism of Jesus are misinterpretations, reasons Robert Morey.  For example, “You have heard that it was said to people long ago…but I tell you…” was not a case of Jesus “rejecting the Old Testament, but the warped and twisted interpretation of the [Jewish] Pharisees…” (p.45)

Whenever Jesus is discussing peaceful coexistence, it is between neighbors, not nations:

Second, Jesus is clearly discussing personal ethics.  He is describing vital inner qualities of piety and the ways in which we should respond to our neighbors when they become sources of irritation.

That is why Jesus could talk about loving one’s neighbor, turning the other cheek and giving ones’ coat to someone.  At no point in the passage does Jesus discuss national or international ethics. (pp.45-46)

We dealt with the “turning the other cheek” issue in our earlier article:

As for the “turning the other cheek” passage, it is known that the slap on the cheek that was being referred to here was in that particular culture understood as an insult, not as assault.  The passage itself has to do with a person responding to a personal insult, and has nothing to do with pacifism.  In any case, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary clarifies:  “Of course, He applied this to personal insults, not to groups or nations.” [14]

Robert Morey agrees and points out that

the slap of the right cheek by the back of the left hand was a personal insult and not an act of violence done in the context of war…It was a personal insult, like spitting in someone’s face. (p.47)

As for the verse “blessed are the peacemakers”, Morey notes:

“Blessed are the peacemakers” (v 9).  The Greek word “peacemaker” was one of Caesar’s titles.  He was called “the peacemaker” because he won and maintained peace by the use of force.  The word does not mean “peaceable” or “pacifistic” or “peace at any price.”  The word meant “peace through strength.”  As such, it named the head of the Roman army without contradiction. (pp.47-48)

This, as we mentioned several times before in this Series, is the “peace” that the Bible speaks of: the conqueror’s “peace”.  It is the “peace” that Joshua brought: the Book of Joshua documents in great detail a lifetime of leading genocidal wars, and then–once the enemies are killed, run off, or subdued in the land–“the land had rest from war” (Joshua 11:23).  There was peace because nobody was left to fight.

The same is the case with Jesus during his Second Coming, as we noted before in Jesus Loves His Enemies…And Then Kills Them All.  Indeed, Robert Morey concludes that Jesus “was not in any way uncomfortable with the Old Testament teaching in this regard [i.e. war]” (p.48).

* * * *

What we are trying to prove–and have succeeded in doing so–is that the Bible can certainly and quite easily be interpreted by Christians to affirm the violence in the Old Testament.  Robert Morey, one of the leading anti-Muslim pro-Christian theologians in the nation, does exactly that.  The Christian Right interprets the Bible in this violent and warlike way.  And this is the most straightforward, intuitive, and obvious meaning of the Bible.

This certainly does not mean that all Christians, or even a majority, read the Bible in this manner.  What is clear, however, is that just as Christians can point to violent texts in the Quran, so too can Muslims point to (even more) violent texts in the Bible.  When Christians say the Quran can be (or even must be) interpreted in a violent way, then using the exact same logic Muslims can say the same of the Bible.

Lastly, it should be noted again that Robert Morey’s understanding of “just war” does not at all conform to the Just War Theory, and the reason it doesn’t is that the Bible itself does not.  The Bible is thus flawed with regard to jus ad bellum (the right to wage war) as it sanctions the right to wage “wars of aggression” (as Morey says on p.22: “In this light, it is clear that wars of aggression in which one strikes the first blow against tyrants can sometimes be viewed as perfectly just and righteous”); it is also flawed with regard to jus in bello (conduct in war) for it permits the killing of non-combatants, even “utter destruction” (which is why Morey does not find nuking Mecca to be problematic).  As we shall see in a future part in the Series, proper principles with regard to jus ad bellum and jus in bello are much easier to find in the Quran.

The “But That’s Just the Old Testament!” Cop-Out

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 8 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

We showcased violence in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) in parts 1234, and 6 of this Series.  Even though this list of Biblical verses was hardly exhaustive, it was more than enough to refute the claim–made by Islamophobes like Robert Spencer (and unfortunately accepted as fact by the majority of Americans)–that the Quran is more violent than the Bible.

In response, many Christians rely on a “fall back” argument: they claim that this “doesn’t count” since “it’s just the Old Testament!” and supposedly Jesus Christ rejected the violent legacy of the OT.  It is of course of paramount importance to the anti-Muslim Christians–as well as to “culturally Christian” atheists and your run-of-the-mill Islamophobes who need to prove the “uniquely” violent nature of Islam’s holy book–to neutralize the Old Testament.  After all, if the Old Testament “counts”, then it would be a case of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) to attack the Quran for its alleged violence: the Old Testament is by far the more violent book.

There are numerous reasons the “But It’s Just the Old Testament!” Defense doesn’t do the trick:

1) There is no explicit  or categorical textual proof from the New Testament that supports the idea that the Old Testament (or the Law) “doesn’t count”.  For every verse cited to prove such a claim, there is another that can be cited for the opposite view.  In fact, it seems that the textual proof for the opposite view is greater, even overwhelming.  For example, Jesus says in the Gospels:

Matthew 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

And Jesus also said:

Luke 16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for one dot of the Law to become void.

There are other verses that similarly seem to affirm the importance of keeping the Law.  On the other hand, the evidences used to counter this view are less explicit and less direct.

2)  Both the Old and New Testament are considered by all mainstream branches of Christianity to be“just as inspired as the New Testament.” The New Testament itself affirms the accuracy of the Old Testament:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

3:17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

“All Scripture – This properly refers to the Old Testament…it includes the whole of the Old Testament, and is the solemn testimony of Paul that it was all inspired.” More importantly, as Catholic.com says (emphasis is ours): “Scripture — all of Scripture — is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). This means that the Old Testament is just as inspired as the New Testament and thus an expression of the will of Christ.”

[Update I: A reader pointed out the following: Christians see Jesus as God. That means that he was also the God of the Old Testament. The same God who commanded all those killings and the author of all those violent and disgusting commands as listed in your previous articles. So the violence Jesus supports and predicts is not only evident in the New Testament, but he is supposedly also the author of said violent commands in the Old testament as well. Not only then is the Old Testament “an expression of the will of Christ”–it is Christ.]

Protestant Christianity, as seen on this popular Evangelical site, also agrees with this assessment:

Jesus is always in perfect agreement with the Father (John 10:30), so we cannot argue that war was only God’s will in the Old Testament. God does not change (Malachi 3:6James 1:17).

3)  On this note, Jesus Christ himself is depicted in the New Testament as being very violent during his Second Coming (see part 5).  Even if we completely sweep the Biblical prophets and the Old Testament under the rug (which is exactly what anti-Muslim Christians do in debates with Muslims), it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus in the New Testament is very violent: he promises to kill or subjugate all of his enemies, which includes those whose only crime is to refuse to believe in him.  So, even if we completely disregard the OT, this wouldn’t solve the “problem”.

More importantly, the fact that Jesus promised to kill his enemies (a promise he made during his First Coming)–even if he is yet to fulfill this promise–shows that Jesus did not reject the violent ways of the earlier Biblical prophets.  He simply was not in a position of authority or power to carry out these acts of unbridled violence.  He wouldn’t have promised violence if he truly rejected the OT’s violence.

When we published an article about the violent Second Coming of Christ, many critics cried “you can’t compare Jesus’ supposed violence in the future with what Muhammad actually already did!”  (How quickly anti-Muslim Christians can turn something they believe in with all their might and which they believe is central to their faith–the Second Coming of Christ–into a “supposed” event makes us wonder if this is not Christian taqiyya?)  Yet, it was during his First Coming that Jesus made the promise to kill all those who did not believe in him; the action–a violent threat to ruthlessly slaughter infidels (i.e. Luke 19:27)–has already been made.

4)  Christians not only routinely cite the Old Testament, but they specifically cite it with regard to Jesus.  Various prophecies in the OT are attributed to Jesus: these prophecies depict the Messiah as a violent conquering king who brutally vanquishes his enemies.  (Please read the section entitled “Christians Affirm Militant Old Testament Prophecies” in part 5 of the Understanding Jihad Series.)  This reinforces point #3 above: Jesus is seen as fulfilling, not rejecting, the violence of the Old Testament.  After all, the violence of the OT was “an expression of the will of Christ.”

5)  The official views of the Church itself do not endorse the idea of “tossing the Old Testament aside”: even when it comes to formulating a doctrine in regards to war, the OT must be taken into consideration.  It is argued that there is concordance, not dissonance, between the Old and New Testaments.  As the esteemed theologian Prof. Samuele R. Bacchiocchi concluded:

An attentive study shows that the NT complements, rather than contradicts the teachings of the OT regarding warfare…A balanced reading of the NT texts suggests that there is a basic agreement between the Old and New Testaments on their teaching on warfare.

The violent wars in the OT are reconciled by arguing that Biblical Israel was justified in its declarations of war and was only acting in self-defense: “At various times in the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to defend their nation by force of arms.” Of course, this is not supported by the facts: the Israelites were clearly the aggressors, annihilating and/or running off the indigenous populations of a land that they believed was divinely given to them.  They were only “defending themselves” insofar as any aggressive occupier will “resist” those they occupy.

6) The fact of the matter is that all mainstream Christian groups affirm both the Old and New Testament as canon.  The Church fought off any attempts to “throw away the Old Testament”.  In the second century of Christianity, Marcion of Sinope rejected the Old Testament because of the violence, war atrocities, and genocide contained therein.  He was denounced by the Church, and his views towards the Old Testament were officially damned as heresy.  Tertullian, the Father of Western Christianity, issued a rebuttal against Marcion.

We read:

Marcionism. Marcionism owed its existence to Marcion, an individual who gained popularity in Rome in 140-144. His theology was influenced heavily by the Gnostics, and he denied the power of the God of the Old Testament. He promulgated the use of a limited form of the New Testament, including Luke’s Gospel and Acts, and many of the Pauline epistles, the former since Luke was a Gentile and the latter since he was sent to preach to the Gentiles. He found the God of the Old Testament contradictory and inhumane. The “orthodox” Christianity of the time rejected his argumentation, upheld the value of the Old Testament, and dutifully began the work of canonization of the Old and New Testaments. The specter of Marcion loomed large enough so as to merit refutation by Tertullian at the end of the second century; nevertheless, Marcion’s movement mostly died out or assimilated into other Gnostic groups.

Marcionism died out, thanks to the Church and its insistence of the Old Testament’s validity.  The Catholic Encyclopedia calls the Marcionist sect “perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known.”  Today, there are some modern-day believers, called New Testament Only Christians, who reject the Old Testament due to its inherent violence, war atrocities, and genocide.  This group is a very small minority, a “heretical” group that is at odds with the main body of Christianity.

So, unless you happen to be a New Testament Only Christian, the “But That’s Just the Old Testament!” Defense simply doesn’t apply to you.  The existence of the New Testament Only Christians, however, is actually indicative of just how violent the Bible is: it couldn’t be reconciled, so more than half of it had to be jettisoned.

* * * *

None of this is to say that Christians must interpret the Bible in a violent manner.  But what we aresaying is that a softer reading of the Bible requires textual acrobatics, convoluted argumentation, and theological mind-bending.  The reasons given why the Old Testament Law are no longer in effect are far more complex to grasp then the simple, straight-forward understanding one gets from reading Jesus’ seemingly simple, straight-forward statements, such as:

Matthew 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

This reinforces a point made in an earlier part of this Series:

Why is it that these anti-Muslim ideologues allow theological and textual acrobatics when it comes to the Bible, but meanwhile they forbid the contextualization of Quranic verses?  Certainly it is much easier to “constrain” the violent verses of the Quran than it is for the Bible, since the Quran itself almost always cushions these verses in between mitigating verses.  This contrasts quite considerably with the Bible, which has violent verses wrapped in violent passages.

Anti-Muslim Christians point to various verses of the Quran that they claim are intrinsically violent.  When it is pointed out to them that their own holy book is replete with violent passages, they respond by explaining why and how they interpret these Biblical passages in a peaceful manner.  In the same breath, however, they forbid Muslims from doing the same to the Quran.

Rejecting the Old Testament is a perfectly fine way for a Christian believer to theologically constrain the violence of the Bible, one that we wholeheartedly support.  But such a believer should know that his holy book requires such theological mechanisms to constrain its violence, and this should logically endow upon him some religious modesty when it comes to the holy books of others.

* * * *

7)  Perhaps the most important reason why the “But That’s Just the Old Testament!” Defense doesn’t work is that it doesn’t do a damned thing for Jewish followers of the Hebrew Bible.  Jews don’t believe in the New Testament or Jesus.  In fact, their most holiest of books is the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament (known as the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible to Jews).  These include Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy–some of the most violent books of the entire Bible, replete with holy war and divinely ordained genocide.  To Jews, the Torah and the Hebrew Bible are 100% active and applicable, with no New Testament to overrule or abrogate them.

When we published articles showcasing the violence of the Bible–especially after our article about“the Bible’s prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandments to wage holy war and enslave infidels”–pro-Christian elements were quick to throw the Old Testament (and their Jewish comrades) under the bus: The God of the Old Testament was a god of war, whereas the New Testament is a god of love.

