We are used to Christians with little connection to Scripture bending over backwards to accommodate Islam. We see the opposite happening in Islamic communities.
Sweden seems to be ground zero for progressive Christianity. Last November the Church of Sweden voted down a proposal to ban the Islamic call to prayer. This was motivated by bell-ringing at some churches being stopped on noise abatement grounds.
If the Church of Sweden supported the call to prayer on the grounds of freedom of religion or expression, it would have a point. The argument given in the church council, however, was that it would be ‘fantastic for more to encounter the love of Allah’. The proposal was voted down 206 to 26.
Eva Brunne, the world’s first openly lesbian bishop, requested a church in her diocese to take down its crosses as they might offend Muslims, whom she described as ‘angels’. To aid those seamen who might come to the church to pray she suggested the church instead erect signs pointing to Mecca. Clearly the good bishop believes Muslim seamen arriving in Stockholm have very different priorities from most seamen on shore leave.
Fortunately Kiki Wetterberg, the priest in charge of the church, thought that this was taking the injunction to make guests feel ‘at home’ too far. She said: ‘I have no problem with Muslim or Hindu sailors coming here and praying. But I believe that we are a Christian church, so we keep the symbols.’
It could fairly be said that the anxiety of progressive Christians to avoid offending Muslims, if it spreads further, could be the death of Christianity, at least in the West.
Comfortable Western Christians who congratulate themselves on their inclusivity should ask themselves what they are opening up in their own countries. Making an idol of interfaith dialogue and refusing to say anything even remotely critical about Islam as the violent Muslim persecution of Christians continues worldwide is a recipe for disaster.
An interfaith dialogue which refuses to ask hard questions is not a dialogue but a meaningless exhibition of bathetic self-congratulation worthier of an Oscars ceremony or a soap opera.
In Muslim majority states, a very different picture emerges. In the Middle East and those parts of Asia and Africa where Islam holds sway, interfaith dialogue is a one-way street.
On Christmas Eve the Washington Times carried a report on Muslim-Christian relations in eastern Uganda, where Islam is growing rapidly. As Hajj Mutumba, a spokesman of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, explained: ‘We have two to four wives, and we are producing about six children in a space of two to three years.’
It is not only by polygamy that Islam is growing in Uganda: violence plays its part.
Twelve-year-old Emmanuel Nyaiti was taken to hospital after being attacked by Muslim extremists. He said that two Muslims tried to force him ‘to convert and become a Muslim, but I declined. They started pushing me on the ground threatening to kill me if I don’t accept Islam. One of the attackers hit me with a sharp object on my neck, and I became unconscious. I remember them saying they have killed me.’
Alarmingly, the Washington Times report ends by saying that in areas of Uganda where they have control, Muslims consider public statements of the Christian faith a calculated insult to Muslims, for which they can justifiably exact violent retribution.
‘In June,’ the Washington Times reported, ‘a group of Muslims attacked Christian preachers in eastern Uganda during a “crusade” where Christians publicly profess their faith and invite others to join. Muslims in the town accused the Christians of mocking Islam by publicly saying Jesus was the Son of God.’
The Christians, knowing from experience how prone to violence Islam is, would never have dreamed of uttering anything critical about Islam itself. Nevertheless, the Christians were accused of despising Islamic teaching.
How? By preaching doctrines of Christianity denied by Islam, such as the divinity of Christ. To Muslims who heard this, just speaking aloud central doctrines of the Christian faith was offence enough.
They refused to stand for it. The Muslim reaction, according to Pastor Moses Saku, was violent: ‘They became very angry and began throwing rocks at Christians, chanting “Allah akbar.” Many Christians were injured during the incident.’
Charitable and enlightened Western Christians say Christians should be deferential to others’ religious sensibilities. True, we should be gracious towards people of other faiths, but this does not include denying Christian distinctiveness or pretending Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ as do self-styled ‘progressive’ Christians. By doing so, in effect they cut the ground out from under the Church, making it increasingly difficult to practice biblical Christianity in the future.
An increasingly secular Western society is making it ever more difficult publicly to state traditional Christian teaching, particularly in the realm of ethics. As the influence of Islam and an uncritical view of it grows in the West, we will face even greater marginalisation.
If the advice of the cosseted, suburban, liberal Western Christians is heeded, Christians should make no public expression of their faith at all, and downplay the distinctiveness of Christianity to avoid mocking, provoking, and offending Muslims. When it comes to it, that is most likely exactly what those Christians will do.
If Christianity dies in the West, it will not be murdered, it will be by suicide.