Should Malaysian Christians call God “Allah”?

Muslims say “no.” Aren’t they right? Not that they need to riot about it. From the Associated Press:

Eight churches have been attacked over three days amid a dispute over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, sparking fresh political instability that is denting Malaysia’s image as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority nation.

Many Muslims are angry about a Dec. 31 High Court decision overturning a government ban on Roman Catholics’ using “Allah” to refer to their God in the Malay-language edition of their main newspaper, the Herald.

The ruling also applies to the ban’s broader applications such as Malay-language Bibles, 10,000 copies of which were recently seized by authorities because they translated God as Allah. The government has appealed the verdict.

Joe Carter asks, but why would Christians want to call the Triune God “Allah”? Yes, it’s the Arabic word for “God,” but he argues that since the term is used for a name, and the deities that Christians and Muslims worship are so different, the same name should not be used for both. The Malaysians do have a more generic term they could use. Read Joe’s argument at A God By Any Other Name . . . » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Of course, Malaysians should be free to call their deity whatever they want without government sanctions or mob persecutions. But still, isn’t Joe right?


Jay Leno was just on too early

Jay Leno Cancelled, Conan Comtemplating Split | TheHDRoom.  NBC’s plan to save money on scripted shows by moving Leno to prime-time didn’t work.  Now the network wants to move him back to late night, to the consternation of Conan O’Brien–who, as Leno’s replacement on the  Tonight Show,is also having ratings woes–and Jimmy Falloon, who is on even later.

This doesn’t surprise me.  Leno is very funny, but you have to be up late past your bedtime his humor to have its full effect.  The same holds true for the other late night comedians, some of whom need to be on really, really  late before they can even seem mildly amusing.  When you are well-rested and in your right mind, they tend to  fall flat.

What do you think should happen?  Conan is considering stomping off and going to FOX.   If they were all on at the same time, would you rather watch Leno, O’Brien, or Letterman?

Tolerance embraces proselytizing

Michael Gerson makes some excellent points about the Brit Hume controversy, particularly that religious freedom and religious toleration require accepting people’s rights to try to make converts:

The American idea of religious liberty does not forbid proselytization; it presupposes it. Free, autonomous individuals not only have the right to hold whatever beliefs they wish, they also have the right to change those beliefs and to persuade others to change as well. Just as there is no political liberty without the right to change one's convictions and publicly argue for them, there is no religious liberty without the possibility of conversion and persuasion.

Proselytization, admittedly, is fraught with complications. We object to the practice when an unequal power relationship is involved — a boss pressuring an employee. We are offended by brainwashing. Coercion and trickery violate the whole idea of free religious choice based on open discussion.

But none of this was present in Hume's appeal to Woods. A semi-retired broadcaster holds no unfair advantage over a multimillionaire athlete. Hume was engaged in persuasion.

“Persuasion, by contrast,” argues political and social ethics professor Jean Bethke Elshtain, “begins with the presupposition that you are a moral agent, a being whose dignity no one is permitted to deny or to strip from you, and, from that stance of mutual respect, one offers arguments, or invites your participation, your sharing, in a community.”

The root of the anger against Hume is his religious exclusivity — the belief, in Shuster's words, that “my faith is the right one.” For this reason, according to Shales, Hume has “dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet.”

But this supposed defense of other religious traditions betrays an unfamiliarity with religion itself. Religious faiths — Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian — generally make claims about the nature of reality that conflict with the claims of other faiths. Attacking Christian religious exclusivity is to attack nearly every vital religious tradition. It is not a scandal to believers that others hold differing beliefs. It is only a scandal to those offended by all belief. Though I am not a Buddhist or a Muslim, I am not “dissed” when a Muslim or a Buddhist advocates his views in public.

Hume’s critics hold a strange view of pluralism. For religion to be tolerated, it must be privatized — not, apparently, just in governmental settings but also on television networks. We must have not only a secular state but also a secular public discourse. And so tolerance, conveniently, is defined as shutting up people with whom secularists disagree. Many commentators have been offering Woods advice in his travails. But religious advice, apparently and uniquely, should be forbidden. In a discussion of sex, morality and betrayed vows, wouldn't religious issues naturally arise? How is our public discourse improved by narrowing it — removing references to the most essential element in countless lives?

True tolerance consists in engaging deep disagreements respectfully — through persuasion — not in banning certain categories of argument and belief from public debate.

via Michael Gerson – Brit Hume’s Tiger Woods remarks shine light on true intolerance –

Elvis as preacher/Preacher as Elvis

Elvis Presley would have turned 75 on January 8.  His former wife said that if he were alive today he might be a preacher:

<blockquote>“I think Elvis would always be a part of music, no matter what,” Priscilla Presley told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Friday from the King’s Graceland home in Memphis. “It was in his blood. I don’t know if he’d be doing rock ’n’ roll right now; I think that maybe he’d be going into gospel. Maybe even preaching a little bit. He loved to teach and loved the Bible. He always would have been dedicated to his music, that’s for sure.</blockquote>

This tells us something not just about Elvis–of whom I count myself as a fan–but of at least a certain type of preacher. There is something of Elvis in a lot of celebrity, television, and megachurch preachers, is there not? A big element of performance, getting up before all those people and trying to connect with them by the force of his expressive personality. Do you regular pastors feel this, or feel you need to resist this? I suppose getting up in a pulpit is sort of like putting on an act, putting on an office that you as a mere mortal are privileged to fill. I would think, though, that you are not expressing yourself, as Elvis did so well, but rather expressing Christ, whose Word you are proclaiming.

What can we learn about vocation from the thought of Elvis as preacher?

via Priscilla Presley: Elvis would be preaching now – TODAY Entertainment.

Al-Qaeda’s new strategy

Counter-terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman has a fascinating op-ed piece, Al-Qaeda has a new strategy. Obama needs one, too. –  Here is a summation of that strategy, which Hoffman explores in detail:   Overwhelm. Divide. Bankrupt. Spread. Diversify.

The terrorists have certainly succeeded in dividing us, both from our allies and from each other.  Al-Qaeda is trying to take credit for our current financial woes, which is ridiculous, but the direct and the indirect costs of the war on terrorism are not helping. And it is certainly overwhelming  the way the terrorists keep shifting their bases of operations and attacking us in so many different ways.

Any ideas?

NFL playoffs

What a thrilling game it was, with the Packers coming back after spotting the Cardinals two touch-downs, thanks to two opening turnovers, and yet losing in overtime with a whopping score of 51-45.  I can’t think of any playoff game–or any football game, for that matter, that I have witnessed, in which the two teams scored a total of 96 points!  And the Packers’ strong point was supposed to be their defense.

Oh, well.  At least the Packers made the playoffs.  They missed the storyline of playing Brett Favre once again.  So who should I be for now?