By Jayson Casper
As Christians involve themselves – for good and for bad – in the divisive politics and cultural struggles of our nation, it is assumed they do so to preserve and advance a moral ethic consistent with Scripture.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to forget one of the central marks of this morality: ‘Do unto others, as you would have others do unto you.’
This command, and it is necessary to remember it is an active imperative, concerns many issues of the day. I would submit that current Muslim-Christian relations illustrate this selective memory, and the Middle East provides a useful mirror.
In the Arab world it is Christians who are the great minority. How do they describe their situation? Much like in America, there is considerable nuance.
It must be said at the outset that the comparison will not be exact. The US enshrines religious freedom for the individual and forbids a religious test for public office. While these concepts are not absent from the Arab world, they are mixed in with many constitutions that enshrine Islam as the religion of the state and sharia law as the basis of legislation. At the official level these articles can complicate matters considerably.
But what about the popular level?
To be certain there is a spirit that, while tolerating Christianity, strives to preserve and advance the Islamization of society. Some conservative Muslims argue that Christians should not be greeted on their holidays, lest it imply endorsement of false theology. Others warn their children against playing with Christians at school. And many Christians complain of discrimination that is mixed in with a general culture of nepotism.
But Christians the region over also speak of neighborly relations with normal people who happen to be Muslims. Post-Arab spring, many Arab governments are going out of their way to combat extremism that has crept into society. And as reflected in my recent article “What Arab Christians think of the ‘Same God’ debate”(originally in Christianity Today, Jan 13, 2016), many Arab Christians are comfortable saying they and their fellow Muslim citizens worship the same God.
Yet the article also described an undercurrent of frustration, that Christians feel internally compelled to seek common theological ground in order to secure common societal acceptance. The more some push the distinctiveness of Christianity, the more they fear either government or popular response.
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