January 8, 2015

The ineptitude of moral equivalence

by Jesse Johnson

As I’m sure you’ve heard, yesterday a Newspaper office in Paris was attacked by gunmen who murdered twelve people. The specific targets were the paper’s editorial cartoonists, and the motive for their murder was the fact that they had often drawn cartoons disparaging Mohammad.

While the attack was swiftly condemned by many political leaders—France’s own president called it “an exceptional act of barbarism”—it was also met by many people eager to protect the reputation of Islam. The fact that the murders were done to avenge the reputation of Mohammad and that the politically correct response was to protect Islam’s reputation is ironic indeed.  

MSNBC compared the ideology of the fundamentalist Muslims who carried out the crime with the ideology of Jerry Falwell and Liberty University. Several American politicians and journalists made comments along the lines of “all religions have their fundamentalists  responsible for violence” (and of course, remember this from Salon? “What’s the difference between Palin and Muslim fundamentalists? Lipstick: A theocrat is a theocrat, whether Muslim or Christian”).

These kind of comments demonstrate our culture’s tendency toward moral equivocation. We value relativism so much that we have lost the ability to say that some religions are enemies of both truth and freedom.

But it is an event like yesterday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo that should highlight one of the stark contrasts between Islam and Christianity. Islam teaches violence, while Christianity teaches forgiveness. I’m not referencing fringe Islamic groups, but mainstream governments and mainstream cultures. Countries run by Islamic law foster violence and are democratically unworkable, whereas countries run by Christian law…

Well, it should dawn on you that there are no countries run by Christian law. Because Christianity is a religion built upon an individual’s relationship with God through Christ, not on a way of structuring a society. Because the focus is on the individual, nations with a Christian heritage produce individual and civic freedoms.

This is why Western nations tend toward freedom, and why Islamic nations cannot tolerate even a basic semblance of the freedoms that are taken for granted in much of the world. It is noteworthy that no country under Islamic law has a form of Freedom of Expression, and they all ban criticism of Mohamed. Their bans apply not only to Muslims, but to non-Muslims as well.

In contrast, Christians are accustomed to Jesus being mocked. Perhaps this is owing to how he was treated when he was on earth, or the fact that unlike Islam, Christianity began as non-violent religion. Whatever the reason, I’m not aware of any nations that ban mocking Jesus or Christians.

But this stark contrast—a contrast between violence in the name of a prophet and forgiveness in the name of a savior—is as politically incorrect as it is obvious. For example, yesterday the Associated Press (the largest news wire service in the world) explained that it was banning cartoons that are offensive to Muslims from its wire. Its explanation was that “it has been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.” Yet that never stopped them from running pictures of the Virgin Mary covered in feces, or a picture of Jesus being splattered with urine—to give just two examples that come immediately to mind.

Why is it ok in the United States to show scatological pictures that are derogatory to Christians, but not those that are derogatory to Muslims? Why is it ok for Newsweek to run a shoddy story essentially mocking the Bible (so filled with errors that it comes across as parody) but if someone does the same about Islam he is likely to be arrested?

Today, an influential Islamic cleric explained this difference in a column in the USA Today where he called for Western nations to ban criticism of Mohamed. He wrote that this is necessary because it is just too much a part of the Islamic world view to violently avenge any critical comments about Mohamed. In other words, Lutherans don’t violently chase down those who mock Jesus, while anyone poking fun at Mohamed should expect violence.

It would serve us well to fully grasp that distinction. It is the difference between dark and light, violence and forgiveness, censorship and freedom. It is also the difference between worshiping a lie and worshiping God in Spirit and truth.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • MR

    Why is it ok in the United States to show scatological pictures that are derogatory to Christians, but not those that are derogatory to Muslims?

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:8

  • Dave R

    Thank you Jesse for the good blog. — Events like this should wake up western Christians that the days of easy surface Christianity are coming to a close and Believers in “so called free nations” will face more and more challenges to the free exercise of their faith.

    • MR

      Matt Chandler said, “the most dangerous place for Christians to live is in America, because it doesn’t cost anything… yet.”

  • Johnny

    Thanks for the good and thoughtful analysis of these recent events

  • anna

    What freedom there is to serve a God who is perfectly capable if avenging Himself.

  • Linda Velazquez

    This article in the Washington times says that ISIS thinks this is the start of the apocalypse and that Jesus Christ will join their side in the end.http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/5/apocalypse-prophecies-drive-islamic-state-strategy/

    • Linda Velazquez

      You would think that if they believed that they would treat Christians with a lot more respect.

