In all nine predominantly Muslim nations surveyed in 2009 a strong majority say it is equally important to educate girls and boys. This opinion is shared by more than eight-in-ten in Lebanon (96%), Israel (93%), Indonesia (93%), Turkey (89%), Pakistan (87%) and the Palestinian territories (85%).Now we all know that Muslim countries are known generally to be behind the west in terms of women's rights and education-- the Taliban's abuse of women being an extreme but all-too-real example. But what to the Muslim citizenry wish for? Equality, at least in education according to this poll. It's also not too hard to believe that if these people are residents of Muslims country, they are actual practitioners of Islam, and therefore probably don't see some degree of equal treatment for boys and girls as being incompatible with all flavors of faithful Islam. How do you reach these people for Christ?
Here's Franklin Graham's approach. Franklin Graham is the son of evangelist Billy Graham and the head of Shepherd's purse. He was recently disinvited from a Pentagon Prayer day at the request of some Mulsim advocacy group. Graham has taken heat for comments he has made in reference to Islam. He has called it "evil". Recently, on the April 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
GRAHAM: You know, Gretchen, first of all, I love Muslim people and I want Muslims everywhere to know what I know, that God loves us, that he sent his son Jesus Christ into this world to take our sins and he died for our sins and rose from the grave and that Christ can come into their heart and change them and they can have the hope of eternal life, salvation. I want them to know that they don't have to die in a car bomb don't have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God. But it's through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone. But when you look at Islam, I love the people of Islam but the religion, I do not agree with the religion at all. And if you look at what the religion does just to women, women alone, it is just horrid. And so yes, I speak out for women. I speak out for people that live under Islam, that are enslaved by Islam and I want them to know that they can be free, free through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.[emphasis added in red].
He also said,
"True Islam cannot be practiced in this country," he told CNN's Campbell Brown last December. "You can't beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they've committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries."
Okay, so now take those 80% of residents of the Islam world who would like to see their daughters educated. Are they going to view an accurate view of Islam as one where they murder their daughters? How many of them are going to take pause at Franklin's suggestion to accepting Christ instead of doing suicide bombing? Are Islamic people all just strapping on their bomb vests, and need a missionary like Graham to tell them to stop?
I suspect Graham's statements read like nationalistic prejudice, where you tell people to repent of a stereotype of their nationality. I put Graham's "I want them to know that they don't have to die in a car bomb don't have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God" isn't very well received by the vast majority of well-behaved Muslims. I suspect it would be taken as well as saying to Israelis, "You don't have to kill Palestinian babies by bulldozing their houses..." or to Southern men, "You don't have to have sex with those animals..." Or to Italians, "You don't have to become part of a Mafia where you go kill old ladies." There should be pastors bravely making sermons about the very real cases of animal abuse and indiscriminate use of force by security operations. But you don't address people by a large class that doesn't comprise the set of those doing the bad things. To do so is immature, silly, counterproductive to evangelism of real people. I remember Bush, Blair, and Buckley, Jr., all making the case after 9/11 that the terrorists were heretics of Islam.
Franklin's statements are probably however red meat to certain kinds of Christians as far as supporting certain kinds of evangelism. I have also seen a lot of ugly things said by his supporters on the internet.
If you've made it this far, you might have noticed that I haven't yet criticized his idea that "Islam is evil." This is also the statement that the secular press and liberal-protestants within Christianity will take most offense at. And here I will support Reverend Graham. From the context of a Theology of the Cross in Christianity, any good deed that causes you to place an iota of hope for rightness with God is a mortal sin. Indeed, Martin Luther wrote in his Heidelberg Disputation:
- The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
- By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.
- To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
- Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
- Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
Luther is here saying that good deeds can be mortal sins, if we put our hope in them. This is the sense that Islam is evil in the view of a theology of the cross. That it is a works-based religion where humans must strive to put themselves right with God apart from a righteousness based on Christ. If the confessions of Christianity are true, then telling people they can get right with God apart from Christ is nothing less than evil.
The problem with Franklin Graham's approach is that he's not saying this. Or it's not getting into the papers. Perhaps a theologian of the cross would, too, be dis-invited from the Pentagon.