People Say, “They Call God ‘Allah’!”

Since I was told the other day that someone wants to discuss the beliefs of Muslims with me and it’s been awhile since I’ve read up on it, I decided it’s time to read a book that I picked up, probably at church, on Islam. The name of the book is “Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross” and it’s written by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb. This book is not a defense of Islam; it’s a critique of the beliefs of Muslims, and offers a defense of the beliefs of Christians. If you want to discuss these things intelligently, it’d be best to educate yourself. I want to, so that is what I’m doing.

I am barely into it and already I’ve run into something that will answer the objection, “They call God ‘Allah’!” that some folks bring up. Ever wondered why they do that? It’s simple, really. It’s Arabic and it means “the Divinity.” They don’t speak English in Arabic countries. Even Christians who speak Arabic call God ‘Allah’.

The use of the word goes back to pre-Islamic times. It’s not something that Mohammed came up with. It’s not derogatory at all. And when an Islamic person speaks of God they are speaking of the same God the Christian is speaking of – the God of Moses and Jesus. We – Muslims and Christians – have a different concept of who God is, but we are speaking of the Creator of all things who is One God, not many gods.

Well, I think this is going to be a very interesting book. Norman Geisler is a Christian who has written many books on apologetics and Abdul Saleeb is a former Muslim who has studied the differences in Islam and Christianity. I’ll be reading this book with a highlighter and an ink pen in hand.

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Violent Reactions

Man, I better study faster! People are going nuts over the healthcare bill, while I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on Academic Earth on Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a whole class on non-violent resistance. So far it’s pretty interesting. I’m up to the 5th lecture.

The professor did say something that I thought was strange. He said Jesus was an advocate of non-violence but Christians are not. I thought it was strange because I’m a Christian and here I sit for over an hour at a time listening to this man. I wondered how many Christians he knows? He’s off in his Academic Berkley World and I’m in Texas. I’m not likely to cross paths with him. I wish I could meet him; I’d love to sit down and have a conversation. What he said bothers me about as much as what the brick throwing, ugly phone callers are doing. I know that sounds shocking, but I think there is a lot of what we could call “seed power” in an idea.

What he is doing – characterizing all Christians as preferring violence over non-violent solutions – is as wrong-headed as Christians who characterize all liberals as immoral, uncaring people. And why it bothers me so much is that it’s dangerous. We don’t see each other as people, as flesh and blood human beings, when we paint with the wide brush. When we lose sight of our common humanity, we become capable of acts of violence, based only on a philosophical disagreement.

I’ve been thinking about John 17 today. Jesus didn’t pray that those who are called by His name – Christian – would be known for our opinions, doctrine, or moral lifestyle. He prayed that we would be one with Him and that the love of God would be in us. How ought we to behave if that is so? (Check I Corinthians 13.)

Since the bill was passed, I’ve not only had to pay attention to my reaction to that – to know that God takes care of me, regardless of what any government does, and to have a peaceful and joyful attitude in His presence (we live our lives Coram Deo – before the face of God) – now I need to watch my attitude toward those who are reacting violently. I need to pray for them, as well as pray for the protection of those they have threatened.

In every group there are extremists, and it’s interesting how that comes about. I recently read  – somewhere, I don’t remember where – that when we only associate with folks who think like we do that is how extremists are ‘born’. The views, whether liberal, conservative, religious, or whatever, are accepted by all in the group of like-minded folks. No one wants to be lost in the crowd, so what happens is someone will become “more” of whatever the group is. This makes that one stand out in the crowd while also gaining approval of the group. Then someone else who doesn’t want to get lost in the crowd becomes “more”.  And so it goes.

I think the solution is to mix and mingle. Let’s practice a bit of prevention here. It will be good for all of us. Go to websites and coffee shops and ask questions of those you disagree with. Get to know them a bit. Not just for their views, but know about their families and their jobs and their interests. Know your neighbors as much as you can, too. Let’s all – no matter what our political or religious views – let’s all have peace as our purpose. We do all have to live together. And I can’t think of a better way to invite a heavy-handed government solution to violence than to behave in a violent manner. So, everybody just take a deep breath and slow down, please.

Communist Lady and I at a TEA Party Protest

If you know me, it probably sounds strange that a communist and I were at the same protest. If you know me, you probably don’t think it’s strange at all that we found each other. Why were we at the same protest? Were we on the same side? Well, yes, we were at the same protest and not to protest against each other, but not on the same side exactly.
Nancy Pelosi was in Houston yesterday and I went with a Tea Party group to let her know there are things I’m not too happy about. I held a sign that said, “Ignore your rights and they will go away. Where is John Galt?” I like the sign, but if I’d known for sure I was going soon enough to have time to make my own, my sign would have said, “The US doesn’t torture?” with a huge question mark.
What happened was this. A lady walked by and she had some kind of newspaper. I asked her what it was. She showed me something on the back cover about torture at Abu Ghraib. About how it was wrong. I know. A communist who thinks torture is wrong? I told her I think it’s wrong, too. She then acted shocked and asked me why I was out there with “all those people” and she gestured toward the crowd of Tea Party folks. I told her I’m Independent libertarian and we don’t agree on everything, but we do agree on enough for me to be out there.
I also told her I am a Christian and believe that people are created in the image of God and I am supposed to respect others and treat them with respect because of that. And that is why I believe torture is wrong. I said I couldn’t torture another person. That’s when she told me she is an atheist. She said she believes torture is wrong just because it is wrong.
Well, there was a man I was also talking with who told me that I could TOO torture someone under the right conditions. I acknowledged that my sin nature sure could. He smiled and asked, “Your what?” and I explained sin nature, knowing all along that he knew exactly what that is and that the lady might not know.
Then he started explaining the differences among folks in the republican party and the democratic party. He was telling her there are different opinions within each of those two parties. He also talked about prisoners of war and we got into a bit of a three-way there over the whole war and everything. I quit talking after a minute because we weren’t supposed to get into something that could get us tossed into the paddy-wagon. (And Houston has an impressive 18-wheeler with a/c that says “Special Response” on it. This has to be what is used to haul off lots of folks at once. I saw it drive by!)
I got quiet and they got more excited and I wanted to walk away, but at the same time, I didn’t want to abandon them to each other. So, I said, “Well, we are all Americans here.” I hear you laughing, and yeah, that’s a funny thing to say to a communist even if they are full-fledged legal citizens, but she hadn’t yet told me she was communist. She excitedly told me she’s not an American! She also had some things to say about imperialism. I said I was just trying to find some common ground here between us three. So, she said, “Well, we are all human beings.” And we all nodded in agreement. And we sort of left it at that.

The man walked away and she and I went back to the subject of her paper and that’s when she told me she’s communist. I wanted to read it but told her I can’t support the Communist Party by giving her a dollar for it. And, I still wonder how a communist can say torture is wrong when the communist party has tortured and killed millions of people? And, what exactly is her basis for right and wrong? Particularly, how can a materialist, who (as I’ve read) believes there is no difference between a robot, a dog and a man in kind, but only in degree, not think it’s ok to torture and kill folks who are a hinderance to the economic evolution of mankind? I think if we had been in a coffee shop we could have had an interesting discussion.