Archives For Islam

The attack on Masjid Al Nor and Linwood Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand was horrific.

The loss of life, the changed lives and the many painful years of grieving to come for the victims involved – all of it heartbreaking.

The world, as we’re told, now stands in mourning for the innocent lives taken.

Social media is saturated with comments from those in disbelief, to those looking to show solidarity, or outrage, and those who see the attack on the Mosque in New Zealand, as an opportunity to further their own self-interest.

We are witnessing, and no doubt will witness, great shows of solidarity and grief, and rightly so. But selective outrage only feeds self-interest.

It should be remembered that many of those brandishing badges of sympathy, and anger, are often silent when massacres are carried out almost annually in the name of Allah and his prophet.

OF 1

They are silent in the midst of global condemnation, and when featured on countless analytical panels, filled with experts unpacking the event, they dismiss the actions, by way of quiet approval with the slogan, Islam is a “religion of peace”, or by reminding people that any massacre at the hands of an Islamist is not representative of all Muslims.

We are quickly told to disassociate any blame from Islam that all such questioning is “hate speech”; all critique is written off as Islamophobic.

Yet, when an event happens that involves a non-Muslim attacking a Muslim, the guilt-by-association runs thick and fast. The opportunity to attack “the enemies of Islam” (which under Islam, is all non-Muslims) becomes far too great a temptation to resist.

Javad 1

Consequently, the generalizations begin. Those under Islam, end up doing exactly what they accuse non-Muslims of doing, when an Islamist sets a bomb off in crowded arenas filled with civilians, quite often a church [most recently, Nigeria and The Philippines] all in the name of Allah and his prophet.

The individuals who perpetrated the attack are the ones to be held accountable. Anyone who demands otherwise is auctioning off the innocent, turning the victim into a political commodity. Placing guilt on an entire group of people only furthers, wherever possible, a self-serving political narrative, at the expense of victims caught up in this tragic event.

If the attackers’ manifesto is legitimate, as is currently assumed to be the case, then the facts don’t match the political maneuvering of opportunists, who jumped on this event for quick political traction against Donald Trump, Candace Owens, Conservatives and those with white melanin. [i]

As Peter Sweden and others are now reporting [ii]. The ideological motives and attachments of the attackers aren’t as clear cut, as some would have us believe.

Sweden 1

The political maneuvering isn’t just isolated to those on the Left. Right-wing, Australian Senator, Fraser Anning, will now find it very difficult to avoid the accusation that he also chose to use this tragic event for quick political gain.

Anning didn’t wait. The timing of Anning’s press release is way off, but some of his reasoned points aren’t all that out there.

Though poorly timed, dismissing some of Anning’s points is tantamount to applying a band-aid to a broken bone. Such as, dismissing concerns about the consequences of “Open Borders”, and how this policy paralyses all help offered to genuine refugees, by way of importing the very crisis and form of government those refugees are fleeing from.

Add to this the concerns of many Westerners who question the challenge of importing a people, who can find, and have a place in the West, but who have among them, people who insist upon holding, and in some cases imposing, a political ideology that is very limited in its compatibility with Western Civilization, Judeo-Christianity and Classical Liberalism.

Those parts of Anning’s statement suggests, that he was making an attempt to communicate that the tragic, calculated attack at the Mosque in New Zealand is perhaps, as much a symptom, as it is a sin.

As dumb as the timing of Anning’s statement was, it’s an expression of frustration; written for all who refuse to listen to those who feel their views are underrepresented in the major political parties; those who have real, and rational (and, yes, some irrational) concerns about the trajectory of their countries and communities.

After the necessary period of mourning, politicians need to take the time and listen to those concerns, instead of instantly dismissing them and the people who express them, as “unwelcome”, “offensive”, “racist”, “Nazi”, “phobic”, or “unChristian”.

To refuse to do this is to continue to ignore the storm that’s been darkening the horizon, but has been dangerously dismissed, by far too many, for far too long.

