Prayer Ministry

The Problem with Islam

by (Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty

Please don’t think that I’m trying to become the victim of a fatwa by the provocative title to this article.  But there is a problem with Islam.  All around the world, followers of Islam are engaging in terrible acts of brutality and violence in the name of their religion.  At the same time, there has been condemnation by some more “moderate” Muslims.  Why?

A number of years ago, I was visiting one of my sisters, and she invited a friend of hers to dinner with us – a devout Muslim.  In the midst of dinner, he began to challenge me on Christianity and it’s core belief:  The Holy Trinity.  He argued that God is one, to which I agreed; but he denied that God could be “three in one” as we profess in the Nicene Creed.  It’s hard preaching on Trinity Sunday to a church full of practicing Catholics, but that’s child’s play compared to explaining the “mystery” of the Holy Trinity to a Muslim who denies the Divinity of Jesus Christ.  After some fruitless conversation (basically a Bible versus Koran fundamentalist argument), I asked him a series of questions.  “Do you believe that God is all powerful?  Do you believe that God is all knowing?  Do you believe that God created everything that we can see and everything that we can’t see?  Do you believe that God can do whatever God wants?”  After acknowledging all of these questions in the affirmative, I asked one last question: “If God wanted to, could He become a man and walk on the earth?”  There was no other answer that he could give.  He had to say “yes.”  And I replied, “That’s the difference between our religions.  We believe that He did.”

The Incarnation is the central event in human history, so much so that our calendar is determined by it.  All that occurred before the Incarnation is Before Christ, and all that has occurred since then is Anno Domini, the year of the Lord.  But even more important is how the Incarnation changed our understanding of humanity, itself.  Before Christ, the majority of the world was made up of “tribes.”  Although some tribes, like the Egyptians and Romans and Greeks, had advanced civilizations, that’s beside the point.  Even the Jewish people were a tribe who viewed foreigners with great suspicion.  But Jesus came into that “tribe” and changed everything.  During His ministry, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, but He made it clear that His message was for all people, not just one tribe.  At the Great Commission, in the very last verses of Matthew’s Gospel, He told His Apostles: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:18:20)

Why is the Great Commission important?  And how is related to the Incarnation?    I’ll give three reasons.  First, the call of Jesus in Matthew 28 is a natural consequence of the Incarnation. Jesus became a human being, not just a Jewish man.  And if Christ became a human being, then each human being has “intrinsic dignity.”  What do I mean by that?  I mean that we have dignity because we are human beings, not because we are smart or strong or male or female or fair-skinned or dark-skinned or of one nationality or another.  The Incarnation – God made man – reveals our own human dignity, as first told to us in Genesis 1:27:  “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  If each of us has “intrinsic dignity” based on our creation in light of the Incarnation, then we are equal in God’s eyes and equally loved.

Second, the Incarnation and Great Commission are important because collectively they are a call for an end to the division between men.  If each individual human person has dignity, despite one’s physical condition, race, sex or national origin; we are equally called to enter into a relationship with God.  In fact, the first ones to hear this message from the Apostles each heard it in his own language.  They were “Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11).  It was a call that all men should be brothers because the message of Jesus was for all nations, in fact, for all creation, because He is the Creator.  He came to save mankind from the sin in the world caused by the devil.  He came to save all men and woman.

Finally, the Incarnation and the Great Commission are important because these concepts became so engraved in the mind of Christians that they became the basis for Western Democracy.  Although true equality may not ever be completely realized, it is the “concept” undermining Democratic principles. Whether someone is a paraplegic, blind, mute, or of lower intelligence, we believe that all are created equal, and the strong have an obligations to help those who are weak, those who can’t help themselves.  It’s a concept – “all men are created equal” – that finds itself in many Western constitutions.

The basic problem with Islam is a denial of the Incarnation.  In the Muslim mind, all men are not created equal; neither are they brothers and sisters.  Incumbent in this denial is the old “tribal” mentality, which believes that we are only brothers and sisters within our families or our “tribes.” A member of a tribe considers his own tribe to be superior to another tribe.  And even within the tribe members judge each other as being more or less useful to the tribe itself.  And if a person is not useful to the tribe, then that person can be a detriment to the tribe, and must be removed.  Tribes do not believe that all men are equal, and tribes punish members that are disloyal to the tribe.  Western Democracy and pluralism (peaceful coexistence) is foreign to a tribal mentality.

Someone recently asked me how we could ever live peacefully with Islam.  In truth, I think history has proven that we can’t.  We see them as brothers and sisters, and they see us as unbelievers.   So what can be accomplished?  “Well,” I said, “there will always be rational people who seek the truth.  And Jesus is the truth.  But the Roman Empire was converted by martyrdom, where the brutality of tribalism was converted by the peace of Christians who loved their enemies, even unto death.  That’s the route Jesus took.  Maybe that’s the route that He’s chosen for us, too.”