In order to prove their claim against Islam, the anti-Muslim ideologues must prove the “uniqueness” of the Quran’s violence.  Certainly, this is Robert Spencer’s clear-as-daylight argument on p.19 of his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):

The Qur’an is unique among the sacred writings of the world in counseling its adherents to make war against unbelievers.

Short of proving the uniqueness of the Quran’s violence, Spencer et al. have failed in what they set out to do.  If it can only be proved that the Quran is only as violent as the Tanakh (or the Torah)–or that Islam is just as violent as Judaism–then what big deal is this?  If Spencer wants to fear-monger about Islam, and if–using the same standards–it can be proven that Judaism is just as violent as Islam (nay, more violent)–then will Spencer also fear-monger about Judaism?  Can we expect aJewWatch.com website coming soon?

In fact, such a site already exists, and it looks like JihadWatch, just against Jews instead of Muslims.  Indeed, if the same conclusions about Islam were applied to Judaism, then all this would be exposed for what it really is: wholesale bigotry.  But it is much easier to get away with bigotry against Muslims than it is against Jews.

How can Robert Spencer hide behind the “But That’s Just the Old Testament!” Defense when his comrade-in-arms is Jewish?  Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs blog is a partner in crime with Spencer and company.  Clearly, the anti-Muslim Christian right is linked at the hip with Zionist Jews in their shared hatred of Muslims.  Why is one side of this unholy alliance willing to throw the other under the bus, and why is the other side ominously quiet when they hear arguments such as “But That’s Just the Old Testament”?

Our argument has never been that the Quran has no violence in it.  Rather, our argument is: all holy books, including the Quran but also the Bible, have violence in them; in fact, the Bible is far more violent than the Quran. This is in response to the question that most Americans answered incorrectly: is Islam more likely than other religions to encourage violence? Most importantly, this argument of ours is a response to a claim made by Robert Spencer.

This argument of ours is also based in our deeply held conviction that religions and religious scriptures are just what their readers make of them, as stated in the introduction of this Series:

The reader should not think that I believe that a certain religion or another is violent.  Rather, there exist peaceful and violent interpretations of religion.  I reject the view held by religious orthodoxy that the human mind is simply an empty receptacle that unthinkingly “obeys” the divine plan.  Hundreds of years after their prophets have died, believers (of all faiths) are forced (by virtue of not having a divine interlocutor) to exert their own minds and ethics to give life to texts, to render 3D realities from 2D texts.  Such an elastic idea–that a religion is whatever its believers make it into–is certainly anathema to orthodox adherents who simply desire a step-by-step instruction manual to produce human automatons.  But the truth is that even these orthodox adherents necessarily inject into the religious texts their own backgrounds, beliefs, and biases.

One can see why I do not think that simply showing a Biblical verse here or there would prove that Judaism or Christianity are violent faiths. There is a long journey from what is on the page to what is understood and put into practice.  And once this reality is comprehended, it is hoped that Jews and Christians will gain a larger perspective when they approach Muslims and their religion.

Opponents have claimed that this Series so far has just been a case of tu quoque fallacy: yet, this is fundamentally misunderstanding the purpose of this Series, which is certainly not designed to convert the readers to Islam, but rather to refute the commonly held notion that Islam is somehow more violent than other faiths, a view that the majoritarian group can easily hold (and demagogues like Robert Spencer can reinforce) unless dissenters like ourselves challenge it.

Majority of Americans Believe the Bible is Literally True and the Word of God

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 7 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Robert Spencer and other anti-Muslim bigots fear-monger about Islam and Muslims by demonizing the Quran, calling it a “book of violence and war.”  This, they argue, is quite unlike other religious scriptures, and is especially unlike the Bible, which is a book of love and good morals.

We threw cold water on this argument by reproducing oodles of violent passages found in the Bible (see parts12345 , and 6 of this Series), showing that the Bible is in fact way more more violent than the Quran.

Instead of defending their initial argument (the oft-repeated claim that the Quran is a uniquely violent holy book, far more violent than the Bible) or even their “fall back” argument (the claim that the violent Biblical passages are merely “descriptive” unlike the Quran’s violent passages that are supposedly “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal”–a claim that we refuted in part 6 of this Series), Islamophobes quickly move on to their next “fall back” argument:

Jews and Christians no longer believe in the inerrant nature of the Bible, unlike the Muslims who take the Quran as absolutely accurate. We are told that Jews and Christians have moved beyond the Bible (even “tossed it aside!”), whereas the primitive Muslims continue to follow their archaic holy book.  Therefore, the argument goes, invoking the Bible is hardly relevant, since “most Jews and Christians no longer give credence to it.”

This argument is not grounded in fact, however.  A poll by Rasmussen Reports found that a majority of all Americans (63%) believe the Bible is literally true and the Word of God, with less than a quarter (24%) disagreeing with this belief.  This is quite amazing when one considers that about 20% of Americans are neither Jewish or Christian! The percentage of those who believe in the literal meaning of the Bible jumps to 70% for Protestants, and becomes overwhelming (89%) for Evangelical Christians in specific.  Meanwhile, 77% of Republicans believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

Pew Research poll bore out fairly similar results, with 78% of Americans believing that the Bible is either the actual or inspired Word of God.  This view is held by 88% of Protestants, 82% of Catholics, and 91% of other Christian groups.  Contrary to the emerging scholarly consensus that the Biblical stories such as Exodus and Conquest are “best regarded as a myth”, only a minority of the public at large (19% of Americans, 11% of Protestants, 16% of Catholics, and 6% of other Christian groups) believe that the Bible is just “ancient fables, history, and legends.”

Quite the opposite of what our opponents claim, most Christian-Americans very much believe in the accuracy of their scriptural texts.  This explains, for instance, why only a minority of Christians in America believe in evolution, with “60 percent of Americans who call themselves Evangelical Christians…favor replacing evolution with creationism in schools altogether.”

Whether it’s evolution or abortion, Christian-Americans take the Bible very, very seriously.

* * * *

As always, our opponents will rely on a “fall back” argument and claim that the case of Europe is different, that the United States is far more religious than the “bastion of atheism” across the pond.  The Christians in Europe, we are told, aren’t that serious about their religion.

We will preempt this argument by pointing out that only a quarter of the world’s Christians are in Europe.  The other three-quarters are in North and South America, Africa, and Asia.  Latin America has as many Christians as Europe does, and they take their religion very seriously.  So too is the case in Christian Africa and Asia, which together accounts for far more Christians than in Europe.  It is a reasonable assumption that the Christians in Latin America, Africa, and Asia take the Bible very seriously.  Therefore, the “but Europe is different!” excuse is of limited utility.

The majority of Christians actually live in the developing world.  It is of course expected that our opponents will insist on comparing the minority of Christians in the First World to the Muslims in the Third World.

* * * *

The “official view” of the Church reinforces our assertion: “The Christian Church as a whole claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant.” Both the Catholic Church and mainstream Protestantism (certainly Evangelical Christianity) view the Bible as accurate.  This is a doctrinal view that has always been held and continues to be held by “mainstream Christianity”.

Anti-Islam ideologues further misleading arguments when they exaggerate between the views about “inerrancy” between Christians and Muslims.  One “mainstream Christian view” posits that the Bible does have some “errors” in it.  The anti-Muslim ideologues shrug off the violent verses in the Bible by arguing that “well, we don’t believe that the Bible is without errors, unlike the Muslims!”  This deceptive argument implies that the Christians believe that those violent verses are erroneous/inaccurate.

Yet, this “mainstream Christian view” holds that the Bible is “98.5% textually pure” and “the 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words ‘the,’ ‘but,’ etc.”  In fact, none of these errors “affect[] doctrinal truths.”  Certainly, these “errors” do not encompass the violent holy wars that are narrated about the Biblical prophets: “In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents.”  Nor do they include the exhortations to violence (“prescriptive, open-ended, and universal” calls to holy war against infidels) found in the Book of Psalms.

What then is the relevance of this argument except to obfuscate the issue?  The fact is that only 6-16% of Christians in America recognize the Bible as “ancient fables, history, and legends.”  That having been established, we could care less about whether or not the word “the” should have been “a” or the other way around.

Neither is it relevant whether or not one believes the Bible is “literally” the Word of God or the “inspired” Word of God, as both amount to the same thing: a text that is considered accurate by its followers.  As one popular Evangelical site, GotQuestions.org, puts it: “Inspiration means the Bible truly is the Word of God…Because the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, we can conclude that they are also inerrant and authoritative…Without a doubt the Bible is what it claims to be—the undeniable, authoritative, Word of God to humanity.”

As long as the majority of Christians don’t believe that the Bible is just “ancient fables, history, and legends” (which they don’t), whether they consider the Bible the literal or inspired word of God is largely inconsequential to the argument at hand.

* * * *

Unfortunately, we could not locate any poll about Jewish views towards the accuracy of the Bible.  But as far as “official views” go, Orthodox Judaism (the only strand of Judaism recognized by the state of Israel) takes the Hebrew Bible very, very seriously.

* * * *

Lastly, it is rather quite telling that the Islamophobes have now fallen back on the argument that “Jews and Christians have tossed the Bible aside”: is this not a sign of surrender and an implicit admission that the Bible glorifies and exhorts violence and that there is no reasonable way of denying this?  The need to invoke the argument (or rather, to fall back on it) is an indirect  admission that the contrary could not be convincingly argued.

Compare this reaction to Muslims, who instead of needing to rely on the “but we don’t take the Quran seriously” defense, can reasonably argue–using the mitigating verses of the Quran–that the Quran calls for war in self-defense only (Just War Doctrine).  Worded another way: the Bible is so violent that it simply can’t be defended, at least not using the same standards the anti-Muslim ideologues employ against the Quran.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (III)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by loonwatch

This is page III of IV.  To return to page I, go here.  To return to page II, go here.

No amount of ink has been spared by anti-Muslim ideologues fear-mongering about the traditional Islamic concept (now long abandoned and not implemented in a single Muslim country–not even in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia or Iran) of jizya and dhimmi–the latter which is pejoratively (and incorrectly) referred to as “dhimmitude”. It is an incorrect usage (and certainly not academically accepted) since “dhimmitude” is an amalgamation of the words “dhimmi” and “servitude”; the dhimmi system was second-class citizenship but not servitude–a significant difference, as noted by Prof. Mark R. Cohen:

The dhimmi enjoyed a kind of citizenship, second class and unequal though it was…[in contrast to] Jews living in Latin Christian lands, where…[they were] legally possessed [as slaves] by this or that ruling authority.

On the other hand, the traditional Christian concept of Perpetual Servitude of heathens was, as the name itself indicates, servitude.  It was a form of slavery that heathens were subjected to (including Jews and Muslims).  The term “dhimmitude” was coined by a loony old lady named Bat Ye’or, a conspiratorial pseudo-scholar and extremist Zionist Jew.  The term was popularized by Catholic apologist Obama-may-be-a-Muslim Robert Spencer.  It is quite ironic that in attempting to coin a demeaning enough term to demonize Islam, the Zionist Jew and Catholic apologist accidentally used a term that is actually found in their own religious tradition!

The historical experiences of dhimma and of Perpetual Servitude have been compared here.

Perpetual Servitude in the Bible

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer cited a passage from Deuteronomy (20:10-17) to prove that the Bible’s commandments to wage holy war apply only to the Seven Nations and not to anyone else.  We have proven this claim to be completely false (see here).  In fact, this Biblical passage advocates genocide for those heathens living inside of Israel, and Perpetual Servitude for those outside of it.  This injunction implies “the nations”, by which is meant the entire world.

On pp.35-36 of his book, Spencer cites a hadith (saying attributed to Muhammad) that urges Muslims to offer their enemies Three Choices: (1) “Invite them to accept Islam”; (2) “If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya”; or (3) “If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them”.  The text itself (and the academically dishonest use of ellipses by Spencer) will be discussed in a future article in the Series.  For now, however, we will–simply for argument’s sake–accept Spencer’s claims that Muhammad offered unbelievers these Three Choices only (conversion, tribute, or death).

Is it not odd that the Catholic apologist Robert Spencer, along with his extremist Jewish Zionist and Christian Crusader-wannabe comrades, are so indignant of Muhammad for offering these Three Choices and yet are completely silent when it comes to Moses who restricted infidels to these choices long before Muhammad ever did?  Moses is alleged to have said (almost two millennia before the idea ever came to a man named Muhammad):

Deuteronomy 20:10 When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.

20:11 If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you (as tributaries).

20:12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.

20:13 When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.

20:14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.

Moses and the Bible thus offered infidels only Two Choices: (1) become forced labor (Perpetual Servitude) or (2) war.  Both resulted in slavery.  And in both circumstances, conversion was necessary.  (The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to give up their native religion and renounce idolatry for the God of Israel.)

