Allah in the Dock

Perspicacious readers might very well know that the title of this post is a reference to the 1948 essay by C.S. Lewis, “God in the Dock” (which is also the overall title for the volume of Lewis’ writings published by Eerdmans in 1970).

Lewis never wrote systematically on Islam–which is understandable, since his focus was on bringing people to Christianity (once he had converted, with the help of his friend and staunch Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien).  But what perhaps the 20th century’s most famous Christian convert had to say about Islam, as pieced together from several different essays, is interesting–and instructive for today.

IslamicJesuspublicdomain

Muslim art: Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount (Wikipedia, public domain).

In “Christian Apologetics” (God in the Dock [GitD], p. 102), Lewis states that “Islam is only the greatest of the Christian heresies” in the same sense that “Buddhism [is] only the greatest of the Hindu heresies.”  In “The Grand Miracle” (GitD, p. 80), he writes “even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles”–whereas you cannot do that with Christianity, since the grand miracle of the Incarnation (not to mention the Resurrection) is the heart of the true story. Insofar as Islam is derivative of, and a reaction to, Christianity, it is certainly not inaccurate to call it a heretical Christian movement; but then analogizing it to Buddhism obfuscates his point because that religion started out as a reform movement within Hinduism, whereas Muhammad was never a Christian.  And Lewis seems unaware that any miracles in the Qur’an are done by `Isa (Jesus), not by Muhammad.

Lewis was less negative about Islam, albeit indirectly, in “Answers to Questions on Christianity” (GitD, p. 54), via the following: “I couldn’t believe that nine-hundred and ninety-nine religions were completely false and the remaining one true.  In reality, Christianity is primarily the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, but also what was vaguely hinted in all the religions at their best.”  Finally, in 1958’s “Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger” (GitD, p. 182), who had written a critique of him, Lewis had this to say: “As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking ‘ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure…. Such a man is not yet ripe for the Bible; he had better start by learning some sense from Islam: ‘The heaven and the earth and all between, thinkest thou I made them in jest?'”  The former passage encapsulates Lewis’ famous reasoning that myths tell non-scientific truths, and that many religions have a story about a deity dying and coming to life again–which points to the actual historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Of course, this perspective becomes a bit problematic in light of the fact that Islam–unlike paganism, or Hinduism, or Judaism–came along six centuries after Christianity.  So how can it then point to its predecessor?

Lewis seems to get around this objection by looking at Islam much as did Hans Kűng in his much later work Christianity and the World Religions: Paths of Dialogue with Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism (1986):  by presupposing that much of Islam is akin to the Old Testament, and that Muhammad is thus analogous to a Hebrew prophet.  Leaving aside Lewis’ curious misquoting of the Qur’an, which nowhere contains that passage he adduces (although similar parts are found in Sura al-Jathiyah [XLV), it is rather difficult to turn Muhammad’s “revelations” from Allah into a predictive Christian typology–not least because the Qur’an systematically denies the Trinity, Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Still, C.S. Lewis never wrote of Islam as being “satanic,” nor did he ever argue that it was “not a religion”–two assertions often made by modern Evangelical Christians, most of whom I daresay are huge fans of the Anglican Lewis.  I believe that Lewis is correct: Islam, the world’s second-largest religion, is at root a heresy of the world’s largest religion.  (For more on this, see my 2015 essay “Muhammad: Sincere, but Self-Deluded, Prophet” in Sects, Lies, and the Caliphate, pp. 72ff).   Thus, insofar as Christianity survived within it, Islam is redeemable.  It is, after all, the only religion besides Christianity whose scriptural canon reveres Jesus–albeit through a glass, darkly.  But I also know that even the demons believe in God’s unity, and that believing in a merely mortal Jesus is useless for salvation.

Eclipse Eschatology, Islam-style

Eclipses have often been associated with End Time events in Christianity, and the same is true in Islam.  One of the most notable is a tradition that the Mahdi will come when there are two eclipses–one solar, one lunar–during the month of Ramadan.  That means that even a total solar eclipse, as much of the United States will experience today, is no cause for infidel panic!

