Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Muhammed & Jesus - practically twins

"No way!", you may say, and I agree. But there are many who view them and the religions they founded as essentially the same. This bothers me, especially in light of the simple fact that Jesus taught--and more importantly lived--that the rule of God in the world (his favorite topic) wouldn't come by physical force (neither his own nor that of his followers), but by overcoming evil with good, by turning the other cheek, by loving our enemies. Muhammed, on the other hand, taught, but more importantly lived the exact opposite. For this reason alone, it doesn't surprise me when Muhammed's current followers . . . well, follow him. I don't see how it should surprise anyone, actually, and it seems to require a denial of simple logic to expect otherwise, like expecting children to do what you tell them to do instead of what you actually do yourself.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that the contrast between Mohammed's followers and those of Christ is frequently not as stark as between the leading men themselves. This doesn't really surprise me for the simple reason that Muhammed's example is more appealing to follow than Christ's--even for those who believe Christ is the Son of God. Muhammed's overall story isn't exactly rare, historically or currently--get passionate about the way you think things should be (based on ideas about God or nature, or something bigger than one person), gather the masses around your zealous ideas, and, using the power you've amassed, give your opponents the beating they deserve (then write the bestseller about your opinion on everything). How many times have we seen this story just this century? Wow, if not for the current international politics, Muhammed's life would make a great and typically American hero movie. It's a pattern that many have followed and continue to follow.

But that life story isn't--at all--like Jesus' story, nor is it what he taught. Jesus' teaching and example are about showing mercy--even to the point of spilling one's own blood and money, and even toward those currently smacking you in the face in the name of God or something much less. Jesus' life and teachings are consistent and forceful on that point. Could this be any more different from Mohammed's example? Or Donald Trump's, for that matter? Victory over evil (even evil within one's enemies) through self-sacrificing, physical-loss-embracing, God-trusting love? Here in America and in other places throughout history, though, we've frequently managed to make following Christ about something not centered on this unique focus of Christ's life and teachings. It's sounds like quite an accomplishment, but it's really just a matter of supply and demand. We want to have the option of getting Jesus' blessings without having to personally trust his 'costly' Way of life and love, and such a religion has been supplied. But his example and teachings remain, forever providing the Way to overcome evil in the world and the violence and death it causes. A few actually find and follow this Way, Truth, and Life. And when they do, they don't act anything like Muhammed acted. They're not even typical Americans. They're little Christs, or, at least, that's the Road they're on.

+++ God, May we all recognize and follow your narrow Road to Life without end.+++


steven hamilton said...

wow. that is profound stuff T. a great way to see the basic difference, even though the media and many others still protray both as similar religions from a common background. i was just listening to national public radio (yes, me equals geek) yesterday and there was a group of women who gather together called the faith club...abrahamic faith that is. some jews, some christians, some muslims. it all kind of began as one of the muslim women was having a faith crisis, and wondered about the other 'abrahamic faiths'. the christians she sought out embraced her and loved her and accepted her, but basically didn't give her the elemental difference in following christ jesus as opposed to muhammad that you just pointed out. it saddens me somewhat that they didn't, and now this has grown into this club where they meet and have tea and talk. not that i have a real place to speak forth either, i am definitely a love them first kind of guy, but you'd have to eventually get around to that, especially if someone having a 'faith crisis' in islam came to you seeking the difference between christianity and islam, wouldn't you?

T said...


That story hits me the same way as you, and I also dig NPR! But if honesty is part of love, I think love would require a frank discussion of the difference, and hopefully sooner rather than later. I honestly wonder, though, how many American Christians are themselves aware of this difference, because we so often don't view following Jesus' example and teachings as central to Christianity.

steven hamilton said...

exactly! it's like we can't/don't filter what the media/society/culture says about us, so we take that in and that becomes our definition, without going to the source (Jesus' example and His teachings). i was sharing last weekend with some friends, and i asked how many still believed that David was a 'boy' when he took on goliath? i asked that because i had learned at the baltimore hebrew university that the essence of the word in Hebrew means 'apprentice' not just 'boy' or 'youth'. in fact, a 'boy' is someone who is apprenticing to be a man. David was an apprenticing soldier (that is what armour-bearers were, apprentices). anyway, my point was to show that we all had carried a 'Sunday School' children's view of the world baggage into adulthood, and have never gone back to see if it was true or not. without learning and knowing some Hebrew (going to the source, so to speak) we all just accept what someone else has told us must be. honesty and love, i like it!


Bill said...

May your knowledge and experience of the riches of God’s grace, abundantly lavished on us through the gift of His Son as our Savior and King, warm your souls and brighten your days through this holiday season. Merry Christmas! -bill