Identity and Contrast: Charlie, Mohammed or Jesus?

I wonder how many professing Christians have jumped onto the “Je Suis Charlie” bandwagon – moved by emotion instead of discernment.

While we can all abhor what happened to the cartoonists and journalists from the Charlie Hebdo paper, being shocked that such a thing could happen, and while we can sympathise with the families of the victims; surely identifying ourselves with a paper that has mocked Christianity and not only Islam can’t be the right way to go.

Maybe one of the publications main achievements was to be equally insulting to all religions and in being so, in a roundabout and unfortunate way, have shown up the thing that sets Islam apart. Followers of THAT religion were the ones to be moved to extreme and deadly violence against the publication to avenge their ‘prophet” in the name of their god.

britain Why would anyone be surprised by this? Have they forgotten about the death sentence placed on Salman Rushdie in 1989 (a sentence that remains, with an increased reward offered to the one who carries it out)? Have they forgotten the many who were murdered for their association with Rushdie and his book The Satanic Verses?

1347713064047Have they forgotten those murdered during other protests about movies and previous cartoons that have depicted Mohammed in a less than flattering light?

These threats and actions may have been endorsed by a minority of Moslems in the west, but they have been a sizable and vocal minority not afraid of making their extreme views clear. In Australia protestors openly carried placards calling for the beheading of those who insult “the prophet”. In Britain those who “mock Islam” were to be butchered. And while the sentence against Rushdie was issued from Iran, it was done so at the instigation of Moslems in Britain.

The Charlie Hebdo murders were nothing new and I think it would be naive to think they will be the last. It doesn’t matter how many millions march in peaceful protest through city streets, no matter how many clever cartoons are drawn in response (and some HAVE been very good) those consumed by the Islamist ideology of ISIS, Al Queda, Boko Haram and countless other similar groups won’t be moved at all and will continue with their evil acts.

While we are assured those actions are not sanctioned by the broader Moslem communities in the west, there is a large enough number of professing Moslems around the world (including an active minority the west) who do sanction such actions. That is something that few seem willing to admit, being afraid of “alienating” the moderate Moslems and potentially pushing THEM towards extremism.

To me that attitude could seem patronising, but strangely, despite the fact that Moslems in Iraq and Syria are the main victims of Islamist extremists like ISIS, Moslems in the west also make the same kind of claims – that victimisation of Moslems by non-Moslems causes the embracing of extremism.

On the same day as the Charlie Hebdo murders, it was reported that a Saudi Arabian court sentenced a blogger to 10 years jail and 1000 lashes because of things he wrote on his blog. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/11/flogging-global-outrage-saudi-arabia-silent ). [remember, Saudi Arabia: the home of Islam and its “holiest” sites. ]

Also, Christian ministry Open Doors reports Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution of Christians in 40 of the 50 countries.
(https://www.opendoorsusa.org/newsroom/press-releases/tag-news-post/persecution-of-christians-reaches-historic-levels-conditions-suggest-worst-is-yet-to-come/)

Consider the contrast:
How do the above examples compare to the treatment of Moslems in the west?
Are Moslems prevented by law from peacefully practising their religion?
Would Moslems face execution for blasphemy should they speak out against the west’s religion of secularism? (Or Christianity or Buddhism or any other religion practised in the west)?

Consider the contrast:
The Paris gunmen:

“we have avenged the prophet”

Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5)

je-suis

jesus

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Cor 6)

…remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions (Jude)

Protect Middle Eastern Christians. (article from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem)

Unequalled

At a press conference on Monday (13 Oct 2014) in Jerusalem, prominent leaders of major Jewish and Christian global organizations announced an historic joint initiative calling on world leaders to take urgent, determined actions to halt the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

“The current plight of Middle East Christians is heart-breaking and even western churches have to do more to bring the suffering of our fellow believers to the forefront worldwide,” … . “But to have a prominent global Jewish leader lend his voice to this moral call for protecting the region’s persecuted Christians is unprecedented in modern times. We welcome all others of goodwill who will take a stand now for these vulnerable ancient Christian communities.”

“Just as Christians defend Jews against anti-Semitism, just as Christians support Israel, we Jews have an obligation to speak out against the growing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world,”.

“Islamist extremists have launched a full-fledged assault on our Western values, on our civilization, and Jews and Christians must work hand in hand to defeat this threat. For too long, the world has remained silent in the face of this evil. We must act before it is too late,”

Complete article here:
http://us.icej.org/news/special-reports/call-world-leaders-halt-persecution-middle-east-christians

Psalm

“What kind of god are we worshipping?”