Even if we accept Spencer’s argument about the Three Choices (again, simply for argument’s sake), this was still better than the Two Choices of Moses and the Bible.  There are at least a few reasons why:

1) If an unbeliever paid the jizya, he could retain his religious affiliation.  Meanwhile, an unbeliever under the Biblical model was forced to worship the God of Israel.

2) Dhimmis were considered free persons as opposed to slaves, and it was forbidden to enslave them.  On the other hand, perpetual serfs were “owned” by the state.  For example, the Gibeonitesbecame the slaves of Joshua, the leader of Israel.  Similarly, Jews became perpetual serfs of the Church and/or Christian state.

3) Dhimmis were free to choose their form of livelihood, barred only from military and high governmental positions.  For example, Jews in the Islamic world were known to be physicians, lawyers, scientists, merchants, traders, bankers, and agriculturalists.  Under the Biblical model, an unbeliever became “forced labor” and could no longer choose his own profession.  This is the essence of servitude and why it’s so much worse than second-class citizenship.  The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to become “wood cutters and water carriers for the [Jewish] community” (Joshua 9:27), “which was a very low and mean employment.” Similarly, Jews in Christian Europe were banned from virtually all fields and restricted to the “hated” profession of money-lending, considered at that time to be worse than prostitution.

4) Dhimmis retained the legal right to own property.  This contrasted sharply with the case of perpetual serfs.

5) If an unbeliever opted to convert to Islam, he was to be considered an equal. Meanwhile, perpetual serfs were forced to convert and still considered unequal serfs.

6) If the unbelievers chose to fight off the Muslims and if the Muslims won, the conquered population–including the men–weren’t massacred.  Instead, they still became a dhimmi population–with all the rights associated with that position.  If, on the other hand, the unbelievers didn’t submit to Perpetual Servitude, the Biblical model called for the slaughter of every single man.

To conclude, the concept of dhimmitude Perpetual Servitude is found in the Bible, and originated from Moses.  Most importantly, the Bible contains “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandments” to wage holy war against infidels, and to enslave them, to subjugate them to Perpetual Servitude–something far worse than the dhimmi system.

The obsession over the concept of dhimmis and jizya by the self-proclaimed defenders of the Judeo-Christian tradition certainly does seem to be a case of projection or simply of wholesale ignorance.  What the Islamophobes attribute to the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran is still better than what Moses or the Bible advocated.  This fact will of course be ignored, obfuscated, or downplayed by Robert Spencer et al.–which is consistent with the Islamophobic methodology of “whatever violence is found in Islam always ‘counts’ and whatever violence is found in Judaism or Christianity ‘doesn’t count’ and never counts.”

Always remember:  Jewish or Christian Violence Never Counts, and Muslim Violence Always Counts.

Editor’s NoteDue to the length of this article, it will be split into four pages, the next page to be published tomorrow.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (III)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by loonwatch

This is page III of IV.  To return to page I, go here.  To return to page II, go here.

No amount of ink has been spared by anti-Muslim ideologues fear-mongering about the traditional Islamic concept (now long abandoned and not implemented in a single Muslim country–not even in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia or Iran) of jizya and dhimmi–the latter which is pejoratively (and incorrectly) referred to as “dhimmitude”. It is an incorrect usage (and certainly not academically accepted) since “dhimmitude” is an amalgamation of the words “dhimmi” and “servitude”; the dhimmi system was second-class citizenship but not servitude–a significant difference, as noted by Prof. Mark R. Cohen:

The dhimmi enjoyed a kind of citizenship, second class and unequal though it was…[in contrast to] Jews living in Latin Christian lands, where…[they were] legally possessed [as slaves] by this or that ruling authority.

On the other hand, the traditional Christian concept of Perpetual Servitude of heathens was, as the name itself indicates, servitude.  It was a form of slavery that heathens were subjected to (including Jews and Muslims).  The term “dhimmitude” was coined by a loony old lady named Bat Ye’or, a conspiratorial pseudo-scholar and extremist Zionist Jew.  The term was popularized by Catholic apologist Obama-may-be-a-Muslim Robert Spencer.  It is quite ironic that in attempting to coin a demeaning enough term to demonize Islam, the Zionist Jew and Catholic apologist accidentally used a term that is actually found in their own religious tradition!

The historical experiences of dhimma and of Perpetual Servitude have been compared here.

Perpetual Servitude in the Bible

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer cited a passage from Deuteronomy (20:10-17) to prove that the Bible’s commandments to wage holy war apply only to the Seven Nations and not to anyone else.  We have proven this claim to be completely false (see here).  In fact, this Biblical passage advocates genocide for those heathens living inside of Israel, and Perpetual Servitude for those outside of it.  This injunction implies “the nations”, by which is meant the entire world.

On pp.35-36 of his book, Spencer cites a hadith (saying attributed to Muhammad) that urges Muslims to offer their enemies Three Choices: (1) “Invite them to accept Islam”; (2) “If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya”; or (3) “If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them”.  The text itself (and the academically dishonest use of ellipses by Spencer) will be discussed in a future article in the Series.  For now, however, we will–simply for argument’s sake–accept Spencer’s claims that Muhammad offered unbelievers these Three Choices only (conversion, tribute, or death).

Is it not odd that the Catholic apologist Robert Spencer, along with his extremist Jewish Zionist and Christian Crusader-wannabe comrades, are so indignant of Muhammad for offering these Three Choices and yet are completely silent when it comes to Moses who restricted infidels to these choices long before Muhammad ever did?  Moses is alleged to have said (almost two millennia before the idea ever came to a man named Muhammad):

Deuteronomy 20:10 When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.

20:11 If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you (as tributaries).

20:12 However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.

20:13 When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.

20:14 Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.

Moses and the Bible thus offered infidels only Two Choices: (1) become forced labor (Perpetual Servitude) or (2) war.  Both resulted in slavery.  And in both circumstances, conversion was necessary.  (The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to give up their native religion and renounce idolatry for the God of Israel.)

Even if we accept Spencer’s argument about the Three Choices (again, simply for argument’s sake), this was still better than the Two Choices of Moses and the Bible.  There are at least a few reasons why:

1) If an unbeliever paid the jizya, he could retain his religious affiliation.  Meanwhile, an unbeliever under the Biblical model was forced to worship the God of Israel.

2) Dhimmis were considered free persons as opposed to slaves, and it was forbidden to enslave them.  On the other hand, perpetual serfs were “owned” by the state.  For example, the Gibeonitesbecame the slaves of Joshua, the leader of Israel.  Similarly, Jews became perpetual serfs of the Church and/or Christian state.

3) Dhimmis were free to choose their form of livelihood, barred only from military and high governmental positions.  For example, Jews in the Islamic world were known to be physicians, lawyers, scientists, merchants, traders, bankers, and agriculturalists.  Under the Biblical model, an unbeliever became “forced labor” and could no longer choose his own profession.  This is the essence of servitude and why it’s so much worse than second-class citizenship.  The Gibeonites, for instance, were forced to become “wood cutters and water carriers for the [Jewish] community” (Joshua 9:27), “which was a very low and mean employment.” Similarly, Jews in Christian Europe were banned from virtually all fields and restricted to the “hated” profession of money-lending, considered at that time to be worse than prostitution.

4) Dhimmis retained the legal right to own property.  This contrasted sharply with the case of perpetual serfs.

5) If an unbeliever opted to convert to Islam, he was to be considered an equal. Meanwhile, perpetual serfs were forced to convert and still considered unequal serfs.

6) If the unbelievers chose to fight off the Muslims and if the Muslims won, the conquered population–including the men–weren’t massacred.  Instead, they still became a dhimmi population–with all the rights associated with that position.  If, on the other hand, the unbelievers didn’t submit to Perpetual Servitude, the Biblical model called for the slaughter of every single man.

To conclude, the concept of dhimmitude Perpetual Servitude is found in the Bible, and originated from Moses.  Most importantly, the Bible contains “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal commandments” to wage holy war against infidels, and to enslave them, to subjugate them to Perpetual Servitude–something far worse than the dhimmi system.

The obsession over the concept of dhimmis and jizya by the self-proclaimed defenders of the Judeo-Christian tradition certainly does seem to be a case of projection or simply of wholesale ignorance.  What the Islamophobes attribute to the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran is still better than what Moses or the Bible advocated.  This fact will of course be ignored, obfuscated, or downplayed by Robert Spencer et al.–which is consistent with the Islamophobic methodology of “whatever violence is found in Islam always ‘counts’ and whatever violence is found in Judaism or Christianity ‘doesn’t count’ and never counts.”

Always remember:  Jewish or Christian Violence Never Counts, and Muslim Violence Always Counts.

Editor’s NoteDue to the length of this article, it will be split into four pages, the next page to be published tomorrow.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (II)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by loonwatch

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Robert Spencer claims that the violent verses in the Bible are only “descriptive” whereas those in the Quran are supposedly “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal.”  However, this argument is simply not supported by the facts on the ground, as we explained on page I.  There are many violent verses in the Bible that are “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal”–at least using the same standards that Spencer so mirthfully employs against the Quran.

The Battle Psalms

The Book of Psalms is amongst the most commonly read and recited part of the Bible by both Jews and Christians.  “Throughout the world many Jews recite the Book of Psalms each week or each month.” “The Psalms are some of the most widely read portions of the Old Testament. They have a long history of popularity in the Christian tradition, so much so that often the Book of Psalms has been bound with the New Testament in pocket editions.”

The Psalms are attributed to King David, who waged violent holy war against heathens and committed atrocities that can only be described as genocide (see part 3 of this Series).  Many of the Psalms are war poems, glorifying holy war against heathens.  No wonder then that even today “when Israel is at war, Jews gather to recite Psalms” and “many Yeshivot and synagogues recite Psalms (especially Psalms 20, 83, 121, 130, 142 …) daily for the protection of Jews in Israel from terrorism.”(Certainly, ethnic cleansing–which is called for in this particular selection of Psalms–is one vengefully satisfying, albeit ineffective, way of dealing with terrorism.)  Christian soldiers in the U.S. military routinely recall and recite the Psalms as they sustain their illegal occupations in the lands of the Saracen heathens.

The Bible proclaims:

Psalms 149:5 Let godly people triumph in glory. Let them sing for joy on their beds.

149:6 Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishment on the people,

149:8 to bind their kings with chains, and their leaders with iron shackles.

Using Spencer’s own standards, this is a “prescriptive, open-ended, and universal” proclamation of holy war against “the heathen”.  Far from letting “God handle the unbelievers”, this Biblical passage empowers men to do God’s bidding–with the sharp edges of a sword no less.  After all, Psalm 18:34 says of God: “He teaches my hands to war” and 144:1 says: “Praise be to the LORD, who is my rock, who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight.”

Other verses more graphically depict how the Jewish and/or Christian believers will themselves “see vengeance” and exult in bloodletting:

58:10 The righteous will be glad when they see vengeance, when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.

The believers pray to God: “Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked” (3:7), “Strike them with terror” (9:20), “let death seize my enemies” (55:15), “trample our enemies” (60:120), “destroy them!” (74:11), “terrify them” (83:15), and “let them perish in disgrace” (83:17).

It cannot be claimed that these verses ask for the intervention of God without any human action.  Rather, the Psalms are calling for divine support to aid human soldiers on the battlefield.  This becomes abundantly clear from numerous passages contained therein:

18:29 With [God’s] help I can advance against a troop [of soldiers]; with my God I can scale [an enemy] wall.

18:30 God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

18:31 For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?

18:32 It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

18:33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.

18:34 He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.

18:35 You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great.

18:36 You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.

18:37 I will pursue my enemies and overtake them; I will not turn back till they are destroyed.

18:38 I will smite them through, so that they shall not be able to rise: They shall fall under my feet.

18:39 You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued my enemies under my feet.

18:40 You have also given me the necks of my enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

God’s aid is certainly sought, but it is the human who will become God’s agent of vengeance.  It can almost be considered that God was thought of as another fighter on the battlefield:

108:11 Have you rejected us, O God? Will you no longer march with our armies?

108:12 Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!

108:13 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

Psalm 83 is one of the most commonly recited parts of the Bible and is in fact read “daily” by many pro-Israeli Jewish congregations.  This psalm calls for God to do to the enemies of Israel what was done to the people of Midian.  As we read earlier, the Israelites killed every Midianite man, and enslaved their women and children.  The passage also lists other peoples who were defeated and destroyed by the Israelites.  This prayer in the Book of Psalms reads:

83:9 Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,

83:10 who perished at Endor and became like dung for the ground.

83:11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,

83;12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.

83:13 Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind.

83:14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,

83:15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm.

83:16 Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O LORD.

83:17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace.

Far from rejecting the wars and genocides of Moses, this prayer in the Bible–recited by Jews (and Christians) worldwide–hopes for similar treatment of other infidels, especially those who have the unfortunate fate of being deemed enemies to Israel.

Editor’s Note: Due to the length of this article, it will be split into four parts, the next part to be published tomorrow.

Update I: Page 3 is now available here.

