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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?