Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Obsession with Conversion

Among the religions of the world, Islam and Christianity stand out as the most evangelical. Throughout history, Christians and Muslims have  have sought new recruits by hook or by crook. 

When the Crusades were launched, the Pope had no qualms in saying that the best way to glorify Christ was to use the sword. And militant Islam still is a global threat.

But there is another technique that sadly both Muslims and Christians have been using to advance their faith: Making up conversion stories.

For instance, if you live in Pakistan, you already know that the following people have converted to Islam:
  • Neil Armstrong 
  • Will Smith
  • Brian Lara
  • Yuvraj Singh
  • Mark Calaway (better known as The Undertaker)
Tag! You're Muslim

Although to be fair, the Muslim world is divided over Neil Armstrong. One group endorses the conspiracy theory that he never landed on the Moon in the first place, while the other suggest that he heard the Arabic Call to Prayer 'Adhan' in outer space (where sound doesn't travel).

Another common phenomenon has to do with satire websites. Many Muslim social media enthusiasts take up made-up info from these websites and use it to propagate Islam. I have already noted this in a previous blog post (Read here)

A more recent example can be found on this link.

Now I am not denying genuine conversions to Islam. Nothing can be further from the truth. And I am all for freedom of religion.

Later in his life, Armstrong had to make official denials of his rumored conversions. As far as I have heard, even the American Embassy in Pakistan was willing to answer any concerns in this matter, but local newspapers never consulted the officials and went on to publish the fake conversion story. 

But even when someone willingly converts to Islam, there is a tendency to exaggerate their conversion story out of proportion. This tendency is also shared by Christians, but more on that in the next article.

For example, you will hardly come across a Christian convert to Islam who wasn't either a priest, pastor, or a son of a pastor. S/he was obviously deeply religious and devout as a Christian, but yet somehow was able to spot glaring errors and logical inconsistencies in the Bible. And since the Bible is full of errors, then obviously the most logical thing to do is converting to Islam. 

This is the template on which 99% of all Muslim conversion videos and articles are based, and frankly speaking, I don't buy it. Yes, Christian clergy can convert to another religion, and this can also be an intellectual move on their part, but I am pretty sure that this doesn't happen every time. I base my conclusions on years of study of comparative religion, and first-hand contact with many such people.

Just tell us the truth, that you were a software engineer who converted to Islam just because it offered a sense of discipline to your otherwise disoriented lifestyle. Anything along these lines, which is not only more plausible, but closer to truth as well. 

You see, whether it is choosing a life partner, career path, religion, or even a new laptop, we think we are making purely intellectual decisions, but in reality, emotional factors are at play.

A real conversion story. An atheist during much of his childhood, in 1989 Rahman converted to Islam (the religion of his mother's family). After the early death of his father, his family experienced difficult times; Sufism influenced his mother and, eventually, his family (Source)

That's it for now. Please don't think I have any issues with Islam, for in the next post, I will be uncovering the very same methods as used by Christians in the vain pursuit of winning the conversion games.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Jesus Christ)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

What the Bible Really Says About Retaliation

This is the follow-up post to the blog I updated earlier on newly formed Christian army in Iraq to counter the menace we call ISIS. 

I posited that while the Bible does tell us to turn the other cheek, there was nothing wrong in what the Christians in Iraq were doing to save their lives and their homes.

I asked for comments on this matter on social media, and the admin of 'Christians in Pakistan' (a Facebook page) commented:

'turning the other cheek is for our social personal behaviour not for wars or defense'

This is 100% true. Jesus has warned against individual retaliation. But when it comes to defend your homes, we are allowed to fight in self-defense. Not to mention, the Bible doesn't also stop us from fighting against tyranny and injustice. 

But before I lay out the texts that support this assertion, let me quote a movie dialog that perfectly captures what I am trying to say here:

I came back home to raise crops, and God willing, a family. If I can live in peace, I will. William Wallace -Braveheart

How similar are these words to what Paul says in Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Chapter 12

Status of Armed Forces 

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus, his disciples, and even John the Baptist come in contact with officers of armed forces (References-Luke 3:14, Matthew 8:5-13, Acts 10:1-4, Acts 16:27-34, Mark 15: 38-39)

Peter and Cornelius-A Depiction

However, in none of these instances, conversion to faith demanded of these people to leave their jobs and live like hippies.

Hence, on an administrative and state level, there is nothing wrong in using violence  to establish law and order and to retaliate in time of war. 

Violence Cannot be Used to Spread Christianity

This is the crystal clear message of Jesus, as I quoted in the previous blog post. Christians are in no situation allowed to use violence for the purpose of evangelism.

Personal Self-Defense

The Bible doesn't address the issue of self-defense exhaustively, which means we are left to use our own reasoning. 

Remember that we have already established 3 principles in the light of what the Bible teaches:

  1. We are never to take revenge
  2. We can serve in armed forces, and killing someone in the line of duty doesn't constitute murder
  3. Violence is never to be used to promote Christianity
Keeping these things in mind, a Christian can carry a personal weapon to protect him/herself. But this has to be done in accordance with the constitution (Romans 13:1-7). In at least one verse of the Bible, we do find a reference to self-defense (Exodus 22:2)

Rebellion Against the State

As per Romans 13:1-7 and other passages of the Bible, the Christian is commanded to be a law-abiding, tax paying citizen. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. My opinion is that you can go against the law if:

  1. It law stops you from pursuing your religious obligations (Acts 4:19-20)  
  2. To raise your voice against injustice
To prove my point, I will cite the following examples:

  • Moses went against every letter of what Paul teaches in Romans 13:1-3 when he challenged Pharaoh 

  • The Maccabees certainly didn't think that the Seleuicid Empire was an authority established by God. These men fought against the Greeks using guerrilla tactics 

  • The Book of Revelation in its immediate context is a mockery of the same Roman government that Paul is talking about in Romans 13. 666 is none other than King Nero, and the mark of the beast was the official stamp of Emperor worship 
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, is not just remembered for his services for Christianity. He was also a Anti-Nazi dissident. He was ultimately executed on the charges of plotting Hitler's murder. Just the other day someone was saying to me that Christians supported the Third Reich. Well, at least one Christian didn't!

Bonhoffer: Tell me again what you know about Christianity in WWII Germany

So, getting back to our original question, let me end this article with another movie quote. In the context, a pastor is going to enlist himself in the American Revolution Army in their war against the British. When asked about his religious convictions, he replies:

A shepherd must tend to his flock, and at times, fight off the wolves. Rev. Oliver-The Patriot

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Peacemakers: Whatever Happened to Turning the Other Cheek?

News just in: Iraqi Christians have picked up arms and are undergoing military training to counter the epidemic spread of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria) in the region. 

Read full story here

Maccabean revolt
Now the question before us this: aren't we as Christians suppose to turn the other cheek?

In one of the most dramatic episodes in the Gospel, St. Peter takes out his dagger and strikes one member of the committee that came to arrest Jesus. Instead of starting a riot, Jesus actually condemned this action:
Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword
In this context, is the response of the Iraqi Christians justified?

I say yes. However, I will qualify my assertion with Biblical proofs in the next blog post.
Meanwhile, I will like to hear your comments.Should they fight or just turn the other cheek?