The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 6 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), anti-Muslim Catholic apologist Robert Spencer calls the Quran a “book of war” that is “violent and intransigent.”  In contrast, he argues, “there is nothing in the Bible that rivals the Qur’an’s exhortations to violence.”  This view is held by the general public as well; in the words of Prof. Philip Jenkins:

In the minds of ordinary Christians – and Jews – the Koran teaches savagery and warfare, while the Bible offers a message of love, forgiveness, and charity.

This viewpoint is used to promote bigotry against Muslims and Islam, and to fan the flames of Islamophobia.  Fortunately, we’ve “utterly destroyed” this viewpoint (see parts 1234, and 5 of this Series), and have categorically shown that the Bible is far more violent than the Quran.  As Prof. Jenkins puts it:

In fact, the Bible overflows with “texts of terror,” to borrow a phrase coined by the American theologian Phyllis Trible. The Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Koran, and biblical violence is often far more extreme, and marked by more indiscriminate savagery.

The Bible sanctions genocide, something that one simply cannot find any equivalent of in the Quran.  In the Bible are verses calling for the slaughter of civilians, with explicit calls for the butchering of women, children, and even babies.  Even the most violent-sounding passages in the Quran do not come close to saying this.

The “Descriptive vs. Prescriptive” Defense

Keenly aware of the fact that the horribly violent verses in the Bible sound far worse than anything in the Quran, Robert Spencer and other anti-Muslim ideologues have to explain why these Biblical passages “don’t count” (whereas the violent sounding Quranic verses always “count”).  This follows an important rule of thumb employed by Islamophobes, as we explained in a previous article:

All violence in the Quran “counts” whereas whatever is peaceful in the Quran “doesn’t count”, and whatever is violent in the Bible “doesn’t count” and whatever is peaceful in the Bible “counts”.  Heads I win, tails you lose.

Islamophobes argue that the violent passages in the Bible “don’t count” because “the Biblical verses are merely descriptive, not prescriptive like in the Quran.”  In other words, the Bible only records anddescribes the violence committed by Judeo-Christian prophets, without prescribing believers of today to carry these acts out.

According to this view, the God of the Bible only commands war against the people of the Seven Nations, who simply do not exist any more.  Since they don’t exist any more, those Biblical verses are effectively dead letters. This is how the pro-Christian argument goes anyways.

The ultra-conservative Catholic organization The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property summarizes Spencer’s argument in a sympathetic review of his book:

Biblical references record God’s commands to specific people to wage war against certain groups for a particular purpose and a limited time period. These passages are a historic account of God’s dealings with His people. Conversely, the Koran’s more numerous violent passages call upon Muslims of all times to fight unbelievers with impunity and spread Islam with the sword.

And in Robert Spencer’s own words (found on pp.28-31 of his book):

Islamic apologists more often tend to focus on several Old Testament passages:

* “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.  And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

* “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.  However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.  Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:10-17).

* “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately.  But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves” (Numbers 31:17-18).

Strong stuff, right?  Just as bad as “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” (Qur’an 9:5) and “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them” (Quran 47:4) and all the rest, right?

Wrong.  Unless you happen to be a Hittite, Girgashite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, or Jebusite, [the Seven Nations] these Biblical passages simply do not apply to you.  The Qur’an exhorts believers to fight unbelievers without specifying anywhere in the text that only certain unbelievers are to be fought, or only for a certain period of time, or some other distinction.  Taking the texts at face value, the command to make war against unbelievers is open-ended and universal.  The Old Testament, in contrast, records God’s commands to the Israelites to make war against particular people only.  This is jarring to modern sensibilities, to be sure, but it does not amount to the same thing.

Robert Spencer reproduces Biblical verses to prove his claim when in actuality these verses are all the proof needed to refute his claim.  One does not need to go further than his own page in his own book to see how fallacious his basic argument is!

The first passage is Deuteronomy 7:1-2, which orders the believers to “utterly destroy” the people of the Seven Nations:

When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you.  And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.  You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them” (Deuteronomy 7:1-2)

The believers are forbidden to sign a peace treaty with the people of the Seven Nations (“you shall make no covenant with them”), and they must be ethnically cleansed (“you shall utterly destroy them”).

The next passage Spencer cites explains what to do with all nations other than the Seven Nations:

When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace.  If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you.  However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.  Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you.  Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. (Deuteronomy 20:10-17).

In his book, Robert Spencer completely omitted the verse in red above. Notice how the words in red (Deuteronomy 20:15) simply do not appear in Spencer’s rendition of the passage.  Take a look for yourself (click on the image to view):

This time, Spencer didn’t even bother using those ever so strategic ellipses to manipulate the meaning of a passage.  One wonders at the convenient omission of Deuteronomy 20:15 and whether or not this is a mistake or deception.  It is certainly a very helpful “mistake”.

Furthermore, Spencer didn’t reproduce 20:17 either:

20:17 But you shall utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD your God has commanded you.

Whatever the case, the Biblical passage (the one that Robert Spencer uses as a proof) is actuallysaying that the general rule is that heathens are to be offered terms of “peace”, which entails being reduced to “forced labor” (perpetual servitude).  (This is the Bible’s version of “peace”, and the same type of world “peace” that Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”, will bring during his Second Coming.)  If the heathens reject these terms of “peace”, then in that case they are to be attacked and every single man (including non-combatants) is to be killed.  Meanwhile, the women and the children are to be enslaved, and the animals and all property are to be taken as booty.

After stating this general rule, the God of the Bible clarifies that this does not apply to the people of the Seven Nations, who must be “utterly destroy[ed]“.  The women and children cannot be taken as slaves because the believers “shall not leave alive anything that breathes.”  In other words, Spencer’s rationalization could be applied to Deuteronomy 20:16-17 (the genocidal verses advocating “utter destruction”) but not to Deuteronomy 20:10-15 (the verses advocating perpetual servitude of heathens).

The Bible thus advocates genocide against heathen residing inside the Promised Land, andperpetual servitude of heathen outside of it.  Genocide is the rule for the Seven Nations (Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites), whereas perpetual servitude is the rule for all heathens other than this.  The enforcement of this Biblical rule (genocide inside the Promised Land and slavery outside of it) can be seen in the story of Gibeon.  As infidels, the Gibeonites were forced to choose between genocide and slavery (both options requiring forced conversion); we explain this story here [pdf document].

The Battle Psalms

Above have we refuted the argument that the Bible calls for holy war against the Seven Nations exclusively.  But the juiciest Biblical verses are actually found in the Book of Psalms, including this doozie:

Psalms 149:5 Let godly people triumph in glory. Let them sing for joy on their beds.

149:6 Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishment on the people,

149:8 to bind their kings with chains, and their leaders with iron shackles.

There’s much more in the Book of Psalms, and that’s up next…

Editor’s Note: Due to the length of this article, it will be split into four pages, the next page to be published tomorrow.

Update I: Page 2 is now available here.

Update II: Page 3 is now available here.

Utah church offers free Korans in Easter gesture

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2011 by loonwatch

In juxtaposition to those who would burn Korans, a Church in Utah is giving away free Korans.

Utah church offers free Korans in Easter gesture

By James Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY

(Reuters) – A Utah church is giving away free copies of the Koran in an Easter season ecumenical riposte to the recent burning of the Islamic holy book by a controversial Florida pastor.

The Wasatch Presbyterian Church has ordered 50 copies of the Koran to be distributed at a local bookstore starting on Monday.

“We’re not promoting Islam, we’re not saying the Koran is the Bible,” said Scott Dalgarno, the church’s pastor. “We’re just saying that if people are curious, if they want their consciences informed on this issue … then let them pick up a copy on us and read it and decide for themselves what to think.”

Dalgarno says each Koran, which the world’s nearly 1.6 billion Muslims believe is God’s final testament, will have a bookmark insert that reads: “This book was donated by the leaders of Wasatch Presbyterian Church who are not afraid of truth wherever it can be found.”

He said the giveaway was a response to Terry Jones, the leader of a fringe, fundamentalist church in Gainesville, Florida.

In a move that prompted riots in Afghanistan, Jones’ tiny church in northern Florida burned a Koran last month following a mock “trial” of the text.

“When we found out that Terry Jones had actually carried through on this and 20-plus people had died as a result we thought we can’t stay silent here,” said Dalgarno.

Jones was in court on Friday in Dearborn, Michigan — home of one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States — where he wants to hold a demonstration outside the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the country.

Dalgarno says he has received some negative feedback since word of the Koran giveaway was announced but that he would do the same thing for other faiths.

“If someone in Salt Lake burned a copy of the Book of Mormon, we’d probably do the same thing,” he said. “We’d buy copies of the Book of Mormon and say read it and inform your conscience.”

(Editing by James B. Kelleher and Peter Bohan)

Original post: Utah church offers free Korans in Easter gesture

Donald Trump Says Something in Koran Teaches a ‘Very Negative Vibe’

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , on April 25, 2011 by loonwatch

Donald Trump is at again. First with Obama’s birth certificate, and now this.

Donald Trump Says Something in Koran Teaches a ‘Very Negative Vibe’

In an exclusive interview with The Brody File, Donald Trump expresses concern about the teachings of the Koran saying, “There’s something there that teaches some very negative vibe.”

Watch below. The transcription is below as well.

http://downloads.cbn.com/cbnnewsplayer/cbnPlayer.swf?aid=22330

I spoke with Trump in New York a few days ago. My full six-minute piece aired across the country on “The 700 Club” this morning. If you missed it, you can watch it again tonight at 11 p.m. on the ABC Family Channel or here anytime of day.

Trump will also be the sole focus of this week’s 30-minute Brody File Show where you can see a lot more of the interview. (The show will be released Wednesday morning along with more, never-before-seen clips)

Transcription:

David Brody: Radical Islam: to Evangelicals, this is a bread and butter issue. You said there’s a Muslim problem in this country. What do you mean by that exactly?

Donald Trump: Bill O’Reilly asked me is there a Muslim problem? And I said absolutely, yes. In fact I went a step further. I said I didn’t see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center. It was very interesting. I thought that was going to be a controversial statement and somebody, I think it was Dennis Miller introduced me, he was doing like an analysis of me, he said, I love it.

The guy said what the truth is. He didn’t mince his words. He didn’t say, ‘Oh, gee, no there’s not a Muslim problem, everybody’s wonderful.’ And by the way, many, many, most Muslims are wonderful people, but is there a Muslim problem? Look what’s happening. Look what happened right here in my city with the World Trade Center and lots of other places.

So I said it and I thought it was going to be very controversial but actually it was very well received. I think people want the truth. I think they’re tired of politicians. They’re tired of politically correct stuff.

I mean I could have said, ‘Oh absolutely not Bill, there’s no Muslim problem, everything is wonderful, just forget about the World Trade Center.’ But you have to speak the truth. We’re so politically correct that this country is falling apart.

Brody: With some evangelicals there are some problems with the teachings of the Koran. Do you have concerns about the Koran?”

Trump: Well, I’ll tell you what. The Koran is very interesting. A lot of people say it teaches love and there is a very big group of people who really understand the Koran far better than I do. I’m certainly not an expert, to put it mildly. But there’s something there that teaches some very negative vibe.

I mean things are happening, when you look at people blowing up all over the streets that are in some of the countries over in the Middle East, just blowing up a super market with not even soldiers, just people, when 250 people die in a super market that are shopping, where people die in a store or in a street. There’s a lot of hatred there that’s some place.

Now I don’t know if that’s from the Koran. I don’t know if that’s from some place else. But there’s tremendous hatred out there that I’ve never seen anything like it.

So, you have two views. You have the view that the Koran is all about love and then you have the view that the Koran is, that there’s a lot of hate in the Koran.

Jesus Loves His Enemies…and Then Kills Them All

Posted in Feature, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 5 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Anti-Muslim demagoguery relies on the demonization of the Prophet Muhammad, who is characterized as being especially violent and warlike.  This idea has certainly gained currency in the “Judeo-Christian West”.  When it is pointed out that the Biblical prophets–including MosesJoshua,SamsonSaulDavid, among many others–were far more violent and warlike (and even engaged inreligiously sanctioned genocide), anti-Muslim pro-Christian ideologues will respond by disregarding or downplaying the Old Testament and will instead focus on the personality of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Didn’t Jesus preach nonviolence and “loving one’s enemies”?  The anti-Muslim ideologues use this idea to assault the religion of Islam with.  For example, the Catholic apologist Robert Spencer compares Islam to Christianity by juxtaposing carefully selected quotes from Jesus to Islamic texts.  In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), Spencer includes a “Muhammad vs Jesus” section.  He cites the following sayings of Jesus in the Bible:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

“If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”

“Blessed are the peacemakers”

“Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”

“But love your enemies, and do good”

These “peaceful” verses of the Bible are compared to select violent-sounding Quranic verses.  The violent verses of the Bible “don’t count” and are craftily excluded from the comparison (“that’s just the Old Testament!”).  To tighten the noose, peaceful verses of the Quran are also excluded from the heavily biased analysis: these “don’t count” since they are supposedly from when Muhammad was still in Mecca.