It’s telling when one incident is picked up and widely carried as the tragedy that it is, and yet MANY others, like the constant harassment of Coptic churches and Christians in Egypt [iii], who face things like what happened in N.Z on close to a monthly basis, are shrugged off and dismissed.

Just as the attack in the Philippines [iv], back in January was and still is; very few paid ANY attention to it, others probably still have no idea it even happened. Just as the dismissal of attacks on white farmers [v] in South Africa, and the dismissal on anyone who criticizes those attacks.

There is no denying the fact, that the ‘eco-fascist terrorist attack’ on these Mosques in New Zealand, was a tragedy.

It is a time to mourn. We comfort the suffering and seek justice for the innocent victims involved, but this should precipitate a much needed to time listen and talk.

If you choose to mourn, and make a public display of it, choose also to mourn for North African, Nigerian, Middle Eastern and Asian Christians, who face this kind of vicious, selective slaughter on a regular basis.

Many are ‘facing growing persecution around the world, fuelled mainly by Islamic extremism and repressive governments, leading the pope to warn of “a form of genocide” and for campaigners to speak of “religio-ethnic cleansing”. (The Guardian, 2015) [vi]

There wasn’t, nor has there been any Worldwide mourning for them.

If you mourn, mourn also for these.


References:

[i] NBC News, New Zealand mosque shooting: attackers apparent manifesto probed, sourced 16th March 2019

[ii] Taylor Lorenz, 2019. The Shooter’s Manifesto Was Designed to Troll. The Atlantic sourced 16th March 2019

[iii] Michael Oduor, 2016. Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christian minority facing attacks AfricaNews.com Sourced 16th March 2019

[iv] BBC News, 2019. Jolo Church Attack: Many Killed in Philippines Sourced 16th March 2019.

[v] Lauren Southern, 2018. South Africa’s Farm Murders: Jeanine’s Story, sourced 16th March 2019.

[vi] Harriet Sherwood, 2015. Dying for Christianity, The Guardian

(Originally posted on The Caldron Pool, 16th March 2016)

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019


Addendum 1: Although I’m stating the obvious, I’m aware that the Mainstream media do report these attacks against Christians. I’m grateful for that. My point in this article is that there is a noticeable absence of global lament and outrage when such attacks are reported.

Addendum 2: in response to accusations that there is no evidence of massacres of Christians, all sourced, 16th March 2019:

Exhibit a) http://www.auscma.com/2018/12/another-bloody-christmas-for-egypts-coptic-christians-as-copts-protest/

Exhibit b) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47018747?fbclid=IwAR27hl6oW981USdQYsxEuu9hPlIjFb-jp9miVe8501gxs6HkD-Z8_WIQuFc

Exhibit c) https://www.africanews.com/2016/07/28/egypts-coptic-orthodox-christian-minority-facing-attacks/?fbclid=IwAR0GmXxvoJ6_nAl-CGjLa7CPEpt6a4PyxkNAjx91j4_VWmArHSus4XSrxag

Exhibit d) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/27/dying-for-christianity-millions-at-risk-amid-rise-in-persecution-across-the-globe?fbclid=IwAR3uLp1oEXAcBBZM6EnvzytSvCvxZDtsg0G9QJduFwLlX5yu3YUic8ogPE0

Exhibit e) https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/24/africa/nigeria-church-attack/index.html

Exhibit f) https://www.eternitynews.com.au/world/christian-workers-in-somalia-worship-in-secret-fear-al-shabab/

Exhibit g) https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2018/october/hindu-attacks-against-christians-on-the-rise-in-southern-india

 

In August, Iranian refugee and former Muslim, Ramin Parsa was arrested for trespassing {*coughs* for breaking blasphemy laws}, while privately sharing his testimony about becoming a Christian, in a Mall of America, shopping centre in Minnesota.

