Monday, November 29, 2010

How Foreign Muslims View America

I recently read A Flame on the Front Line by John Weaver a Christian missionary in Afghanistan.  The book primarily focuses on his spiritual journey from a rebellious youth to a man devoted to God and to an obscure third-world country that nobody cared about until about 9:00 AM on September 11, 2001.  John Weaver worked with the aid relief for the refugees fleeing the Taliban back before the US invasion.  When the towers fell (ironically it was also shortly after the Taliban had assassinated their biggest rival warlord), John decided to stay among the Afghans and continue to aid and comfort them.  The details of this story are found in his other book, Inside Afghanistan.

Anyway, toward the end of the book he brought up an interesting observation.  He outlined five points on how the Muslims he met there view Americans:

  1. All Americans or Westerners are Christians but not too serious about holiness, morality, or matters of faith.  This observation on the part of Muslims is not really that far off.  According to a study done by the Barna Group, 66% of those who claim to be Christian are merely casual Christians, or people who don’t take their faith all that seriously.  That’s nearly 2/3 of Americans.  Meanwhile, there are almost as many dedicated irreligious people (Barna dubs them skeptics) as there are dedicated Christians (about 11% are skeptics and 16% are Captive Christians).  So while it may be a misconception to say that all Americans are Christians who don’t care for their faith, it certainly is a legitimate generalization.
  2. Most Christians are immoral, because premarital sex, adultery, divorce, pornography, murder, and abortion occur everyday in the West and in America.  Given the first point, it isn’t a far stretch to make the second point.  It is largely true that Christians are hypocrites, especially if the majority of them are casual about their faith.  When James wrote, “I will show you my faith by my works”, he didn’t mean that works build faith, but that those whose heart is right with God will do good works for His sake.  In effect, a good way to judge a person’s heart is through their actions and not through their words.  Given the works of many Americans, our faith is non-existent.
  3. Since Christians claim to be forgiven in Christ or “saved by God’s grace,” we think we think we are free to live as we wish.  This point seems to build upon the last two, but it also can go much deeper.  Here I find myself tempted to write pages on predestination versus free will because this point ties into that.  If Christians believe that they are predestined to be saved, then the logical conclusion is very much the attitude expressed here.  By our behavior, you would think that many believe that.  Catholics go to confessional all the time to absolve themselves of their sins but do they make any effort to truly repent?  And how many altar calls does a Baptist have to make before he or she actually realizes that we are not free to live as we wish but that we are free to live as God wishes.
  4. Personal disciplines like daily worship, bowing in prayer, or fasting from food are not important.  Yes, this one is also a legitimate criticism of Christians everywhere in the West.  Again, it goes back to that whole faith and works observation where we do not make the effort to seek out God through worship, prayer, and fasting.  When we worship, many Christians are simply looking for an emotional high.  When we pray, we demand that God bless us and bend over for our every selfish whim.  And fasting is so outdated among many Christian circles.  Pride is more damaging than most Christians realize.
  5. Christians are idolatrous because they worship three gods: God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son, although some believe that the green god of money is part of the trinity.  This last observation is really just a misconception of the Holy Trinity, although I will freely admit that many Christians are just as idolatrous as any other religion.  If you are unwilling to give up something in your life for God, that is idolatry, pure and simple.  This does not mean you have to give it up, this merely means that whatever that thing is, be it your family, your friends, your possessions, your prestige, etc., you have to be willing to lose it all for His sake.  Don’t worry, though, it is very rare for God to demand things of that magnitude from us unless you’re a prophet.

I actually appreciate the criticism coming from the Muslims who live in foreign lands.  To be honest, I agree with them for the most part and I firmly believe that Christians are their own worst enemies in the West.  Perhaps it’s high time Christians, myself included, decided to not focus so much on everyone else but rather themselves.  There’s a lot of crap going on in the Christian world right now and I see little effort to change it all.

Sadly, if a bunch of third-world Muslims can see it, how blind are we that we can’t?


  1. Are we fighting the war for the Holy Grail again?? since when has religion ever been the real reason for anything? All wars are about power and dominance.
    As for the Christian thing, so be it. As for the Muslim thing isn't every woman ready to shed her berka and wear heels? Isn't every Muslim man ready to jump any white woman he sees?
    Why are women to cover up so as not excite a male. Why don't he control himself for the better good? these questions burn in my mind.....

  2. I'm sure the opinions of a Christian missionary are completely unbiased. I'm sure they met a totally normal cross-section of Muslims...

    This is callled "sample bias," by the way.

  3. And that was another random comment. Care to elaborate what you're trying to say Bret? You're never at a loss for words, even if they happen to only be four letters.

  4. What I'm saying is, I don't think a Christian missionary's experience is a fair assessment of what foreign people think. I'm not saying they're lying, I'm saying they won't even witness an unbiased cross-section of people.

  5. There is no such thing as an unbiased person or group of people.

  6. What kind of argument is that? There are very clearly less biased sources of information than others.

    Did it not occur to you that every single one of these is religious based, and that perhaps a Christian Missionary is going to hear more non-secular ideas than other sources? There are countless economic and military policies that affect perceptions of America in the Middle East as a whole, let alone in Afghanistan.

  7. Bret, I still don't understand what you are arguing here. Is there some other source about how foreign Muslims perceive Americans that you know about?

    John Weaver integrated himself into that society fairly well and many of those people trust him. While he lives there, he appears more like a local than an American, which is more than what our intelligence agents can probably say.

    I agree that there are other perceptions, but this is what he found living among them.

  8. Leaving aside their own little imperfections, I can't say they're that far off on the first four.

    We Western Christians are dumbasses. Lazy too now.

  9. I'm not saying any of the points presented are not beliefs held by Afghans. Some may even be the reason why terrorists do what they do, but the economic implcations are far more important to the planners and financiers than to the grunts. The grunts always eat up the religious bullshit, both there and here. But the man behind the curtain has his eye on the bottom line, and Saudi Arabia loves when America goes to war and our oil use sky rockets.

    Who gives a shit if Americans are bad Christians. This isn't a fucking pulpit.

  10. thanks bret, :), all thats what i meant to say...
    and what are they supposed to think when they see syndication of THE SOPRANOS. Do they know its not real? Or is this what they judge our lives with?

  11. You think they get the Sopranos? I'm guessing they got this impression from something like Three's Company or Saved by the Bell.


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