MeJamkarancropped

Intrepid Yank searching for 12th Imam al-Mahdi on the wrong side of Jamkaran Mosque.

The COIN of the Ottoman Realm

No, folks, I’ve neither fallen prey to jihad nor been crushed by a toppling Confederate statue–I’ve simply been working, night and day, on my new book:

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I should have it done in a week or two, then published on Amazon.  You’ll be the first to know! Thanks for bearing with me in the meantime.

Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Four Horsemen?

“We’re dead! We’re dead! We survived…but we’re dead!”  It often seems that liberals are channeling Dash from “The Incredibles” on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  Just yesterday they told us that South Asia will be hotter than the blazes of hell and damnation itself by the end of this century (sort of like Atlanta is already); and today we learn that not just our Indo-Pak friends but, indeed, all of humanity is likely deader than a “Star Trek” redshirt who just beamed down with the Captain.

I have written elsewhere (“Where’s Your Messiah Now–On the Left or the Right?,” Sects, Lies, and the Caliphate, pp. 151-154) that across the span of US history liberals have tended to be messianic, while conservatives have more often waxed eschatological. However, with the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency, roles have reversed: some of the latter have adopted political messianism (so much so that they are in need of chastisement) while the former have plunged deeply into the eschatological maelstrom with a vitriolic anchor around their necks.

Ironically, considering how many Democrats profess no religion, liberals have been quick to adopt the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” motif from the Book of Revelation, chapter 6.  In St. John’s apocalypse (which means, literally, “unveiling”) the horsemen are conquest, war, famine and death itself.

FourHorsemenDurer.png

Albrecht Dürer makes even the Four Horsemen look Lutheran.

The horsemen are Scott Pruitt (EPA director), Rex Tillerson (SecState), Rick Perry (Energy Secretary, former Texas governor) and Ryan Zinke (Interior Secretary).  No, wait! They’re actually the Koch family, Robert Mercer (conservative rich hedge-funder and “Breitbart News” supporter), Steve Bannon (Trump strategist) and The Donald himself.  No, enough horsing around–the Fey Four are, rather, Vice President Pence, SecDef “Mad Dog” Mattis, Tillerson and “worse than Caligula’s horse” Perry.

A better argument for the four figures would posit them as civilizational problems, not individuals–such as, say, chemicals, disease, some aspects of humanity itself, and resources (or lack thereof).  For “progressives,” then, the Four Little Ponies prancing in, now that President Trump has broken the seal (read Revelation chapters 5 and 6), might be climate change, capitalism, Christianity and cisgenderism–which unfortunately leaves them no room for Vladimir Putin.  The first of these, in its old global warming version is, of course, the beast which many on the Left see as stamping out all the others (as alluded to above).  Unfortunately for them, however, cold kills more humans than heat–as my wife likes to remind me whenever I set the air conditioner below 70.

Here are Four Horsemen that liberals and conservatives might be able to agree upon:

Rockpocalypse

This is a painting (dated 1967) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio (which I visited in June of this year, in town to see U2).  Marty Palin of Jefferson Airplane/Starship bought the painting in San Fransciso and donated it to the Hall.  That fellow in the middle appears Elvis-ish, while the rider on his left presages a 1970s Jeff Lynne of ELO (holding Maxwell’s silver hammer?).  The skeletal chap on the left could contribute something with that acoustic guitar.  But how in Hades do you play a scythe?

Since the title of this entry comes from U2, I’ll leave you with the link to one of my favorite, and their most relevant to today’s topic, songs: “Until the End of the World.”

Dueling Visions of the Mahdi in Libya

Fox News ran an interesting article yesterday, entitled “ISIS, squeezed out of Iraq and Syria, now ‘regrouping’ in Libya, analysts say.”  The point–as if the title were not clear enough–is that ISIS is using that failing north African state for a haven as its caliphal territory in Syria and, especially, Iraq is being diminished.

As my Army basic training drill sergeant used to say, “it don’t take a GED” to figure certain things out.  It just seems to take some analysts longer than others, however.  I predicted that ISIS would relocate its caliphate’s command and control to Libya over a year ago, in this article “Dousing ISIS’ Apocalyptic Spark in Syria“–owing not only to Libya’s lawless state, but just as much to the history of Islamic eschatological movements in North Africa being compatible with ISIS’ own brand of Islam.