Tyler O’Neil from PJ media reported that while Ramin, now a Christian Pastor living in Los Angeles, was sharing his testimony,

“Another woman who was not part of the conversation went and complained to the security. The guard came and said, ‘You can’t solicit here.’ He then told them “we were not soliciting”. He just said, ‘Bye,’ and walked away.” After Parsa, the pastor, and his son grabbed some coffee, “three guards were waiting for me and said, ‘You must leave now.’ I asked why. They said, ‘You’re soliciting.’ I said, ‘No, we are not.’ I was explaining to them that I’m from out of state, I’m here as a guest, I’m here to see the mall.”
“That’s when they grabbed my coffee, handcuffed me, and took me to the underground mall gaol,” he recalled. “They patted me down, handcuffed me to a metal chair that was bolted to the ground. They refused to give me water, refused to let me go to the restroom except right before the police came. When I was taken to gaol after 3 hours. I was hungry and thirsty.”

In a video aired on Facebook, Ramin Parsa gave a detailed response about his encounter, talking about the dangers of creeping shari’a law, how Christians should be aware of Shari’a creep and how necessary it is to become pro-active in answering it. Parsa also mentioned his support for Donald Trump’s travel ban on Somalia, saying “Imagine if these people [Somalian Islamists] get into power [in the United States]. They don’t respect the constitution and the bill of rights, and American values. They come here to oppress. So…now I understand why there’s a [travel] ban on Somalia, which is a good thing….I believe that true refugees are Christians and other minorities in Muslim countries living under Islamic Shari’a Law.”

According to Parsa’s website, he was ‘raised in Iran, in a Shiite Muslim family. He lived under Islamic Law and was taught to practice strict religious traditions. After his father died, Parsa began to question Islam and the existence of God.

He heard about the gospel, disagreed with it, but became curious. Parsa gave himself to God, asking to be shown the way forward and came to Jesus Christ as a result. He was later arrested for handing out bibles. Then stabbed, causing him to move from Iran to Turkey.’ He came to America for Bible College and now works as Pastor of Redemptive Love Ministries International.

PJ Media also reported that Ramin Parsa’s pre-trial is for December 11th, where, while hopeful for an acquittal, “if prosecutors don’t drop the charges, his case will go to trial.”


Originally published at www.caldronpool.com 4th December 2018 under the same title.

Although American Political Scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain didn’t consider herself a theologian, there’s a good chance that anyone willing to exhaust an enquiry into her eligibility for the title, would conclude that she, in fact, was.

Theology forms part of the hidden backbone in the majority of her work.

Elshtain’s broad and consistent conversation partners include St. Augustine, Albert Camus, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel, and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II). This also includes some small contact with theologians Karl Barth, Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Elshtain considered herself a layperson when it came to theological matters.  Adding theologian to her list of accomplishments may have handicapped her from being the proverbial, voice-in-the-leftist-academic-wilderness, that she was.

It’s likely that Elshtain benefited from not having been assigned the title of a theologian. Resulting in her being more able to navigate dishonest rhetorical tactics, like reckless labelling, selective outrage, guilt by association, negative preempting and agenda driven ridicule. All the things associated with predominantly modern leftist institutions.

Elshtain follows the example of Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus, and Karl Barth, who are credited, among others, as being careful and critical, when it came to allowing themselves to profiled in political terms; and/or  placed into rigid theological, philosophical or sociological categories. They weren’t looking for disciples or to create a school of thought.

It’s long, but here’s an excellent example of some of her work. In a critique of the assumption that Christianity is a universal ethic of niceness, Elshtain argues for a better understanding of Just War theory, post-September 11, 2001. In her sights are some Western theologians and philosophers, such as Mark Taylor [i] and Noam Chomsky [ii]:

Misunderstandings of Christian teachings are rife. Christianity is not an exalted or mystical form of utilitarianism. Jesus preached no doctrine of universal benevolence. He showed anger and issued condemnations.
These dimensions of Christ’s life and words tend to be overlooked nowadays as Christians concentrate on God’s love rather than God’s justice. That love is sometimes reduced to a diffuse benignity that is then enjoined on believers.
This kind of faith descends into sentimentalism fast. But how do believers translate the message of the Christian Savior into an ethic of worldly engagement if an ethic of universal niceness misses the point? Because Christianity is far and away the dominant faith of Americans, these are exigent matters of concern to all citizens, believer or no[…]
For Christians living in historic time and before the end of time, the pervasiveness of conflict must be faced.
One may aspire to perfection, but living perfectly is not possible. To believe one is without sin is to commit the sin of pride and to become ever more boastful in the conviction that a human being can sustain a perfectionist ethic.
For St. Augustine, for Martin Luther, and for the anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the harsh demands of necessity as well as the command of love require that one may have to commit oneself to the use of force under certain limited conditions, and with certain intentions. [iii]
(Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, 2008, p.100-101)

For Christians, just resistance is in the same category as falsehood. To answer the question, when is it just to “lie”? We have to compartmentalise the subject. Martin Luther held the view that there were four types of lies. The humorous, the helpful, the harmful, and the blasphemous. The first two are are ‘praiseworthy, since they do no harm. The last two are intolerable because they offend both man and God’ (Table Talk #33).

For example: Telling a ‘necessary lie‘ (Martin Luther [iv]) would always be grounded in God’s definition of what is good. If there is a greater good at stake, than there might be justification for the use of a helpful falsehood, such as to stop another human being legitimately harmed.

In 1 Samuel 18 & 19, Michal misled her father, who was King Saul. She did this in order to save her husband, David, from her father’s jealousy of David and his God-approved ascendancy to the throne. Corrie Ten Boom did the same in order to protect the Jews from Nazis. Being grounded in God’s definition of what is good means that there are core restraints; or clear rules of engagement. In other words, boundaries. As with falsehood, we don’t make an absolute of war. War is only ever an absolute last resort.

Just war is one specific example of many, which shows that Christianity is not, and can never be reduced to an ethic of universal niceness.  Just War is not the equivalent of Islamic jihad (as understood as war against the infidel). If the West is to respond to its enemies, and follow its Judeo-Christian heritage, the West must respond in love. This doesn’t mean that the West should surrender to its enemies. It means that the West is  free to engage on behalf of the vulnerable, only by way of restrained defence. Not cowering away from having the courage to say a loving “no” to those determined to see the West as an enemy.

Ridiculed, labelled a warmonger, and considered too old to be relevant, Churchill critically questioned the Nazi movement, long before it became a bloody necessity to reject it. Blind acquiescence and what C.S Lewis called ‘the tyranny of good intentions’, resulted in the catastrophic ambivalence, and indifference of the West throughout the 1930’s.

To do the same is to ignore reality, whitewash conflict and allow tyrants to thrive. This is an unloving abdication of responsibility, in favour of appeasement.

History has never forgotten British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s well intentioned declaration, “Peace For Our Time”. A declaration that was brutally shattered by the sound of falling shells, broken lives, screeching stukas and Nazi blitzkriegs.

Reagan was right, when in 1964, he said:

‘There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.
Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the spectre our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning of peace through strength.”
(A Time For Choosing)

Elshtain is right, viewing Christianity as an ethic of universal niceness and attributing it to Jesus Christis an aberration of Christianity. It misses the point.

To veil Christ and Christian action behind the fabric of an ethic of universal niceness, is to repeat the past. This unloving abdication of responsibility, in favour of appeasement, leaves the West embracing a false security. One that is further masqueraded by the ignorance of the past, the dangers of positive optimism, and a flawed understanding of Biblical Christian theology.


References:

[i] Mark Taylor, “The Way of the Cross as Theatric of Counter-Terror,” paper presented at a conference on justice and mercy, University of Chicago (Spring 2002), cited by Elshtain in Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed (p.82)

[ii] Chomsky, N. 9-11 cited by Elshtain, (JWAT, p. 226)

[iii] Elshtain, J. 2008, Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed. (p. 100-101).