To understand the last point, one needs to have a basic understanding of the Prophet Muhammad’s biography: he first declared his prophethood in the city of Mecca.  Only a very small segment of society accepted him (mostly the weak and poor), whereas the masses–especially the powerful leaders of the city–not only rejected him but actively persecuted him.  The chapters of the Quran that were revealed during this period are known as the Meccan chapters.  Eventually, Muhammad fled to the city of Medina, whose people accepted him as their ruler.  He went from persecuted prophet to ruler and commander-in-chief of a fledgling city-state.

The anti-Muslim ideologues claim that the peaceful and tolerant verses of the Quran come from when Muhammad was weak and persecuted in Mecca.  These verses are “canceled”, they argue, by the violent-sounding verses in the Medinan chapters.  Robert Spencer writes in  his book:

Islamic theology divides the Qur’an into “Meccan” and “Medinan” suras [chapters]. The Meccan ones come from the first segment of Muhammad’s career as a prophet, when he simply called the Meccans to Islam.  Later, after he fled to Medina, his positions hardened.  The Medinan suras [are]…filled with matters of law and ritual–and exhortations to jihad warfare against unbelievers.  The relatively tolerant verses quoted above and others like them generally date from the Meccan period, while those with a more violent and intolerant edge are mostly from Medina. [1]

The Islamophobes portray Muhammad as opportunistic: when he was weak and under the rule of the pagans, he called for peace.  Without being in a position of authority, Muhammad was hardly in a position to do otherwise.  As soon as he came to power, however, he waged “jihad warfare” (what a strange phrase!) against them. This is why, they argue, the peaceful verses of the Quran simply “don’t count”.

The merits of Spencer’s claims about the Prophet Muhammad will be critiqued in a future article of this Series.  For now, however, we will demonstrate that, using such logic, it is equally possible to invalidate the “peaceful” sayings of Jesus Christ.  While he was a persecuted prophet, Jesus advocated nonviolence and peaceful resistance.  He was hardly in a position to do otherwise, right?  Once in power, however, this changes dramatically and violent warfare becomes the new modus operandi.

The Messiah

Just as Muhammad’s biography can be divided into a Meccan and Medinan period, so too can Jesus’s lifestory be divided into a First and Second Coming.  (Likewise can Moses’ lifestory be divided into pre- and post-Exodus: prior to Exodus, Moses was largely peaceful, but after Exodus, Moses became the leader of the emerging Jewish state–and subsequently engaged in holy wars and even genocide against other nations.)  In the First Coming of Christ, only a small segment of society (mostly from the weak and poor) accepted Jesus, whereas the leaders and authorities persecuted him.  During this time period, Jesus advised his followers to engage in nonviolent resistance only, perhaps even pacifism.  Jesus advised his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  According to the Bible, this didn’t stop his Jewish and Roman persecutors from crucifying him.

Yet, the Second Coming of Christ is a central theological belief of Christianity.  When Jesus returns to earth, the gloves will be off: no longer will he practice nonviolence or pacifism.  Enemies will be mercilessly killed, not loved.  In this manner, Jesus will fulfill the messianic prophecies found in the Bible–both in the Old and New Testaments.  To Christians, Jesus is the Messiah (the Greek word “Christ” has the same meaning as the Hebrew word “Messiah”)–the same Messiah that the Jews had been in anticipation of.

It is important to understand how the concept of Messiah developed.  According to the Bible, Moses and his followers fled persecution in Egypt to find refuge in the land of Canaan.  They believed that God had bequeathed this land to them, which would come to be known as Israel. Unfortunately, there were already peoples who lived in Canaan, a problem that Moses and his followers rectified via military might.  The native Canaanites were subsequently occupied, exterminated, or run off their ancestral lands.  When the natives fought back, the Israelites attributed this to their innate and infernal hatred of the Jewish people.

After ruling the “promised land” for a time, the Israelites were themselves conquered by outsiders.  The Babylonian Empire captured the Kingdom of Judah and expelled the Jews.  Though the Israelites felt no remorse over occupying, slaughtering, and running off the native inhabitants of Canaan, they were mortified when they received similar (albeit milder) treatment.  In exile, the Jews prayed for vengeance, as recorded in a divine prayer in the Bible:

Psalm 137:8 O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us.

137:9 Blessed is the one who grabs your babies and smashes them against a rock.

(We can hardly imagine the glee that an Islamophobe would feel had such a violent passage, one that blesses those who smash infidel babies against rocks, been found in the Quran instead of the Bible.)

It was during the time of exile that the Jewish concept of Messiah was first born.  Dutch historianJona Lendering writes:

The word Messiah renders the Aramaic word mešîhâ’, which in turn renders the Hebrew mâšîah. In Antiquity, these words were usually translated into Greek asChristos and into Latin as Christus, hence the English word Christ. All these words mean simply ‘anointed one’, anointment being a way to show that a Jewish leader had received God’s personal help.

It was believed that the Messiah (the Anointed One) would receive God’s personal help against the enemies of Israel; the Messiah would defeat the Babylonians and reestablish the Jewish state of Israel.  Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, fulfilled this role by conquering Babylon and releasing the Jews from exile.  Israel Smith Clare writes:

After Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, had conquered Babylon, he issued an edict permitting the Jews to return to their own country and to rebuild the city and Temple of Jerusalem. [2]

Prof. Martin Bernal of Cornell University writes:

The first Messiah in the Bible was Cyrus, the king of Persia who released the Jews–at least those who wanted to leave–from Exile in Babylon. [3]

As for this passage in the Bible:

Psalm 137:8 O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us.

137:9 Blessed is the one who grabs your babies and smashes them against a rock.

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible comments on this verse:

This was Cyrus, who was chosen of God to do this work, and is therefore called happy, as being God’s agent in its destruction.

The Jews thereby returned to the promised land and rebuilt their nation.  According to Jewish tradition, however, this did not last long: the Roman Empire conquered the land, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews once again.  As a result, as Lendering puts it, “the old prophecies [about Messiah] became relevant again.”  Although in Jewish tradition there is a messiah for each generation, there is also the Messiah, which is what is commonly thought of when we hear the word.  The Messiah would fulfill the task of destroying all of Israel’s enemies.

JewFaq.org says of the Messiah, which they spell as mashiach (emphasis is ours):

The mashiach will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The mashiach is often referred to as “mashiach ben David” (mashiach, son of David). He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15).

KosherJudaism.org states:

The Messiah will defeat and conquer the enemies surrounding Israel.

The Second Coming of Christ

Around 4 B.C., a prophet by the name of Jesus was born.  He claimed to be the Messiah, and some Jews followed him.  The followers of Christ eventually split into numerous sects, and eventually one triumphed over all others.  These became what are today known as Christians.  As for the majority of Jews, they rejected Jesus.  Why? The Jews rejected (and continue to reject) Jesus because he did not fulfill the prophecies pertaining to the Messiah.  How could Jesus be the Messiah when he not only did not defeat or conquer Israel’s enemies, but he never even led an army into a single war?  On the contrary, didn’t Jesus preach nonviolence and “loving one’s enemies”?

Instead of rejecting these militaristic aspects of the Messiah, Christians attribute them to Jesus during his Second Coming.  No longer will Jesus be a weak and persecuted prophet.  Instead, he will hold governmental authority, and is depicted as powerful and mighty.  This Jesus will certainly not love his enemies or turn the other cheek to them. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus will wage violent warfare against his enemies, and he will mercilessly kill them all.

Many Christians talk about how Jesus Christ will bring peace to the world, once and for all.  But they often neglect to mention how this world “peace” is obtained.  It is only after slaughtering his opponents and subduing “the nations” (the entire world?) under the foot of the global Christian empire that the world will have “peace”.  Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible explains:

There shall be no more war; horses and chariots shall be no more used in a hostile way; but there shall be perfect peace, all enemies being destroyed, which agrees with Micah 2:3 Zechariah 9:10.

In other words, there will be peace for the simple reason that there will be nobody left to fight, all opponents having been slaughtered or subdued.   This world “peace” is the same “peace” that any conqueror dreams of: after utterly defeating and conquering all of one’s neighbors and enemies, what is there left but “peace”, insofar as the non-existence of violence?  In the accidentally insightful words of the Evangelist Wayne Blank: “Put another way, humans aren’t going to have anything left to fight about.”  Following conquest, a foreign occupier would obviously want the occupied peoples to be peaceful, as this would eliminate the nuisance of having to fight off freedom-fighters.  The absence of violence would allow the conquering force to effortlessly sustain its occupation.

The events of the Second Coming of Christ are found in the Bible, including the Book of Revelation–which is the last book in the New Testament.  Jesus will “judge and wage war” (Rev. 19:11), his robe will be “dipped in blood” (19:13), and he will be accompanied by “armies” (19:14) with which he will “strike down the nations” (19:15), including “the Gentiles” in general and “the nations that were opposed to him” in specific.  This will result in the “utter destruction of all his enemies”. Furthermore: “in his second coming[,] he will complete their destruction, when he shall put down all opposing rule, principality, and power.”

Once he conquers the infidels, Jesus “will rule them with an iron rod” (19:15).  Wayne Blank writes:

The good news is that The Return Of Jesus Christ is going to happen. The even better news is that this time He’s not coming to be sacrificed by the world, but to rule it, along with those who have been faithful and obedient to Him. The world is going to know true peace, and genuine justice, in a way that it has never known before…

How Will World Peace Happen?

…[This will] not [be] by pleading and debate, but with a rod of iron. Those who choose to love and obey Him will be loved, while those who choose to rebel and hate Him will know His wrath.

Jesus will “will release the fierce wrath of God” (19:15) on them, and “he shall execute the severest judgment on the opposers of his truth”.   Because of this, “every tribe on earth will mourn because of him” (Rev. 1:7), and they will “express the inward terror and horror of their minds, at his appearing; they will fear his resentment”.  Just as the people of Canaan were terrified by the Israelite war machine, so too would the unbelievers “look with trembling upon [Jesus]”.  This is repeated in the Gospels, that “the Son of man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn” (Matthew 24:30).  “All the nations of the world shall wail when he comes to judgment” and the enemies of Jesus “shall mourn at the great calamities coming upon them”.

Far from the meek prophet of the First Coming, Jesus on his return will command a very strong military force that will “destroy[] every ruler, authority, and power”.  Not only is this consistent with the legacy of conquests by the Biblical prophets, it is actually a fulfillment or completion of the task that Moses initiated: holy war and conquest in the name of God.  In First Corinthians (part of the New Testament) it is prophesied that instead of loving his enemies, Christ will subdue and humble them under his feet:

1 Corinthians 15:24 [Jesus] will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power.

15:25 For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet.

Pastor and Biblical scholar Ron Teed explains that Jesus Christ brought “comfort and salvation at His first coming” but will bring “vengeance on God’s enemies” during his Second Coming.  There are thus “two comings of Christ, the first to save, the second to judge”–yet in debates with Muslims it seems that Christians play up the First Coming and completely ignore the Second.  The popular Teed Commentaries explains how “vengeance” is for Christ’s enemies (the “unbelievers”) and “comfort” only for his followers (the believers):

The Messiah will bring both comfort and vengeance. He will take vengeance on God’s enemies and bring comfort to His people. This is a summary of the mission of Christ. He brought comfort and salvation at His first coming during His earthly ministry according to Luke…

However, He said nothing of taking vengeance on God’s enemies at that time, for that part of his mission will not be fulfilled till He returns triumphant…

[There are] two comings of Christ, the first to save, the second to judge.

In His First coming He did the things mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-2; in His Second Coming He will do the things in verses 2-3. When He returns He will bring judgment on unbelievers. This will be the day of God’s “vengeance.”

The ever popular Evangelical site GotQuestions.org sums it up nicely:

Jesus’ second coming will be exceedingly violent. Revelation 19:11-21 describes the ultimate war with Christ, the conquering commander who judges and makes war “with justice” (v. 11). It’s going to be bloody (v. 13) and gory. The birds will eat the flesh of all those who oppose Him (v. 17-18). He has no compassion upon His enemies, whom He will conquer completely and consign to a “fiery lake of burning sulfur” (v. 20).

It is an error to say that God never supports a war. Jesus is not a pacifist.

Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up?

Whereas the Second Coming of Christ is curiously forgotten in debates with Muslims, it is conveniently remembered during debates with Jews.  One of the primary (if not the primary) functions of the promised messiah in the Judeo-Christian tradition is, after all, vengeance against Israel’s enemies and global dominance.  Indeed, the entire concept of Messiah emerged following the conquest of Jewish lands with the subjugation and exile of its inhabitants.  The Messiah stood as hope for the redemption of Israel as well as revenge against her enemies.

