Citizenship Confusion: Why “Answering Muslims” Isn’t So Great at Answering Muslims
Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
What does it mean to engage in apologetics? Strictly speaking it is a defense of our Christian faith, but occasionally in giving such a defense we might challenge other belief systems. We might question their internal logic, external support, or beauty. We might even venture to examine the kind of cultural practices and politics that other belief systems produce. Answering Muslims, a fairly popular Christian apologetics website, uses this latter method. On their “Islamoblog” they post articles which offer evidence of the violent nature of Islam and its threat to the American Constitution. While it certainly can be appropriate to use examples of abuses done in the name of a belief system to challenge that system, if a Christian apologetic is primarily devoted to defending the American Constitution, it is worth asking: what country or ruler does the apologetic defend, Christ or the United States?
The recent blog posts on Answering Muslims offers a good overview of their priorities:
“Tampa police covering up honor killing?”
“Dearborn Arrests: Unedited Video Footage”
“Netanyahu, Peace, and Middle Eastern Reality”
“Sharia in American Courts? Say it ain’t so!”
What unites all of these posts is an inductive argument that Islam is fundamentally violent and a political threat to our country (for example: this video on “Shariamerica,” which offers a good example of the site’s rhetoric). The posts commonly criticize the way our government and the media treats Islam with political correctness. They also passionately take the position that Sharia law has already begun to usurp the Constitution.
Although I find their inductive argument that Islam is inherently violent and their claim that Sharia law has been implemented in US courts unconvincing, my concern is really that these arguments are more focused on defending the sanctity and security of our nation than in offering an account of the beauty of the Gospel. Whether the authors of the site intend it or not, by offering an apologetic that primarily entails the narrative of a people invading our country, infringing upon our constitutional rights, and instigating acts of violence, they give the impression that what is really at stake is the safety of our nation and our individual rights, rather than the relationship between these Muslims and God and all that that entails.
This misplaced emphasis in Christian apologetics upon the way other worldviews negatively affect our nation has many other manifestations: the evolution debates, fear of communism, concern for the moral purity of our country, etc. I’m not saying that it’s never worth while to debate evolution, criticize communism, stand for righteousness, or defend the Constitution from Islamic abuses in the name of political correctness, but I do think that we must be careful in how we describe our discourse when we do participate in such discussions. Are we really doing the work of apologetics? What is truly at stake? Our country, our American way of life, or the standing of others before God?
I find that my own ability to distinguish between political priorities, movements, parties, etc. that I have either accepted or rejected based on cultural rather than Gospel priorities to be utterly unreliable. Certain types of theology and certain types of politics are so entwined with each other (And I don’t just mean the entanglement of conservative evangelical and right wing politics, though that is certainly part of it) in my mind that determining whether I have shaped my politics to fit my view of the Gospel or my view of the Gospel to fit my politics seems unknowable. As a result, for a time (maybe longer?), I am rejecting (to the best of my ability) all political ideology and identity as I seek first to ground my identity in Christ. I found this article helpful in the continuing process of identifying and rejecting those latent confusions. Would “Shariamerica” be substantially more hostile to Christ and the true Gospel than the United States as it exists today? I don’t know the answer to that. I suspect in some ways it would be easier to distinguish the True from the Counterfeit in “Shariamerica”.
“Are we really doing the work of apologetics? What is truly at stake? Our country, our American way of life, or the standing of others before God?”
I would point out that the work of apologetics, in its rather limited scope, is the work of “answering for” what one believes, that is, vindicating one’s own dogma as reasonable and good over against the objections and accusations of others. It is not the same work as proclamation (which is central to liturgy, and continued outward through the life of the communing Body) or evangelization (which seeks to be and to bring about conversion [metanoia, repentance or transformation] upon the ground of Christ’s Work and its application to the lives of the faithful).
Current evangelical culture seems to use “apologetics” as a cover for every kind of disputatious practice, from “discernment” to proselytizing to politicking.
Still, there is some need to “answer for” the justice of our faith and practice, and there is great value in seeking to preserve those modes of human government which have least hindered the Gospel (this is different from being a tool of late capital or an activist for “caring” regimes). But it would be great of today’s “apologetics” were carried on more in the tradition of those who, called to “answer for” their faith, did so with their lives after articulating, as clearly as they were able, the difference between being buffeted for their own faults and being hated by those who hate Christ.
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