[iv] Luther, M. Conversations With Luther: Selections From Table Talk, 1915, The Pilgrim Press

(Originally published, 12th January 2015)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

 

Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ is a fresh creative take on Tom Clancy’s, ‘Jack Ryan’ brand. The story has a standard structure. The plot is revealed as characters move from one crisis to the next. Each episode adds to the next, leading to the narrative’s conclusion.

Casting was on point. Actor John Krasinski (Jack Ryan) plays alongside Australian actress, Abbie Cornish (Doctor Cathy Mueller who takes up a “casual” romantic relationship with Ryan). Wendell Pierce (Robert Zane in Suits’) plays the role of James Greer. All three add to the series and its fresh creative take on Tom Clancy’s, ‘Jack Ryan’ brand. Amazon has been consistent in the temperaments of key personalities, making a deliberate emphasis on Ryan’s, Sherlock-like, ability to see what others don’t, his by-the-book-ethic, and the sage-know-to-pick-your-battles no nonsense Greer.

While Jack Ryan is still a CIA analyst, he’s only an entry level desk jockey. The witty discourse and gracious tension between Ryan and James Greer, has been retained. However, there’s a big difference in tone and the nature of each character’s back story. James Greer is no longer an Admiral. He is fluent in Arabic, and is a backslidden Muslim (he converted to Islam in order to marry his now estranged wife). In addition, Jack Ryan is a scar ridden Marine vet, who wrestles with post traumatic stress and deep regret.

One of the most interesting themes raised within the series is the use of drones against belligerent Islamists. Through a subplot the script writers insert an introspective narrative that is isolated from the main storyline. This subplot explores the relationship and impact of drone strikes on pilots, and their targets. The subplot screenplay is exaggerated in order to make a point. Nevertheless, it presents an interesting talking point about the cost and justification for drone warfare; the unpredictable presence of drones and how that compares to the unpredictable presence of suicide bombers. The threat of a drone attack, anywhere and everywhere, might be a necessary deterrent to people who make the West their enemy[1].

One of the most noticeable aspects of Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ series is the transformation of James Greer. Greer has been politically sanitized. Rewriting Greer as a convert to Islam and removing him from his key role in the United States Navy “liberates” him from the American military industrial complex. Add to this the noticeable anti-American statements in the dialogue of both protagonists and antagonists; the anti-American lens is visible and provocative. The take away impression is that Greer is a disgruntled CIA officer, who’s patriotism is first to himself, and secondly to Islam.

While many may applaud the subtle promotion of Islam as “the religion of peace”, some may take issue with how the screenwriters have not just demoted, but removed a beloved African-American character from his position in Ryan lore. Greer, no longer being an Admiral, is one of the major drawbacks of the series, and is, in my opinion, a serious flaw in the redesigning of the ‘Jack Ryan’ universe. Though, Wendell Pierce plays Greer well, his task isn’t easy. Greer has been robbed of his cautious patriotism, pro-American dedication and high position of authority, as drawn out by James Earl Jones in ‘Hunt for Red October’, ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Clear & Present Danger’.

The less generous and more astute Western viewer wouldn’t be entirely wrong to see Amazon’s remake as outright propaganda against an alleged Islamophobia in the West. If standing against fundamentalism and prejudice was one the hidden aims of the ‘Jack Ryan’ series, this revision of Greer raises questions about what Amazon was thinking when it decided on fundamentally changing James Greer. If “racism” was a core issue being discussed, why was an African-American character removed from his privileged and respected position within the ‘Jack Ryan’ universe? Was Tom Clancy’s, Greer not worthy enough, or simply not minority enough?[2]

On the whole, Amazon Prime’s ‘Jack Ryan’ has the makings of a decent series. The cast is on point and the crux of Clancy’s brand remains intact. The storyline is engaging and for the more discerning, the ideological lens can be easily filtered out. Audiences are patient and will be generous in how the series takes Greer from a sharp minded naval veteran and Western patriot to a conflicted, weary American, who is committed to himself first and Islam second. Unfortunately, the compromises and revisionism may sabotage the shows future as it further alienates an audience, already growing tired of being bullied and misrepresented by Hollywood. An audience fed up with being force-fed conformism, through Hollywood’s self-styled piety, anti-Trumpism, appeasement of modern liberalism, and the sugar-coated half-truths and lies which tend to go along with it.