    • chrisleduc1

      Well, in one sense, they are absolutely right! There is a “christ” will come take their side. he will be able to perform miracles and everything. he is the very one we are warned to watch out for and not be deceived by. The real Christ will come and EVERY eye and see and when He does, this false Christ and the unconverted muslims will have a bad day.

  • It’s getting more and more difficult to grasp how people can be so utterly blind..so much evidence (!!!!!) and knowledge available for all to know what this religion is really about, (among other things..but I digress) yet heads remain pressed firmly downward in the sand.

    I can’t help but ponder the same sort of stunning incredulousness (and sadness) that Jesus’ true disciples must have experienced as they watched Him make His way to the utterly shameful place that was death by crucifiction. This man with no sin to His name being put on such grand display in a place reserved for only the most criminal of criminal men.

    But God put Him there not man, man being merely the instrument in fulfilling His will.

    …declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’…

    As horrific world events continue unfolding in ever increasing pangs it becomes increasingly more stunning that this is the God we serve!

    All Praise honor and glory be to Jesus! our Savior, our Messiah, our Christ.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    Ever since the day I came to faith–back during Nixon’s first term, so we’re talking awhile ago now–all the “future” talk in christian circles was all about a “United States of Europe”/Revived Roman Empire made up of 10 nations; Israel and the Jews; Russia due to invade them from the north; a 3rd temple to be constructed in Jerusalem; a Jewish (?) anti-christ who was probably already alive and just learning to ride a bike somewhere; the coming starvation of christians because of the economic sqeeze this guy would institute when he takes over the world…we all know the drill. No preacher, commentator or author that I’ve ever heard for all these years–not a single one–predicted any rise in Islamic terror or the influence of the Muslim world in “the last days.” Somehow they missed this huge shift in world politics in their confident predictions of what the world would suffer in the future.

    Meanwhile, of course, Europe is dying (the Euro is looking lousy, the Common Market is a distant memory and the E.U. is waiting in the wings to follow, Muslims are ruining what’s left of it, etc); Russia is on the ropes economically, and the only nation it has invaded is Croatia with a view to reconstituting the old USSR (good luck with that); Israel’s real enemy is Iran, not Russia; no one in Israel is making plans to build any temples; christians are eating just fine…except in the 3rd world, where no one is doing particularly well, and any expected world ruler to come is going to have a tough time getting agreement among nations, judging by how even the American government can’t get anything done, even with 2/3 of it now under one banner. We couldn’t even get a final report on Fast & Furious, so I don’t know how some politician in the Middle East is going to make us–and especially jihadists–trust him for anything.

    It’s beginning to look like the “dark days to come” have little to do with how the Jews are going to fare, but with how the whole world is going to fare with Muslims on the loose carrying C4 and AK-47s. How’d we miss all this??

    • No preacher, commentator or author that I’ve ever heard for all these years–not a single one–predicted any rise in Islamic terror or the influence of the Muslim world in “the last days.

      MacArthur addressed this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sci_WFp8ec

      • 4Commencefiring4

        Well, he touches there on Islam’s false Jesus, etc. and their view of the end times, which is interesting. But my point is that, for the last 30, 40, 50 years in evangelical circles–insofar as I’m aware–no one in typical “end times” messages predicted any coming worldwide Islamic threat or the emergence of terrorism as a political/religious tool. (In fact, McArthur–even in this message–never mentions “terrorism” specifically).

        I listened to and read the popular christian authors who made names for themselves in eschatology years ago–Hal Lindsay and his “Late Great Planet Earth” being the most well known, perhaps–and all they ever mentioned what the Jews had in store for them, or something touching on that. Islamic terror? Haven’t found any chapters on that.

        Just seems to me that christian preachers confidently predicted a bleak future that was pretty much focused on all things Jewish, yet now that the future they spoke of a generation ago is playing out now, all we’re hearing is Islam this and Muslim that. Israel may still not be out of the woods by any means, but the big gorilla in the room these days isn’t their troubles, it’s everyone else’s trouble with the Islamic world.

    • Chris

      And another site which nicely addresses Islam not only in the end times but through revelation is here: http://www.beholdthebeast.com/

    • Brian in BC

      Walid Shoebat has extensively discussed his belief that the Western Church has misapplied the symbolism of Apocalyptic Biblical books to Russia/US/Catholics instead of to Islam. His lecture on Revelation (Google it to watch it on Youtube) is an eye opening counterpoint. http://shoebat.com/

      • Eugen

        Walid Shoebat? Really?

