Sunday, July 10, 2016

Addendum and Clarification to Article on Muslims

In response to a piece I wrote a few days ago on an Episcopalian church allowing Muslims to worship inside the church building on a weekly basis, I received a letter from a commenter who felt I was being overly-critical, and had perhaps crossed a line in the way I had worded what they thought was an otherwise good article that made valid points. Below is the e-mail I sent back with some minor alterations, and I hope that if anybody else had similar questions regarding the piece, that this might clear it up. Obviously, I disagreed with the commenter for the most part, but realized I could've been a little more explanatory at some points. The commenter understood my reasoning after reading the reply you can find below, and hopefully it clears up any questions one might have had regarding it. I make it clear here why we must stand on guard for Truth, and help to lead as many souls as we can to Christ. I apologize if I was not clear enough before.
The Holy Trinity

So I disagree with your assessment though. I'm curious as to why it's a negative thing to be critical of other religions. I agree with you, we are called to respect and love other people; they're all created in the image of God. But should we conflate that respect of persons to a respect of their religions? Absolutely not. I think I made quite clear the distinction that exists between respecting a Muslim or an atheist and respecting Islam or atheism. What line is it that you think was crossed? This post was in response to a thread made on a Catholic website by two Episcopalians who are there for the soul purpose of undermining the Catholic faith. They waxed eloquently on how this was a good thing, and they were told by many other Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian included) that they totally missed the mark and were dead wrong that this should be celebrated. The audience intended is to Christians, especially those who have bought into that "politically liberal" and "relativist" Christianity we see so often in the Western world now, and it's the same Christianity those two Episcopalians held to, which is why I used such straightforward and blunt language at certain points. They couldn't admit, after it being pointed out to them by several people, that the fact Jesus Christ was not being worshiped in a building consecrated to Him was unfortunate; He was being brought down to the level of a mere man by the Muslims gathering for prayer in that church.

You mentioned that I asked "What does it mean to truly love people?" I would argue, that the answer would be to lead people to Jesus Christ. Since God is love, and Jesus is God, then it follows that Jesus Christ Himself is love! Therefore, we must do all we can to bring people to Him! Hosting a prayer service for another religion that attracts more people to the Christian church instead of actual Christians seems to be a bit problematic. It's especially saddening, because Islam teaches that God is not love.

God the Father Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand
In Muslim theology, God is believed to be unknowable, so a speculation and study on God's nature is rejected. Because of this, they don't believe that God is our Father, and believe that the Christian notion of us as adopted sons and daughters of God through our Baptism is blasphemy. They need to know that they have a God, a Father, "ABBA" (literally: daddy) who lives in heaven and loves us as His children! I argue that by leading them to that truth is true love, because I don't want to see them separated from Christ, because the consequences of that separation from Him are eternal. How can I "hold in special or high regard", as the definition of "respect" entails, this religion that calls my love for my Father and His love for me blasphemous? I'm not sure how much you have studied the theology of Islam (I need to do much more myself), but what I have delved into and learned, shows to me that I can not respect this religion which twists the very notion of who God is. That doesn't exclude me from loving or respecting individual Muslims though.

Remember that video from the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen? Sheen said that "Truth is like this circle; it has 360 degrees. And that fullness [of the Truth] would be found in Christ's Mystical Body." So the Catholic Church has all 360 degrees of the Truth. But then he says "We are to think of every religion under the sun having something good." I agree. Islam acknowledges the Abrahamic God. Some of its teaching are virtuous. He continues, "A religion that started in Los Angeles just this afternoon has some good in it. It only has 10 degrees, but it's got some good." Obviously, we should focus on the good, that leads to good ecumenism. But what is the goal of ecumenism? Ultimately, to bring those outside the Church into the Church. Even recent Popes have said they respect "the Muslim community", but they don't mention respecting Islam itself. So eventually, if the discussion progresses far enough, we have to point out the differences to get somewhere. So let's say that Islam, having more truth in it than a religion created today, has 110 degrees. Well that's not a full circle, but the Catholic Church with 360 degrees is a perfect circle. Which circle is superior? The circle with 360 degrees, as it possesses the fullness of being a circle.

Now, I think what I wrote was measured, respectful of persons, and was not intended to offend anyone. I could have gotten much more critical and pointed, but I'm not comfortable speaking like that. Not to say it's wrong. St. Paul was more than a bit pointed now and then, like that time he said he wished the Jews who were hung up on circumcision would go the whole nine yards and just castrate themselves! (Gal. 5:11-12) In a similar way, many saints were critical of Islam in tones much more confrontational than mine. What they say is harsh, but is true nonetheless, and needs to be heard:
"On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, the point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, from his "Reasons for Our Faith: Against the Muslims")
"We profess Christ to be truly God and your prophet to be a precursor of the Antichrist and other profane doctrine...
"Any cult which denies the divinity of Christ, does not profess the existence of the Holy Trinity, refutes baptism, defames Christians, and derogates the priesthood, we consider to be damned.” (St. Habenitus and St. Aurelius, who were among the Martyrs of Cordoba, in response to Caliph Abd Ar-Rahman II’s letter that they convert to Islam on pain of death.)
"The Mohammedan paradise, however, is only fit for beasts; for filthy sensual pleasure is all the believer has to expect there." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his book "The History of Heresies and Their Refutation".)
St. Eulogius, one of the Martyrs of Cordoba
And I think St. John Bosco, who wrote this not too long ago in 1853, is justified in his tone of criticism of Islam here:
"We could say the Koran is a series of errors, the most enormous ones being against morality and the worship of the true God.  For example, it excuses from sin those who deny God out of fear of death;  it permits revenge; it guarantees its followers a Paradise filled only of earthly pleasures.  In short, this false prophet’s doctrine permits things so obscene, that the Christian soul is horrified just naming them. 
"What is the difference between the Catholic Church and the Mohammedan one? 
"The difference is very great. Mohamed established his religion with violence and arms; Jesus Christ established His Church with words of peace using His poor disciples. Mohamed incited the passions; Jesus Christ commanded the denial of self.  Mohamed worked no miracles; Jesus Christ worked uncountable miracles in broad daylight and in the presence of countless  multitudes.  Mohamed’s doctrines are ridiculous, immoral and corrupting; Jesus Christ’s are august, sublime and pure. In Mohamed not even one prophecy was fulfilled; in Jesus Christ all were. 
"To sum up, the Christian Religion, in a certain way, renders man happy in this world so as to raise him up to the enjoyment of heaven; Mohamed degrades and dishonors human nature and by placing all happiness in sensual pleasures, reduces man to the level of filthy animals." (From St. John Bosco's book "The Catholic educated in his religion")
I never called anyone a filthy animal, called anyone damned, or labeled anyone's beliefs as fables.

I know you mean well with the best intentions by sending me this constructive criticism, but I stand by what I wrote, and I agree with the saints that have gone before us. Unfortunately, the Truth hurts sometimes, and while we have to respect other people, being nice isn't necessarily a Commandment.. To be loving, is to tell the hard truths, but "with gentleness" as St Peter tells us in his 1st Letter. I don't think I was too harsh in what I wrote, but if you're uncomfortable with my tone or those of the saints, perhaps you can come up with another tone when talking to these "politically liberal" Christians that works. I think this would be a good article to read in light of all this, written by a Deacon, entitled "The Tyranny of Niceness:

Thanks for your thoughts though and for reading.

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