Tom Krattenmaker's ("a Portland-based writer specializing in religion and public life") piece is titled, "Holy Texts As Unholy Weapons," and its tagline warns us that "Whether it's the Bible or the Quran, believers must police acts of good and evil" -- the point being that the books associated with the two incompatible (editor's note) religions are really not all that different. "Let's face it," says Krattenmaker, "Whether it's Christians or Muslims, stone-throwers ought to realize that their own houses are glass." Both the Bible and the Quran have an equal culpability for condoning and justifying the violence and gruesomeness they contain. Being good pluralists, we should realize this and never engage in the:
too-common practice ... of plucking certain passages from the Quran (while ignoring the many peace-preaching verses) and marshaling them as "proof" that Islam is inherently violent.Well, I am not one whose innocence allows me to throw stones. But I also reject the idea that Krattenmaker's admonition leaves me stranded in a glass house. I have written a little on this topic before (here and here), so I just want to respond with two points.
First, there is no doubt that the biblical passages that record God's command to wipe the Amalekites and Amorites off the face of the earth are emotionally difficult to defend. When the Israelites are told to destroy every man, woman, and child of some tribe, it is hard to square with our view of a loving God we honor and serve. But there are a few things to note here:
- The utter evil that infused these cultures is hard to imagine. These were people who sacrificed small children by burning them alive. They had been given multiple chances to change their ways and warnings about what would befall them if they didn't. The sacrificial and sexually-charged societies (to include the practice of bestiality) they represented had infused these practices into many generations of inhabitants and there was every indication that their ways of thinking had infected the mindset of the entire society.
- God also allowed his own people, the Israelites, to be decimated when they took up these same practices of the abhorrently evil cultures that surrounded them.
- The language that is used is obviously hyperbole. How do I know this? As Paul Copan points out in his recent book, Is God a Moral Monster?, the same people who were supposed to be obliterated in these relentless attacks continue to crop up later in biblical history! The simple fact is that these instructions were not carried out to the extent the language suggests they were.
We rightfully cringe at the command to obliterate an entire community of people, and I do not in any way diminish our responsibility to explain these difficult biblical passages. Nor do I relish having to do so myself. But the simple fact is that the loving, bearded, white-robed God we want to imagine as a our cosmic grandfather is also the Creator of the universe. He not only brought all reality into existence and can therefore do with it as He pleases, but his perfection demands that justice be done for those who rebel against Him. Justice is a scary concept when you are on the deserving end. And justice is not fairness. In fact, those who are pardoned of their rebellion against God get precisely what they do not deserve. If anyone is being treated unfairly in these stories, it is those who are spared from God's justice.
Second, conduct a thought experiment for a minute by considering the teachings of Jesus. Which of those teachings would lead one to believe that following Him entailed engaging in the violent behavior that Islamists perpetuate every day? The answer of course is, "None."
What Krattenmaker conveniently leaves out of his admonition against "proof-texting" the Quran, is the doctrine of abrogation that the Quran explicitly spells out. As I've said before:
This Islamic doctrine claims states that those parts of the Quran written after 622 AD (when Muhammad returned to Medina) overrule earlier verses. When you read these passages you find that it is the later passages that contain the commands to:
- "fight and slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war" (Surah 9, verse 5) or ...
- "Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor So, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth (Islam), even if they are of the 40 people of the Book, until they pay the jizya (Islamic tax) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."
These passages are not "proof-texts" that are used to ignore the peaceful passages we find in the Quran; they are passages that the Quran itself says have been abrogated by Muhammed's newer, more violent, teachings.
Yes there are gruesome passages in the Bible. But these are descriptive passages that tell us the story of what happened in history. Conversely, the violence of the Quran is prescriptive of the remedies Muhammed passed down for his followers to carry out on the infidels that defied his teachings. One has to betray the teachings of Jesus to engage in violence. But when Muslims engage in violence, they are simply following Muhammed's prescription for the perpetuation of Islam.
One doesn't have to live in a glass house to see the difference.