The other day Rod wrote about the Muslim guy who stopped another Muslim from torching a synagogue
One also hears about people like this emerging in the Islamic world. And I’ve gotten email from young people in Iran who loathe the current regime and are not too terribly thrilled about Islam either after having it ramrodded down their throats by the ugliest representatives on the planet. As I’ve said in the past, I suspect that Islam is, in many ways, a house of cards should it lose state enforcement and the billions pumped into enforcing it from oil regimes. However, being a realist, I also know that it’s not going away anytime soon. So what’s to be done? Well, one approach is to seek out those Muslims who are closest to loving the things of Christ (such people do exist) and making common cause with them as much as possible. Without a sword to their throats from the Enforcers of Islam, it’s quite possible that such people will come to faith in Christ, like this guy. But, like that brave soul, such conversions will come at enormous social costs–costs most fat suburban Americans would not think of paying, yet expect those dumb Third Worlders to endure “if they were really serious”.
Common sense therefore dictates that Christians seek, not only conversions among Muslims where possible, but also that they seek to face the fact that, though conversion will not always (or even usually) happen for the foreseeable future, still common cause can be made with some Muslims on certain things. This is what the Church has ever done and it can and should still be done. Islam is not a monolith and it has no Magisterium. It is a human invention and is therefore subject to human (and at times divine and demonic) influence like all other human things. At present, the greater part of the Islamic world is (like the West) very much under the sway of the prince of this world, but this does not relieve Christians of the responsibility of trying to both bring the gospel to Muslims and trying to make common cause wherever possible. It is the same duty we Catholics have with respect to Jews, atheists, Protestants, Jehovah Witnesses and all other organisms that carry human DNA.
That’s what I (and Peter Kreeft) mean by Ecumenical Jihad. Despite the snap judgement of some, the point of that deliberately provocative phrase is not “Let’s go pray in mosques” or “Catholics and Muslims, Jews and Protestants, Hindus and New Agers are all really saying the same thing.” It is rather the same point Paul made both in the synagogue and on the Areopagus. Where somebody is in possession of real, but incomplete revelation, the Catholic should honor it and speak the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully subsisting in the Catholic Church, who is the fulfillment of revelation. Where somebody is in possession of human wisdom, complete it with Christ who is the divine wisdom. And yes, where somebody is in the thrall of lies, speak truth and break chains by the word of Christ.
But, as a convert myself, I can tell you that one of the worst ways in the world to approach anybody is by starting out, “I’m not interested in you and your worthless family, your futile heritage, your stupid ideas, and the garbage you love and care about. You listen to *me*, buster.” Yet something rather like this seems to be what some Catholics propose as the ideal for evangelization. In this worldview, grace does not build on nature, it destroys nature and replaces it with your particular cultural preferences.
This is true, not only for something as extreme as a Muslim conversion, but for conversions from other species of Christianity. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Lidless Eye types dismiss charismatic Catholics as “protestantized” Catholics. Likewise, I run into charismatics (and of course lots of Evangelicals) who speak of high church types as the frozen chosen, etc. (I don’t bother rounding out the mix with “liberal Catholics” because I’m speaking to people who actually take the teaching of the Church seriously, not people for whom Catholicism is a sort of ethnicity to be overcome.) All this stuff is the sort of thing Paul is talking about in Romans 14. And all of it is, I think, foreign to the mind of Christ. Moreover, it has implications for evangelization.
For each culture has its own genius at its heart which, since it is human, is fallen, yes, but also fundamentally good. If we focus on the fallenness of a culture to the exclusion of the good thing God has hidden there, we blaspheme the Creator. Approach evangelization that way and you not only rob the convert (should you find somebody self-hating enough to put up with you) but you rob the Church too. For such a convert will not bring himself as he is into the Church, he will bring what you have tried to make him into. He will provide no God-given nature for grace to build on, only a facade you have given him to wear.
I tell people I became a Catholic because I wanted to be the best Evangelical I could be. And I freely acknowledge that my Catholicism has an Evangelical flavor to it. You see the same thing everywhere: Tom Howard is Anglican-flavored Catholic, Dale Vree is a Marxist-flavored Catholic, Scott Hahn is a Presby-flavored Catholic, and so forth. I pray the day will come when whatever is good in the Muslim world will be purified of all that is so base and evil now and that there will be Muslim-flavored Catholics, just as there are Jewish, Irish, Italian, and French flavored Catholics. Till that time comes, we work and pray–and probably fight. But we can never let ourselves forget that the fall is not the last word about anything human. Something more primal than the fall–the image of God–is impressed on the soul of each human person, even a Radical Muslim. And the redemption of Christ extends even to a suicide bomber. Jesus Christ died for every single person in human history without any exception whatsoever.
We know this, but now and then it’s important to remind ourselves of it.