Jewish polemical tracts against Christians reveal to us how militarism is a fundamental characteristic of the Messiah.  The Christian response in turn reveal how Jesus Christ will indeed be militaristic (during his Second Coming).  David Klinghoffer, an Orthodox Jewish author, writes in his book Why the Jews Rejected Jesus:

There were certainly those among [Jesus’] followers who saw him as the promised Messiah.  This was natural.  The first century produced messiahs the way our own time produces movie stars.  There was always a hot new candidate for the role emerging from obscurity, whose glory faded either as he was slaughtered by the Romans or as his followers lost interest when he failed to produce the goods promised by the prophets. [4]

“The goods” refer to the military conquest of Israel’s enemies and world domination.  The fact that Jesus failed to produce these “goods” proves that he is not the promised messiah.  Klinghoffer continues:

Let him do what the “son of man,” the promised Messiah, had been advertised as being destined to do from Daniel back through Ezekiel and Isaiah and the rest of the prophets.  Let him rule as a monarch, his kingship extending over “all peoples, nations, and languages.”  Let him return the exiles and build the Temple and defeat the oppressors and establish universal peace, as the prophets also said…

Let Jesus come up with the real messianic goods–visible to all rather than requiring us to accept someone’s assurance that, for example, he was born in Bethlehem–and then we’ll take him seriously. [5]

This point is reiterated in his book numerous times:

Hearing Jesus preach, a Jew might reasonably have crossed his arms upon his chest and muttered, “Hm, intriguing, but let’s see what happens.”  After all, the scriptures themselves common-sensically defined a false prophet as someone whose prophecies fail to come true.  According to Deuteronomy, this was the chief test of a prophet. [6]

Klinghoffer writes elsewhere:

The Hebrew prophets describe the elements of a messianic scenario that could not easily be overlooked: an ingathering of the Jewish exiles, the reign of a messianic king, a new covenant with the Jews based on a restored commitment to observance of the commandments, a new Temple, the recognition of God by the world’s peoples.  The future Davidic king was expected to radically change the world. [7]

The “radical change” involves the “subjugation” of the nations:

The Messiah would be a military and political leader. Philo, whose views have sometimes been taken as foreshadowing Christian teachings, is clear on this: “For ‘there shall come forth a man’ (Num. 24:7), says the oracle, and leading his host of war he will subdue great and populous nations.”

The Gospel writers thus faced the challenge that Jesus never raised an army, fought the Romans, returned any Jewish exiles, ruled over any population, or did anything else a king messiah would do. [8]

The subjugated nations would then “prostrate” themselves to the Messiah and “serve” him (perpetual servitude?):

The promised royal scion of David, the Messiah, would surely inspire veneration and awe beyond that accorded even to David himself…The nations will “prostrate” themselves before God, says one psalm; but so will they “prostrate” themselves (same Hebrew verb) before the Davidic king, says another psalm…As Daniel puts it…“[The Messiah] was given dominion, honor, kingship, so that all peoples, nations, and languages would serve him.” [9]

Klinghoffer defines the Messiah as he “who conquers and rules the nations and liberates the Jews” and describes him as a mighty warrior”.  He rhetorically asks:

Was there in Jewish tradition any room for a dead Messiah?  Didn’t Jesus’s death tend to cast doubt on his ability to accomplish all the world-transforming things the Messiah was supposed to do? [10]

Again, the “world-transforming things” include violent holy war against the heathen nations and their subjugation under his rule.  Klinghoffer answers his own question:

But was Jesus a ruler over Israel?  On the contrary, the younger Kimchi pointed out, “He did not govern Israel but they governed him.” [11]

Christians reply by arguing that Jesus will fulfill these prophecies, just during his Second Coming.  The Good News, a Christian magazine with a readership of nearly half a million subscribers, responds to the Jewish criticism by arguing that Jesus returns “a second time” as a “conquering King” who will “slay the great armies of those who opposed Him”.  Jesus will be “the promised Messiah whom the prophets claimed would rule all nations ‘with a rod of iron’” and “all nations would come under His rule”.

Klinghoffer, our Orthodox Jewish interlocutor, cries foul:

Christians respond by saying that “the famously unfulfilled prophecies (for instance, that the messianic era will be one of peace) apply to the second and final act in Jesus’s career, when he returns to earth.  This is a convenient and necessary dodge: The Bible itself never speaks of a two-act messianic drama. [11]

The interesting dynamic is thus established: Jews accuse Jesus of not being militaristic enough, and Christian apologists respond by eagerly proving the militaristic nature of Jesus during his Second Coming.

Christians Affirm Militant Old Testament Prophecies

Far from saying “it’s just the Old Testament!”, Christians routinely–and as a matter of accepted fundamental theology–use the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah to validate their belief in Jesus–prophecies that have militaristic overtones.  The Book of Isaiah, for example, has numerous prophecies in it that Christians routinely attribute to Jesus Christ.  For example:

Isaiah 35:4 Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary of this verse says:

Assurance is given of the approach of Messiah, to take vengeance on the powers of darkness, to recompense with abundant comforts those that mourn in Zion; He will come and save. He will come again at the end of time, to punish those who have troubled his people; and to give those who were troubled such rest as will be a full reward for all their troubles.

This will be “a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (34:8) against the “nations at enmity with the church” and “those found opposing the church of Christ”, which will result in “the destruction of [the church’s] enemies.” Likewise do Christians claim that the Book of Micah foretells the Second Coming of Christ:

Micah 15:5 I will execute vengeance in anger and fury on the heathen, such as they have not heard.

One Biblical commentary helpfully explains this verse:

Christ will give his Son either the hearts or necks of his enemies, and make them either his friends or his footstool.

[NassirH, a reader of our website, astutely commented: I suppose this is what JihadWatch writer Roland Shirk meant when he said “Islam is a religion of fear and force, and its adherents can only be at your feet or at your throat.”]

Another Biblical commentary notes: “Here no mention is made of Mercy, but only of executing vengeance; and that, with wrath and fury.”  Yet another states that this is “a prophecy of the final overthrow of all the enemies of pure and undefiled religion” and that this is “a threatening of vengeance to the Heathens”.

When we published articles comparing the Judeo-Christian prophets of the Hebrew Bible to the Prophet Muhammad, an anti-Muslim bigot by the name of Percey (formerly known as Cassidy) claimed that the genocides of the Old Testament were “not supported by Christ’s teachings.”  This hardly seems the case, however, when we consider that Jesus will bring to a climax the holy war first initiated by Moses against the enemies of Israel.  Jesus will fulfill, not repudiate, Old Testament holy wars against Israel’s foes.  In fact, the war will be expanded to heathen nations in general, or at least those that reject Jesus.

Conclusion

We could reproduce violent Christian texts ad nauseum…What is clear is that the Christian conception of Jesus can very easily be characterized as violent.  Prof. Melancthon W. Jacobus writes in A Standard Bible Dictionary:

[Jesus] excluded from the Messiah’s character the main elements of the popular ideal, i.e. that of a conquering hero, who would exalt Israel above the heathen, and through such exclusion He seemed to fail to realize the older Scriptural conception.  The failure, however, was only apparent and temporary.  For in the second coming in glory He was to achieve this work. Accordingly, His disciples recognized a twofoldness in His Messiahship: (1) They saw realized in His past life the ideal Servant of Jehovah, the spiritual Messiah, the Christ who teaches and suffers for the people, and (2) they looked forward to the realization of the Davidic and conquering Messiah in His second coming in power and glory to conquer the nations and reign over them. [12]

How then do we reconcile the seemingly peaceful and pacifist sayings of Jesus with the violent and warlike Second Coming of Christ?  There are numerous ways to do this, but perhaps the most convincing is that Jesus’ peaceful and pacifist sayings were directed towards a resident’s personal and local enemies–usually (but not always) referring to fellow co-religionists.  It did not refer to a government’s foreign adversaries, certainly not to heathen nations.  Prof. Richard A. Horsley of the University of Michigan argues:

The cluster of sayings keynoted by “love your enemies” pertains neither to external, political enemies nor to the question of nonviolence or nonresistance…The content of nearly all the sayings indicates a context of local interaction with personal enemies, not of relations with foreign or political foes…

“Love your enemies” and the related sayings apparently were understood by [Jesus’] followers…to refer to local social-economic relations, largely within the village community, which was still probably coextensive with the religious community in most cases…[although sometimes referring] to persecutors outside the religious community but still in the local residential community—and certainly not the national or political enemies. [13]

This is consistent with the ruling given by the Evangelical site GotQuestions.org, which permits governments to wage war whilst forbidding individuals from “personal vendettas”:

God has allowed for just wars throughout the history of His people. From Abraham to Deborah to David, God’s people have fought as instruments of judgment from a righteous and holy God. Romans 13:1-4 tells us to submit ourselves to government authorities and that nations have the right to bear the sword against evildoers, both foreign and domestic.

Violence occurs, but we must recognize the difference between holy judgment on sin and our own personal vendettas against those we dislike, which is the inevitable outcome of pride (Psalm 73:6).

As for the “turning the other cheek” passage, it is known that the slap on the cheek that was being referred to here was in that particular culture understood as an insult, not as assault.  The passage itself has to do with a person responding to a personal insult, and has nothing to do with pacifism.  In any case, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary clarifies:  “Of course, He applied this to personal insults, not to groups or nations.” [14]

Some Christians maintain that fighting the enemies on the battlefield does not exclude loving them.  This begs the question: how absolutely irrelevant is this strange form of “love” for enemies that does not proscribe killing them?

Whatever the reason for the contradiction between loving enemies on the one hand and killing them on the other, the point is that the comparison between a supposedly peaceful Jesus and violent Muhammad is not just a vapid oversimplification but pure falsity.  It is only through a very selective and biased analysis–a carefully crafted comparison between the most peaceful sounding verses of the New Testament (a handful of quotes from Jesus that constitute a small fraction of the Bible overall) with the most violent sounding verses of the Quran (those too out of context, as we shall see in future parts of this Series).

Anything that doesn’t fit this agenda simply “doesn’t count” (and indeed, the anti-Muslim pro-Christian readers will furiously rack their brains to figure out ways to make the violent Jesus verses “not count”).  The Islamophobic logic is thus: If we exclude all violent verses from the Bible and all the peaceful verses from the Quran, then aha!  See how much more violent the Quran is compared to the Bible! Anti-Muslim Christians scoff at Islam and exalt their religion by informing Muslims of how Jesus, unlike Muhammad, loved his enemies.  Let the Muslims reply back ever so wryly: Jesus loved them so much that he kills them.

Addendum I:

Anti-Muslim Christians often chant “Muhammad was a prophet of war, whereas Jesus was the Prince of Peace”.  A few points about this are worthy of being mentioned: first, Muhammad never used the title “prophet of war” nor is this mentioned in the Quran or anywhere else.  In fact, one of the most common epithets used for Muhammad, one found in the Quran no less, was “A Mercy to All Humanity”.  (More on this in a later part of the Series.)  Jesus, on the other hand, will be a “Warrior King” and a “Conquering King.”  Should it then be “Muhammad is A Mercy to All Humanity, whereas Jesus is the Warrior King”?

As for Jesus being the Prince of Peace, this epithet comes from Isaiah 9:6:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen.

One Christian website paraphrases this succinctly: “Israel’s enemies will be destroyed. Peace will flow to the four corners of the earth, as the Prince of Peace rules and reigns.”  Again, this is the “peace” that conquerers dream of.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace because he declares war, slaughters and subjugates all possible enemies to the point where nobody is left to fight, and voila!there is peace!

This brings us to the commonly quoted (and oft-debated) verse of the Bible, in which Jesus says:

Matthew 10:34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Most debates focus on whether or not the word “sword” here is metaphorical or not.  Leaving aside the fact that even if this is a metaphor it is certainly a very violent sounding one, it would actually behoove us to focus on the word “peace” in this verse.  Jesus told the Jews: “do not think I have come to bring peace on earth” as a way to explain his failure to produce “the goods”: “the Jews believed that when the Messiah comes, there would be a time of world peace.”  Naturally, this world “peace” would be brought about through war.  Of course, in his Second Coming will Jesus bring this “peace on earth” (and by “peace”, what is meant is war, slaughter, and subjugation).  As we can see, this verse confirms the militant nature of the Messiah (and thus Jesus), regardless of if it is metaphorical or not.

Addendum II:

Here is another hotly debated verse, in which Jesus says:

Luke 19:27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.

Robert Spencer dismisses this verse, saying: “These are the words of a king in a parable.”  Yes, this was a parable that Jesus told his disciples.  But what was his intention in narrating this parable?  Gill’s Explanation to the Entire Bible explains that it was to explain what will happen to the Jews “when Christ shall come a second time”:  Jesus will “destroy the Jewish nation” for rejecting him “and then all other enemies will be slain and destroyed” as well.  Death and destruction will be the fate of whoever does not accept Jesus’ reign as Warrior King.

This was hardly an innocuous story.  It reminds us of a scene in the movie Gladiator when the evil Roman emperor Commodus tells his nephew a story about an “emperor” who was betrayed by his sister (“his own blood”) and how he “struck down” her son as revenge.  (Watch it here.)  The story was a thinly veiled threat, as was Jesus’ parable.