Furthermore Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ seems to provide further proof that parts of the West are funding their own cultural suicide[3]. The series tip toes around serious concerns of many in the West. This is displayed in one episode, when those concerns are dismissed and discounted as “racism” by Greer. It’s for this reason that season one comes across as apologetic towards Islam, and in parts, hostile towards the West. The series stumbles drunkenly between speaking truthfully about Islam and promoting popular myths, such as perpetuating the idea that Islam is a race, that Islam is completely compatible with healthy Western values, that Islam is “the religion of peace”, and that the fault with Islam lies with fundamentalists (both external and internal), who are out to taint, abuse or misuse its ideology.

I’m keen for the next series, love the cast, but was disappointed and frustrated at what can only be described as Amazon’s (if not the screen writer’s) own strange case of Stockholm syndrome. While the crux of Clancy’s brand remains intact, Tom Clancy’s, ‘Jack Ryan’ has been rebranded by Amazon to be more palate worthy to an oppressive politically correct culture. Season one is pro-Islam, and in parts anti-American. It’s narrative and dialogue may only alienate a large majority of Clancy’s fan, forcing them to tune out and become entrenched in the very thing the show’s creators may have been trying to address. Season two looks set to involve Russia. Given the political climate in Hollywood since November,  2016, one can only hope that when it comes to the screen play, plot and storyline, cooler heads will prevail.

 


Notes:

[1] Just as society doesn’t know where or when a fifth column of Islamists might blow themselves or others up, Islamists don’t know where a drone will pop up next to them

[2] Has Amazon sold James Greer off; using the character to sell an idea of Islam that differs from the reality?

[3] Season one comes across as too anti-American. The screenwriters seem to have done their best to be sympathetic towards Islam, for fear of offending Muslims, while being inconsiderate of its Western audience. Islam is treated like a victim of oppression from fundamentalists[3] in the West and fundamentalists within its own ranks. There’s an impression that the screen writers are seeking to lull people into a false sense of security in its pointless attempt to separate political Islam and Islamic ideology from “the religion of peace”.

Jesus among other gods_Ravi Zacharias_Blogpost 15th Nov 2015 PicI’ve just completed Indian-born Canadian, Ravi Zacharias’ 2002, book, ‘Jesus Among Other Gods’.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. Initially, I anticipated there being more of an in-depth academic analysis of the history and differences between Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Western Ideological Progressivism and Christianity. Although an analysis exists, it’s often short. Because of this, at times, it seemed as though Zacharias was too brief and ended his discussions far too quickly.

This doesn’t hinder the potency of the text as a useful resource for deep thinkers. It’s full of take away points worthy of further consideration. His focus is squarely on presenting the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and how that fact is a relevant challenge to the dominant philosophical and religious apparatus’ that permeate both East and West. Zacharias is aware of his audience and subject; presenting blunt, to-the-point facts and conclusions, drawn from experience and research.

For example:  ‘post-modernism best represents a mood (a potentially dangerous state-of-mind) where reason can be crushed under the weight of feeling.’[i]  It’s a good summary, buttressed by Zacharias’ own admission that

‘the difficulty [in writing the book] was not in knowing what to say, but in knowing what not to say. We are living in a time when sensitivities are at the surface, often vented with cutting words…Philosophically and morally, you can believe anything so long as you do not claim it to be true or a “better” way. Religiously you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ into it.’[ii]

Consider the well orchestrated neo-tolerant slogan, “religion of peace” vs. the popular rejection of those who authentically (read:humbly) follow the Prince of Peace (Isaiah’s prophetic reference for Jesus Christ – Is.9:6).We live in a fractured and noisy world, Zacharias, in his approach, seeks to move through it.