Almohadoverlayonmodernstates

The Almohad (al-Muwahhidun) Caliphate, the main motivating tenet of which was belief that its founder Ibn Tumart was the Mahdi, included much of modern Libya in its domains.

 

Countering Violent Extremism: Middle-earth Edition

New Plan to Counter Violent Extremism in Middle-earth to be Implemented

“Isengard Times,”  Thursday, 10 July 3018 Third Age

The office of Saruman the White, Chief Strategist of the Western powers, has announced that a new policy formulated by the White Wizard will soon be incorporated into the defense and foreign policies of Rivendell, Lorien and the major power, Gondor.  This will constitute a substantial shift from previous administrations, and marks the triumph of the White Wizard’s approach over that of his chief rival, the now discredited Gandalf the Grey.

In explaining this major policy shift, Saruman’s spokesman Grima Wormtongue issued the following edited transcript of his boss’ discussion with Gandalf:

“A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all…..We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise…may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose….” (Wormtongue denied an allegation raised by Minas Tirith News Channel that these quotations were plagiarized from an earlier work called The Lord of the Rings, p. 259 specifically.)

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Wormtongue added, in response to a follow-up question, that referring to this “new Power” as “Sauron,” the “Dark Lord,” or the “Great Eye” wasn’t helpful and in fact simply further inflamed the geopolitical situation, emboldening Orc depredations and terrorism by insulting their holy leader.

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Grima also admitted that a counter-proposal had been sent from Denethor, Lord and Steward of Gondor, to Saruman via palantir that called for more study of Mordor’s ideology. But the Chief of the Istari had countered that his own millennium of study was sufficient to demonstrate the compatibility of that Eastern belief system with Western traditions and that despite the failure of earlier Third Age CVE programs, this one would work.

The aforementioned Gandalf the Grey could not be reached for comment, as he was enjoying some down time in Orthanc and Saruman’s press secretary could not say when he would be available again.

To be continued….

 

 

 

Is Islam Really the New Black?

The belief that any criticism of the Islamic religion is tantamount to racism has become entrenched in our society–or at least in political discourse.  Bernie Sanders fulminated that President Trump’s temporary travel ban on six Muslim-majority nations was “racist.”  Marches against shari`ah law were attacked as “racist” by SJWs and other virtue-signalers.  Even liberals who acknowledge that Islam is NOT a biological race (if such a thing actually exists among Homo sapiens), at venues like “Huffington Post” and “Vox,” immediately–and rather oxymoronically–insist that there can be (I’m  not making this up) “racism without race” (as per the former article) and that linking Islam to terrorism is just another nefarious manifestation of “Orientalism” as defined by that “eminent [sic] Middle East scholar Edward Said” (according to the latter piece).  The flip-side of this is that many liberals  (and some conservatives) axiomatically contrapose “white” and “Muslim, with the clear implication being that the former encompasses Christians, while the latter must be dark(er) of skin.

I don’t want to discuss the very clear precedents within Islam for violence against non-Muslims, nor the ridiculous assertion that ideologies other than Islam are the main motivators of terrorism.  I simply want to explode the myth that Muslims belong to a “race” with more melanin than others, especially Christians.

Clearly, Islam is not a “race” because unlike skin color, epicanthic folds or lactose tolerance one is not born with it (despite Muslim propaganda otherwise).  So we can dispense with that nonsense.

What about the contention that Islam is the religion of the world’s brown and black people?  Well, the major continental areas where such live are Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin American (all of South and Central America to include Mexico).  There are about 250 million Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa (based on World Bank and Pew data) and 563 million Christians in Latin America (combining Wikipedia info on the region and on religion there).  That means at least 813 million of the global Christian population of 2.2 billion are “black” or brown.” What about Islam? Muslims number about 240 million in Sub-Saharan Africa (so says Pew) but only perhaps 3 million in Latin America (according to analysis of US State Department data).  That means in the two continents usually held up as the “darkest” parts of the Global South, Christians outnumber Muslims at over 3:1.

