Pipes or Piper? Jesus and the response to Muslim outrage

I love this article by John Piper. His comments about Jesus can point us to the way ahead in a world that is in grave danger of dramatically increased violence and of a great reduction in human hope about the future.

Whenever more news comes out about a new and more violent reaction by some Muslims against the West, I worry some will use the news to justify a violent response of our own. We say, “they are closed. They leave no room for dialogue. They hate us. It’s either kill or be killed,” etc.

When we look inside Western values for something to help us face the Islamic challenge and assure a better future than constant war, we get stuck. The geopolitical option soon looks like the only way out of the mess we are in. But the geopolitical option has serious trade offs (war, loss of freedoms, the risk of increasing alienation between the West and Islam, etc.).

Attempting to preserve the Western value of toleration, some suggest dialogue will help. A first reading of Daniel Pipes’ most recent article “How the cartoon protests harm Muslims” seems, at first, to recommend this option.

He begins by outlining how Muslims and the West are increasingly “disengaging” in many of the areas important to maintaining geopolitical relations: commerce, investments, intergovernmental relations, tourism, immigration, foreign aid, education, etc.

There is a serious “wall of separation” separating Muslims from Christians. While I don’t always agree with Daniel Pipes , I agree with his premise that the path the world is taking will lead to greater disengagement. The Islamic world will increasingly disengage (with some hostility) from the West and the West will disengage (also with hostility) from the Islamic World.

He would probably agree that disengagement between Islam and the West can be harmful for the future of humankind.

Nonetheless, we have to ask ourselves some questions:

  • What good will dialogue do?
  • Why should we expect that exposing more Muslims to Western ways will cause those Muslims to appreciate Western ways. This is a big leap especially when intellectual foundations radical Islam were laid by Muslim clerics and others who have lived in the West and been exposed to “the best the West has to offer.” Why would we expect the same sort of contact to produce different results in the future?
  • Do we really think that increased contact between Westerners and Muslims will change Westerners and make them more open to Islam?

I question whether Pipes is offering dialogue at all when he writes: “For everyone’s sake, it is important that Muslims begin more successfully to negotiate their path to modernity, not to isolation.” This is not dialogue. It is a one-way conversation. In this conversation, the West offers the solution and Muslims are “free to take it or leave it”.

Would it ever be possible to get all the parties to agree to rules of dialogue like those offered by Daniel Dennett (clearly from a western perspective)? What reasons would any of them have to do it his way?

If you think about it, it is next to impossible for the secular West to offer true dialogue. It isn’t open to changing itself. The West would just not be the West any longer, if it bowed to Islamic demands.

In spite of the failures of dialogue, I do think Christians should actively and intentionally break down the barriers keeping Muslims and Christians from knowing each other. Why? Do I think it will work? Won’t increased violence between Muslims and Christians be taken as proof that breaking down barriers didn’t work? Will this, like all the failures in the relationship of Islam and the West over the last 1300 years, be just another reason to lead the West to defend its interests by using political, economic and military power?

Christians should seek out Muslims and accept their friendship. I believe God Himself wants to take an active part in such friendships. He is actively making himself known when people meet and get to know each other. He is actively at work when people follow in the steps of Jesus.

Piper’s article tells us why Jesus changes the rules of the game. There is danger in John Piper’s article, though. Christians can use John Piper’s arguement to say “Jesus is better than Mohammed, so you should be a Christian.” It does not follow that Christians are thus better than Muslims. Muslim resistance to Christian arrogance is not persecution. Under the circumstances, Christians should be careful not to blame Muslim for “resisting” the gospel. The true problem is not resistance, but lack of contact. The vast majority of Muslims have never met a Christian. It would require time, intentionality and effort for them to meet and understand the rare Christian who is willing to bear insults for their sake like their Master did.

If Christians read Piper’s article and choose to live as Jesus did, leaving their comfort and privilege to go and to live out their discipleship in Muslim communities, God will make Himself known to all of us. Both Christians and Muslims will get to know Him better. This should motivate Christians. We will know God better only when we are willing to follow Him and bear insults in Jesus’ name, even to the point of wasting our lives through the kind death that can follow the insults.

2 thoughts on “Pipes or Piper? Jesus and the response to Muslim outrage

  1. Jesus taught us a lot!!! I mean sometimes the humbleness and the love of our Lord and Savior start getting washed away.Interesting to notice that, because, I think that humbleness is not equal to Christianity today, especially from a Muslim point of view. In my short experience i think that the phrase “THE CHRISTIAN WEST IS BETTER” is always echoing in their ears.Here is somebody that doesn’t know about my (muslim) life and keeps telling me that he is better than I am! Does it sound right for you?I’m probably changing the subject a little (or a lot) and sorry about that but this is what’s in my heart after reading this article:JESUS HAD THE TRUE AND THE TRUE LEAD HIM TO DEATH!!!ARE YOU READY TO FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE???IN HIS LOVEDANIEL

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  2. It seems to me the “west” brings nothing to the table with true honesty. It claims to bring democracy. But, if the results are not to our liking then what do we do? We might work covertly to change things? The “west” claims to bring freedom. But within that freedom are produced abhorant things as well as rigid totalitarianism in the far, far right. The “west” might bring dialogue, but what of that. What is our reference to dialogue from? Who’s point of view? If it’s our government then “national interest” is the reference. Usually that means oil. A true human point of view is muted at best. Look at Rawanda. Dialogue is great for getting multiple views out there. But, most rigid “followers” are not inclined to consider other views. It only creates anger, from my own experience. In the Christian relm we are as prone to create “followers” as we fear Islam creates. We thing we are superior because we think we are right? Or is it we are right so therefore we are superior? In the end Jesus came to a time and preached a gospel that was transcendant of politics, government, lifestyle, tyrany, persecution, nations, sexes, etc. The gospel of loving sacrifice for a brother as well as one we might hate is model’d to us by both Jesus and his closest followers. The Love of Christ compels us… That is what is truely offered and is what is of true value. The “west” cannot offer that. The Love of Christ compels us… This is a very hard thing for us, especially us living in comfort. The theme of love repeats so often, but what is that to look like in 21st century “west”. Is it to deny yourself, your wants, to continue with your obligations. The be a man who held on to the end. Is it to abandon everything present to go out to something else, something more? The west has it’s own flaws when it comes to “more” and success. Are these the things that drive us, from the west, or are they truly from Christs love. It seems this looks like a man or woman that centers on Christ and Loves with abandon to give all to others, looking for no reward here. How that is so hard! Is a simple decision to spend time with my kids rather than looking for exotic adventure with God leading back to this? A kernal of grain must fall to the ground and die, and then there will be a harvest of 100 fold. That is our calling as believers of Christ. We must die so that He must live. We might die within our kitchen or at the factory, or for a few will die within the Muslim community. How else will they hear? How else will they know? We would not know of true Love unless one came and died a willing death on the cross. He modeled this for us. It is the greatest story ever told, but it was not just on paper. It was real with real flesh and real blood and real unjustice and real torture with real moms and dads and kids. The only true way for another to know of Christ is to see this displayed in a very real way, in flesh, struggling with life in uncertaintly, with blood spilled, innocently or violently. This is the story. This is the story that must be told, but maybe not with words. Loved your thoughts brother. It makes me think.

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