Converting our Vengeance toward Love

Book Review of How Not to Kill a Muslim, by Josh Graves — review by Collin Packer

How Not to Kill a Muslim, Review by Collin Packerpreacher at the Greenville Oaks Church of Christ and you can follow him @collinpacker

Book purchasable here and here.

Whether you’ve seriously considered killing a Muslim or not, I would highly recommend  Josh Graves’ new book, How Not to Kill a Muslim.

Josh is the Preaching & Teaching Minister at the Otter Creek Church near Nashville, TN. His interest in the relationship between Muslims and Christians emerged as he grew up in an eastern suburb of Detroit, just 20 minutes from Dearborn, MI, home to the largest Arab population in the world outside of the Middle East.

On the one hand, it’s the kind of book I wish I had available in March of 2003. I remember the scene so well. I was waiting to watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament in the lobby of my freshman dorm at the Christian University where I was enrolled. But prior to the morning’s games, I sat with my fellow students entertained by the U. S. “Shock and Awe” campaign at the beginning of the Invasion of Iraq. From the safety of our dorm, we cheered as the bombs reigned down on Baghdad.

Josh’s book would have helped balance my patriotic desire for revenge following 9/11. I believe I would have behaved more like Jesus if I had read this book back then.

On the other hand, it’s the kind of book I wish I had on hand over the past few years as a minister trying to challenge my congregation to see the importance of loving our enemies in the midst of an evangelical subculture more comfortable with declaring war on Muslims.

Josh brings 4 basic convictions to his book:

1)    Many American Christians live such busy lives – caring for children, pursuing education, and working hard – that they are left without the margin to reflect deeply about the Christian/Muslim divide.

2)    A large number of Christians are bitter toward Muslims because they don’t know any Muslims.

3)    The majority of American Christians have fallen for dangerous stereotypes propagated within most segments of pop-culture: film, stories, news, music, talk radio, television.

4)    Many Christians feel completely unequipped in engaging people of other faiths.

Did you know that Muslims (1.6 billion) and Christians (2 billion) make up nearly half the world’s population? One of the most important conversations of the 21st century cannot be handled well through a dependence on stereotypes and lack of relationship. We cannot allow fear to drive our response.

Josh doesn’t apologize for his Christian faith and perspective. He stays out of the opposing ditches that seem to characterize interactions between Christians and Muslims: 1) Passionate and Hostile (common in fundamentalist and evangelical Americans) or 2) Laissez Faire and Indifferent (common in liberal and post-Christian Americans).

Josh’s suggested path forward emerges from his reading of Torah and the gospels. The moral vision of How Not to Kill a Muslim originates in the story of Genesis as God impresses God’s divine image on all people.

In addition, his treatment of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is worth the price of the book. This parable in Luke 10 forms the nucleus of Josh’s theology. If there is any hope for a peaceful relationship between Muslims and Christians, love of neighbor will be the starting place. The Jesus Creed will be our guide.

The real test of Christianity isn’t how we treat those who have made a commitment to follow Jesus. The real test of Christianity is how we treat those who are not Christians. Or in the words of Dorothy Day: “I really only love God as much as the person I love least.”

I wish I had this book in my hands years ago, but I’m so glad to have several copies on my shelf today. How Not to Kill a Muslim is the single best resource I can recommend for beginning conversations about the relationship between Muslims and Christians.

But rest assured, the aim of this book isn’t education or information. Josh demands engagement.

It’s not enough to say you love Muslims. To love Muslims means you’ll have to share table and know the names of particular Muslims.

After all, if you had asked me during my freshman year of college if I loved Muslims, I would have said, “Of course.”

But it wasn’t until I shared table with Imam Karim that I could ever claim to love a Muslim.

And according to Josh Graves, that is how not to kill a Muslim.

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