Iran has 73 million people, mostly Muslim.  Many of them look like this (and no, it’s not a Saruman audition–although Iran’s foreign policy might indicate otherwise):

KhameiniothersfuneralserviceFars

Ditto for Balkan Muslims, such as the Rifa`i Sufis.  Turkey has about the same Muslim population as Iran and almost all of them are what liberals would call “white.”

Now here are some examples of that allegedly non-white religion of Christianity:

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Those are some of the Nigerian Catholic bishops (courtesy of that organization’s website).

Here’s a picture of one of my favorite icons hanging on the wall in my study–that of St. Moses “the Black:”

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He would have been surprised to hear that Christianity was a “white” religion.

In the United States, 80% of the  35 million Latino adults (Pew data) are Christian while 83% of the nearly 40 million black Americans are Christian (as per this site).  That’s a lot of non-white Christians in the world’s largest Christian nation. And in fact, seven of the 10 countries with the largest Christian populations are non-white ones: Brazil, Mexico, Philippines, Nigeria, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia (again, as per Pew).

As a Christian, and an American, I really don’t care about a person’s skin color or “race.” But the “progressives” have been braying about that topic for so long and so frequently that I deemed it necessary to point out the inanity and intellectual bankruptcy of their claims about race as it relates to Islam.

Addendum: a good friend on Twitter just sent me this, which I shall leave here sans comment:

Jesuswasnotwhite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISIS Goes to (Christian) Seminary

OK, ISIS WENT to seminary–a Lutheran one, in fact.  Back in October 2014 I was invited to lecture at the institution whence I obtained my M.A.R.: Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. My address was entitled “Fighting for the End of the (Christian) World,” and worth posting at this time because 1) it’s a solid primer for anyone new to Islamic eschatology in general, whether wishing to learn about it from a secular or Christian perspective; and 2) the video was just recently made available in a much more accessible format.

Keep in mind that even if ISIS is stripped of its territory and “Caliph” al-Baghdadi sent to consort with the houris (which seems not to be the case currently), its beliefs about the Mahdi, the Dajjal, the return of Jesus, etc., will remain as they have for 14 centuries: core beliefs of many Muslims, stemming in most particulars from the Hadiths (alleged sayings of Muhammad’s) and in others from the Qur’an itself.

Here’s the link to my 40″ presentation.

Dome of the Chain in front of DoR, 11.13 (2)

Qubbat al-Silsilah, “the Dome of the Chain,” adjacent to Qubbat al-Sakhrah, “the Dome of the Rock”, in Jerusalem.  I took this picture on my last trip there in 2013.  According to Islamic tradition, all of humanity will pass under its portico on the Day of Judgment–so no doubt ISIS would like to get control of this!

I might add that I first wrote at length on ISIS in June 2014 (see my 2015 book Ten Years’ Captivation with the Mahdi’s Camps, pp. 21-31: “The Hour of ISIS Power: How Did It Come to This?”)–so I was examining ISIS as an eschatological phenomenon within Islam long before Graeme Wood’s “What ISIS Really Wants” was published in spring 2015.

Also,  here’s a link to an article about my talk by the news organization for my denomination (the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)–which, while accurate overall, unfortunately repeats some of the same misapprehensions rampant in the mainstream media (“extremists,” for example).

Welcome to The Occidental Jihadist

Friends, Romans, Country-men (and -women),  fervent jihadists, frustrated Mahdists:

Some of you may have been following my Muslim millennial musings over at “Mahdiwatch.org.”  Probably many others of you are new.  In either case, thanks for checking out this site and if you are so moved, please follow it.  One of the major complaints about my former site was the inability to do just that.  Problem solved!

By way of brief bio: I’m a Christian (conservative but not fundamentalist); PhD in Islamic, World and African history (Ohio State, 2001); former US Army Arabic linguist and, later, civilian consultant to US Special Operations Command; author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth; history professor; and sometime media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s “War Stories: Fighting ISIS“).  I’m also a huge Shakespeare fan, and fence saber as often as I can–and usually left-handed.

Thanks again for checking out my site.  Stay tuned for more substantial commentary ASAP!