One can only hardly imagine how Islamophobes like Robert Spencer would react had it been the Prophet Muhammad who had used such a violent parable, threatening to return to earth in order to “slay” anyone who “did not want me to reign over them”!  This would certainly “count” since all violence in the Quran “counts” whereas whatever is peaceful in the Quran “doesn’t count”, and whatever is violent in the Bible “doesn’t count” and whatever is peaceful in the Bible “counts”.  Heads I win, tails you lose.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Spencer, Robert. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2005. 24. Print.

refer back to article 2. Clare, Israel S. The Centennial Universal History: A Clear and Concise History of All Nations. P. W. Ziegler, 1876. 33. Print.

refer back to article 3. Bernal, Martin. Black Athena. Vol. 1. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ., 1996. 125. Print.

refer back to article 4. Klinghoffer, David. Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: the Turning Point in Western History. New York: Three Leaves/Doubleday, 2006. 61. Print.

refer back to article 5. Ibid., p.71

refer back to article 6. Ibid., p.64

refer back to article 7. Ibid., p.62

refer back to article 8. Ibid., p.63

refer back to article 9. Ibid., p.69

refer back to article 10. Ibid., p.161

refer back to article 11. Ibid., p.204

refer back to article 12. Jacobus, Melancthon Williams., Edward E. Nourse, and Andrew C. Zenos. A Standard Bible Dictionary. New York & London, 1909. 543. Print.

refer back to article 13. Swartley, Willard M. “Ethics and Exegesis: ‘Love Your Enemies’ and the Doctrine of Nonviolence.” The Love of Enemy and Nonretaliation in the New Testament. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1992. Print.

refer back to article 14. Wiersbe, Warren W. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2007. 21. Print.

In Muslim community, Lee Baca wins support through conversation, not confrontation

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2011 by loonwatch

Sheriff Lee Baca, a Republican,  made LoonWatch’s 2010 list of anti-Loons and is in one of the leaders for 2011. Here he is still doing a tremendous job.

In Muslim community, Baca wins support through conversation, not confrontation

The L.A. County sheriff, a Republican with a strong reputation as a crime fighter, believes in building trust within minority communities. He reads the Koran and shuns hard-line tactics.

By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

April 19, 2011

Reporting from New York— Three young women, all wearing delicate hijabs, are gathered outside a TriBeCa lecture hall in eager anticipation. It’s not an actor or a pop star they’re waiting for. The object of their giddiness is Sheriff Lee Baca, in town for just one night.

It might be unusual for a lawman anywhere to have fans, let alone one a continent away from his jurisdiction. But such is the life of Los Angeles County’s chief law enforcement officer since his outspoken support of American Muslims vaulted him into the national spotlight.

“I just want to meet you and thank you,” one young woman blurts out after catching Baca outside a recent speaking engagement on Muslim outreach. “You gave us a voice.”

In an only-Nixon-could-go-to-China kind of way, Baca, a former Marine reservist and registered Republican, has been largely immune to the innuendo that has caused other politicians to distance themselves from Muslims post 9/11. He has bucked the hard-line law enforcement approach of security checks and surveillance in favor of outreach and cooperation.

His law-and-order credentials have made him an irresistible ally for Muslim advocates, earning him shout-outs on national TV shows, including “The Colbert Report” and invitations to the halls of Congress. On more than one occasion he’s been the only law enforcement official willing to mix it up with Republican lawmakers on the issue.

In New York, where Baca preached the benefits of Muslim outreach on a panel about national security, the sheriff seemed energized by his warm reception. “Did you see those girls? Do they look like terrorists to you?” he said of the gaggle of young Muslim women who greeted him. “They’re not terrorists. I know my public.”

Reading the Koran

The events of 9/11 quickly took Baca in an unusual direction. When many politicians chose an arms-length approach to Muslims, Baca chose the Koran — literally. In the black sedan that ferried him from one engagement to another, he pored over the book, reading it from front to back, memorizing passages.

Within days of the terrorist attack, Baca met with local Muslim leaders, promising them protection. Responding to reports that Pakistani store owners were being hassled, Baca ordered his deputies “to go by the 7-Elevens and offer support.”

His empathy for a persecuted minority, he says, isn’t rooted in any sort of shared experience as a Mexican American but in an unusual childhood.

The son of a seamstress who had to care for three children on her own, Baca was sent as a boy to live with his pensioner grandparents in East L.A. His developmentally challenged uncle, then in his 30s, still lived at the home.

“He was a pound and a half at birth,” Baca said. “Couldn’t read, write, speak sentences. My uncle had no faculty, no capacity.”

With no household car, 7-year-old Leroy, his uncle and his grandmother traversed the city by bus. Those rides had a lasting effect.

“People would sneer at my uncle, laugh at him, make fun of him, and I believe that’s wrong,” Baca recalled. “We’re not bothering anyone. So how about just leaving us alone? Is that asking too much?”

His affinity for minority communities had political benefits. A long-shot candidate for sheriff in 1998, Baca got creative in his campaigning, tapping ethnic groups other candidates ignored.

“I had to have other bases of support outside the traditional realms,” he said. Among them were Iranians, Lebanese and other groups with large Muslim populations.

But his decision to intensify those ties post 9/11, he says, wasn’t political. Lapses on the federal level exposed by the attacks put a newfound pressure on local law enforcement. “All of our lives have been changed by 9/11,” Baca said. “We’re the ones who will get slammed if something falls through the cracks.”

Thousands of tips flooded law enforcement agencies after 9/11. Even leads that seemed silly had to be followed. “The one you don’t follow will end up being the one that matters,” Baca said. In one instance, a local group of Muslim men frequenting paintball facilities were investigated as potential terrorist snipers. They turned out to be “a buncha guys who just liked paintballing,” Baca said. “What are you gonna do? Ignore it?”

To pinpoint legitimate concerns, Baca needed his deputies inside Muslim communities. His focus on homegrown terror grew after the 2005 London Underground bombings, when four men, all living and working in England for years, killed 52.

“I realized we didn’t have a strategy for homegrown terrorism,” Baca said. “Cops are not gonna be invited into an extremist plot. That’s rule No. 1…. But if you get people to tell you something that’s troubling them, that’s the first sign of success.”

To build enough trust to be tipped off to extremist plots, Baca needed his deputies to become hyper-responsive to the Muslim community’s more routine crime concerns.

Less upfront tactics have at times backfired on other agencies. In Orange County, the FBI is still suffering from the fallout of a 2006 operation in which a paid informant posing as a Muslim convert infiltrated mosques.

The mole, equipped with a microphone keychain and a hidden camera, was outed soon after his talk of violent jihad became so extreme that one mosque was granted a restraining order. Many Muslims still point to the incident as proof that they’re too often treated by law enforcement as suspects, not partners.

Baca is reluctant to criticize the FBI, but his disdain for its style of covert intelligence gathering shows.

“I think they learned on their own what the plusses and minuses are. I believe terror plots are more sophisticated. I’m more of a chess player,” he said. “There are so few Muslim extremists in America. You can’t burn all the hay to find the needle, because the people are the hay.”

After initial struggles to make inroads, Baca’s Muslim community affairs unit, which staffs two deputies fulltime, has well-attended community exchanges and receives regular calls from Muslims with concerns that are terrorism-related and other issues. Baca’s personal involvement has softened up many of the community’s older, more reluctant leaders. The department employs about a dozen Muslim deputies and half that many Arabic speakers.

“They want to be able to say ‘I know the sheriff,’” said Sgt. Mike Abdeen, who leads the unit. “They like to go back to the community and say I know so and so, I’m a man of influence.”

Baca has been quick to accept their invitations — and fully participates when he does. At a PakistanDay celebration, he wore traditional garb. With Iranians, he’ll throw in some Farsi; with Pakistanis, a bit of Urdu. He keeps a Koran in his office and another at home and is known to quote passages from memory. Inside mosques, he removes his shoes and during prayers, he joins in, going to his knees and pressing his forehead to the ground.

“He might not understand what he’s doing,” said Deputy Sherif Morsi, the other officer in the unit. “But the point is he’s letting people know ‘I’m your sheriff, I support you.’”

That commitment has taken Baca to more than a dozen Middle Eastern countries since 9/11. The tangible benefits of the trips aren’t always clear, but Baca maintains they give him a unique window into Muslim cultures and to counterterrorism where the fight’s the fiercest.

In Saudi Arabia, he watched hundreds of police recruits march as he and other officials sat in “very elegant seats as if we were heads of state.” Afterwards, they sat on rugs in police headquarters and feasted on a barbequed lamb. “They ripped out the choicest pieces of meat for us with their hands,” Baca raved.

In Egypt, he chatted with the national police chief about his “surgical” approach to beating back the Muslim Brotherhood on the Sinai Peninsula. In Pakistan, then-President Pervez Musharraf agreed to have Baca briefed on two assassination attempts. In one, Pakistani authorities used an Israeli cellphone scrambler to halt a remote bomb detonation. When Baca returned home, the Sheriff’s Department purchased its own.

“I met the police chief of Mecca and I understand who he is. I’m on the street, you don’t learn these things in your office,” Baca said.

Baca’s effort has not been without criticism.

Far right-wing websites have derisively described Baca as an “international” lawman, and a “Hamas-affiliated CAIR” sheriff, referring to the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim group Baca defends. Last year, the innuendo followed Baca to Washington, D.C. One congressman seemed to surprise the sheriff by accusing him at a hearing of cozying up to CAIR despite the group’s “radical” speech. “You’ve been 10 times to [its] fundraisers,” the congressman said.

“And I’ll be there 10 more times,” Baca shouted back.

CAIR is generally considered a moderate, if aggressive, Muslim civil rights group. Attacks against it haven’t dissuaded Baca. Hussam Ayloush, director of CAIR’s regional branch, said Baca is one of the few public officials who have asked for his organization’s side of the story.

“Most politicians I’ve worked with would have avoided the headache. It’s not about the truth, it’s about perception, and they don’t want to touch it,” Ayloush said.

Naive? That’s OK

On a recent evening, Baca strolled along a seedy street in Manhattan’s Chinatown. It was his second East Coast trip in as many weeks, both times to speak on Muslim outreach.

Street vendors, unaware that the stick-thin man before them was a major law enforcement figure, tried one after another to sell him knock-off purses and wallets. “How are you?” Baca greeted them, smiling wide.

Pulling in close as if to share a secret, Baca said he knew his post-9/11 stance has been attacked. Even among friends he’s been warned of being naive. He’s OK with it.

“I’m not endorsing Muslim groups. I’m defending them. ‘Oh he’s a Muslim lover, he’s a Jew lover.’ I don’t pay attention to bigots.

“I know I’m a little naive. I know I am overly trusting. That’s who I choose to be. If you’re uncomfortable with others, you’re not in a position to lead. I’ve created somewhat of a palace in my mind because, if you don’t, this world is your prison…. I can take the attacks. Attack me! Am I going to change who I am? No. Because it works.”

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

What the Quran-bashers Don’t Want You to Know About the Bible

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 4 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

What the Quran-bashers don’t want you to know is that the Bible is far more violent than the Quran.  In fact, the Bible–unlike the Quran–glorifies genocide; we’ve documented some of these genocide-glorifying passages in our earlier articles: see part 1part 2, and part 3.

The anti-Muslim bigots–such as the extremist Jewish Zionist Pamela Geller and the fervent, zealous Catholic polemicist Robert Spencerespecially don’t want you to know about the Biblical passages regarding King Saul.  The reason they don’t want you to read these passages is that it would make the Islamic literature look quite tame by comparison, and well, that wouldn’t be too good for the anti-Muslim business, now would it?

It is of course getting tedious, redundant, and a bit boring to document all the God-sanctioned genocides of the Bible; there are too many of them, so they seem to mesh together.  Having said that, Saul’s genocide of the Amalekites warrants special attention, so it would behoove our readers to suffer through one last article on this topic.   It should be noted, however, that our collection of violent Biblical verses is non-exhaustive, limited only by our own boredom.

So, who was Saul?  He was the first king of the United Kingdom of Israel, divinely appointed to this position by the Jewish prophet Samuel.  His first task as king was to ethnically cleanse the land of the Amalekite peoples:

1 Samuel 15:1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people, over Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord.

15:2 This is what the Almighty Lord says: ‘I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

15:3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and utterly destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

Notice that it was God Himself who ordered Saul to slaughter the Amalekites.  And so King Saul led the Israelites in war against the Amalekites.  Per God’s directives, Saul “put to death men and women, children and infants.”  He killed every human being with the lone exception of the Amalekite king; he also spared some animals.  By sparing King Agag’s life, Saul failed to complete the mitzvah(the religious obligation) of genocide–something which was completely unacceptable to the God of the Bible:

15:7 Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt.

15:8 He took Agag, king of the Amalekites, alive, and all his people he utterly destroyed with the sword.

15:9 But Saul and the army spared [King] Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

15:10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel:

15:11 “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

Saul tried to defend himself, but God stripped him of his kingship:

15:13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

15:14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

15:15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

15:16 “Stop!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

15:17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.

15:18 And he [the Lord] sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’

15:19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

15:20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag, their king.

15:21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

15:23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

15:24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

15:25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

15:26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

Saul repeatedly repented for his “failure”:

15:30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.”

And God was sad that He had chosen such a sissy to be king:

15:35 The Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel.