‘The denial of Christ has less to do with facts and more to do with the bent of what a person is prejudiced to conclude. After years of wrestling with such issues in academia, I have seen this proven time and again.’[iii]

The strength of ‘Jesus Among Other Gods’ is that it is succinct, well indexed and in parts, personal. Zacharias is thorough. Yet, his approach is simple. Jargon is clarified and not carried too far. What exists is an easy discussion on complex topics, close to the heart of someone who has a long history of experience sharing Christian faith and thought, in a mixture of sometimes hostile, cultural and ideological settings.

‘I  [at the age of 17, encountered Jesus Christ] amid the thunderous cries of a culture that has three hundred and thirty million deities.’[iv]

Zacharias makes well-informed assertions only someone raised in an Eastern culture can [v].  With that a unique challenge is placed before Western readers.

‘the concept of “many ways [to God]” was absorbed subliminally in my life as a youngster. I was conditioned into that way of thinking before I found out its smuggled prejudices. It took years to find out that the cry for openness is never what it purports to be. What the person means by saying, “You must be open to everything” is really, “You must be open to everything that I am open to, and anything that I disagree with, you must disagree with too.” Indian culture has that veneer of openness, but it is highly critical of anything that hints at a challenge to it. It is no accident that within that so-called tolerant culture was birthed the caste system. All-inclusive philosophies can only come at the cost of truth.’[vi]

If you’re looking for a strict fact-comparison dictionary of religions and Christianity, this isn’t it. If, on the other hand you’re looking for a good introduction, or to expand on the stark contrast between Jesus Christ and world religions, ‘Jesus Among Other Gods’ is a great place to start.


Notes:

Zacharias, R. 2000 Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of The Christian Message,  Thomas Nelson

[i] Located in the introduction

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] p.50

[iv] p.6

[v] See page 27: ‘I made the assertion earlier that in the East, the home is the defining cultural indicator. Everything that determines who you are and what your future bodes is tied into your heritage and your social standing. Absolutely everything.’

[vi] p.7

Jules Verne BrittanicaDespite what might be a popular conception for those of us, raised in, by, and with pop-culture, author, Jules Verne (1828-1905) was neither American nor British.

Verne, the author of ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around The World in 80 Days,’ was French.

He wasn’t a curious atheist or even a fierce agnostic. Not that being an atheist or agnostic disqualifies anyone from having anything of value to say.

It’s just worth noting that there is a distinction between the man and any perpetuated assumptions that deconstructionism, selectively-applied-to-support-an-agenda might create. (Through, say, it’s presumed, superior grasp of authorial intent?)

By which, I mean, the inadvertent creation of a long-winded meaning, in order to explain a meaning, but which ends up having nothing to do with the author’s actual, original and intended meaning.[i]

Verne was, according to common belief, a deist.  An unorthodox Christian belief that became popular in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

Evidenced by the concept that, ‘God helps those who first help themselves’.[ii]

Or as is understood by our Muslim neighbours in the Quran as,

‘Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.’[iii]

More precisely, deism is

‘a movement of rationalistic thought that acquires knowledge of God solely by the use of reason as opposed to knowledge gained through revelation (God’s making himself known; Jesus Christ) or church teaching.’[iv]

With some amount of caution about oversimplifying deism, it is, in a sentence, Christianity without Christ. It has little to nothing to do with grace, gospel or the relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has chosen to establish, rescue and then secure, with humanity.

The five points of deism are:

  1. ‘the belief in a supreme being
  2. the obligation to worship
  3. the obligation of ethical conduct
  4. the need for repentance of sins
  5. divine rewards and punishments in this life and the next’[v]

It could be argued that deism is syncretism, landing somewhere in the middle of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Their similarities fused together in a way that allows for the possibility of an absolute reason-in-unison between the three. Not quite universalism.