From Voice of the Martyrs.

 Most of us have seen the graphic images of bombed out Syrian cities and citizens killed by chemical weapons. But amid these stories of chaotic civil war and tragedy is another, less publicised story. Christian churches in Syria continue to spread hope in the face of hopelessness, holding high not a political or denominational banner but the banner of Jesus Christ – the only path to salvation and peace with God. Before the outbreak of war, an evangelical church in one of Syria’s largest cities held several services a week for worship and prayer.

Today, it holds twice as many services, and most are standing-room only.

And

 

More than 70 Muslim families have turned to Christ in an area of Syria where only a dozen or so Christians existed 18 months ago. A former mullah who watched Muslim radicals from different Islamic sects kill each other while shouting “Allah is great!” began to wonder, “What kind of god are we worshipping?” Then he visited a church and learned about the God who doesn’t demand killing, but rather sacrificed His own Son for our sake. His heart was moved to follow Jesus.

A woman who had been paralysed for 10 years from a stroke testified that she was healed after a Christian friend prayed for her in Jesus’ name. After experiencing His power, she gratefully committed her life to the Jesus who heals.

 

See full article here: http://www.vom.com.au/news.asp?pid=1&id=1437

Past Present Future

What Ever Happened to … ?

I saw this on the TV on Sunday evening. (about 1/2 hour)

 http://www.abc.net.au/compass/s3795778.htm

It is mainly about Harry Westcott, a man who played a massive part in my Christian life through the 80s.

mamreHe led (leads) a group called Vision Ministries. In the early 1980s I started their Bible College correspondence course and completed about half of the requirements for their lowest qualification (certificate of theology – or something like that). I went along to a lot of their big events in Sydney to hear speakers like Colin Urquhart, Benson Idahosa, TL & Daisy Osborn and others. David Pawson was a regular speaker but I never got to hear him in person.

Vision Ministries started to hold Saturday night meetings in Parramatta and I drove there from Wollongong as often as I could to attend, taking a few friends along each time. It was about a four hour round trip.

At those meetings I met a woman called Jackie Hamill, a very friendly God-loving woman who always made my friends and I feel very welcome. She was a full time student at the Vision Bible College. Whenever I went to a Vision event she was often the first to greet me. She later gave her life for the Lord, becoming the only literal martyr I’ve known personally.

She went on a mission trip to the Philippines, was taken hostage while visiting a prison and was raped and shot . (see here for more information  http://onefiles.blogspot.co.nz/2009/08/martyrdom-of-friend.html)

dishYears afterwards I found that Harry Westcott entered his own period of spiritual crisis in the late 80s (around the time my own crisis began). He left Sydney and moved back to his parents’ property in Parkes. He was given his parents’ house and given the opportunity to buy some land around it to farm. After a little time away from ministry he turned part of the property in a new Vision ministries headquarters where he started holding annual “Old Fashioned Camp Meetings” to which people would come to stay in tents and caravans to hear invited speakers. After one camp was disrupted by severe storms he set out to build a “Bush Cathedral” – a huge shed with meeting facilities to house future events.

About 10 years ago I got back in contact with Harry, and when Gloria and I started looking for a country escape from Sydney, Parkes was my favoured choice (though we didn’t end up living there).

On one of our regular trips to stay with Gloria’s parents, we decided to go a different route, heading through Parkes instead of Wagga. My planned visit to have coffee with Harry and his wife Doreen was changed to an overnight stay at their invitation. We were given accommodation in a cabin next to the main house, and spent the evening with the Westcotts. The visitors book in the cabin was fascinating – seeing names (and addresses) of some very well-known preachers. It was tempting to note down addresses, but I thought that would have been an abuse of our host’s hospitality.
arenaFurther involvement with Harry and Vision Ministries didn’t eventuate. I felt there were still too many associations with questionable personalities from the charismatic and WOF worlds. Although he was one of the few who spoke out against the excesses of Toronto when that was happening, he remained loyal to the late Benson Idahosa, one of the Nigerian adherents to the prosperity “gospel”, and from the video linked above it is clear that Westcott still holds to the prosperity “gospel” himself.

For a long time Harry and Vision Ministries seemed to have most of the answers I was looking for – they were almost OOC before anyone had dreamed of there being OOC believers. Harry was big on inter-denominationalism,  drawing people from all kinds of backgrounds together to put the focus on Jesus and the gospel instead of denominational theology. But while the right desire and intention may have been there – putting it into practice wasn’t always a success.