    • pearlbaker

      1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;

      Although I may be open to criticism here for this simplistic comment, I am not a head-in-the sand type of personality, and I am no pollyanna, but I am not very concerned that prophets and prophecies have not specifically named the Taliban or Al Qaida or ISIS or ISIL or any particular terrorist group or their methods. There is much throughout history that did not receive specific attention in the Bible. We know there will be all sorts of trouble as the end times unfold, and we know we are not called to stop this trouble but to have faith in Christ and His Word. We need to be about our Father’s business and attend to the command to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of salvation, to everyone who will listen. The rest will be sorted out by God and He will prevail as He has promised.

      There is no reason for fear or even concern.

      Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Being inept is not a sin, as far as I know.

  • ZBA

    I agree with virtually all of what is written (Islam was born in evil by Mohammad who converted by the sword) except the last line. The teaching of belief in any invisible man in the sky is a lie, regardless of what you call him.

    • Lyndon Unger

      You know that this is a blog run by educated and conservative Christians, right?

      Feel free to mock here, but you only will be revealed to not have a clue what you’re talking about. No serious Christians believes that God is a man, or that he lives in the sky.

      Feel free to now toss out the standard list of Bible contradictions or appeal to blind faith masquarading as assumed naturalism.

      I need a laugh.

      • ZBA

        educated AND conservatives …meaning BOTH groups ? I hope that was funny for you. Blind faith is a redundancy and serious Christian might just be an oxymoron.
        Lately I had a Christian say that Jesus died for my sins and that led me to think about that. It seems like a non-sequitar of sorts. How would a death (anyone’s) be related to sins ?
        Lyndon, do you (of anyone else)have an answer?

        • Lyndon Unger

          Well, welcome to the unicorn sanctuary.

          There’s more than one earned doctorate contributing content to this blog.

          Apparently you haven’t ever encountered a serious Christian. The fact that you asked how the death of Christ relates to anyone’s sin suggest that you tend to hang around people who don’t understand the gospel.

          Do I have an answer? Yes.

          In fact, I’d be surprised if most of our readers don’t.

          Would you like someone to give you that answer?

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  • ebayjim

    Secular elites are moral cowards. And somewhere in their ‘love’ and ‘tolerance’ for all, they are scared to offend Islamists for reasons beyond their purported love and tolerance. It’s call fear of man, particularly fear for their own hide.

    • ZBA

      I’m not afraid to offend Islamists and I’m secular (not sure if I’m elite, but I am considered fairly intelligent, if that counts).
      I WOULD be afraid of Islamists if I lived in Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Iran.
      I also don’t love everyone. I thought that was a Christian thing.
      Peace (and tolerance … but free speech)

  • The deep truth of this blog, and the realization of the future for Followers of Christ in this world, makes me realize how very much I need to be steeped in the only weapon we have, His Holy Word. I may be stripped of every single thing in this life but if I bury His Word in my heart, I will always have the greatest defense….the truth.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    What happened in Paris this week is actually just a more extreme example of the same kind of thinking that we see on liberal college campuses where conservative speakers are chased off the stage, or where visits by conservative personalities precipitate protests on campus. And they can get violent.

    Ann Coulter, Jim Gilchrist, Karl Rove, Wayne LaPierre, etc. can’t be heard on most campuses nowadays because far left professors and their student sycophants cannot abide expressions of ideas they don’t agree with. Like those who stoned Stephen to death, they have no tolerance for hearing things that make them uncomfortable.

    Liberalism is becoming like ISIS. Today, they merely protest certain viewpoints; tomorrow, they may resort to killing those who express them. Only problem is, it’s the other side–those wreched conservatives–who have the guns. Ah, that’s a shame.

  • kevin2184

    society is under the assumption that it can jettison Christianity, specifically
    the Triune God and His moral imperatives, but somehow keep the common grace
    benefits of rationally functioning governments that are the blessings of the
    God they now want to eschew. How
    pathetically wrong that assumption is to the believer who understands that God’s
    judgment for those who shun Him is for God to shun them (Romans 1). As with nature, the spiritual realm abhors a
    vacuum. (Luke 11:6, Eph 6:16) God moves out
    and evil moves right in. What we’re
    witnessing in Western Europe today will be on our shores tomorrow.

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