It’s easy to see why deism was attractive. It advocates an easy tolerance.  Appearing to be justified by reason it’s seen as a useful tool for mediation, one that ignores differences. Conveniently, God’s relationship with us is reduced to a utilitarian, religious checklist that is then imposed back onto Him.

Effectively, God’s reconciliationMaritime steampunk in the uniqueness of Christ is displaced. He is reassigned to the role of under-Lord who exists to meet the desires, wants, progressive goals and universal happiness of His human-overlords.

The outcome being totalised subservient coexistence.

Held out at a distance God is detached. His transcendence over-emphasised, He is thought to be unmoved until we choose to move.

Consequently, God’s free act in Christ is stolen. Like the prodigal son’s father, God’s decision to move before we do is overlooked. His reach and run towards us rejected as foolish, embarrassing and undignified.

Driven by hypocritical intolerance, this empowers a push towards the slow annihilation of the Christian. God is enslaved, Christ subsumed. In its place is established the quintessential, dysfunctional kingdom of man or woman. The unexpected result being the embodiment of terror; power held in place by the tyranny of suspicion and the misuse of appearances to manipulate reality in order to maintain such power.

In truth this easy tolerance is a ruse. At best it’s only an uneasy truce between those in the West who seek to displace Christianity and elements of fascist ideology that, in part, still marches on through the desert sands of the Middle East and the halls of Western academia.

As for Verne, perhaps his later works are an enquiry into this. Perhaps they are a judgement on humanity about what can happen when progressive optimism turns into human arrogance.

The caution and detail within Verne’s tales show that he was a keen observer, not a prophet. His words are a reminder to the over-confident, self-assured and tenured wise.

Not a lot of accessible contemporary debate[vi] appears to exist about how much his theism was influenced by deism, and how heavily or not, deism or theism might have influenced his work.

Most commentators seem to settle comfortably on the point that Verne rarely mentions Jesus Christ, so his deism is considered unquestionable.

On the surface they appear right. However, doubt about their conclusions is justified. For example: Verne had apparent fascination with Mormonism.[vii]

In the relatively unknown, 1871, publication ‘A Floating City’, Verne, in response to the sails of the Great Eastern being drawn out of respect for a Sunday Church service at sea, writes:

‘I thought myself very fortunate that the screw-propeller was allowed to continue its work, and when I inquired of a fierce Puritan the reason for this tolerance, “Sir,” said he to me, “that which comes directly from God must be respected; the wind is in His hand, the steam is in the power of man.” I was willing to content myself with this reason, and in the meantime observed what was going on, on board.’[viii]

In addition, certain parts of ‘A Floating City’, ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around the World in Eighty days’ provide us with evidence of Verne’s respect for traditional Christian devotion, it’s place in society mixed with a healthy criticism of the church-as-institution.

For now, outside quick token mentions of deism, those details are left to trivia and the footnotes of historians.

Yet, without real enquiry, or interest in it, any debate about Verne’s faith and theology will remain locked in speculation.Relegated to the rubric of opinion. Any conclusions will remain quietly hidden within the realms of mysticism, steampunk fashion, and the realm of science-fiction, a category that Verne is too easily assigned.

 

“Static objects mustn’t be confused with dynamic ones, or we’ll be open to serious error.” – Captain Nemo [ix]

 


References:

[i] Wordy, I know, but…it makes sense when you think about it.

[ii]  A quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, this is, however, more than likely a proverb which originated in Classical Greece.

[iii] Quran 13:11

[iv] Mcdonald, M.H in Elwell, W.A (Ed.) 2001 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. Baker House Publishing Company (p.329)

[v] Ibid.

[vi] It’s difficult to find any.

[vii] Verne mentions it with an air of fascination in both A Floating City, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

[viii] Verne, J. 1871 A Floating City (Illustrated) Kindle Ed. (p.45)

[ix] Verne, J. 1869 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, BookRix GmbH, Kindle Ed. (p.29)

Images:

1. Jules Verne, Brittanica.com

2. Photo of an old divining suit I took in Ballina, NSW. Filtered using picmonkey.