Saul was stripped of his kingship, which was given to David–who was frankly just much better at killing civilians.  In fact, all the Israelite chicks fawned over David for being a more proficient killer; all the girls wanted him and all the guys (including Saul himself) wanted to be him:

18:6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes.

18:7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

18:8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?”

18:9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

Certainly, killing thousands just doesn’t cut it.  The mass murderer field is just so saturated, that you really need to kill tens of thousands to be considered competitive for Heaven University.  No wonder Samuel felt like an absolute idiot for sending a sissy to do a man’s job; realizing this, he cleaned up Saul’s mess:

15:33 Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.

King Agag was not the only one who was killed: God was so upset over the whole not killing everybody thing that He killed Saul and his three sons.  The prophet Samuel explained to Saul why this was his fate:

28:18 Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today.

[Using the emotive language of Pamela Geller, would this be a case of the mafioso Jewish god offing one of his goons for failing to carry out a hit–or in this case, a hit against thousands of people?]

According to the Jewish texts (as reproduced on p.76 of Vol.11 of The Jewish Encyclopedia), Saul had protested the commandment to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites, saying:

For one found slain the Torah requires a sin offering [Deuteronomy 21:1-9]; and here so many shall be slain.  If the old have sinned, why should the young suffer; and if men have been guilty, why should the cattle be destroyed?

What Saul didn’t realize was that obeying the Lord’s commandment–in this case to kill women and children–was more important than anything else.  The Bible explains the reason for Saul’s demise:

1 Chronicles 10:13 Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD.  He failed to obey the LORD’s command

A well-renowned Biblical commentary explains:

Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord–in having spared the king of the Amalekites and taken the flocks of the people as spoils [1Sa 15:9],

Today, Jews and Christians revere David over Saul, emphasizing the fact that David was more obedient to God than Saul.  For example, ministry founder Tom Bushnell asks:

When faced with difficult decisions, should we act like King David or King Saul?

…King David and King Saul are as antithetical as any two people in the Bible. If we look at some of the defining moments in their lives, we see two men with drastically different outlooks on life.

When faced with a decision, Saul’s first thought was, “Is this pleasing to me?”

King David’s first thought usually was, “Is my choice pleasing to the Lord?”

Bushnell then gives this specific example to illustrate:

Saul was disobedient when he spared king Agag and the best of the livestock of the Amalekites. (Partial obedience is disobedience).

David was careful to follow the commands of the Lord, even during battle.

One can only imagine the reaction of the Islamophobes–Spencer, Geller, et al.–had the Quran glorified genocide in this way.  In fact, they can never cite verses in the Quran that promote, sanction, or justify genocide–because they simply do not exist.  Indeed, there are explicit statements of the Prophet Muhammad forbidding the killing of women and children.

So next time anti-Muslim bigots troll the net by copying and pasting a litany of Quranic quotes in order to bash Muslims, we encourage readers to link this article about Saul (as well as our earlier articles about MosesJoshuaSamson, and David)  Reproducing these genocidal verses from the Bible is a good way to serve the Islamophobes a steaming hot platter of STFU, our absolute favorite dish.

Addendum I:

Perhaps the tone of voice in this article is a bit too aggressive, and as always with such topics I have my regrets.  Yet, in the spirit of International Judge a Koran Day, I think a healthy dose of STFU is necessary.  If you want to judge the Quran, then let’s also be sure to judge some Bible.  I’ll see your jihad and raise you a herem.

Terry Jones Actually Burns a Qur’an and No One Notices

Posted in Loon Pastors with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by loonwatch

Crazy old Terry Jones went ahead with his Qur’an burning which he dubbed as an “International judge the Koran Day” after he said he wouldn’t “burn a Koran.” 30 people showed up and they burnt one Koran…and then…everyone went home.

Koran burnt in Florida church

GAINESVILLE, Florida — A controversial US evangelical preacher oversaw the burning of a copy of the Koran in a small Florida church after finding the Muslim holy book “guilty” of crimes.

The burning was carried out by pastor Wayne Sapp under the supervision of Terry Jones, who last September drew sweeping condemnation over his plan to ignite a pile of Korans on the anniversary of September 11, 2001 attacks.

Sunday’s event was presented as a trial of the book in which the Koran was found “guilty” and “executed.”

The jury deliberated for about eight minutes. The book, which had been soaking for an hour in kerosene, was put in a metal tray in the center of the church, and Sapp started the fire with a barbecue lighter.

The book burned for around 10 minutes while some onlookers posed for photos.

Jones had drawn trenchant condemnation from many people, including US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, over his plan to burn the Muslim holy book in September.

He did not carry out his plan then and vowed he never would, saying he had made his point.

But this time, he said he had been “trying to give the Muslim world an opportunity to defend their book,” but did not receive any answer.

He said he felt that he couldn’t have a real trial without a real punishment.

The event was open to the public, but fewer than 30 people attended.

Life in the normally quiet city of Gainesville is centered around the University of Florida. And while there were public protests against Jones’ 9/11 activities, this event was largely ignored.

Jadwiga Schatz, who came to show support for Jones, expressed concern that Islam was growing in Europe.

“These people, for me, are like monsters,” she said. “I hate these people.”

Jones said he considered this event a success.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

The Suicide Bomber Prophet

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 3 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

As we noted in an earlier article:

A recent Pew Research poll found that almost half of U.S. adults think that the Islamic religion is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, a figure that has almost doubled since 2002.  A clear majority of conservative Republicans (66%), white Evangelicals (60%), and Tea Baggers (67%) believe Islam is more violent than other religions, with a plurality of whites (44%) and older folks (42-46%) also thinking this.  (Of note is that blacks, Hispanics, and liberal Democrats are significantly less bigoted towards Islam.)  The idea that Islam is more violent than other religions–held most strongly by old white conservatives–is a key pillar to the edifice of Islamophobia.

Prof. Philip Jenkins writes:

In the minds of ordinary Christians – and Jews – the Koran teaches savagery and warfare, while the Bible offers a message of love, forgiveness, and charity.

Worse, the Quran is said to be a book of terrorism.  It was in this vein that Bill O’Reilly invoked an analogy between the Quran and terrorism and Mein Kampf and Nazism.  It must be the Quran that compels these Islamic radicals to engage in suicide bombing and terrorism.

Prof. Jenkins responds:

In fact, the Bible overflows with “texts of terror,” to borrow a phrase coined by the American theologian Phyllis Trible. The Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Koran, and biblical violence is often far more extreme, and marked by more indiscriminate savagery.

In part 1 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, we traced the violence of the Bible to the Jewish prophet Moses, who submitted heathen nations to what can only be described as genocide.  In part 2, we moved on to Moses’ divinely ordained successor, Joshua, who was arguably the most violent prophet in history.  But the holy killing did not stop there.

The Warrior Tribe

After the death of Joshua, the Israelites wondered who would carry on the God-sanctioned genocide and conquest of the promised land. They did not have to wait long for the answer. God passed down the sword of the faith to the tribe of Judah:

Judges 1:1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?”

1:2 The LORD answered, “Judah, for I have given them victory over the land.”

Judah heeded this call and continued the holy genocide against the unbelievers, culminating in the brutal conquest of Jerusalem:

1:8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

From there, the tribe of Judah vanquished the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills (1:9), Hebron, the Sheshai, Ahiman, Talmai (1:10), and Debir (1:11).  They destroyed Zephath:

1:17 [Judah] attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they utterly destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah [Hormah means Destruction.]

Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ekron (1:18) fell to the Israelite nation, for “the Lord was with the men of Judah.” (1:19)

Judge, Jury, and Executioner

After the massacre of most of the inhabitants of Canaan, the God of the Bible was concerned with ensuring that Israel remain warlike:

3:1 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan

3:2 It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.

The sword was then wielded by the judges of Israel, first with Othniel, then Ehud, then Shamgar, then Barak, then Gideon, then Jephthah, and then Samson. Each of these judges of God was involved in religiously motivated massacres. The Bible recounts the hundreds of thousands of people they collectively slaughtered. From the first Israelite judge:

3:10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war.

To the last of them:

1 Samuel 7:11 The men of Israel chased the Philistines from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car,slaughtering them all along the way.

Samson the Suicide Bomber Glorified in the Bible

One of the Israelite judges is worthy of special mention: the Jewish prophet Samson.  According to the Bible, Samson was responsible for killing thousands of Philistines (the indigenous population of southern Canaan).  Eventually, the Philistines successfully used a ruse to capture Samson, who was then taken to a temple where he was to be given as a sacrifice to one of the Philistine gods.  Instead, Samson leaned against the pillars of the temple, and brought the temple down, killing himself along with 3,000 men and women:

Judges 16:26 Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.”

16:27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

16:28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

16:29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,

16:30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Today, Samson is glorified as a hero by Israelis.  Far from being a dead letter, Samson’s deed has become part of Israel’s state policy.  The Samson Option is a doctrine adopted by the state of Israel, which states that should Israel’s existence ever be threatened, it will release a nuclear holocaust upon its enemies and other targets as well.  As Israeli military historian Prof. Martin van Creveld famously put it (as reproduced on p.119 of David Hirst’s The Gun and The Olive Branch):

We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them as targets in all directions…We have the capability to take the world down with us.  And I can assure you that that will happen, before Israel goes under.

Unfortunately, the temple Samson destroyed has now become entire countries or even the entire world.

David: Giant Slayer and Baby Killer

The militant sword of Israel was then passed from the judges to holy kings. The first king of the United Kingdom of Israel was Saul. His story is especially interesting, and one which we will return to. We will however focus now on David, who at that time was Saul’s appointed generalissimo. The Israelite ladies fawned over David, not only because he killed the Philistine Goliath but also because he massacred “tens of thousands”:

1 Samuel 18:6 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes.

18:7 As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

It should be noted that by the end of David’s death, he ended up killing not tens of thousands, buthundreds of thousands. In any case, King Saul became jealous over the fact that David was credited with more kills than he was:

18:8 Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?”

18:9 And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

But then the king’s daughter fell in love with David. It seems that David was interested in this proposal but thought he was too poor to offer an adequate dowry:

18:23 David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.”

King Saul reassured David that he accepted American Express penile foreskins:

18:25 Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’”

David was unfazed by this interesting request and brought back double the number of requested foreskins:

18:27 David and his men went out and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought their foreskins and presented the full number to the king so that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.

However, King Saul’s jealousy continued to grow and he unsuccessfully tried to kill his son-in-law. David found refuge in Ziklag (Philistine territory!) and raided other cities to stay financially afloat. Typical Biblical cruelty was added to these ghazwas raids:

18:8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites…

18:9 Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.

18:10 When Achish asked, “Where did you go raiding today?” David would say, “Against the Negev of Judah” or “Against the Negev of Jerahmeel” or “Against the Negev of the Kenites.”

18:11 He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, “They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’” And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory.

David massacred the Amalekites—men, women, and children:

30:17 David and his men rushed in among them and slaughtered them throughout that night and the entire next day until evening. None of the Amalekites escaped except 400 young men who fled on camels.

Eventually David became king of Israel and continued his string of conquests, subjugating heathens to Israelite rule:

2 Samuel 12:31 He also made slaves of the people of Rabbah and forced them to labor with saws, iron picks, and iron axes, and to work in the brick kilns. That is how he dealt with the people of all the Ammonite towns.

It should be noted that David’s slaughter of the Philistines was sanctioned by God:

1 Samuel 23:2 David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go and smite these Philistines?” And the LORD said unto David, “Go, and smite the Philistines…!”

God promised David:

23:4 “I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.”

As well as:

2 Samuel 5:19 So David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord answered him, “Yes, go! For I will surely hand the Philistines over to you.”

And David did what God commanded him to do:

5:25 And David did so, as the Lord had commanded him, and smote the Philistines.

Although we will discuss the genocide of Amalekites in a later article, it is safe to say that virtually every Biblical authority agrees that this was God-ordained as well. In fact, God approved of everythingDavid did—all of his many killings—except for “in the case of Uriah the Hittite”:

1 Kings 15:5 David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

Uriah was one of King David’s soldiers. David had an affair with Uriah’s wife and had Uriah killed, an act which earned God’s displeasure. God forgave David, but it was the one killing that God did not approve of.  The Geneva Study Bible commentary assures us that David “enterprised no war, but by God’s command.”

In fact, Jews and Christians today revere David’s “obedience to God” and even argue to become“more like David”.  Jewish and Christian children read about David in Sunday school.

Addendum I:

Muhammad’s wars will be discussed in a future part of this series.  But suffice to say, we have now set the groundwork to prove that several Jewish prophets–including MosesJoshua, Samson, and David–were far more violent and warlike than Muhammad.

The major difference between Muhammad and the others was with regard to targeting and killing civilians.  Samson killed 3,000 men and women in his suicide bomb attack, and David “did not leave a man or woman alive.” (1 Samuel 18:11) This stands in marked contrast with Muhammad who repeatedly “forbade the killing of women and children.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.4, Book 52, #258)

Regardless of issues surrounding historicity,what is quite clear is that the Bible glorifies genocide and the killing of civilians, whereas the Quran does not.  Unlike the Bible, no single verse in the Quran talks about killing women, children, and babies.