Given all the bad press Islam has gotten over the last few years, it might seem surprising at first glance that Islam is still such a vibrant, fast-growing religion. Even setting aside the fact that Muhammad was a bad guy and Allah doesn’t exist, the press about Islam over the last few years has been almost universally negative. If you’re not hearing about terrorist attacks, suicide bombers or sanctioned wife beating, you’re reading about ISIS taking slaves or Iranian morality police beating women with sticks for showing their ankles.
If all of that is so, then why was Muhammad the most popular name for newborn boys in Britain? How is it that the number of mosques in the United States has risen 74% since 2000? How can it possibly be that France is now 10% Muslim?
There’s a very simple answer to that question that goes well beyond, “Muslims are immigrating to Western nations.” Muslims are perceived as being very devout. In fact, most people have concluded that Muslims really BELIEVE IN SOMETHING.
On the positive side, it takes a lot of devotion to pray five times a day. On the more negative side, it also takes a great deal of belief to blow yourself up for Allah, murder people for drawing a cartoon of Muhammad or spend your life encased in a burka.
Do you see the potential appeal of that to someone who’s lost and looking for meaning in his life? Religion isn’t all fun and games. There are a lot of rules and an often inconvenient moral code comes with it. So, if you’re going to turn to religion to help provide direction in your life, wouldn’t you want to at least turn to a religion where the adherents really seem to believe in what they’re preaching?
So, if that’s what people are seeing when they look at Islam, what are they seeing when they look at Christianity in America? They see that TV shows and musicians can trash Jesus in the most vulgar ways without fear of getting serious blowback. Public tax dollars are being used to fund art that smears Christianity and “liberal Christians” are fine with it. It seems like every movie that has a Christian in it portrays him as a psychopath, a murderous hick or just a sanctimonious jerk you’re supposed to hate. Who’s keeping these movies afloat in a mostly Christian nation? Who’s buying the records of artists who trash Christians? Who’s voting for the people who funnel your tax dollars into anti-Christian causes?
Meanwhile, way too many Christians are embracing this “Buddy Christ,” we-don’t-want-to-make-anyone-uncomfortable, watered-down version of Christianity.
We’ve accepted society’s idea that if you’re flawed, you can’t ever speak out against your flaw or you’re a hypocrite. Of course, since ALL OF US are flawed, many of us never speak out. Even if someone gets tempted to speak up, he stays silent because, “You’re not supposed to mix religion and politics.” Of course, politicians have no problem getting involved in religious matters, but that’s supposed to only go one way while Christians keep their mouths shut. Then if you still want to speak up and say something’s wrong, you’re told not to “talk about social issues.” Meanwhile, people who hate Christians are talking about social issues non-stop. But, we’re not supposed to fire back because that might be “intolerant” or make people “uncomfortable.” Then if all that’s not enough, if you want to condemn bad behavior, you’re told “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Well, unfortunately, too many people seem to confuse the meaning of that statement with, “If it feels good, it’s okay to do it” or “If someone likes it, you can’t say anything about it because you might hurt her feelings.”
Presbyterian Church members, who have dropped their standards so much that I no longer consider them Christians in any meaningful sense, have even stooped so low as to adopt gay marriage in a failed attempt to make themselves more palatable to a world that hates them.
However, what so many Christians are missing is that a neutered religion that has become so stale, timid and uncertain of what it believes in that it’s afraid to offend non-believers doesn’t have a lot of appeal.
Christians go overboard in the country to emphasize that God is all about forgiveness, making you happy and making you successful. Well, God will indeed help people who pray to Him, but He is not a genie who exists to grant your wishes.
We are here to serve God; He is not here to serve us.
God is also not all sunshine and roses. If our country makes Him angry, He may purposefully ruin us. If you displease Him, He will allow you to go to hell. Are you an atheist? A nice one, who’s generally a good guy? Well, life isn’t a pass/fail test and, yes, according to the Bible, you’re going to hell. Are you a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist? You may be a wonderful person and we can certainly be polite to you, treat you decently, and wish you well, but your gods don’t exist and according to Jesus Christ, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Quoting Bible verses to people who don’t want to hear them, wagging your finger in their faces or treating sinners hatefully is counterproductive and ultimately, that’s not going to convert very many people to Christ. What will turn people around is showing some spine and standing up for what you believe in. Christians need to take a hint from Phil Robertson, Franklin Graham, Tim Tebow and other Christians who aren’t willing to sanitize their beliefs and their message because people who hate Christians don’t like it.
We should treat people with love and compassion when it’s possible, but we should also be inspired by the courage that early Christians had when preaching the gospel might lead to being thrown to the lions. If we’re not going to talk like we believe, if we’re not going to act like we believe, if we’re not going to live like we believe, then how are people going to become believers through our example?